Showing posts from November, 2015

A Mighty Purpose (book review)

There is a book (and review) for every season and Adam Fifield’s ‘ A Mighty Purpose-How Jim Grant Sold the World on Saving Its Children ’ is a perfect match with American Thanksgiving and the end-of-the year season around the corner. The portrait of the influential UNICEF executive director who headed the organization from 1980 until his death 1995 is a fascinating account of personal and political leadership, UN history, global organizational culture and aid policy and practice during the commonly labeled ‘lost decade’ of development. As much as the book (rightly) focuses on the person and inspiring leader Jim Grant, from my academic perspective the book achieves something maybe even bigger: it holds up an intellectual mirror for reflections on our current world, how we can or should be working in ‘development’ and what professional organizations and cultures we (do not) need. The book also expands on a theme that I highlighted in other reviews related to the UN, namely the unique

Links & Contents I Liked 164

Hi all, A busy week on aidnography featuring two new posts on conferencing in the digital age and media representation of development in the context of CNN’s Hero of the Year event. In Development we have the best aid donors (according to a survey); citizen engagement; the surprising strength of child sponsorship models; how the ICC can communicate better; the militarization of business and communication; big NGOs moving to the South; teaching development economics in developing countries. Being on the road as a career activist; new publication on Latin American digital struggles; Oxford University Press shares insights from its open access monograph publishing trial. Enjoy! New from aidnography If you want more diverse conferences & panels, make technology part of your diversity strategy To make conferences and panels more interesting, meaningful and diverse, gathering everybody physically in the same room at the same time should become a strategy of the past. And since I ca

CNN Hero of the Year event offers a glimpse into today’s depoliticized charity industry

To be honest, I am not expecting much from CNN these days – certainly not much in terms of critical journalism. But it is still a fixture in the mainstream news orbit, maybe even some kind of a ‘global’ media brand. So when CNN celebrates its ‘Hero of the Year’ award it is a good opportunity to have a closer look at how global and domestic affairs are represented in the line-up and what they say about the state of civil society, global engagement and the non-profit charitable industry.  In short, while many of the projects are commendable efforts that certainly have made an impact on vulnerable people’s lives, the award is a celebration of the American charity hero figure. It is a well-rehearsed display of how individuals can make small differences-without rocking the social boat or engaging with root causes or systemic problems. Firmly embedded in notions that outside ‘heroes’ will bring ‘change’ and ‘fix’ peoples’ lives the award is essentially a celebration of the North American no

If you want more diverse conferences & panels, make technology part of your diversity strategy

The current debate on lacking conference panel diversity has (rightly) focused on gender aspects, featuring #allmalepanels and #manels hashtags, a tumblr and a pledge ; Courtney Martin’s post on ‘ How to NOT Plan a Pale Male Event ’ is an interesting recent addition to the debate, but it was a very traditional, un-technological development research conference that I attended recently that inspired my post. Smaller-scale conference panels or discussions that do not take place at a fancy venue and in front of a TED-style audience are the bread-and-butter meeting scenarios for many academics. And one of the biggest obstacles to broad-ranging diversity is the fact that many such events are firmly embedded in a 1.0 world. Academic conference organizers, often some kind of association, more and more act like other ‘walled garden’ owners: Whether it is academic journal publishers or proprietary software companies, open access is usually not the first thing that comes to mind when associati

Links & Contents I Liked 163

Hi all, Let’s start with this week’s highlights for a change: We have a great piece on UNDP’s social media work, a great essay on how ‘Humans of New York’ commodifies storytelling and great reflections on how the anthropological flagship-blog ‘Savage Minds’ hasn’t changed the discipline (yet...); this week’s WTF goes to a report on ‘Spirit of America’ a private military company that looks like an NGO and creates ‘embedded venture capitalists’ in uniform… And there’s more: Lessons not learned from Ebola; merging aid organizations for efficiency; Australian aid colonialism; are there really ‘infrastructure gaps’? Graduates leave Africa & the Rusty Radiator Award is around the corner. New publications on the crisis of household surveys and R2P case studies and finally a call for data anthropologists; MOOCs as university transformation engines and the fading credibility of the academic journal impact factor. Enjoy! New from aidnography The answer to academic publishing challenges is

The answer to academic publishing challenges is not always open access

You probably have read about ‘ Lingua-gate ’ by now where the editors of the linguistics academic journal Lingua quit their job and journal in protest over publisher Elsevier’s pricing and publishing policy ( What a Mass Exodus at a Linguistics Journal Means for Scholarly Publishing ) . The very fact that it is discussed so widely in virtual academia is already an indication that this is significant beyond the journal and the commercial publisher in question. And the response to the issue is almost always the same: ‘We need (insert very precious metal) standard open access!’ I am writing my response from a very practical standpoint: I work, research and teach a lot a Swedish university/university college; I am not an ‘evangelist’ or ‘advocate’ for or against anything; I am a small cog in the global academic machine – and increasingly I am getting a bit tired over the ‘open access journal articles will save the world/knowledge/academy’ discussions. As I wrote before ( Are journals hi

Links & Contents I Liked 162

Hi all, This is really a busy time of the semester, so the blogging work has to take a bit of a backseat these days...however, I am reading a very exciting book at the moment that I will feature on the blog next week and in the meantime there are plenty of interesting things to read, listen to and explore all over the Internet... Development news features Asia environmental challenges, the silent killer of road deaths, diplomatic leadership in the humanitarian system, more trouble for Save The Children, the persistence of male panels, the future of public broadcasters, outsourcing aid and two podcasts on wellbeing and African crime fighters. The two long-reads I want to highlight are an essay on psychiatry and the refugee issue and the ‘instagram teen’ who challenges her digital life …more on Twitter's 'decay’...and how it also helps in fighting human rights abuses. In Academia we are looking at scientific research and the university in Africa and explore the possibilities o