Links & Contents I Liked 191

Hi all,

Even if I may sound a bit repetitive, but this week once again features some most excellent food for weekend thoughts!

Development news: More dignified fundraising images lead to fewer donations; ‘Empowering girls’ through ‘Western’ approaches won’t fix the world; great essay to wrap up #LintonLies-and a new, better memoir on orphanage tourism; automation may kill 90% of garment factory jobs; failing for sustainable palm oil; humanitarian algorithm woes; reflections on action research consultancy; ‘sometimes all you see are other humanitarians’-home and belonging in the aid industry.

Our digital lives: Women moderators are no excuse for an #allmalepanel; celebrity power and science communication; viral gatekeepers; how to take care of yourself in the era of wellbeing ideology?

Academia: Being an (action) researcher and activist for 4 decades; using big data in social science research.


New from aidnography

The academic obsession to write about #Brexit

Writing about #Brexit is also an opportunity to vent the frustration at those parts of the elite that promised rewards if we behaved well, advised them and then showed us the middle finger and simply buggered off. Buried underneath every hashtag or viral explosion of commentary is the powerlessness and frustration of a disenfranchised group, waving their USB sticks angrily at the next workshop where the in-group discusses another ‘special issue’...
We may ask ourselves how we should/could react (differently) to events in a mediatized, viral world. We are caught between a rock and a hard place-doomed if we buy into the media machinery too quickly, doomed if we leave digital space all too easily to ‘the other side’.
Development news
What’s the evidence on fundraising with images of pity v images of dignity? Testing the Narrative Project

I believe that a triple-bottom-line also exists for nonprofit communicators and fundraisers: we have the responsibility to share narratives that edify the People we ultimately intend to help, and also support the Planet (the nonprofit/global development ecosystem) and also drive Profit (or funding for the cause).
We can’t only ask whether a communication strategy “works” for fundraising; we should also ask ourselves: “How are we empowering this girl by helping tell her story, rather than objectifying and further marginalizing her on a public scale? Are our stories damaging the public’s understanding of the problem, and their perceived ability to make a difference? How does our content affect the way nonprofits and so-called ‘beneficiaries’ view themselves in the system?”
Alison Carlman shares some interesting findings from the Narrative Project-and how 'better' storytelling may actually lead to a worse fundraising bottom-line; an big challenge for all development communicators-how to communicate the right way, but also ensure that donations are made in a difficult funding climate?

Girls of the global South can’t fix the world alone

Generally, the international development community sees rather particular ways of being a girl as healthy and modern. In short, empowered, modern girlhoods are marked by individualism and entrepreneurship, consumerism, delayed marriage and motherhood, participation in the wage-labour market, and positive public expressions of sexuality. It’s a model of girlhood most associated with the white, middle-class experience. In contrast, girls living in poverty, in rural areas or in neighbourhoods rife with violence, crime or drugs find themselves classified as ‘at-risk’, ‘backward’ or ‘failed’ girls. So are girls who prioritise the wellbeing of their faith communities and families, and who value solidarity over individualism. But, all is not lost – education, empowerment and/or leadership projects posit that failed girls can be transformed into empowered, modern girls.My research in Pakistan, however, highlights women and girls for whom the white, Western liberal ideal of girlhood is neither possible nor desired.
Shenila Khoja-Moolji's essay is a must-read - give how central the notion of 'girl empowerment' has become in international development; but as we know from other areas, 'governance' or ICT4D for example, the risk is that we take 'our' interventions and experiences as perfect benchmarks that need to be replicated in the global South. A lot of food for discussion...

Barriers to accessing psychosocial support for wellbeing (for humanitarian aid workers, both national and international)

The purpose of this research is to add value to the scientific field in the hopes that more research will be carried out under the broader ‘Be Well, Serve Well’ campaign being pushed forward for aid workers at the moment. I would hope that whatever the outcome of this research, it helps to inform academics and practitioners alike, and provides a basis for advocacy for both aid workers to their organisations, but also for organisations to donors, encouraging a more open and nonjudgemental discussion about aid worker wellness.
Happy to share Caitlin Cockcroft-McKay's survey which should be adding to the emerging topic of aid worker well-being and humanitarian organizational change.

Dear Africa, Louise Linton Is On Us

We jump on Louise, Mindy, and Jason Russell for their failures, but fail to look at the role we play in perpetuating the systems that allow these people and their tired tropes to not only exist, but to thrive in our midst.
As we criticize, we are secretly hoping that someone else fixes this. We point out the problem — and assume that it’s someone else’s job to repair the damage. After all, someone else always comes to fix our roads, our hospitals, our schools, our water wells. Why aren’t they coming to fix the Louise’s of the world?
TMS Ruge with probably the most radical and thoughtful essay on #LintonLies.

#LintonLies, #WinklerWoes and the “seductive nature of white noise”

If you’re wanting to read an Oprah-crowd-giving-a-standing-ovation book about a saintly woman, this is not it. Although a story of a tenacious young woman, Tara has a knack of getting you to leave the hero-worshipping at the door and strips back her story to face the tough questions. In fact, Tara has far from an easy ride. Her mercilessly honest account concurrently highlights the critical errors being made by volunteers in developing countries
So as Tara bravely faces her mistakes in this book and continually focuses on the best outcomes for the kids, the book overall provides a troublesome example of an inexperienced Western do-gooder traipsing in and “saving” vulnerable children. It challenges us to think about the genuine outcome of our volunteering adventures. Are we doing it for the right reasons? Are we more interested in feeling good than actually doing good?
Loretta Cotter with her review of 'How (Not) To Start an Orphanage'-another book on my reading/research/review list...

Nearly 90% of garment factory jobs at risk of automation: ILO

A study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) released on Thursday found that 88 per cent of Cambodia’s salaried textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) workers were at high risk of automation.
“For some countries like Cambodia, where TCF production dominates an undiversified manufacturing sector and makes up around 60 per cent of manufacturing employment, the impact will be felt more strongly than others,” the report said.
A new report from ILO highlights that 'robots' are a real threat in developing countries and that automation may be one of the next really big development issues if jobs in manufacturing (but possible also agriculture?) start to disappear.

Did the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge succeed or fail?

And the dissolution of IPOP could also be interpreted as a warning to similar initiatives by big companies. The Indonesian government attacked it on the basis that it was undermining Indonesia’s national right to control the destiny of its palm oil industry.
On the positive side, there are no signs of backsliding by the IPOP signatory companies on their individual sustainability commitments, and the big buyers of palm oil continue to demand supply chain transparency and sustainability. But companies might need to consider “other kinds of collaboration,” that can resist pressure from governments, Donovan says.
A detailed analysis of the complexities of making natural resource value chains more 'sustainable'-in the end, governments, companies and voluntary pledges are all players in a complex capitalist marketplace in which local producers and the environment will likely be the biggest losers...

Why 2016 Could Be a Turning Point for Youth Employment in Kenya - And the Role of ICTs

As a brief summary, the MasterCard Foundation (MCF) report "...found that young people in East Africa are optimistic about developing their skills, pursuing self-employment and are eager to participate in the policy decisions that impact their lives." The Constituency Innovation Hubs project in Kenya will provide WiFi access at a nominal cost so that youth, among others, can access the internet. The costs paid for access will be used to sustain the Innovation Hubs over time.
Panoply Digital sees reasons for optimism how a positive outlook on entrepreneurism and investment in ICT can create meaningful employment beyond traditional 'capacity building' and skill-creating development interventions.

Slave to the algorithm

Ideally the humanitarian economy is relational, based on solidarity. This is why MSF tries to hang around so long after everyone else has left; not just to provide medical care, but also to bear witness and speak out. Solidarity can only be built on a foundation of human relations, but automation threatens to undermine that foundation by accelerating the transition of the humanitarian economy from a relational model to a transactional model.
Algorithmic humanitarianism doesn't have to be apocalyptic for the humanitarian sector, but only if we invest in ensuring that our algorithms reflect our values.
Paul Currion shares some food for thought on algorithms, datafication and how to create a human and humanitarian future with them.

Expats living in Switzerland have ‘worst social life'

One reason for the considerable drop in ranking has been put to the difficulties expat face integrating with locals and make friends, even though they enjoy high economic benefits and a safe environment to raise a family.
I am always a bit reluctant to share unscientific rankings-especially if corporate interests (in this case the financial firm HSBC) are involved, but the piece comes with some nuanced, albeit not really unsurprising, comments about the pros and cons of expat living in a country with a particularly high density of development professionals.

Just give me some meaningless indicators we can use to make graphs!

And we accepted leading the process, where we should have stayed back for the client to be the public face of the change, and to commit himself publicly and unambiguously to purpose and process.
Rather than playing victim and gossiping with our colleagues about this cunning client, do we confront this client that he breaks his commitment to his staff and to you? Often an honest talk can repair what we tell ourselves is the final sign of deception by the client.
Diederik Prakke on action research consultancy work-his reflections ring very true for development research and aid work as well.

A Leo is King, yes this is true.

I could make comparisons to show how these experiences pale in significance to how it must feel when you’re fleeing war, when you’re being moved from place to place and when your family is dotted along the dangerous path from Kabul to Cologne. But this would be cheating on my part. I promised I would tell the truth about life as a humanitarian. Sometimes all you see are other humanitarians. Sometimes you have to share really close quarters with people you don’t know. Sometimes you walk into riots with these people. Sometimes you have to cry in front of them, because you heard a sad story or you had a bad day. Sometimes you want to kill each other because the bonding process happens at such speed. Sometimes you realise you want to keep them forever and that’s round about the time that they leave.
Your Little Human is a humanitarian aid worker in my network; I always enjoyed highlighting blogging as a space for personal reflection on the 'industry' and the people who are 'doing' aid work.

Our digital lives

Stop Using Women Moderators to Excuse All-Male Panels

The Woman-as-Moderator creates a passive dynamic, a position where the contribution of women is to ask questions. This is not to say that a moderator can’t be forceful or feather-ruffling, but it’s never the moderator that has the answers, and that matters, because while a woman moderator may appear to be part of the discussion, she is never considered an authority. It’s fine to position a woman to ask the hard hitting questions and speak for the audience, but it can’t be all we’re offered.
Soraya Membreno on the often employed 'quick fix' to avoid an #allmalepanel, bringing in the female moderator, and how this is obviously not sufficient to score on the the 'diversity' card.

Don’t Dismiss the Star Power

As these examples demonstrate, celebrities and celebrity culture have an influential role in shaping how citizens and policymakers encounter and make sense of complicated, often health-related science. Scientific institutions, therefore, should not dismiss celebrity or mourn its claimed harmful effects on scientific understanding. The scientific enterprise should instead view occasions where celebrity and science meet as opportunities to engage audiences in a deep way about science and scientific thinking.
I am a bit surprised that Timothy Caulfield and Declan Fahy describe the celebrity-science relationship pretty much as a one way 'science should embrace celebrity culture more/better'. without outlining responsibilities for celebrities how they need to educated, do background research & leave their filter bubble to learn about issues they presumably care about.

The Gatekeepers Aren’t Gone

In this sense, the few artists or performers who manage to go viral are less a grassroots cultural movement and more an unwitting 0.01 percent. They are the tiny minority whose exorbitant, disproportionate success overshadows the innumerable artists and performers who do not receive — and can never really hope to receive — such exposure.
Contrary to what many seemingly scientific self-help books want us to believe, we can do very little to ensure that our artistic contributions will attract a large following. Already-established celebrities and organizations overwhelmingly make these decisions, not ordinary content creators. Indeed, virality shows that equal distributions of attention are an ideal that is very easily abandoned in our contemporary public sphere, extremely open as it might appear to be to any and all forms of self-expression.
Marta Figlerowicz on how viral content is not an indication of a democratic digital sphere, but how new gatekeepers and a very small elite profit from viral events.

Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless

The wellbeing ideology is a symptom of a broader political disease. The rigors of both work and worklessness, the colonization of every public space by private money, the precarity of daily living, and the growing impossibility of building any sort of community maroon each of us in our lonely struggle to survive.
Late Capitalism is as good an excuse of any for not getting out of bed, but huddling under the covers worrying about Donald Trump is a very inefficient way of sticking it to the man.
The harder, duller work of self-care is about the everyday, impossible effort of getting up and getting through your life in a world that would prefer you cowed and compliant. A world whose abusive logic wants you to see no structural problems, but only problems with yourself, or with those more marginalized and vulnerable than you are. Real love, the kind that soothes and lasts, is not a feeling, but a verb, an action. It’s about what you do for another person over the course of days and weeks and years, the work put in to care and cathexis.
Laurie Penny's essay is definitely the long-read recommendation of the week! She engages with one of the core questions of our generation: How to approach 'happiness' in an age of (platform) capitalism?


Being A Researcher-Activist | Medea Vox

35 years ago, I was a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts in the United States, studying environmental psychology. I was interested in including my work as a community organizer—working with older people and people with physical disabilities—as part of my research. But I was told by my advisor that “You can’t mix your politics and your psychology!”
This is a conversation between Mary Brydon-Miller, professor of educational studies and the director of the Action Research Center at the University of Cincinnati and Maria Persdotter, PhD student in urban studies at Malmö University and at Roskilde University
My colleagues from the Medea platform with another really interesting podcast!

Using Big Data to Solve Social Science Problems

- Access to large data sets continues to be an issue, be they proprietary, public, or administrative. We need to bargain collectively to talk to large, often global, actors and argue for academic access.
- There is a skills gap among social scientists for analysing big data, and support is needed to help develop the required methodological and programming skills.
- The interdisciplinary working required for big data analysis can be challenging, and we need to work to enable effective collaboration.
- Developing an ethical approach to big data analysis is challenging given its novelty, variety, and changing nature. Any framework needs to provide practical guidance to researchers while remaining flexible and responsive to changing contexts.
- Available tools for big data analysis can be expensive, lack transparency, or inappropriate for social science research.
- A maintained central library of available tools, with appropriate documentation and guidance could be extremely useful

Curtis Jessop highlights some key challenges for working with big data sets in social science research.


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