Links & Contents I Liked 148

Hi all,

This blog has been silent for far too long! But the 'end of the term' period has turned into a rather prolonged period of wrapping up, examining, marking, plus engaging with a large UN agency over an interesting strategic advisory project.
So finally some new, fresh links!
New development insights confirm how the World Bank is struggling to match its organizational culture to its rhetoric of ‘openness’; can we just send the bill for development to dictator and redistribute his assets?; Has-been politician was involved in an expensive conference without impact (that MUST be a first…); colonial humanitarian work in Haiti; social media tips from UN staff & how to teach the next generation of development professionals.
New reports on World Bank & intimidation, PRTs & NGO insecurity and NGOs & systems thinking. Digital lives features a beautiful essay on ‘Hotel Melancholia’.
Academia features reflections on ad-hoc help in Nepal, academic publishers and the question what elite business schools can do for society.


New from aidnography
The new prophets of capital (book review)

In the end, The new Prophets of Capital may not deliver groundbreaking new insights to critical minds in the global development community, but the book is an excellent foundation for further discussions and explorations.
Family, friends or student groups who may not have time to engage with critical journalism or long-read essays regularly will find this book a concise and readable overview that hopefully triggers critical questions or small behavior changes next time someone picks up an Oprah magazine, buys groceries at Whole Foods or is exposed to TED-style salvation speeches by development celebrities.
Development news
World Bank workers losing faith in leadership, survey reveals
An even smaller number of employees – just 26 percent – said they “agree” that bank leadership “creates a culture of openness and trust,” according to the survey, which was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Huffington Post. More than 10,000 bank staffers completed the survey, which was conducted in 2014, and distributed internally last week.
Paul Cadario, a former senior manager at the World Bank and a strong critic of Kim, said the survey is the latest signal that employees are afraid of top management.
“What people tell me is there is a fear of speaking out and disagreeing, because there is a tone of retaliation and payback that emanates from the 12th floor [the President’s office] since Dr. Kim arrived,” he said.
I've written this many times before: Simply propagating 'openness' or making some data available to the public does not lead to organization change, changing power relations or new forms of communication and interaction in large organizations...

Send the Bill to the Dictator
Corruption is both a cause and result of poor governance on country and global levels, imposing steep costs on societies as it holds back economic and human development. Returning stolen assets to people in need is a big idea that satisfies twin objectives of justice and development. It also frees up new resources for development at a time of global financial constraint. Recovering and returning these looted funds offers the alluring potential to right wrongs committed by corrupt officials, rebuild public trust, and invest in the development of countries most affected by graft.
As much I appreciate the general idea behind the article, I think it portrays a very simplified narrative of 'let's return stolen assets'. Very often, corrupt regimes are covered by the political discourse of the day-a corrupt ally can easily turn into a 'bad dictator'-its more about politics and lack of will. Corruption on that scale involves international support-from banks, to shell companies in tax havens to a visa to a family member-so its not just a problem of a 'weak state' unable to face the corrupt leadership. As with every development topic, it's a bit more complicated... 

William Hague’s summit against warzone rape seen as ‘costly failure’

The money Britain spent hosting a global summit, headed by William Hague and Angelina Jolie, to end sexual violence in conflicts was five times higher than the entire confirmed budget the UK has dedicated to tackling rape in war zones this year.
A year after the high-profile London summit concluded with Hague, the former foreign secretary, pledging “to end one of the greatest injustices of our time”, the Observer can also reveal the initiative has had negligible impact and that British funding has been withdrawn from vital projects.
Wait...a swanky conference by a has-been politician, supported by celebrities and taxpayers' money does not deliver results?! This must be the first time in history that this happened :( !

Why we shouldn't get too excited about using big data for development

Similarly, while the boom in mobile phone usage across developing countries means that much big data is being generated in previously underserved areas, the characteristics of mobile phone users may not be applicable to the population of a country as whole.
I think Paul Jasper's piece falls a bit into the same trap he tries to criticize: Don't equate 'big data' solely with 'mobile phone data'. But, yes, I agree: The success of the SDGs will not just depend on data and monitoring, but on good ol' tough political decisions as well-decisions our depoliticized development industry seems to be less capable of.

In Haiti, the aid-industrial complex revives colonial stereotypes

The American Red Cross’ deceptions and obfuscations in Haiti are neither accidental nor isolated. The success of transnational aid organizations depends on donors believing that they are an apolitical means of assistance, through which humanity comes to the aid of those afflicted by a disaster with no strategic strings or exploitive paradigms attached. In doing so, however, the world has failed to consider how these organizations are enabling the inequalities of power and privilege to replicate themselves, just as they did in a world divided between colonizer and colonized. While these divisions may no longer be explicit, they lie just beneath the aid-industrial complex’s deft rhetoric of local involvement and communal sustainability.
Rafia Zakaria puts the recent debate around the American Red Cross' engagement in Haiti into a broader, colonial perspective that we often push aside with a simple 'post-' in front of the term...humanitarian aid needs these tough discussions more than ever!

Working in development? Here are 6 things not to do on social media

Sometimes you have the opportunity to promote the most beautifully prepared and engaging publication.
Don’t simply copy and paste the link to Twitter; you’re wasting months of someone’s precious work when you do.
Pull out one or two of the most interesting things about that report. Give people a reason to take five minutes out of their day to look at what you’re offering.
No matter how much money or power you have, if people feel that you’re faking something, you simply lose their real-time interest. Like it or not, social media is very democratic that way.
It's not that Mehmet Erdo─čan shares groundbreaking new insights in his post-but I simply like the fact that it's published on a UNDP website! (Although I don't think simply ignoring #allmalepanels is the right answer, I agree that sometimes silence is the loudest and most appropriate response...)

Put your name on it

Basically we should think of case studies, publications etc. not as the end of the story as regards sharing and disseminating the knowledge – but rather as the start of sharing and as a stimulus for a conversation that leads to action, whether between practitioners on how to apply the lessons from an experience, or to work with government to advocate for and then implement new policy. A pubication is a useful synthesis of evidence and experience to inform action – but it takes conversation to turn it into action, and keeping the people in the picture makes it easier to move to this next step.
Incidentally, Ian Thorpe adds another important item to the list of how to communicate (not just from/with the UN system): Give communication a name/face/identity to foster engagement and discussions!

Teaching the next generation of development professionals

Doing development education differently requires more than merely changing the topics covered or updating the readings on a syllabus. The content and the pedagogy go hand-in-hand. When education is implemented as a dialectic process and established as a relationship of collaboration, the learning that starts in the classroom goes beyond the transfer of technical or analytical skills. This type of education is internalized by students in the form of principles that guide their future practice, rather than a mere collection of methods and analytical tools — too often adopted without exposure to the context they intend to change.
Dave Algoso outlines some interesting points about development education-a a topic I will come back in more detail after the summer when Daniel Esser's and my latest paper on 'vocationalization' in development teaching is published; but you can have a preview of the paper on!

Hot off the digital press
World Bank Group: Project Critics Threatened, Harassed, Jailed

“The World Bank has long said that public participation and accountability are key to the success of the development efforts it funds,” said Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions advocate at Human Rights Watch. “But the World Bank’s repeated failure to confront intimidation or harassment of people who criticize its projects risks making a mockery out of these principles.”
More critical food for discussion on the World Bank-this time in the form of a new and detailed Human Rights Watch paper.

Did PRTs in Afghanistan Decrease Security for Aid Workers?

Initial results indicated that if PRTs were operational in a province, NGOs were likely to experience a higher number of security incidents. However, results also showed that if the US military was present, NGOs were likely to experience fewer incidents. Given that the findings revealed a positive relationship between increased NGO incidents and PRT presence but a negative relationship with US military presence, a second model was run substituting PRTs with US- and coalition-led PRTs more specifically. Model 2 results indicated that US PRTs did not influence NGO security; however, NGOs operating in provinces with coalition PRTs experienced decreased security. Given these results, it would be difficult to conclude that PRTs in general are culpable for lax NGO security.
David Mitchell's research contribution to another complex question when it comes to peace and security in Afghanistan. The bottom line is that a lot depends on good, local, nuanced data and a careful mixed methods approach.

Fit for the Future? Development trends and the role of international NGOs

How is our understanding of development changing? What are the implications of these changes, whether practical or conceptual, for the future role of international non-government organizations (NGOs)?
This short paper summarizes the main global trends in international development and then examines some pressing questions for international NGOs. It highlights the folly of simple, linear interventions and the merits of alternative approaches, such as bringing together stakeholders to find joint solutions (convening and brokering), or rapid iteration based on fast feedback and adaptation.
For Oxfam, this new thinking would mean relinquishing a command-and-control approach across all aspects of its work in favour of embracing a systems approach.
Oxfam's new paper summarized the organization's thinking around 'systems' and more.

Our digital lives
The State of Blogging and Social Media in Kenya Today

The Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) released a report earlier this week about the state of blogging and social media in Kenya in 2015.
One of the issues that stands out in the report is the Kenyan government's attempt to suppress online free expression. Shitemi Khamadi, for instance, argues that the use of social media defines Kenya's Internet freedom concerns:
Interesting reading on the cultural, economic and political dimensions of social media use in Kenya.

Hotel Melancholia

When I think about that time of my life now, a spiralling-down that surprised me and which I barely survived, it is entirely connected with the hieroglyphs of hotels. I ask myself Bishop’s famous line: ‘Should we have stayed at home, wherever that may be?’ My answer is that I don’t think so. I don’t regret all the running away but I do understand the risks of travel a little better.
I have a few rules now: don’t go for too long, always come back, make sure to remain tethered by animals, children, houses and husbands, anything that can be clung on to and turned into an anchor. When I recall the swimming pools in those grand hotels, and all the associated symbolism – the unconscious, the enclosed and confining aspects – I imagine myself lying on my back in the water, allowing myself to be carried, floating, and I am no longer afraid of the sensation of being weightless. It is less like drowning, or falling, but simply being taken along.
Suzanne Joinson shares a beautiful essay on travel, hotels and the being-feelings and reflections all too familiar to global aid workers or academics...

Thinking in an Emergency Or, Free Tents as a Cautionary Tale

And so, as much as I have come to view these tents critically – to see them as a cautionary tale against rapid action decoupled from careful thinking – they have also become weighty talismans. These tents are reminders that the possibilities for charity largesse are only ever as good as the nimbleness of implementation; that commodity chains come to live in the people who carry things, that ‘relief’ is a synonym for ‘those who figure out how to get things done.’ Across Nepal, the meeting of need has depended so much on Nepalis helping other Nepalis – people who might not have known each other before this disaster and who might not have thought to help each other if they did. Elaine Scarry reminds, “The habits of everyday life…often fail to serve in an emergency. But in the absence of our ordinary habits, a special repertoire of alternative habits may suddenly come forward” (2011: 15). Perhaps here are the seeds of new habits of mind. Naya Nepal, revisited.
I am careful not to 'over share' stories from Nepal these days, Sienna Craig's reflection are honest, important and show how difficult it is to do 'the right thing' when trying to help-event when you are an anthropologist...

Academic publishers reap huge profits as libraries go broke

What he and his collaborators found was that the five largest, for-profit academic publishers now publish 53 per cent of scientific papers in the natural and medical sciences – up from 20 per cent in 1973. In the social sciences, the top five publishers publish 70 per cent of papers.
Articles about the big, bad academic publishing industry have become quite a routine...what I don't understand is why a handful of big, powerful universities doesn't 'leak' their contracts with those publishers and risk a legal battle, but we finally get the terms, cost and discounts out in the open. Would those publisher really fight global ivy leagues universities with top legal scholars and full endowment coffers?!

Do Elite Business Schools Benefit Economies At All?

Does a country’s economy need prestigious business schools at all? Do their graduates really create value or simply extract it through inflated salaries from the work of lower-paid staff and middle managers? And where do most celebrated innovators and entrepreneurs a la Steve Jobs come from anyway? Certainly not from business schools. Maybe a ranking of science, engineering and design schools would be a much better indicator of economic strength of a country. Unfortunately, more and more high school graduates around the world, even in India, opt instead for business degrees – because they are easier to get and provide more lucrative careers. Perhaps economies do not actually ‘need’ elite business schools, yet there is still continued market ‘demand’ for them and the business executives they produce. Business schools exploit this paradox and students cannot be blamed either.
Stephan Manning on the (non-)role of elite business schools in society and economy. Question to ponder over the summer: Do we need elite development studies institutions (see Dave Algoso's link above on the future of development teaching)?


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