Links & Contents I Liked 199

Hi all,

I can't believe that this is already post no. 444 - and we are only one review away from the epic 200th anniversary!

Development news:
Why appoint an American to run the World Bank? Black Lives Matter receives unique philanthropic support; Let's drop 'sub-Saharan Africa'! #SWEDOW-broken medical equipment issue; Canadian mainstream media ignore corporate colonial history; UN struggling to play by the rules in CAR’s fragile environment; Uganda I: From adoption to foster care; Uganda II: Former women politician and their meaningful life after office; insights from working in a Syrian NGO start-up; women and media in Afghanistan-it’s complicated; Want to increase school attendance? Put washing machines in schools!

Our digital lives: The complexities around digital gang activities

Academia: Don’t write that 90 GBP hardcover book! Making public engagement count in academic promotions.


Development news
A Non-Contest at the World Bank

While Mr. Kim may be a good choice to lead the bank for the next five years, the fact that the institution is not using this election as an opportunity to debate competing visions does not bode well for its future.
A short and pretty straightforward New York Times editorial that highlights that no matter how 'diverse' or 'innovative' individual leaders of international organizations may be, their appointment process is mind-boggingly outdated and undemocratic!

Black Lives Matter partners with charity in sign of growth

Since November, the nonprofit charity also known as IDEX has been acting as a mostly unseen financial arm of Black Lives Matter, with the ability to receive grants and tax-deductible donations on the group's behalf. More recently, the relationship evolved into a contractual partnership that will run through at least mid-2017.
IDEX is managing the group's financial affairs, allowing Black Lives Matter to focus on its mission, including building local chapters and experimenting with its organizational structure.
Michael R. Blood for AP on a really interesting new partnership. It will be super-interesting to see how a donor is trying to do the right thing differently and engage with an emerging social movement. From an academic and research perspective this is really interesting development that comes with many opportunities and probably as many challenges as 'Black Lives Matter' figures out what kind of movement they can and want to be. This comes at a time when the UK's group just staged a protest and blocked London City Airport's runaway which led some media to use the 'terrorism' word in their reporting. It's a courageous move by IDEX!

Why do we still use the term “sub-Saharan Africa”?

“‘Sub-Saharan Africa’ is such an enormous catchphrase that it’s almost useless,” says Rosalind Morris, an African Studies professor at Columbia University. “Nigeria as a state doesn’t look anything like Kenya as a state, doesn’t look anything like Botswana.” So, why use this vague term that few can agree on and is geographically inaccurate? And where does it come from?
Max De Haldevang for Quartz. His piece has been shared quite extensively in my networks-and it's great to see that there is more debate on how we label places, regions etc. that have changed so dramatically since 'we' discovered 'development'...

Rage Against The Busted Medical Machines

Although the future holds promise, the issue of broken medical equipment leaves me uneasy because it is a literal and figurative representation of the power differential between the donor and recipient. Many poor communities accept donations regardless of what they are due to dire needs and not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth. But the sheer waste speaks loudly to the importance of engaging health-care workers and other members of low-income communities in the decision process.
Nahid Bhadelia for NPR's Goats and Soda continuous one of the key themes of this blog: 'Don't send stuff you no longer need to Africa'!

Bata’s footprint in Africa: The dark story of Canadian shoe giant

While the three-page spread included an undated photo of Sonja and her husband on the "African continent", it ignored how the Toronto-based shoe company took advantage of European rule to set up across the continent. By the end of the colonial era Bata had production or retail facilities in Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Libya, Sudan, Algeria, Senegal, Congo, Tanzania, Rhodesia and elsewhere.
In a 1974 Saturday Night article titled “Canadians Too, Can Act like Economic Imperialists”, Steve Langdon describes the company’s operations in Kenya: “Bata seems to be undercutting decentralized rural development in Kenya, to be blocking African advance in other areas, and to be throwing its weight around politically — all at a handsome profit.”
Yves Engler rightly criticizes mainstream media on Pambazuka News for forgetting that a lot of corporate wealth and global companies were built on traditional (post-)colonial capitalistic exploitation.

EXCLUSIVE: UN paying blacklisted diamond company in Central African Republic

The UN accuses the company of funding one of two major militias in CAR, known as the Séléka, by purchasing diamonds from Séléka-controlled mines, which were then smuggled out of the country to BADICA’s sister company, KARDIAM, in Antwerp, Belgium.
And yet the UN’s stabilisation mission in CAR, whose mandate includes the disarmament and demobilisation of fighters, has a base on land owned by BADICA.
In an official response to IRIN, the UN department of peacekeeping confirmed that it holds a leasing contract with BADICA for premises in the capital Bangui. In a written response, a spokesperson said all rent paid to BADICA goes into a frozen account, which is monitored by CAR authorities.
Emma Supple and Ben Parker reporting for IRIN. Rather than taking a cheap shot at UN-bashing, the article highlights some of the complexities that happen when you are a law-abiding, bureaucratic international organization working in not-so-much-lawabiding contexts and with partners that come in all shades of grey.

In Uganda, Fostering a World without Adoption

But if Uganda is to move away from the orphanage-adoption model, something else must take its place. In Western countries, that usually means foster care, local adoption and, more broadly — albeit imperfectly — the apparatus of the state helping support vulnerable families. International adoption advocates have long argued that such programs aren’t replicable in developing nations: that people are too poor already to take on additional children, that stigma prevents local families from caring for strangers’ offspring, and that any kids who are taken in are at risk of being treated more as indentured servants than as members of the family.
The room fell silent as Keren explained the support systems she’d help Helena build in Tanzania: connections to family and local healthcare providers so that Helena could stay well and create an income, initial support from Reunite, and ongoing communication through Whatsapp. Although the foster family was obviously sad to lose him, Keren said gently, Samuel had a mother who loved him and who deserved the chance to raise him.
Kathryn Joyce's long-read for the Development Set is a very good example of 'solution journalism'. Highlighting (local) change and positive examples rather than focusing on the problematic international adoption industry makes this a very satisfying read!

Life after Parliament

The idea, she says, is one way through which members engage in development projects instead of soaking themselves in misery after losing elections.
“We can’t become beggars yet we have the brains and the will to empower ourselves. Politics is a service and not a job. You cannot rely on it as your source of livelihood,” she says, noting that many politicians have ended up becoming “irrelevant because they only think of politics as the end of the world”.
Amos Ngwomoya with another great story from Uganda on how former female politicians are moving their and their communities' lives forward!

Is it time for the Aid Community to Explain Itself to Developing Countries?

We finished the guide wondering whether and how the aid community can take on the challenge of explaining itself more regularly and thoroughly to those it tries to help, especially in countries where it arrives in a hurry without much prior history. With many decades of aid already behind us, the guide comes terribly late in the game, but aid rushes in transitional countries do keep occurring (Myanmar and Ukraine a few years back, and perhaps Cuba soon?) with all the attendant misunderstandings.
We are strongly convinced of the need to think of these issues in reverse. Trying to solve all (or even most) of the problems on the supply side of international aid has repeatedly failed. Empowering recipients with better information about aid’s many peculiarities, and encouraging them to be more active drivers in their relationships with donors, may be a more promising avenue.
Thomas Carothers introduces a new Carnegie report on 'Navigating International Aid in Transitions'. As admirably as the task sounds, I am skeptical about some of the positive and empowering aspects of news and information in this digital day and age. Fighting rumors, radical critics and outright liars with 'good' information may be a battle that we are losing right now-not just in the aid industry...

The theatre of development

These are all issues that have been the subject of weighty academic investigation, but they are also dramatic to the core – and the way we experience their impact in our own lives has far more in common with ninety minutes of theatrical make-believe than the best Amartya Sen article, no matter how insightful.
I totally agree with Tom Davis about the importance of engaging differently with and communicating about development. 'More' or 'better' information is not the issue, but communicating the core of development in diverse and different ways-unfortunately the play will be staged on what is the 'end of the world' from my location in Sweden...

My Life Working for a Syrian NGO Startup

A small flock of capable Syrian NGOs have sprung up in Turkey quite quickly and have benefited from the easy to access funds offered by INGOs which are unable to access areas of Syria in the current security environment. These organizations are all essential for the quality of the humanitarian response that can be delivered, and the future transition to redevelopment. In order to weather the coming years and the anticipated changes in the conflict dynamics, donor preferences, and INGO interests, Syrian NGOs and those looking to support them need to be conscious of the risks and opportunities they’re facing now. I wouldn’t trade the experience I had working with a Syrian NGO for anything else. The opportunity to contribute to the humanitarian response so significantly was remarkable and the friendship and team spirit in the work atmosphere unmatchable.
Virgil Haden-Pawlowski shares some personal and important insights from working with a new Syrian NGO in Turkey. I don't know what it is, but the quality of postings on LinkedIn has become much better recently.

Mediated Information-How gender shapes information in Afghanistan

“When we talk about women and media in Afghanistan, we often talk about the need to support opportunities for women journalists, and involve women more closely in the creation of content,” says Sharmini Boyle, Internews Country Director in Afghanistan. “But equally important, we need to consider and understand how the vast majority of women receive — or don’t receive — news and information.”
Internews' Jeanne Bourgault present research findings of new work around the media ecosystems in Afghanistan-and how they differ in terms of male and female access and engagement.

Secret aid worker: some human rights lawyers are in it for vanity, not victims

I’m embarrassed to have been part of this NGO to the point where my family still doesn’t know its name. I’m ashamed that there are human rights lawyers who think their law degrees alone qualify them to speak for victims, despite lacking the expertise in the issues affecting the victims for whom they are speaking. I hope the lawyers at this NGO are an exception to the rule, but I’m really afraid that this type of attitude could be alive and well in broader NGO culture.
I'm still struggling with the Guardian's 'Secret Aid Worker' column. This one comes with a terrible stock image that suggests that 'vanity' equates to women, consumerism and 'looking pretty'. But there also a 'welcome to the aid industry' eye-roller mixed in. Law degrees are some of the most prestigious/elitist university degrees and they attract the students with a broad range of motives and aspirations. And there is an industry-wide issue that those with privilege tend to 'speak for' a group.
Maybe I should just stop reading 'Secret Aid Worker'...

St. Louis school sees 90% of their students' attendance increase because of washing machines

It turned out that when students didn’t have clean clothes, they often stayed home from school out of embarrassment. Logan, an eighth-grader, spoke about how difficult it is for others to understand his problem: “I think people don’t talk about not having clean clothes because it makes you want to cry or go home or run away or something. It doesn’t feel good.”
To be honest, I found it difficult find the right spot for Walter Einenkel's piece in my review. But in the end, it says a lot about poverty and unusual ways of empowerment-and how we are constantly reminded that lives are complicated and unless we listen carefully we are tempted to apply 'our' solutions to 'their' problems. I had no idea about clean/dirty cloth and I'm glad I came across the article!

Our digital lives

From the streets to tweets: The dangerous rise of ‘internet banging’

“The outcome generated a hip-hop identity that, along with unemployment and poor educational opportunities, helps to situate urban males for mass incarceration and poor outcomes, and it is this identity that fuels the behavior we currently see in among African-American men on the Internet,” Patton writes. “In social media, the hip-hop identity has found the optimal playground to perpetuate and replicate itself, because of its public nature.”
Lyz Lenz for Salon. The expert quotes from academic researchers are important: It's more complicated than simply blaming technology, but social media have become an important part of expressing all aspects of teenage lives.


Academics are being hoodwinked into writing books nobody can buy

So I’d been asked to write a book about whatever I wanted, and this editor didn’t even know whether I’d written anything before. It didn’t matter. It would sell its 300 copies regardless. Not to people with an interest in reading the book, but to librarians who would put it on a shelf and then, a few years later, probably bury it in a storeroom.
Don't publish expensive hardcover books. Just don't!
If you have important material you want to publish and it is important for your tenure and career committee than take your time and find a decent publisher that offers accessible options. I'm also tired of the 'well, the library can buy a copy' argument. It's a waste of public resources. You and maybe two other colleagues or students will look at the book. Don't support this model. Write-only publications are outdated and you shouldn't support these commercial publishers and their ridiculous profit margins!

Should writing for the public count toward tenure?

We know faculty public engagement matters for society. From my experience, I also also know that it matters for individual faculty. They report a greater sense of purpose, fulfillment, a better mastery of their topic area and new chances for future funding.
But does the public engagement work they do – the hours they spent crafting an op-ed or a policy brief, and cultivating relationships with policymakers, practitioners or the news office – matter in the eyes of those tasked with assessing their productivity and their value?
The answer all too often is no.
Amy Schalet for The Conversation. I find it a bit ironic when a report on public engagement is launched at an exclusionary academic mega-conference that 'civilians' will likely never attend. The debate on what counts in academia has seen many contributions. In most cases it will come down to a healthy mix-impact-factor journal articles behind paywalls that scholars need to share in different forms. Publish books that are accessible and maybe do more public engagement and skip another big conference (that also don't count for tenure and still people flock to them in droves...).


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