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Hi all,

While our ComDev program is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary this week, there is also a lot of good food-for-reading available that deserves some of your attention:

In Development we are looking at disaster recovery and exclusion, the UN’s struggle with whistle blowers, Greenpeace decision to hire investigative journalists, how Grindr and global aidworkers had a positive impact on the LGBT community in the Philippines, more tips on how to communicate complex issues, CSR as good PR, and concise critique of global volunteers in Cambodia.
Digital lives on ‘quit lit’ and development opinion polling. And Academia looks at openness and copyright feat. Google books, EU copyright policy-making & ‘WikiGate’-the new Elsevier-Wkipedia partnership!


New from aidnography

The Frontman-Bono (in the name of power) (book review)

Bono and celebrity humanitarianism are always a reflection of what we want such performances to be; they are a mirror for our hopes and wishes in the liminal space between entertainment, the resolution of a problem within the attention span of a music video or pop-cultural performance and serious, deep-rooted political engagement. It is our desire to look for a ‘bigger picture’, a moment, sound bite or person that is bigger than us or any global problem which enables celebrity engagement with ‘development’. And it needs experienced performers to find that delicate balance of elevating a crowd without alienating them, of challenging their view just a little bit without condescendingly dismissing their lifestyles and expectations that makes Bono’s engagement appealing, credible-but ultimately nothing more than re-arranging a few consumerist deck chairs on underdevelopment’s Titanic.
Development news
Lessons from Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake for Nepal’s reconstruction

Anyone currently working in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Nepal’s rural communities needs to be aware of how easy it is to ignore the local – local governance institutions, local social hierarchies, local networks; and they should be conscious that by doing so they’re not being neutral, they’re exacerbating exclusion.
IDS' Miguel Loureiro on how disaster management and exclusion often go hand in hand; one issue that we also have to realize is that (natural) disasters are probably not great 'capacity builders'. Governments don't 'pull themselves together' after a disaster, but the influx of money and other resources can temporarily distract from 'bad' governance structures.

Ostracised, sacked … and even arrested: the fate of whistleblowers at the UN

If the ethics office establishes a prima-facie case of retaliation against a staff member, an investigation is conducted by the UN’s office for internal oversight services (OIOS). OIOS has been beset by problems in recent years, with staff complaining that it lacks the independence required for proper scrutiny.
Peter Gallo is a former OIOS investigator who left the UN in March. He said the office lacked independence, saying: “Management of OIOS has been riddled with cronyism, incompetence and corruption for the past five years.” Gallo, like Hunt-Matthes, has tried to challenge in the UN’s court the ethics office’s decision not to consider him a genuine whistleblower.
“Nothing will change until there is real accountability in the organisation, and that will never happen unless and until there is a truly independent and separate agency established that is not part of the UN secretariat, but reports directly – and separately – to the member states.”
Roger Hamilton-Martin's article is a reminder of how far away the open, digital, data-driven and transparent future is when it comes to large aid organizations and how such organizations respond to whistle blowers, critique and actual bad practices.

Greenpeace hires team of investigative journalists

About half a dozen core team members will be supplemented by a network of freelancers, field researchers and specialists based around the world. The unit will also use technology such as satellite imaging and drones to build investigations.
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said investigative journalism would sit alongside direct action and mobilising public opinion as the organisation’s core activities.
Lots of food for thought about the future of (development) journalism, campaigning and NGO public engagement.

Typhoon Grindr: love, liberation and post-disaster sex in the Philippines

Just as humanitarians have forever changed local politics and economy through their relief work, their presence in restaurants and bars has often caused extraordinary, if unintended, changes to social life.
While gay Tacloban has previously had leaders to give public visibility to issues of discrimination, such as the transgender councillor Jom Bagulaya, gay Taclobanons mention how spending time with foreign aid workers had led LGBT people to become more open and expressive in everyday life.
“I observed humanitarians as being very publicly affectionate,” shares Jericho. “Unlike us Filipinos. We’re more disciplined. So when I see them get drunk and guys kiss other guys and girls kiss other girls, I say to myself, ‘Cool! It shouldn’t mean anything.’” As a Catholic who still sometimes speaks of hanging out with humanitarians in the language of “temptation” and “sin”, Jericho feels that foreign visitors have loosened up some of Tacloban’s small-town anxieties.
Jonathan Corpus Ong on how Grindr, global values and aid work have had positive impacts on the LGBT community in Tacloban, Philippines, after typhoon Hayan.

UN plan to save Earth is “fig leaf” for Big Business: insiders

Among the ‘Major Groups’ engaged in the UN’s SDG process is ‘Business and Industry.’ Members of this group include fossil fuel companies like Statoil USA and Tullow Oil, multinational auto parts manufacturer Bridgestone Corporation, global power management firm Eaton Corporation, agribusiness conglomerate Monsanto, insurance giant Thamesbank, financial services major Bank of America, and hundreds of others from Coca Cola to Walt Disney to Dow Chemical.
These interests have showered the UN’s SDG agenda with glowing praise — calling only for the need for further engagement with business and industry.
In its 24th July statement before one UN SDG review meeting, the Global Business Alliance  — set-up by corporations to represent their mutual commitment to “market-based solutions” — proudly told delegates that the process “amplifies our traditional role in economic growth and innovation” and commended the SDG draft:
“An important role for business is recognized throughout.”
Nafeez Ahmed's long read is interesting, but kind of overstates the 'investigative journalism' aspect (a term that is used quite loosely when I compile my link review and read through the different pieces); the UN's agenda is neither radical nor visionary and the SDGs are firmly embedded in old-school thinking around economic growth; that said, the article provides a good overview over how (development) agendas are (not) set.

10 tips on communicating complex ideas

Read around your subject as much as possible. Don’t just focus on your narrow sub-sub field. Try to find big-picture books, views and blogs to see how your work fits in a wider context (especially for people starting out in research careers).
Lawrence Haddad shares some sensible points about communicating development 'stuff'; but at the same time a lot of communication material has become much better-and/or I have become less patient. Your 40 page pdf report (which is actually only 22 pages long and comes with tons of annexes, an overview of the organization's publications of the past 3 years and other boring stuff) without a decent summary goes straight into the virtual bin...

CSR is good PR: charity partnerships increase consumer loyalty, finds Forster

It suggests that businesses could work with charities to better engage consumers, and younger generations in particular, as 64 per cent of survey respondents said they felt businesses should work more with charities to tackle social and environmental issues. However, this rises to 75 per cent of those aged 18-34, but drops to 52 per cent among those aged over 65.
Examples of successful partnerships include Tesco's work with Diabetes UK, the Football Association working with Breast Cancer Care and Boots' collaboration with Macmillan, Forster says.
No, I would not consider a piece on 'PR Week' as a 'link I liked'. But it is an important reminder of the empty rhetoric of CSR: When large companies team up with large charities for some apolitical-feel-good charity thingy around 'diabetes' or 'cancer' you will get loyal supermarket customers but certainly no social change or 'sustainable' value chains.

The Voluntourist

I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone why we don’t accept foreign volunteers at HHA, instead focusing on Khmer volunteers
Sally Hetherington provides a concise overview over why voluntourism with foreign volunteers is not a desirable option.

5 Arguments Against Taking Care of Aid Workers

“What I like about your article is that it shows some respect for aid workers who are good enough to be employed in emergencies, but somehow aren’t good enough to receive care to make sure there is nothing wrong with them…”
Brendan McDonald ads to the growing discussion around aid and humanitarian worker well-being. Similar to the earlier point about organizational accountability, this topic is another reminder of how slow large organizations and professional systems really are to respond to a changing environment and professionalism.

Hot off the (digital) press
Stress Management in Peace Operations

Our results show that there are gaps in the international organizations’ staff care and stress management systems throughout all phases of a German civilian experts’ assignment. This offers potential for ZIF to get involved in stress management and actively boost morale and stress resilience of its seconded personnel in order to counter the negative effects of stress. Such a strategy could entail a clarification of all parties’ (home country, mission, and secondee) liabilities regarding the tax, health care and social security situation of the secondee as well as resilience building prior to an assignment, active backing during, and a debriefing and ongoing support afterwards
Interesting, albeit a bit technocratic, report on stress (management) and 'resilience'. At least the issue does gain some momentum on different institutional levels...

Glocal Times

Ten years and twenty-one issues ago, when I wrote my first editorial for Glocal Times, the headline “Coming of age” came naturally. It alluded to the then five year old Communication for Development Master programme at Malmö University, for which this Glocal Times has been an indispensable companion ever since. That statement may at the time have seemed prematurely self-assured, but a decade later the MA programme has definitely reached maturity, and arguably even seniority (in the academic sense of the word). Now Glocal Times is coming of age as the “relevant digital reference in the field of communication for development and social change worldwide” it set out to become.
10th anniversary double-issue of the world's greatest C4D open access journal (well, I get paid to be a bit biased here ;)...)

Our digital lives

Data is not an asset, it’s a liability

So data is a liability with an ongoing cost. But what are we getting for the price? The all too typical corporate big data strategy boils down to three steps:
Write down all the data
This never makes sense. You can’t expect the value of data to just appear out of thin air. Data isn’t fissile material. It doesn’t spontaneously reach critical mass and start producing insights.
I understand that this is a corporate blog where a company promotes their product-fair enough. But the essential point is that 'more data' does not create 'more profit' and that companies that are open about their lack of collection, processing and analysis of data may actually have a good business case as well...

What do they want?

And besides, the information might be a threat. What if it turned out that people feel patronised by aid workers? Or that they would rather their food didn’t arrive with logos announcing their indebtedness to foreign governments? Or that they resent being given a T-shirt when really they would sooner just have the money? What if people don’t really want another agricultural programme, and they’d rather have a bus ticket to the nearest town and somewhere to stay when they get there? These kinds of discoveries could be quite discomfiting for the agencies themselves – though in the long run, they would presumably do a better job.
So much for the conspiracy theory. There is a more practical reason too: even if the incentives changed and organisations did want to use the data that exist, many of the numbers are locked away out of reach. With the honourable exception of the Barometers and the World Values survey, most opinion polling data is collected and owned by private companies, who need to charge money for it. This means, of course, that most people don’t use it. It’s a strange accident of statistical history that some data – for example on people’s incomes, or how they do in school – is generally publicly owned by governments or multilateral agencies, while other data – like most opinion polling – is owned privately. While official agencies certainly should not have a monopoly on data collection, it seems to me that data should be available for use, whoever has created it.
Claire Melamed on the holy grail of better opinion poll data in the context of development and poverty (reduction).

The Rise of ‘Quit Lit’

Which is all to say that literary goodbye-ing—today, just as it perhaps has always been—is about much more than quitting. It’s about turning the quitting into a kind of moral declaration. “I quit,” goes the text. “And you should, too,” goes the subtext. In that sense, a professor publishing a “why I quit” essay isn’t just an exercise in explanation or performance, though it may well be those things, too. It is also, more basically if slightly more passive-aggressively, a declaration of an injustice, of a wrongness, of a problem that begs for correction. It is a boycott of one. In that sense, quit lit’s smarms and entitlements aside, the genre has something nice to say about the world and its disappointments. Whether a protest involves academia or gluten or yoga pants, it is generally made in the hope that, on the Internet, protests can change minds and gather voices. The latest form of the “goodbye to all that” is predicated on the belief that, today, a “goodbye” might actually signal the start of something better.
No One Cares That You Quit Your Job
There are reasons why scholars find succor in quitpieces, but they are both exhausting and counter-productive. Here’s the truth: academia is an amazing sector with some of the best features of any job, even if it also has substantial problems. Folks on the way out might feel like they're biting their thumb at something, and those still “stuck” on the inside of this troubled-but-terrific career might feel some welcome-if-temporary solidarity. But after that, it’s just more fodder for legislators, corporations, and the general public to undermine the academy. It helps nobody in the long run.
Why should anyone be impressed that somebody can quit something? Much more impressive is figuring out how to live with it. More staypieces, please.
Megan Garber and Ian Bogost on 2 different dimensions of the issue of 'quitting' and telling/writing/giving seminars about it. I think 'quit lit' deserves further analysis in the context of self-branding, new forms of employment and income in the post-capitalist 'TED economy' and a general desire to publicly discuss the changing nature of work and live...


What Ever Happened to Google Books?

There are plenty of ways to attribute blame in this situation. If Google was, in truth, motivated by the highest ideals of service to the public, then it should have declared the project a non-profit from the beginning, thereby extinguishing any fears that the company wanted to somehow make a profit from other people’s work. Unfortunately, Google made the mistake it often makes, which is to assume that people will trust it just because it’s Google. For their part, authors and publishers, even if they did eventually settle, were difficult and conspiracy-minded, particularly when it came to weighing abstract and mainly worthless rights against the public’s interest in gaining access to obscure works. Finally, the outside critics and the courts were entirely too sanguine about killing, as opposed to improving, a settlement that took so many years to put together, effectively setting the project back a decade if not longer.
The 2.0 idea of Google books met the 1.0 reality of courts, copyright and lawyers which has rendered the project in a pretty much useless limbo for years.

Why academics need to lobby for copyright reform – now

But these figures have been presented at so many Brussels conferences and summarised into fact sheets that they are what comes to mind to politicians who are pressed for time.
The role of academic research into public policy options should be to make it easy for politicians to do the right thing. It is not possible for parliaments to operate without outside, easily digestible input. If we are not getting that input from academics, we will get it from industry.
Examples of successful advocacy in the public interest more often than not mimic these tactics and make the economic argument: For example, several library associations have produced economic data to demonstrate their macroeconomic benefit and their priorities for copyright reform have ended up being quite prominently featured in the final version of my report.
EU parliamentarian Julia Reda on how she is looking for 'better' evidence to counter industry lobbyism on copyright reform. I agree with many points, but I also demand a bit more from parliamentarians and policy-makers: It's 2015 and you should always be skeptical when research/'research' points towards 'economic benefits' and 'job growth'. And I have doubts about the power of even well-presented academic evidence-if it doesn't fit, i.e. involves 'freedom' many people in power will automatically turn away and look at more 'reasonable' insights from the industry.

“WikiGate” raises questions about Wikipedia’s commitment to open access

Scientific publisher Elsevier has donated 45 free ScienceDirect accounts to "top Wikipedia editors" to aid them in their work. Michael Eisen, one of the founders of the open access movement, which seeks to make research publications freely available online, tweeted that he was "shocked to see @wikipedia working hand-in-hand with Elsevier to populate encylopedia w/links people cannot access," and dubbed it "WikiGate." Over the last few days, a row has broken out between Eisen and other academics over whether a free and open service such as Wikipedia should be partnering with a closed, non-free company such as Elsevier.
Elsevier wants to sell articles/subscriptions. They have no interest in open access and a little bit of thinly disguised CSR (see above) is not going to change anything.


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