Links & Contents I Liked 146

Hi all,

The busy end-of-term weeks are approaching fast, so I sort of skipped one link review and focused on other content instead (see below).
But it also means that there are lots of interesting reads for being inspired over the weekend! Development News features an overview of the reflexivity turn in aid work; persistent problems with the Global NGO ranking; the challenges for educated women in the Middle East, the ‘university in a box’ in Rwanda, pharmaceuticalization of global health, why design for development is rather a band aid; lots of new social media and open data readings; the neoliberal political economy of Oprah, researching facebook’s filter bubble; and Academia features a bibliometrics manifesto, a study on the impact of how to build your brand as an (academic) writer and the question whether we should ban PowerPoints form lectures (spoiler alert: I disagree…).


New from aidnography
New research on International Development TED Talks & their role for communication for social change
As part of a special journal issue on communication for development and social change we undertook a critical, empirical analysis of 38 TED talks that addressed international development issues
Our analysis suggests that TED talks succeed in disseminating ideas and sparking public interest. At the same time, they reflect institutionalized, corporatized modes of mass communication rooted in elitist discourses and practices. Contrary to popular perceptions, we therefore conclude that while TED talks are an effective vehicle for information dissemination, they are an unlikely catalyst for social change.
Jeffrey Sachs-The Strange Case of Dr Shock and Mr Aid (book review)
I would recommend the book as a good alternative to many of the ‘history of development’ books that often remain abstract and theoretical to students. By critically engaging with the person Jeffrey Sachs we are all challenged to think broader and deeper about the meaning of ‘development’ as discourse and practice.
The person/professor/human being Jeffrey Sachs is changing development as much as he is changed by the developments of development. Somehow, we are all a little bit like Jeffrey Sachs...
Tobias Denskus: Development Communication is Witness to Injustice
At the end of the day, when all ‘white Land Cruiser’ jokes are told, all ‘white elephant’ projects are evaluated and all voluntouristic photos by white people are uploaded to Instagram, development in general and development communication in particular will continue to have an important role as witness to injustice and marginalization, as an amplifier of dissent and as a connector between cultures, stories and those who need a virtual or physical hand that reminds them of humanity. At least that motivates me to keep going…
Development news
What has DfID ever done to deserve Grant Shapps?
As David Cameron unveiled the first Tory-only cabinet in 18 years yesterday, it was revealed that Grant Shapps – the former party chairman – has been “demoted to the lesser role” of minister of state at the Department for International Development (DfID).
Development-the cabinet post equivalent to being banned to Siberia in Soviet times...

Reflexivity in Humanitarian Work
If these ventures are anything to go on, the future of human rights work will be nothing if not reflexive. In 2015, everyone from the voluntourist to the UN program manager, if they’re at all aware of the context in which their work takes place, will be going forth with the knowledge that this work is fraught by the exact injustices and historically unsettled power relationships that cause the abuse of human rights in the first place.
We need human rights work to be reflexive, without being recursive. The examples above suggest that such a future – critical, generative, and able to bring the lolz as required – may be on its way.
Ann Deslandes provides an good overview over key initiatives, blogs, memes etc. that aim at making 'us' and the industry more reflective and reflexive and is cautiously optimistic about the future of (humanitarian) aid.

Annual NGO ranking shows that the “white savior” status quo remains intact
Though 78% of the activities of the NGOs listed take place in the majority world, the ranking remains skewed towards NGOs headquartered in the West (64%). This once again sends signals about who has value and expertise, and reinforces the fallacy that citizens of Western countries are best equipped to change the world.
Consequently, by choosing to rank so many NGOs with such criteria, Global_Geneva and those who support it reinforce paternalist models of decision-making and governance that should be challenged rather than lauded.
Fairouz El Tomon persistent challenges with the global NGO ranking. In 2013, I had a closer look at the first ranking as well:
What I learnt from looking behind The Global Journal's Top 100 NGO ranking

Arab Women: Highly Educated, Underemployed
Verme has found that women in the region may get jobs early on, but exit the labor force en masse around the age of 25, aka average marriage age, regardless of whether or not they have children then. Family structures, still quite traditional, have a lot to do with it, says Mayyada Abu-Jaber, founder of the Jordan-based education NGO The World of Letters. In her work conducting youth employment-training programs, she found that more than half of female participants would decline the jobs offered upon completion. Deciding to work was a “collective decision of the family,” she found, and most families decide the vocational job opportunities “are not desirable for women.”
Look at the high female employment in places like Indonesia or Malaysia, which are majority Muslim. She says gender norms and social structure issues are important to the extent that the economy is weak.
Emily Cadei on female underemployment in the Middle East. And given the unstable situation in the region, women are likely to continue to be underemployed, less visible in public and more confined to traditional role models.

#Blog4Dev contest winners announced
In our first-ever blog contest, we invited bloggers to watch webcasts of events at the World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings and write about them. More than two dozen bloggers entered the contest, most from developing countries around the world.
As interesting as some of the posts are, none of them is even remotely 'political' in the sense that is critically engages with the Bank, IMF or the spring meeting; mainly free PR for the Bank-not necessarily great PR for critical development blogging.

In Rwanda, Building a “University in a Box”
To get the project off the ground, Kepler turned to the IKEA Foundation. The philanthropic arm of the Swedish furniture giant agreed to fund the university with a one-year pilot grant that has since been extended into a four-year, $8 million commitment. Among other things, this support has made it possible for Kepler’s first two classes to attend on full scholarships.
Beyond retaining skilled teachers, his broader criticism of blended learning is actually that it isn’t transformative enough. He contends technology is being used to merely “tinker toward utopia” rather than fundamentally change how students learn. MOOCs, for example, still largely come in a lecture format from predominantly Western sources, which, Browns says, risks “dump[ing] a Western curriculum on parts of the world that probably, desperately, don’t need that.” However, if Kepler is indeed providing young Rwandans greater access to education and employment, he sees their approach as a creative step toward meeting local needs.
There are many interesting aspects in Wyatt Orme & Tik Root's long-read about a new blended learning approach to higher education in Rwanda. It ticks many boxes, from 'disruption' to 'MOOCs' and IKEA sponsorship and it seems to deliver adequate results. But from my experience, higher education cooperation is a long-term project and good partnerships usually thrive over longer periods of time-Kepler goes for some of the lower-hanging fruits that deliver results-but African higher education needs to grow stronger in many more areas.

On the Pharmaceuticalization of (Global) Public Health
What is not fine with me is the way in which public and population health continually seems to be captured by biomedical culture and biomedical interventions, the most prominent of which, of course, is pharmaceuticals. I am referring here to the medicalization of global health policy.
But we are not going to resolve our health problems, nor compress the staggering global inequities in health, via pharmaceuticals. Social problems rooted in adverse and deeply rooted social structures must be resolved at the level, or not at all.
Daniel Goldberg raises a familiar point: Just as pharmaceuticals will not 'solve' health system inequities, a 'university in a box' will not solve deep-rooted problems of education systems.

Why "Design For Development" Is Failing On Its Promise
But there’s another deeper concern, one that caused many a sleepless night around the elections project in Libya: With our good intentions, our human-centered ethos, and our appropriate tech solutions, would we create a veneer of good will that distracts attention from, and maybe even perpetuates, the global systems of injustice?
Because let’s face it: Even when well-spent, aid money can be a way of sweeping real solutions under the rug. It’s fairly cheap and easy for rich countries to disburse aid, compared to the effort and expense of arriving at the difficult political bargains on migration, climate change, trade, and other issues that would change lives in more meaningful ways.
More important than our "solution" to the design problem at hand were the conversations enabled by the co-design process we’d undertaken with our Libyan counterparts. As we explored technical questions about the voter management system—what data security protocol to use, where information should flow, what analytics to track—we were creating the space for dialogue about larger questions of governance. These were questions about a government’s responsibilities to its citizens and the extent to which a state should invest to fulfill these responsibilities; we were, in short, discussing what it means to realize a renegotiated social contract among Libya’s population and governing institutions.
Panthea Lee on why design solutions risk to become a band-aid for structural problems-and how the least we can do is adhere to listening closely to local needs, be as participatory as possible and aware of our limitations-plus, some really interesting insights into the building of Libya's democracy.

Hot off the digital press

Social Media + Society Contents April-June 2015
Tons of interesting open access articles in the inaugural issue of the new SM+S journal

A new approach to measuring the impact of open data
With generous support from the Open Data for Development Research Fund of the OGP Open Data Working Group, we at the Sunlight Foundation wanted to tackle some of the methodological challenges of the field through building an evidence base that can empower further generalizations and advocacy efforts, as well as developing a methodological framework to unpack theories of change and to evaluate the impact of open data and digital transparency initiatives. A few weeks ago, we presented our research at the Cartagena Data Festival, and today we are happy to launch the first edition of our paper, which you can read below or on Scribd.
The outputs of this research include:
A searchable repository of more than 100 examples on the outputs, outcomes and impacts of open data and digital technology projects;
Three distinctive theories of change for open data and digital transparency initiatives from the Global South;
A methodological framework to help develop more robust indicators of social and political change for the ecosystem of open data initiatives, by applying and revising the Outcome Mapping approach of IDRC to the field.
Interesting new paper for open aid/data enthusiasts.

Our digital lives
Oprah Winfrey: one of the world's best neoliberal capitalist thinkers
Oprah is one of a new group of elite storytellers who present practical solutions to society’s problems that can be found within the logic of existing profit-driven structures of production and consumption. They promote market-based solutions to the problems of corporate power, technology, gender divides, environmental degradation, alienation and inequality.
Oprah’s popularity stems in part from her message of empathy, support, and love in an increasingly stressful, alienating society.
Oprah is appealing precisely because her stories hide the role of political, economic, and social structures. In doing so, they make the American Dream seem attainable. If we just fix ourselves, we can achieve our goals. For some people, the American dream is attainable, but to understand the chances for everyone, we need to look dispassionately at the factors that shape success.
Nicole Aschoff's book is already on my e-reader and I look forward to reading it. In the early days of my blog, in 201,1 I actually wrote about
What The Oprah Magazine can teach us about development

Did Facebook’s Big New Study Kill My Filter Bubble Thesis?
Here’s the upshot: Yes, using Facebook means you’ll tend to see significantly more news that’s popular among people who share your political beliefs. And there is a real and scientifically significant “filter bubble effect” — the Facebook news feed algorithm in particular will tend to amplify news that your political compadres favor.
In my humble opinion, this is good science, but because it’s by Facebook scientists, it’s not reproducible. The researchers on the paper are smart men and women, and with the caveats above, the methodology is pretty sound. And they’re making a lot of the data set and algorithms available for review. But at the end of the day, Facebook gets to decide what studies get released, and it’s not possible for an independent researcher to reproduce these results without Facebook’s permission.
Eli 'Filter Bubble' Pariser comments on the latest facebook study-and points out 2 very important challenges for researchers: First, the algorithms and features of facebook change constantly and quickly. Second, you need access to facebook data that they need to grant-and that is likely only granted to a small group of excellent, but also elite scientists.

How to Create, Manage and Evolve Your Nonprofit Blog
Four mantras to remember:
• Authenticity, not polish
• Encouragement, not pressure
• Quality, not quantity
• Show, don’t tell
The pdf of Roger Burks presentation is a bit clunky, but the content is worth it!


Bibliometrics: The Leiden Manifesto for research metrics
We therefore present the Leiden Manifesto, named after the conference at which it crystallized. Its ten principles are not news to scientometricians, although none of us would be able to recite them in their entirety because codification has been lacking until now.
We offer this distillation of best practice in metrics-based research assessment so that researchers can hold evaluators to account, and evaluators can hold their indicators to account.
Ten really interesting points on how to measure beyond 'impact factor' or simple citations.

Open Access Meets Discoverability: Citations to Articles Posted to
Based on a sample size of 44,689 papers, we find that a paper in a median impact factor journal uploaded to receives 37% more citations after one year than a similar article not available online, 58% more citations after three years, and 83% after five years. We also found that articles posted to had 75% more citations than articles posted to other online venues, such as personal and departmental homepages, after five years
Interesting new paper-and my main point of critique was addressed in the tweet below:

@aidnography @raulpacheco We've only posted it as a preprint, it's undergoing peer review right now! We'll let you know when it's finished.

— Academia (@academia) May 14, 2015

Writers, Start Building Your Brand Early!
So what does building your brand mean? For me, it’s awareness. I try to be thoughtful about everything I post. I don’t always succeed. But being aware is important because what gets out into the Internet stays forever. So no drunk tweeting, no profanity and no mean-spirited troll attacks on others. A good general rule is to always take the high road. Linking your digital assets is important as well.
This may sound basic, but many writers have a hard time embracing [their] identity. They see themselves as a writer only after the definitions of their day job, role in their family, etc. When speaking about your work, own that identity of being a writer.
Steven Ramirez makes some good points about building a virtual brand; quite a few of those points are applicable to academics / academic writers as well.

Let’s ban PowerPoint in lectures – it makes students more stupid and professors more boring
The physical face-to-face lecture is potentially a complex and open event where the students, the readings, the lecturer and a case-based or theoretical problem interact. A PowerPoint presentation locks the lecture into a course that disregards any input other than the lecturer’s own idea of the lecture conceived the day before. It cuts off the possibility of improvisation and deviation, and the chance to adapt to student input without veering off course.
While successfully banning Facebook and other use of social media in our masters programme in philosophy and business at Copenhagen Business School, we have also recently banned teachers using PowerPoint.
Let's not ban PowerPoint, Bent Meier Sørensen!
He describes the most traditional, most offline and most physical teaching environment and romanticizes it to some extent. Alternative tools such as Prezi are mentioned once ('they make things worse'), Storify not at all.
The classroom of the future (or, in our case, today) is digitally connected, online and second-screened and PowerPoints are one of many helpful tools. I should write a proper response...

“Academia is the Titanic”: Mark Bauerlein on teaching in the morally-bankrupt grind of the new American university
Academia is the Titanic. I have suggested that schools stop spending so much money and labor on useless research in the humanities, and instead shift that labor and money to teaching. Pay adjuncts more money and hire them as lecturers on regular contracts. Make no research demands upon them. For research professors, ask them to slow down their publication pace — get off the industrial model — and reward them for contact hours with students. And let’s close down graduate programs that don’t place 80 percent of their Ph.D.s.
I was hesitant to share Scott Eric Kaufman's interview with Mark Bauerlein as any attention feels a bit like feeding academic trolls...there are many issues that require change in academia, but the idealization of teaching and a 1960s/1970s model of academia is not really helpful either.


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