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Hi all,

Development news:
Aid delivery & kidnapping-the complexities of the humanitarian system; Social accountability and the risk of another buzzword; the business sector will not ‘fix’ development; maternal death, Assam tea & contemporary India; Kenya challenges expat aid work(ers); UN in Congo got caught in local political webs through whistleblower; how to fix philanthropy.

Our digital lives: How digital humanities have changed us, them & science; design thinking-another buzzword for development?

Publication: New article on complexities of women’s engagement in scientific conferencing

Academia: A harassment whistleblower on the job market; why more diverse students still benefit from the traditional college lecture.


New from aidnography
As the Rio 2016 Olympic Games kick off-12 suggestions for stereotypical global media stories

As Rio is located in the Southern hemisphere this is an excellent opportunity to rely on some of the (stereo)typical reporting approaches we already enjoyed during the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
For your convenience I tried to add some ‘international development’ spin, a mild dose of othering and at the same time avoid complex structural issues around inequality or, God forbid, political complexity and the capitalistic dynamics of global sports events.
So here are 12 leads, headlines or stories that you will likely encounter in similar ways in global media outlets in the next few weeks
Development news
Nearby, but far away: Why aid doesn't make it from Baghdad to refugee camp

Relief officials say the lack of aid is symptomatic of an international aid system that not only is chronically underfunded but is ill-equipped to respond quickly or effectively in the conflict zones. They say many groups, including some of the largest, are unwilling to venture into the places they are needed most.
Jane Arraf's article is less about humanitarian aid in Iraq, but it is an important summary of recent debates in the sector and broader challenges of humanitarian theory and practice for the Christian Science Monitor

Kidnapping Is A Rising Concern For Aid Workers Around The World

In this environment, some aid groups have become more cautious about entering countries where violence is spiraling. Indeed, a February 2016 study from Humanitarian Outcomes, which included a sample group of 14 major aid groups including International Rescue Committee, Oxfam and Save the Children, reveals that the aid sector has become more reluctant to take risks. And that means fewer groups are distributing humanitarian aid.
But the study also shows that security in large, global aid NGOs has evolved.
Malaka Gharib with a good summary of the aid worker kidnapping and field security debate for NPR.

Can Social Accountability Bridge the Chasms Between States and Citizens?

After almost two decades, there are some important contextual changes. In the 1990s, the agenda was how to strengthen citizen voice in the ‘front end’ of policy processes. Now the focus is on downstream accountability, focusing on how to give ‘teeth’ to these voices through holding policies and their makers to account.
At the same time, those of us who have worked on issues of participation and accountability for many years now face a paradox: while the opportunities for social accountability in many countries have grown, during that same time, the levels of economic inequality have also increased. We know from our own experience and countless examples that the power derived from the privileged few can trump that of thousands of citizen voices. Unless social accountability can be a bridge for countering inequality and building economic accountability, we may find that we have crossed one bridge only to find a deep and growing chasm between the haves and have nots around the corner.
John Gaventa with a broader historical look on development buzzwords, the accountability hype and how to empower citizens.

When accountability is life or death: reflections from the city street

What has become very clear is that there are actors within the township that can influence the outcomes of an accountability process through their relationships with other power-holders, but their ethics are often questionable: they may be aligned with gangs, factions of the police using brutal force and extortion, or drug dealers. So people from the research process who are seeking a more accountable form of political leadership and want to see transformation happen are forced to choose: make bargains with those who have the power, or be side-lined and keep hold of their principles.
The compromises that participants and we, as researchers, are having to make within contexts of corruption and violence are a reflection of the reoccurring need to face impossible choices – the question is how far are we willing to go to make a shift happen, and how can we set ethical boundaries we can keep.
Joanna Wheeler with empirical reflections on one of the key dilemmas in development processes: How to deal with often undemocratic, but workable, structures when you want to transform structures and change the equilibrium?

If companies profit by doing good, why aren't they all doing it?

But we should remain alert to overconfidence and overreliance on the business sector.
Crucially, the “business case” for social and environmental responsibility is probably overstated.
But often, cutting corners, ignoring standards, trampling on communities, polluting, screwing the consumer and working staff into the ground can be profitable too. I am beginning to wonder how useful it is to keep repeating the mantra that it is in a company’s interests to do the right thing
Jonathan Glennie with an important reminder about the shallowness of CSR and the win-wins for 'doing good'. Most value chains produce relatively easy profits and combining a bit of CSR-window-dressing with the powerful, exploitative logic of globalized capitalism works well for most companies and is unlikely to change.

Thousands of young mothers in India are paying with their lives to produce your cup of tea

By Ahmed’s assessment, there is one main culprit: “In our hospital, 80% of the mortality is from the tea gardens.”
Hundreds of tea gardens in this region grow over half of India’s total tea. Hand-picked leaves from here find their way into nearly every second cup of tea consumed in the country.
The tea garden community is even more susceptible to maternal deaths, doctors and activists allege, because of its frail economic condition. Workers can’t afford nutritious food or access basic healthcare because of low wages, they argue.
To Vikram Ekka’s mind, it isn’t just one institution that has hurt Assam’s tea garden workers. “The politicians have their own interests. The company has its own policies. The ACMS has its own agenda,” he said. “In between, the tea tribes are getting squeezed.” Thousands of mothers in Assam’s tea gardens are paying with their lives for this collective failure.
Devjyot Ghoshal excellent piece with a story that goes far beyond tea and provides insights into India's often slow transformation; I'm sure all the companies buying Assam tea have some CSR projects in place, and yet, the colonial foundations of the relationships and value chains are still pretty much intact...

Kenya is pressuring thousands of expat NGO workers and volunteers to go home

Mahmed said he would revoke the license of any organization that doesn’t demonstrate attempts to hire locals or even the pay gap between Kenyan and foreign staff. Work permits will not be given to foreign NGO workers unless their organization identifies a Kenyan who will eventually take that role. Volunteer programs are also coming under scrutiny with a rule that local hires need to match the number of foreign volunteers brought in.
NGO staff in Kenya say the salary gap Mahamed cites is an exaggeration and by no means the industry average. Others point to the jobs and services NGOs bring to the country. They provide healthcare, schooling, and services in areas of the country neglected by their local governments. Last year, the sector contributed 160 billion Kenyan shillings ($1.5 billion) to the economy, according to Mahamed.
Lily Kuo on how Madonna's visit to 'the slum' has sparked a broader debate about expat development engagement and volunteering.

Oxfam International signs historic deal to move to Nairobi. Kenya

This move is far deeper than a symbolic one (although I believe that the symbolism is important too). The fact is the world is changing and I believe it is necessary for NGOs like Oxfam to change. Southern countries are growing ever more influential on international stages.
Our work today is more about supporting ordinary people – everywhere – to hold political decision-makers and corporates to account, so they can exercise their rights to a fair share of the benefits of economic, political and social development. It’s about linking ordinary people’s struggles and experiences, everywhere. We need to work more closely with citizens to overcome economic and political exclusion, which is the root cause of poverty.
Winnie Byanyima on the forthcoming Oxfam relocation to Kenya-2017 will definitely see more discussions on the expat aid work in contemporary Kenya...

Mr X in the Congo: How one man fooled the UN, with disastrous consequences

MONUSCO’s intelligence units not only failed to figure out that Muhumuza was lying to them, but also missed out on what could have been an actual intelligence coup by failing to determine his true identity and discern the role of the Congolese government in the Beni violence.
The intelligence failure also highlights that MONUSCO has been complicit in lies to the Congolese people – lies about who is responsible for massacres and about who killed national hero Colonel Ndala.
The bias, groupthink, and poor leadership that made this intelligence failure happen should be independently investigated, and their implications fully explored and understood.
Daniel Fahey reports from Congo with an interesting story on how the UN missions has been entangled in complicated local politics and is struggling to manage its own intelligence.

In Philanthropy, Who Is Actually Broken?

It’s about what we are willing to acknowledge about the origins of our own wealth and privilege. It’s about reclaiming values that privilege often robs us of: first and foremost, humility. But also trust in the ingenuity and goodness of other people, particularly those without financial wealth. And a more accurate sense of proportion — where and how are philanthropists really most crucial in the fight for a more just society?
The ultimate irony of the way the philanthropic sector is structured is that it is actually the recipients — people of color, the working class, women — that may be the most masterful at creating and maintaining long-lasting, catalytic relationships.
Leah Hunt-Hendrix continuous a discussion that seem to be emerging, yet moving around in circles a bit: The current model of often NGO-driven philanthropy needs updating and the strait-jacket of philanthropic rules, regulations and traditions is impeding more fundamental changes.

Our digital lives
The Digital in the Humanities: An Interview with Jessica Marie Johnson

The digital — doing digital work — has created and facilitated insurgent and maroon knowledge creation within the ivory tower. It’s imperfect and it’s problematic — and we are all imperfect and problematic. But in that sense I think the digital humanities, or doing digital work period, has helped people create maroon — free, black, liberatory, radical — spaces in the academy. I feel like there is a tension between thinking about digital humanities as an academic construct and thinking about what people do with these tools and digital ways of thinking. DH has offered people the means and opportunity to create new communities. And this type of community building should not be overlooked; it has literally saved lives as far as I’m concerned. People — those who have felt alone or maligned or those who have been marginalized or discriminated against or bullied — have used digital tools to survive and live. That’s not academic. If there isn’t a place for this type of work within what we are talking about as digital humanities, then I think we are having a faulty conversation.
Melissa Dinsman interviews Jessica Marie Johnson about Digital Humanities. It's a long read that deserves attention and a really interesting piece about 'public engagement' and academia in out digital age.

Diving In: Nonprofits, NGOs, and Design

Exactly. HCD is not just designing with the user, it also involves rapid prototyping and fast design-build-test-revise cycles. I think what has changed in the past decade is a growing recognition that traditional upfront design with long-running measure-and-revise cycles is slow and less than effective. More and more, NGOs—and importantly, the organizations that fund NGOs (like the foundations you mention)—are looking for inspiration from fast-iteration methodologies including HCD and agile management. This change has been driven by the success of fast-iteration in other domains and has been brought to the NGO world by experience designers,
It is at times difficult not to get lost in a bit of buzzword bingo in Jocelyn Wyatt and Jeff Wishnie's piece for SSIR. Design thinking, especially human-centred design, has become really en vogue in the international development innovation community, but I haven't come across a lot of evidence when it comes to transformation, scaling up etc. Interesting work, for sure...

Hot off the digital press

Not “Pulling up the Ladder”: Women Who Organize Conference Symposia Provide Greater Opportunities for Women to Speak at Conservation Conferences

we found a significant positive relationship between the number of women organizing a symposium and the number of women speaking in that symposium. We did not, however, find a significant increase in the number of women speakers or organizers per symposium over time at either conference, suggesting a need for revitalized efforts to diversify our scientific societies. To further those ends, we suggest facilitating gender equality in professional societies by removing barriers to participation, including assisting with travel, making conferences child-friendly, and developing thorough, mandatory Codes of Conduct for all conference
Stephanie Sardelis and Joshua A. Drew with a new academic paper on the challenges to add more diversity to the #allmalepanel conferencing style.


What Happens When a Harassment Whistleblower Goes on the Science Job Market

“A lot of academic interactions are based on behaving in a way that does not feel intuitive, where you have to abandon your intuitive emotional response to a situation—anger, confusion—particularly if you’re a woman or person of color, in favor of ‘This is just how it is. I’m going to pretend,’” she says.
But the hiring committees did, in fact, ask about Marcy. “It came up at every place,” she says. “At every place.”
This is what the mask sounds like:
“How did it feel when this,” one interviewer said, turning a copy of her Title IX testimony toward her, “became public?”
“It was a Freedom of Information Act request that turned up that document, so it’s not really a question of how I feel,” she responded.
He didn’t stop.
“How do you feel about the fact that whistleblowers are associated with whistleblowing instead of science?” he asked. “Did you think about it?”
“Yes,” the mask responded. “I am intimately familiar with that calculus.” He wanted to go over it with her, as if she may have forgotten its contents. “This was my 30 minutes with a faculty member to talk about why or why not I would be a good fit at that department, and this individual wanted to talk about this Title IX document,” Ballard says now.
Sarah Scoles on Sarah Ballard and her quest of finding a faculty position as a whistle-blower on sexual harassment.

Should Colleges Really Eliminate the College Lecture

“There is a lot to the concept of a ‘flipped classroom,’ but it is also very much an elite-institution idea,” says Hacsi, referring to a model in which students view lectures outside of class and focus on homework elements inside of it. “You are assuming the students are full-time students who can spend a lot of time outside of class working on what they are working on. We have students who could do well pretty much anywhere if they didn’t have a 25-hour-a-week job. You don’t know going into a class who will have time outside of class to work on the material.”
We need that small group discussion because it’s the essence of deliberation, but people also need to know how to speak, how to listen, how to evaluate whether a lecture is supported by a good argument or not. Lectures in a campus classroom can help people acquire the standards for judging that kind of public performance.”
Christine Gross-Loh with a nuanced piece for The Atlantic on why colleges need different teaching methods, including the traditional lecture format, for an ever-diverse student body.


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Dear white middle class British women: Please don't send used bras (or anything, really) to Africa