Links & Contents I Liked 140

Hi all,

New week, fresh linkage!

'Yoga is helping to end poverty in Africa'-you, I & Jeff Sachs knew it all along!
But there are better stories from Africa, including storytelling from South Sudan and the question when 'immigrants' become 'expats'; there's a great section on the issue of how NGOs need to be political to stay relevant for social change; the World Bank realizes that Google maps don't solve resettlement issues; research communicators need to be political, WhyDev celebrates some kind of anniversary; and we have tech debates around radio call-in shows, girls’ empowerment and crowdsourced data.
Our digital lives looks at instagrammed fashion moments, Airbnb’s tricky maps, and upscale Monocle magazine and what we can learn for development communication. Finally, the question whether we need more adjunct administrators rather than teachers in higher education.


New from aidnography
Why I promote book reviews
Book reviews are time consuming and are usually read and shared less than other blog content-so why bother with them?

Media and NGOs: One academic’s take on how the two can work together

As a part of the conversation about the intersection between media and nongovernmental organizations, the Guardian hosted a panel conversation at the end of February. I joined a group of fellow journalists, academics and NGO workers to discuss the issue further. The two-hour panel, conducted in the comments section of the post, was wide ranging as questions were posed by the moderator and the audience about how tension between the media and NGOs can be addressed.
Unfortunately, the format made it hard to really dig in on some of the questions. I wanted to hear more from one of the panelists who was not in either an NGO or the media. So, I turned to an academic.
Tom Murphy interviewed me for the Humanosphere.

Development news

Yoga Is Helping End Poverty in Africa—No, Seriously

Eight years in, Elenson says she’s most proud of how the program has helped participants enter Kenya’s middle class while serving their communities and doing something they enjoy. “Some AYP teachers have moved from living in what they referred to as slums to new homes, starting families, supporting family members with school fees, and working on new income generating projects,” she says.
As Western- and often expat aid worker- inspired lifestyles enter more places, it was only a matter of time how they will contribute to a win-win-win scenario creating an African middle class one stretch at the time...

Seeing South Sudan

In South Sudan, the world’s newest nation and one of its most dangerous, Internews partnered with Photo Camp to bring together 20 young people from diverse ethnic and personal backgrounds. For some of the students, this was the first time since the outbreak of conflict that they had come in close contact with its effects, while for others it brought back memories of their own difficult pasts.
Great pictures and a great way to challenge visual perceptions of 'Africa'.

Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?

The reality is the same in Africa and Europe. Top African professionals going to work in Europe are not considered expats. They are immigrants. Period. “I work for multinational organisations both in the private and public sectors. And being black or coloured doesn’t gain me the term “expat”. I’m a highly qualified immigrant, as they call me, to be politically correct,” says an African migrant worker.
Mawuna Remarque Koutonin article generated more than 2.5K comments-so definitely a hot topic in development and other global professional circles these days...

What aid workers think of ‘what journalists really think’

A second unfortunate consequence of the IBT report is that it presents these journalists’ opinions as a ‘breaking story’. In reality, the challenges of negotiating access and advocacy through the media have been recognised as legitimate and complex subjects for a number of years (...). It’s not, in fact, the case that journalists and aid workers have been refraining from honest comment about each other until now, and it might have been helpful for the IBT report to more fully acknowledge this.
One final note is that the IBT report focused primarily on the aid–media relationship in the UK – again, it is perhaps not surprising, given the oft-acerbic character of the British press. But, to echo a point raised by other commentators, it would have been nice to see a more diverse international sample of journalists represented in the report.
Camilla Burkot shares some important reflections on the IBT report and media and aid agency relationships.

Humanitarian impartiality, anti-austerity and the political turn of NGOs

Charity is not – nor has it ever been – politically impartial. Humanitarian NGOs’ recent political turn can be seen and celebrated as a return to first principles. Charities should own their politics, allowing donors to make informed decisions about the policies and principles that they support. Humanitarian NGOs should not respond to recent attacks by asserting their political impartiality. While in the short term this affords influence, in the long term it limits independence. Rather, charities should insist that that the alleviation of poverty is a political matter. Oxfam and Save the Children have a duty not only to fight poverty, hunger and disease. They should also challenge the political and economic systems that have caused them.
Emily Baughan articulates very clearly what current debates around charities and social change should be about: They should be about politics-not about clashes between media and NGO expectations of each other!

Mercy Corps chief Neal Keny-Guyer says most aid fails to address root causes

That is all well and good, but what groups have done for years is not really changing all that much for the Congolese people living North Kivu, says Mercy Corps. The problems that the DR Congo faces are systemic and organizations working in the country need to be thinking about how their work addresses the base problems. “This not the kind of problem a bednet will solve or another water pump will solve,” says Keny-Guyer. “I think too often in the aid community we look for the fast fixes and the shiny solutions.”
Because the problems are so difficult, aid groups tend to implement programs that provide for immediate needs. In other words, they distribute the bednets that prevent malaria and install the water pumps that bring water to villages. Those types of interventions are helping to make a terrible situation less bad, but don’t necessarily link up with long term solutions.
Tom Murphy's interview with Mercy Corps' Neal keny-Guyer may not reveal groundbreaking insights but is another important reminder of how NGOs need to be more political and community root causes and systemic barriers to social change to their stakeholders.

14 changes UK NGOs must make to be relevant in 10 years time

How can UK NGOs face the challenges of the next 10 years? Our panel has these suggestions
Rachel Banning-Lover summarizes another interesting Guardian development Q&A.

World Bank president admits resettlement failures: 'What we found causes me deep concern'

“We took a hard look at ourselves on resettlement and what we found caused me deep concern,” said World Bank group president Jim Yong Kim. “We found several major problems. One is that we haven’t done a good enough job in overseeing projects involving resettlement; two, we haven’t implemented those plans well enough; and three, we haven’t put in place strong tracking systems to make sure that our policies were being followed. We must and will do better.”
In internal documents now made public, the World Bank admitted its own failures to understand, monitor and deliver even on its most basic policies. A review of 59 projects where resettlement was anticipated found that “a disturbingly large number of projects had insufficient data available to allow evaluation, and thus received ‘Don’t Know’ ratings.” The status of people physically displaced was unknown for 61% of the projects and in most of these there was “little or no information about the replacement housing or what had happened to the relocated people.”
Ryan Schlief reminds us that putting a few Google maps and Excel sheets out there and hoping that 'data' will magically fix problems is not the way to sustainable social change if you don't (want to) collect the proper data. World Bank 1.0 meets data solutionism 2.0...

Research communicators: let’s talk politics, shall we?

What was surprising to me, however, is how many folks at ResUp MeetUp continue to think of “influence” and “impact” as synonymous with changing public policy. And that made me wonder how much progress has actually been made, or (worse) whether we have slid backwards.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the current set of research communication guidebooks – penned by the ODI or the World Bank – give no help to the many state-controlled think tanks in Africa who are navigating a transition towards becoming more focused on serving the public. A move towards more public involvement in policy requires big (and often delicate) changes in management, yet nowhere is there advice on these matters.
Nor is there a body of knowledge on how to make strategic decisions about research communication in repressive or fragile environments, and whether there might even be different approaches to this problem given the size, position, or nature of a particular think tank.
Nicholas Benequista continues one of this link review's theme: Social change is a political issue and there are many fields, including research communication, where we actually don't know 'everything' in our big data digital age.

Why We Dev with J.(part 3): Let’s get personal

I’m to the place now where I want to have that more nuanced, less black-and-white discussion, and writing novels—humanitarian fiction—serves that purpose extremely well, I feel. With a novel, I have the ability to not just acknowledge other perspectives, but also seriously contemplate the world from them. A novel feels like a more natural vehicle for getting across the ups and downs, the back and forths, the wavering uncertainty and the slow realisations that characterise much of the aid worker experience as I’ve come to know it.
One of the things that came through very clearly for me during my blogging years was that there is a gap and a need for writing, culture, stuff, whatever specifically for humanitarians (let’s not get lost in the jargon – I mean both aid and development workers, field and not-field). They’re a small but viable audience, and no one is really putting much out there just for them.
J's jubilee interview over at WhyDev is a must read. I'm on the finishing line of his latest humanitarian romance novel 'Honor Among Thieves' and a proper review is due soon!

Volunteering Overseas: the best method for creating new aid workers?

By effectively requiring new humanitarian workers to have worked as volunteers, we are instilling the idea that aid is just volunteerism plus money and better technology. These new aid workers often come from an environment where they were never asked to think about whether they could do harm, and where it was inherently assumed that they were doing good just from being there. The attitudes which are instilled at these early stages of a career are apparent throughout the aid sector. If we want to professionalise the sector, we could start off by professionalising our volunteers.
Aidleap continues an important discussion on how important the nexus between volunteering, aid work and professionalism really is.

A Crisis of Anxiety Among Aid Workers

De Jong, a psychologist who has been in the humanitarian business for decades, thinks the aid world is failing its staff for two reasons: first, lack of funding. But he admits that many interventions — providing online support and identifying staff willing to speak frankly about their struggles, for example — cost little. More fundamentally, De Jong says, the issue is old-school attitudes about mental health. He says that most humanitarian managers tend to equate psychological support with weakness.
One United Nations employee who was violently assaulted a few years ago while working in a war zone and who continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress as a result, thinks it’s also because so few people know there’s a problem.
“The U.N. and other humanitarian organizations are the ones developing policies on gender sensitivity, human rights, labor law and so on,” she told me. “So people just assume that these organizations are applying the same standards to their staff. But it doesn’t work that way.”
Another important ongoing debate that finally made an appearance in mainstream media; treating aid work as a profession always means putting professional support systems in place!

Harassmap's Research "Effectiveness of Crowdsourced Data"

In conclusion, the research study confirmed that crowdsourced data, regardless of population bias and verification problems, can provide general trends with regard to sexual harassment similar to the ones that emerge in empirical research. It also provides a platform where more detailed and explicit stories on sexual harassment and assault can be told and documented.
Amel Fahmy summarizes a recent study on crowdsourced data in connection with Egyptian Harassmap-a widely discussed project in the aftermath of the Egyptian 'revolution'.

How interactive radio is reshaping politics in Africa

The powerful combination of interactive radio and mobile phones is a force for political change in East Africa, says researcher Sharath Srinivasan in this audio interview.
He says that call-in shows are hugely popular in these countries, particularly in rural areas where radio remains the dominant form of media. The rise of these shows has compelled politicians to tune in and directly engage with the on-air debates, Srinivasan says, shifting the relationship between people and policymakers.
Interesting interview with Örecomm festival participants Sharath Srinivasan

3 MWC15 Takeaways for the Developing World

Facebook and Google continue to spearhead ambitious initiatives to get more people across the world online.
Digital identity and privacy is becoming more significant for mobile consumers
mHealth focus shifting to wearables
Nancy Ngo on the Mobile World Congress and the enthusiasm of how 'mobile' will be changing the world...again, or still?!

10 myths about girls’ empowerment and mobile learning

I’m beating the drum again here about the importance of on-the-ground research and user testing to find out what is happening in a particular context. Alexandra Tyers from GSMA points out that user testing is really a critical piece of any girls and mobile learning effort, and that it can actually be done for a reasonable price. She notes that in her case, “Bangladesh user testing cost $5,000 USD for fifty tests in five different locations around the country. And yet the return on investment by making those necessary changes is likely to be large because making sure the product is right will ensure easy adoption and maximum uptake.”
Linda Raftree shares some great practical and conceptual insights on how the magic of 'girls' empowerment' is much more nuanced and requires more than just big mobile data (no surprises really...)

Hot off the digital press
Innovation spaces: transforming humanitarian practice in the United Nations

Along with other international humanitarian actors, several United Nations (UN) bodies are engaging with new tools and practices to bring innovation to the forefront of their work. Within these agencies, there has been a growing movement to establish ‘innovation spaces’ or ‘innovation labs’. These labs take different forms – some virtual, others physical – and each is created with its own motivations unique to the context in which it operates. Despite the variation, there is a growing trend in the UN system, and more broadly in the international humanitarian community, to create labs as a way to engage in and facilitate innovation practice.
Oxford's Louise Bloom and Romy Faulkner on the labification of humanitarian innovation.

Our digital lives
Fashion is now manufacturing instagrammable moments

These photogenic, shareable, “Instagrammable” moments are now essential for designers seeking global publicity. Our first impressions of a fashion collection no longer come through the pages of a newspaper or magazine or the windows of a store, but through our phones. Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen designers grow savvier when it comes to creating—and controlling—those moments.
Any lessons for development communication?!

Yesterday in Airbnb

Airbnb’s story of being a site where “regular people occasionally rent the home in which they live” is misleading. The real Airbnb story is gradually getting out there, of a site that uses the heartwarming stories of a few of its hosts to provide a cover for a growing cadre of professional renters who are using the site to avoid municipal regulations around safety (no fire inspections), zoning (driving gentrification of tourist areas), and taxes.
More insights into the 'platform capitalism' with examples from L.A. and Portland

How Tyler Brûlé has extended Monocle beyond simply a magazine for the jet set

We thought about digital — what digital channel or what digital application is the closest relationship to what that [pointing to magazine on the coffee table] does every month, where it’s very personal, it’s your Monocle, it has unique tone of voice, et cetera. And we thought audio is the closest thing, because it’s very personal, it’s very intimate, and it’s incredibly fast. It’s still the fastest medium. As long as you are articulate and persuasive, you’re going to get your opinion across faster no matter how fast you can clatter your fingers across a keyboard. So we like that as well.
A long interview with Tyler Brûlé; as we are discussing the digital media landscape and 'development' as a lifestyle as much as a traditional poverty-eradication endeavor we need to look for new avenues to communicate with different audiences...Monocle is certainly not the 'answer', but their strategies may have something to tell us development and academic people about communication in the digital age.

The Long Story Behind Gigaom’s Sudden Demise

But Gigaom’s research business had actually become a significant drag on the company. While it had started out as a “pro” subscription business charging individuals as much as $299 a year, after a couple of pivots, the company’s research arm was now focused on creating custom white papers and other products, like Webinars, for corporate clients. While that group booked $8 million in business last year, it wasn’t profitable. That was partly due to high sales and product costs and but also because some of that $8 million never materialized as the company didn’t create the work it was supposed to.
Among other things, Gigaom's story raises interesting questions about the profitability of commissioned research and education...

Why Not Adjunct Administrators Instead of Adjunct Instructors? It Makes Far More Sense

Logically, an adjunct administrator makes more sense than an adjunct instructor. Teaching coursework at a undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral level requires specialized training. It is an intellectual asset that cannot be farmed out to an unskilled temp. Instructors should not be treated as if their knowledge is such a weak commodity.
In contrast, office work can be farmed out and is farmed out all the time. Executives from big five accounting and management consulting firms routinely charge six figures to clients for research reports. They then farm these out to India for low four figures. In contrast, I can’t see an Indian instructor teaching Renaissance literature to American college students via Skype.
Much has already been written about the academic precariat; Scott Rank adds an interesting point to the debate; in the end, I would be most worried that he actually portraits a lose-lose scenario of the future: Universities as umbrella brands where outsourced teachers, administrators and management keep an almost virtual university alive...very scary...


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