Links & Contents I Liked 150 (!!)

Hi all,

Right in the middle of some kind of summer break, aidnography celebrates another link-related benchmark-welcome to link review #150!
What I wrote in late 2013 to acknowledge link review #100 is still quite accurate:
100 weekly link reviews later: Why I still like curating #globaldev content

As work at ComDev has become a bit more demanding my link reviews have become a bit less frequent and regular-but I think I have found some kind of content post-link review ratio that works for most readers.
Once again, thank you for enriching my digital world-and thank you for sharing, liking & tweeting which is always appreciated!


This week's review is packed with great readings, starting with the ghost schools & ghost clinics of Afghanistan, Canada’s charity audit attack reaches the UN; new data on the precarious new global middle class; #DevPix; the limits of 'effective altruism'; yes, there is a 'social impact cruise'! How do plan your career in #globaldev; Digital lives looks at the weaknesses of Linked Pulse; great essay on why culture isn’t free and investors are killing social change, plus a short history of VICE; Academia on how marginalized scholars need to try to (re)present their communities; why there is so much research on Twitter and how young, lower class men in India become empowered consumers. 

New from aidnography (marking another milestone-post #350!)
Why the #HackingTeam hack should be a wake-up call for the #globaldev community

The story will hopefully trigger some serious discussions around ‘ICT4Bad’ and how na├»ve many governments, donors, ‘evangelists’ and also researchers have been in the ICT4D community. While the facebook and Twitter revolutions have been addressed time and again there are some dark and twisted companies and technologies at work to undermine civil society-supplying oppressive regimes with the weaponry for technological warfare against their citizens and whatever opposition dares to speak out. Even though the support for the trade-embargoed, war-crimes-stricken Sudan maybe an exception, it shows how willingly and easily companies like the Hacking Team can undermine long-term development, capacity-building or good governance efforts
Development news
Ghost students, ghost teachers, ghost schools

But a BuzzFeed News investigation — the first comprehensive journalistic reckoning, based on visits to schools across the country, internal U.S. and Afghan databases and documents, and more than 150 interviews — has found those claims to be massively exaggerated, riddled with ghost schools, teachers, and students that exist only on paper. The American effort to educate Afghanistan’s children was hollowed out by corruption and by short-term political and military goals that, time and again, took precedence over building a viable school system. And the U.S. government has known for years that it has been peddling hype.
Watchdog Tries to Verify Coordinates of Afghan Health Clinics; Gets a Surprise
John Sopko, the special inspector general, sent USAID a letter on June 25 asking about the clinics.
“Thirteen coordinates were not located within Afghanistan,” the letter reads. Additionally, 13 more were duplicates, 90 clinics had no location data and 189 coordinate locations had no structure within 400 feet.
One set of coordinates was in the Mediterranean Sea.
“My office’s initial analysis of USAID data and geospatial imagery has led us to question whether USAID has accurate location information for 510 — nearly 80 percent — of the 641 health care clinics funded by the PCH [Partnership Contracts for Health] program,” wrote Sopko.
In his understated conclusion, Sopko noted drily: “To provide meaningful oversight of these facilities, both USAID and MOPH (the Afghan Ministry of Public Health) need to know where they are.”
These two stories are connected and are important on so many levels: It is Buzzfeed and The Intercept that investigated these stories; it is an interesting example of how 'big data' can help to find out more about development initiatives...but it also shows very clearly the limitations: Just relying on faulty GPS coordinates is not enough. 'Open data' needs time, money and effort for verification and ground-work. Oh, and the amount of money that the US has wasted in every area of development work in Afghanistan is mind-boggling; but I'm also pretty sure that accountability will remain '1.0' when journalism, monitoring etc. have long moved into the digital era!

Canada Without Poverty charity challenges Harper govt. audits at UN in Geneva

Canada Without Poverty is among 60 charities being hit with political-activity investigations under a $13.4-million special program by the Canada Revenue Agency. The group has been under continuous audit for three years.
Critics say the audits have created an "advocacy chill," as some charities under scrutiny self-censor to avoid jeopardizing their charitable status, which can be revoked if the rules are broken. There have also been allegations that the government has selectively targeted opponents to its policies, and that the definition of political activity is unclear and malleable.
The power and danger of Canada's political audits are now discussed on a global stage in Geneva.

WHO incapable of reacting to crises such as Ebola, says report

Organisational and financial issues must be addressed immediately, it says. Less than 25% of the WHO’s budget comes from core funds contributed by member states and there are no core funds for emergency response. “The longstanding policy of zero nominal growth policy for assessed contributions has dangerously eroded the purchasing power of WHO’s resources, further diminishing the organisation’s emergency capacity,” the report says.
As much as I enjoy the occasional critique about the big, bureaucratic UN system it is important to also point out that specialized agencies such as the WHO are only as swift and prepared for emergencies as member contributions allow...

A Global Middle Class Is More Promise than Reality

The first decade of this century witnessed an historic reduction in global poverty and a near doubling of the number of people who could be considered middle income. But the emergence of a truly global middle class is still more promise than reality.
And though there was growth in the middle-income population from 2001 to 2011, the rise in prosperity was concentrated in certain regions of the globe, namely China, South America and Eastern Europe. The middle class barely expanded in India and Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central America.
New Pew report, long article, tons of statistics and visualizations-great stuff!

#DevPix: 5 things that can’t be ignored about development photography

Though just an hour long, the #DevPix twitter chat proved to be a fruitful discussion for reflecting on the power and pitfalls of development photography, while suggesting resources for doing it better.
Claire Bracegirdle shares reflections on the recent #DevPix Twitter event-very interesting discussions, great resources!

These Photos Show How Hard It Is To Live On Less Than $1 A Day

A book called Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World's Poor, timed to come out just before the U.N. figures out what to do next, shares photos of this daily life on four continents.
"This book was published in hopes of bringing awareness to brutal statistics," says Renee C. Byer, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and senior photojournalist for the Sacramento Bee, who spent months traveling the world to make the book, in collaboration with a poverty nonprofit called The Forgotten International.
She tried to avoid stereotypical images of poverty, and included happier moments—children playing and laughing—along with the rest of the reality of their lives.
Byer met people living in sewers in Romania, a six-year-old cow herder in Ghana who will likely never have the chance to go to school, and an 80-year old Bolivian woman who explained that her crops are failing because of climate change.
After each chapter, the book includes suggestions for how people can help—beyond the obvious of giving donations to nonprofits. "It's not just about money," she says. "It's about volunteering, writing your congressman. ... You can start tweeting to bring awareness to the issue. Without awareness, the problem isn't going to get solved."
Renee Byer's book sounds interesting and I hope the product is as well implemented as her intentions in producing it.

9 awesome nonprofit trends we should all celebrate with unicorn cookies!

Every day, the hardworking, passionate, brilliant people who work for and with nonprofits work tirelessly to make the world better. And every day, the world gets a little better because of us. I think there are signs that the world is starting to recognize just how vital we nonprofit professionals are. We are awesome. YOU are awesome. I hope that you will take some time off this summer to recharge. You’ve earned it, you sexy nonprofit unicorn who makes the world a happier place, you.
Vu Le shares some love-and important trends for (US) nonprofits. I am not sure whether and how they apply to the #globaldev community, but for the time being let's just agree that it's an important, growing sector with a lot of positive potential!

Why “Effective Altruism” Isn’t Enough

Creating living-wage jobs for poor people, so long as one avoids negative social and environmental externalities, is the maximally decent ethical choice. Such organizations also achieve more for each donor dollar. Since the costs of poverty alleviation are offset by revenue, donating to that factory to set up a health initiative for workers, say, would go much further than donating to a traditional nonprofit.
We should strive to be effective altruists. But efficacy may mean more than increasing how much we donate or picking certain recommended causes. Effective altruism should force us to shed many of our ideas about giving, which undermine poor people’s ability to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.
Leila Janah's post is very interesting food for thought-especially in connection with the previous link. How closely aligned with capitalism, consumerism and business discourses should non-profit, charitable endeavors be to achieve 'impact'? There is not easy answer, but I wonder whether the pendulum swings a bit too easily into the 'business' direction rather than into the 'social transformation' direction...

Can philanthropy ever reduce inequality?

Can the Ford Foundation attack its own power and privilege in order to put people back in the driving seat of social change?
Accepting that challenge implies wholesale changes in governance, accountability, decision-making and the culture of philanthropy. It also requires full trust and support for the independent, broad-based social movements of our time: #BlackLivesMatter and #Fightfor15; movements against the privatization of public schooling, mass incarceration, and unchecked capitalist development; and struggles for immigrant, transgender and indigenous rights, global labor and environmental justice, and community-based cooperative development.
Throughout the last 50 years, foundations have made unsuccessful attempts to reduce inequality, following the reformist route into individualistic programs and expanded market opportunities. By contrast, ‘attacking inequality at its roots’ requires the wholesale transformation of American society.
Erica Kohl-Arenas asks some of the really tough questions around philanthropy. Very important reading!

Boom in 'voluntourism' sparks concerns over whether the industry is doing good

Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise operator, this month announced a "social impact" cruise which allows travelers to take part in three days of volunteering, helping to cultivate cacao plants, building water filters and providing English tuition.
But with no industry regulator, campaigners within the sector are concerned about the rising numbers of companies involved, with no mechanism to hold them to account for the work that they do.
"One of the challenges facing people wishing to volunteer responsibly is that there is no independent quality standard, no recognized regulatory body," said Simon Hare, development director of British charity Globalteer.
"There are small local outfits as well as big corporations who see volunteering as a way of driving profits rather than an integral part of a long term strategy for communities with real needs. At best this can make volunteering a waste of time and at worst it can actually be harmful."
Critics warn the lack of oversight means volunteers can easily end up in parts of the world without the skills needed to help, take away local jobs, and form bonds with children in need that are shortlived as they quickly move on.
A good and timely reminder about the pitfalls of the growing voluntourism industry. I haven't read anything about the Carnival social impact cruise and will look into this...

This new tag will challenge everything you know about writing.

The arrival of the “tweetable” tag is one more step along the social-mediafication of writing. Seeing it appear first on the World Bank blog is especially worrisome. That iconic institution undoubtedly needs to make its research outputs and insights more accessible, but reducing them to fragments strips away their real value.
As always, the problem with World Bank communication is not whether or not its research outputs are more or less shareable. As Dave Algoso rightly points out, it may set a wrong example of 'best practice' and an even stronger push to produce 'tweetable' material.

Research briefing: How do debate programmes influence knowledge of key governance issues and political participation?

The briefing is a useful insight for research and development organisations into the impact of media on governance in Sierra Leone; the challenges of conducting research during an Ebola epidemic and how regression analysis can help control demographic and social factors for a more informed overview of audience behaviour.
New BBC Media Action research briefing on radio programming and political participation.

WorkDev #1: Why Iwrote a book about aid careers

I wanted the book to draw on others’ experiences and to be relevant to people at all stages of their career, from those exploring the sector for the first time or searching for their first job to career changers looking to switch into development to people who already have a number of years experience under their belt and are charting their career growth.
After almost three years of research and writing, the book finally took shape, and is comprised of four different sections. The first is aimed at newcomers to the sector–including an overview of where you could work and who you could work for. People often just think of NGOs and the UN, but the range of employers is vast, and it’s useful to start as wide as possible during the job search.
Maia Gedde will feature her book and career advice over ay WhyDev in a series of posts during the next months.

Our digital lives
Blather from LinkedIn Pulse

This weeks digest, like the previous weeks, was embarrassing. For me. LinkedIn Pulse believes that I read at the middle school level, possess the social skills of a 2 year old, with no grasp of logic but brimming with a Dale Carnegie like enthusiasm for winning friends and influencing people. Here is a sampling.
Rakesh Vohra has a point. The 'LinkedIn Pulse' featuring all the 'influencers' is really not the strongest feature of LinkedIn. But as commentators point out (and as I wrote some time ago: Is there any use of LinkedIn for development professionals?)
this doesn't the whole network useless in my view.

Big Data for Development in Action: the Global Pulse Project Series

The Global Pulse Project Series showcases data innovation projects carried out with our partners across the network of Pulse Labs in New York, Jakarta and Kampala. The projects have been documented as case studies to enable others to adapt and build upon the approaches.
I haven't had time to browse through the list, but it looks as if this is a really interesting compilation of data-related innovative development ideas.

Culture Isn’t Free

Artists are expected to reinvent themselves, turn to crowdfunding, and hustle their way out of their predicaments. But we cannot crowdfund our way to broad public support for culture or to more sustainable approaches to cultural production. We need to move from narrating individual struggles to discussing community-wide challenges and collective solutions.
Miranda Campbell revisits an old debate about art and artists in society with a post-modern, digital, platform-capitalistic twist...

Innovators are killing us: Instead of reinventing housing or transit, they bring us companies like Airbnb and Uber

As scholar Paul Erickson has pointed out, innovation transforms processes and leaves structures intact. Thus, instead of reinventing housing or transit, “innovators” mostly develop new processes to monetize the dysfunctional housing and transit we already have, via companies like Airbnb and Uber.
The discourse of innovation celebrates creativity, but just as another form of capital; it aims for the mystery of spiritual life, but summons only its reverence for authority; and it lionizes collaboration, but only for profit. In other words: Beware false prophets.
John Patrick Leary adds to the growing debate on how 'disruption' and 'innovation' can lead to social change rather than platform capitalism.

The cult of Vice

For Vice, anything that detracts from its authenticity may not just be an unfortunate bit of press but a strike at the very foundation of its credibility as a company. Right now, the company is thriving: a multibillion-dollar enterprise that continues to be described as “swashbuckling” and “edgy.” That is the irony, and the tension, of Vice. To sustain its appearance of being the genuine article—among employees, viewers, investors, and the media—it needs to be both rebellious and dependable, to have the credibility of The New York Times with the posture of a drinking buddy. Vice must balance these often contradictory qualities as the company strides toward its future as a bona fide media giant. 
Chris Ip reviews the history of Vice-with more food for thought about the present and future of journalism and what it can mean for #globaldev and beyond.


It’s time to redraw the world’s very unequal knowledge map

Starting to change the map will require several steps. Firstly, funding and technological infrastructure must be improved. At the same time, our own perceptions of “science” must be broadened to encompass the social sciences.
Research outputs need to be recognised as existing beyond the boundaries of the formal journal article. Incentives and reward systems need to be adjusted to encourage and legitimise the new, fairer practices that are made possible in a digitally networked world.
And finally, the open access movement needs to broaden its focus from access to knowledge to full participation in knowledge creation and in scholarly communication.
Laura Czerniewicz on the Northern-dominated research map and how to include scholars and research from the South. Ultimately, the points she raises are also applicable globally-especially the dominance of (natural) science research as impactful research.

For Us, Self-Promotion Is Community Promotion

The reality is, it often is so much more than you. When you are excluded, it is because most or all of the members of your communities are excluded. When scholars who dare to speak up are attacked, they are simply targets for a larger assault on liberalism, higher education, anti-racism, feminism, and other causes that promote equal rights and/or social justice. The self-doubt is, at least in part, an internalization of the bias against marginalized scholars in academia and society generally. We ease the work of defenders of the status quo in academia when we are complicit in our own silence, invisibility, and exclusion.
We owe it to ourselves and our communities to be heard, and seen, and cited, and promoted, and included, and engaged.
Eric Anthony Grollman on the importance of marginalized scholars to engage, speak up and try to 'represent' different marginalized groups and communities better.

Why is there so much research on Twitter? And what does this mean for our methods?

Why is there so much research on Twitter? Is it because it’s difficult to get data from other platforms? Or is Twitter a special platform?
I received a range of responses:
Twitter is a popular platform in terms of the media attention it receives and therefore it attracts more research due to this cultural status
Twitter makes it easier to find and follow conversations which consequently makes it easier to research
Twitter has hashtag norms which make it easier gathering, sorting, and expanding searches when collecting data
Twitter data is easy to retrieve as major incidents, news stories and events on Twitter are normally centered around a hashtag
The Twitter API is more open and accessible compared to other social media platforms, which makes Twitter more favorable to developers creating tools to access data. This consequently increases the availability of tools to researchers.
Wasim Ahmed on the increase in Twitter research. As much as I agree with his 5 main points, I also think that research always works in hypes-and Twitter certainly is part of several hypes, including mixed methods research, interdisciplinary research and so on.

Why do Young Men from Lower Socio-Economic Classes prefer Shopping Online?

Given that they are now equipped with knowledge regarding their intended product for purchase, they are more confident when it comes to shopping in mall showrooms and don’t feel intimidated with either the ambience or the salesmen. They often felt that they knew more than the salesmen after this process of acquiring knowledge about the phone through social media.
In other words the collective social knowledge that social media offers, transforms their shopping experience itself, from just being a passive buyer to an assertive consumer, who wouldn’t be put down so easily.
Such experiences have led them to click on more advertisements, as they realize that it was these advertisements that actually offered them a window to a new shopping experience.
Shriram Venkatraman presents very interesting 'netnographic' research on how online shopping empowers men from lower classes as consumers.


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