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 of live broadcasts in digital, blended learning!


Development news

Best quote of the day: "Humanitarianism used to be the little brother of development. It's now the big, sexy brother." #refugeedatasummit

— Heba Aly (@HebaJournalist) November 4, 2015

Palm oil’s new frontier is the vast rainforest covering the world’s second-largest island

To be sure, other commodities-based industries have also taken an environmental toll on New Guinea, including logging and mining, and often without sufficient benefit to local people (many of whom want independence from Indonesia, which they accuse of being exploitative). And other agricultural crops besides oil palms are being planted where forests used to be; indeed, the rate of Indonesia’s deforestation has surpassed Brazil’s.
A follow-up to the stories about the impact of forest fires on East Asia from the source in Indonesia. When will we see the emergence of an 'Asian spring' movement that will not just aim at changing governments, but re-igniting the passion of a 21st century environmental movement?

Are we effective at saving lives on the roads?

The poor and unsafe driving conditions around the world are terrible facts.
Every year, 1.3 million people are killed on the roads worldwide, and as many as 50 million are injured. Ninety percent of deaths and injuries from road accidents happen in low- and middle-income countries, where direct and indirect costs are close to $100 billion a year.
I am usually not a big fan of using the term 'silent killer', but road deaths are one of the issues we will hear much more about in the future with growing BRICS economies and more cars on all continents...

Why humanitarian reform needs a better leader

In his failure to provide real leadership, O’Brien has rather helpfully highlighted one aspect of the global humanitarian system that is undeniably broken: the process for appointing the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Under the current arrangements, the Under-Secretary-General is effectively nominated by the U.K. government of the day. Nominations for the role are made in much the same way plum diplomatic postings are usually handed out; merit is not exactly the first consideration. To put O’Brien’s appointment in context, the U.K. government initially nominated former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, before having him rejected due to a complete and utter lack of experience in the international development or humanitarian sectors.
This is not to say that there is some magical technocratic solution, whereby hardened and charming humanitarians with 30 years’ field experience are appointed to this role. The global heads of NGOs and UN agencies alike are primarily diplomatic roles, and the Under-Secretary-General is no different.
Steve Purbrick reminds us once again that appointing top UN or similar international governance positions is still struggling with new realities of professionalism, expertise and expectations and the pre-digital diplomatic nature of most of the processes.

Turbulence at Save the Children: share your stories of working for the NGO

On Saturday, it was revealed that Brendan Cox, director of policy and advocacy, has resigned from Save the Children following complaints by female staff members of inappropriate behaviour. Cox strenuously denies the allegations, but left in September.
On top of that, Save the Children’s chief executive Justin Forsyth has announced that he will be leaving in February, for unrelated reasons.
Not that my little blog is any indication of anything, but it is interesting that Save The Children and the Tony Blair affair was one of the 'hottest' topics here on the blog last year.

Psychic Refuge

Of the refugees fleeing conflict, it is likely a large number have psychiatric conditions from their experiences of conflict or of seeing people die in the process of traveling to Europe. As there is uncertainty of the refugees’ end destination, many governments cannot plan in the medium to long term for psychiatric healthcare for these groups, and governments do not want to make substantial investments into services within refugee camps that they prefer to see as temporary, and where the staff are on short-term staff contracts. There is little transitional or sustainable healthcare as refugees move between camps to their destination country. There are also psychological impacts of living in refugee camps themselves, in their isolation, and infrequent or lack of interaction with the outside world and their former support networks;
There remains a great lack of self-reflexivity in and by the West as to the impacts of its (neo)colonial violence, in terms of its responsibilities in contributing to the current refugee “crisis” and falling short of providing a proportionate amount of aid in response. This is part of a wider lack of acknowledgement of sociopolitical inequalities and psychological damage of colonial violence, both in ethnic minority communities within the UK and on a global scale in former colonized countries. Partial, Western-centered psychiatric care for individuals’ symptoms both obscure and reproduce wider structural problems.
Sophie Hoyle on the complexities of psychiatry in the context of refugees, war and historical shortcomings of medicalized discourses. Highly recommended long-read!

A woman’s place is in the audience: the joy of all-male panels

This is why I was surprised to see three almost-exclusively male events in quick succession pop into my inbox. I promptly contacted all of the event organisers to note this, hoping that they had unwittingly promoted this gender-blindness and were able to swiftly rectify it.
I want to note that I was polite to the point of ridiculous, acknowledging the challenge of putting together a diverse panel and joking about the time I had to chair a finance event (I work in funding) to ensure this. There were no finger-pointing accusations: merely the recognition that all-male panels are not something our sector should champion.
Rose Longhurst on the persistence of all-male panels in development...and elsewhere:

Hey @WIRED_Germany—where’s the diversity at your Mobility conference? 17 of 17 speakers are white & male. Seriously?

— Martin Jordan (@Martin_Jordan) November 1, 2015

UNESCO Report Calls for Stronger Source Protection

On the occasion of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, UNESCO is releasing a new study today, World Trends In Freedom of Expression and Media Development. Of particular note is the chapter Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age. We are reprinting below that section's key findings and recommendations, which add another important voice calling for stronger measures to protect sources.
I haven't had a chance to look at the new report, but certainly an interesting addition to the 'to read' pile...

The potential of reforming state broadcasters in divided societies: advancing an unfashionable argument

As one response, we revisit the potential in fragile and divided states of a set of institutions understandably considered relics of a monolithic, analogue, ageing past – the state broadcaster. We suggest that traditional state broadcasters – which we describe as often “too biased to trust but too big to ignore” – could provide a critical platform for national public debate in divided societies. For that to happen, they would need to transform themselves into genuinely independent 21st-century public service media organisations capable of being digitally agile, trusted and appealing to all in society (especially the young). Such a process we acknowledge presents formidable political, as well as technical difficulties. Despite the scale of the challenge, however, we argue that such a function is becoming increasingly important and increasingly urgent.
James Deane on the role of state broadcasters in the digital age; the post is also a good overview over recent BBC Media Action reports.

Why aid shouldn’t be outsourced.

Outsourcing aid delivering starts by trying to align incentives through complex contracts. This is the wrong place to start. Instead, donors should concentrate on finding organisations that share values and interests, whether governments, NGOs, or local community organisations. They should build the capacity of these organisations through long term support, and hold them accountable for long-term success, rather than for hitting targets or running projects.
I read AidLeap's post and what makes me sad is that I immediately think 'this is never going to happen anyway' when I reach the end of the post...I don't want to be that aid-cynic, but outsourcing seems like one of those issues that is impossible to argue against in this day and reality...

Secret aid worker: Is there life beyond the field?

Whatever the reason for leaving, aid workers who are considering their options not only face the daunting prospect of real-life commitments, but also the idea of pursuing a job in the real world. Leading a regular life – and being regular, like everyone else. One option for escaping this mundanity is consultancies.
As much I generally enjoy the 'Secret Aid worker' column in the GUARDIAN, I sometimes feel that it overstates the 'field aspects' of the profession. Unless you are on the 'frontlines' or in real humanitarian 'theatres' many aid workers live quite ordinary lives in the capitals around the world. As more and more people travel and engage globally your 'street cred' by sharing stories from Kabul or Freetown will only get you so far-and consultancies have very little to do with the real world anyway ;)!

Emergency AIDio Series 1 - Mental health & wellbeing of aid workers

On this first series we have guest speaker Amy Brathwaite talking about her amazing documentary "Kick at the Darkness" as well as personal stories shared by aid workers across the globe around their experiences of mental health and wellbeing.
I just started to listen to the program and it sounds very interesting indeed!

Crime Fighters

Radio crime stories for Africa's youth
Join detectives in a fight for truth and justice while gaining valuable perspectives on critical issues. Terrorist recruitment, poaching, land grabbing and counterfeit drugs – this is a series that gets to the heart of current challenges. Continuing with Learning by Ear's tradition of successful educational radio dramas, Crime Fighters provides knowledge and information in an entertaining format.
Sounds like a fun project from Deutsche Welle...

Our digital lives

The Decay of Twitter

In other words, on Twitter, people say things that they think of as ephemeral and chatty. Their utterances are then treated as unequivocal political statements by people outside the conversation. Because there’s a kind of sensationalistic value in interpreting someone’s chattiness in partisan terms, tweets “are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers.”
Robinson Meyer attempts to, and struggles, to engage with the decay of Twitter. The essay is interesting, but also quite theoretical and vague...maybe Twitter is simply 'decaying' because there is an increasing number of discussions simply arguing just that?!

What Happens When a Famous Instagram Teen Stops Being Polite and Starts Getting Real

"I found myself drowning in the illusion," O'Neill wrote on her new site, Let's Be Game Changers. "Social media isn't real. It's purely contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It's a system based on social approval, likes and dislikes, validation in views, success in followers ... it's perfectly orchestrated judgement. And it consumed me."
Jessica Roy's piece is definitely this link review's 'must-read' piece which teaches us more about digital culture than any academic seminar could probably achieve...

How Twitter Helps Fight Human Rights Abuse

Twitter, of course, is also a source of information. Beyond being an easy way to keep track of the traditional media, Twitter enables anyone in the world to notify me about a human rights concern. One can never simply accept tweets from unfamiliar sources as the truth, but they do provide leads to pursue and verify, which can shape global policy and agendas.
I think Ken Roth's commentary is an indirect answer to the question of whether and how Twitter is 'decaying'. In my line of work and research it is still a very use- and powerful tool and it can actually help to in its all small ways to contribute to a 'better world'...


Africa produces just 1.1% of global scientific knowledge - but change is coming

Our vision is to make research an attractive, recognised career option in Africa, creating scientists who stay in the continent and can win their own grants to address local problems.
I wish AESA all the best, of course. But I also remember that one of the first times I learned about 'the Internet', pretty much 20 years ago it was in the context of how it would transform research and education in Africa. 20 years later, 99% of scientific knowledge is produced outside the continent which means there is still a VERY long way to go...

What is the university for?

We need to recuperate the sense of attention and play, of the creative act as opposed to the banality of neoliberal creativity, that will prove indispensable for naming our present and finding our way out of those predicaments that threaten to undermine the best of our knowledge upon which the future of our students, faculty, its workers and that of the institution of the university rests.
Premesh Lalu's essay on (South) African education and the purpose of universities has been shared quite widely; it is also a reminder that money for scientific research and labs will not be sufficient to create a scientific community on the continent.

Paradigms lost

Yet one factor in the public distrust of science has been largely overlooked, and it goes to the heart of the scientific enterprise. The capacity for self-correction is the source of science’s immense strength, but the public is unnerved by the fact that scientific wisdom isn’t immutable. Scientific knowledge changes with great speed and frequency – as it should – yet public opinion drags with reluctance to be modified once established. And the rapid ebb and flow of scientific ‘wisdom’ has left many people feeling jerked around, confused, and increasingly resistant to science itself.
David P. Barash on public trust in science and humankind's ability to live with uncertainty and complexity...

Building Learning Communities through Live Broadcast

Combining broadcast thinking with a social media approach is where blended meets real world learning, and where bite-sized learning can be contextualised through wider discussion. With a broadcast “magazine format” which could include short features, clips or readings from course/MOOC materials, or even video inserts/live links from academics on location, learners are given the opportunity to engage with course materials in a synchronous environment while social media forms the basis for interaction. This style of presentation is about enhancing the learning experience –an audience who are inspired to participate, rather than having an ‘appointment to view’ out of necessity for the next assignment.
Catherine Chambers outlines some excellent points about live broadcasts-a core element that we are using in our blended learning course as well. The 'downside' is that they are staff-, time- and technology-intensive endeavors, so they are quite expensive and need a lot of input to work well and manageable over time.


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