Links & Contents I Liked 204

Hi all,

As my post on the Dancing Missionaries disaster approaches 6.000 hits, another Friday arrived all too quickly and fresh links are due! 

Development news: More on the Uganda mission zeal; MSF refuses vaccine donations; humanitarians help, they don’t solve problems; the price of attacking poverty in Bangladesh; Haiti…sigh; participation and regeneration; aid worker voices project; the impact of instagramming Everyday Africa; moving expats; the difficult lives of Sherpas in Darjeeling.

Our digital lives:
Failing sucks; do we need more uncomfortable conversations? Is philanthropy bad for journalism?

New publications on media development and digital politics. 

Academia: Psychology’s ‘methodological terrorism’ debate and future of statistically significant results.


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Development news

This video from Uganda highlights everything wrong with global development

I don’t think these critiques goes far enough. This video is representative of everything wrong with global development.
The global development project, and our participation, acts to reduce individuals and communities to props, outputs and indicators. The video of Dancing Missionaries is just a manifestation of reduction.
Brendan Rigby shares his thoughts on the 'Dancing Missionaries' mini-development-shitstorm for
I agree that a simple apology is not enough-bible-driven development missionary work is not just bad for Uganda and Ugandans, but shines a bad light on many parts of the global aid industry and development community!

Why Doctors Without Borders Refused a Million Free Vaccines

And this cost is the fundamental issue to Jason Cone, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the United States. He explained that donations from pharmaceutical companies are ineffective against a problem of this scale. While the donation would benefit people under the care of Doctors Without Borders immediately, accepting it could mean problems for others, and problems longer-term. Donations, he writes, are “often used as a way to make others ‘pay up.’ By giving the pneumonia vaccine away for free, pharmaceutical corporations can use this as justification for why prices remain high for others, including other humanitarian organizations and developing countries that also can’t afford the vaccine.”
James Hamblin for The Atlantic on another important moral stance that MSF is taking and that hopefully leads to more discussions in the aid industry around such 'partnerships'...


Humanitarian aid and development won’t solve any problems. The tsunamis, the earthquake in Haiti, the war in Syria, and all the other disasters and humanitarian crises you’ve ever heard of highlight a vast array of problems that the humanitarian system can never hope to solve. Let’s not confuse helping with problem-solving.
And let’s stay clear, to on the purpose of the humanitarian system, as well as of the individual NGOs, INGOs, UN agencies, and donors that comprise it: Our purpose is helping. We don’t solve anything.
Hopefully we do help.
J.'s reflections are as timely as ever as the 'final battle' against ISIS is supposedly launched...

The ugly truth about Bangladesh’s successful attack on poverty

My reconstruction of the political history of that time concludes that an elite consensus emerged that committed the Bangladeshi ruling class to protecting the rural masses against the crises of subsistence and survival that so frequently swept their way. This elite consensus included accepting the painful conditions that came with foreign aid, because without external support the short term survival of the country, let alone of the political elite, looked bleak. And it meant letting aid experts treat Bangladesh as a kind of laboratory for aid, in which they often treated as the targets and objects of development, instead of as people with rights, agency and autonomy. It may have got the Bangladeshi people into the global market, but it has done so on terms that are precarious, at best.
Naomi Hossain on the price of 'success' of development in Bangladesh. Also, watch out for her forthcoming book on that topic with much more details, anecdotes and analysis!

Why Haiti wasn’t ready for a hurricane: A Q&A with Jonathan Katz

Haitians need more money, power, and control over their own lives. There have to be long-term partnerships aimed at building Haitian institutions that are accountable to Haitian people. That includes building infrastructure that Haitians manage according to their own needs and specifications, whether in terms of water and sanitation, food security, governance, or direct disaster preparedness. That work has to start right now and ramp up quickly to serious levels so that it is in place, tested, and ready when the next disaster hits. Given its place in the Caribbean, with the effects of climate change mounting, and along that pesky system of faults, the next test might not be that long from now.
Jonathan Katz at IRIN. There are no easy and short answers how to help Haiti and to be better prepared for the next emergency...

Expert’s take: Why women must be at the heart of the humanitarian response in Haiti

The devastation wrought on by Hurricane Matthew looks worse up close, on the ground. But excluding women, or meeting them only halfway in humanitarian response will be a catastrophe that we cannot afford. Building on lessons learnt from the 2010 earthquake response, the Haitian Government and humanitarian actors must get it right for women and girls this time. And all of Haiti will benefit as a result.
UN Women's Tony Ngororano is a dear friend, but his commentary for the Huffington Post is one of many reminders that 'we' need to do better to get things rights in Haiti...

Participation as Embodiment and Regeneration, Part 3: From Co-generation to Regeneration

Like traditional farmers, communities have been told their traditional ways of knowing and action are inferior and that others have better ideas to solve their problems and improve their futures. Over time these other solutions and knowledge paradigms have become dominant, resulting in much damage to the communities because these one-size-fits-all solutions are not viable for the long term and leave communities in worse shape than before. They lose their identities, traditional practices, local economies and become extractive zones for larger systems.
Regeneration through participation calls upon communities and groups to surface and reconnect to their deep knowledge of place, land, history, economy and social relations in order to build solutions which are rooted in context. Like soils, communities can restore the efficacy of their internal knowledge and problem solving systems through returning to practices which are more community led and community driven. Participatory practices are not a silver bullet for such transformations, but they are a catalyst.
Like Tony Ngororano, I met Felix Bivens during our PhD studies at IDS and I am very proud of the very different, but equally important work these two have been doing!

Aid workers were asked about the future of humanitarianism. Their responses will surprise you

My main take away from the results is that the voices of aid workers are passionate, funny, snarky, and for the most part on point. They have useful thoughts about the way forward for the sector and need to be listened to by those in the position to impact policy.
Tom Arcaro shares some findings and reflections from his recently completed comprehensive survey and book on aid workers-my review will follow soon!

Photography and Social Impact – An interview with Everyday Africa

Just a few days ago, a photo editor from Buzzfeed reached out to me to ask for Edward Echwalu’s info. I’m not sure if the assignment panned out yet, but we get that kind of thing often. Nana Kofi Acquah, Andrew Esiebo, Tom Saater - these guys have all received assignments as a result of their increased social media presence, and I think it’s safe to say that Everyday Africa is a part of that.
We’ve also worked with World Press Photo to create the African Photojournalism Database, because we wanted to find a way to spread these opportunities beyond just our set contributors.
How powerful is photography in changing people’s perceptions about Africa?
I think it’s very powerful. We build these perceptions based on what we see – to put it simply, people do not realize that normal, daily-life moments occur because they do not usually see them. In paying attention to the commentary our photos elicit on Instagram, we’ve seen this happen in the most basic way, often with presumably young people: “I didn’t know they had cars”, “I didn’t know they had phones”, that kind of thing is very common in our feed. I think Everyday Africa has much deeper implications than that, broadening in many ways our understanding of the continent even for people who are more tuned in – but providing that very basic burst of those misconceptions for people at a young age is, I believe, very important.
David Girling interviews Peter DiCampo, one of the founders of the Instagram project Everyday Africa. I like the fact that educational efforts and economic opportunities go hand in hand.

'We forgot to tell the kids that moving can suck': the challenges of working abroad

A key part of this stage, and the reason that I personally love moving, is that it involves listening to your feelings and understanding your needs: recognising what is important to you, and what you need to move towards being happy again. As a result, we move, we change, we grow and evolve. We let go of what is not important. We become involved in other people’s lives and invest in new friendships, slowly morphing into a new version of ourselves. As my 10-year-old put it, you get a second chance to define yourself.
Angelica Arbulu for the Guardian's Global development professional network manages to steer reasonably clear of 'first world problems' snark and shares some interesting reflections on moving with (and against) the family in the context of her humanitarian deployments.

The Sherpas of Darjeeling hope for a day when their children don’t have to climb mountains

“There is not enough social and economic development in this area and among the community,” said Jamling Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, son of the legendary mountaineer Tenzing Norgay. “So, if you manage to come after 100 years, you will find someone of the community is still working as guide for mountaineers.”
Rana Chakraborty for with a photo essay from Darjeeling, challenging the romanticized notions of distant tribes and happy life in the Himalayas...

Our digital lives
Getting my book rejected 24 times made me realize what American culture gets wrong about failure

Indeed, the stories we tell about failure and success tend to suffer from selection bias. Instead of a random sampling, we hear primarily from people whose rejections served as stepping stones on the path to fame and fortune. There are no quote roundups from unsuccessful writers who never made it. No one talks about them, but maybe we should. How many rejections do you take before you decide it’s time to pull the plug?
To fail “better” requires patience, with yourself and with the world that insists on telling you success is around the corner. Firestein says that failure can be an end in itself, in that it forces us to live with the unknown—the place where true creativity often resides.
Bene Cipolla for Quartz adds more nuances to the 'fail fest' discourse that is also becoming increasingly popular in the aid industry. As always: It is (more) complicated...

Having uncomfortable conversations: A new communications imperative

Mosley’s mantra is “Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a practice and equity is a goal.”
This call to action is a reminder that our work is never finished. Inclusion is a daily practice that will continue as we strive to remove barriers, close gaps and ensure that equal opportunity is available to all.
At a time of loud division, it also represents a current reality: that the success of our work hinges on uniting people. Developing positive ways to have hard conversations both inside and outside our organizations is not just a tactic; it’s a communications imperative.
Anusha Alikhan for the Knight Foundation. As much as I like the positive and inclusive vision that the summary of the panel portraits, I also wonder whether and how we need to develop strategies to exclude 'angry' people and the radical opposition for which diversity is not a fact, but a threat.

Is Donor Funding Bad for Journalism?

However, philanthropist money won’t disappear from the media. The industry is hungrier than ever and cherishes every dollar. Media outlets from America to Western Europe to southeast Asia pinch their pennies. Donors have money to invest. Thus, this marriage is to last.
But something has to be done to protect newsroom independence. A wall between the news side and donors should be in place, according to Mrs Schiffrin. Donors should be those to set up such mechanisms as they’re larger and more powerful.
Donors are better than many other media funders. Many major stories that served the public interest have been written thanks to donor money. Mainstream media, often controlled by mighty businessmen connected with corrupt governments, don’t do that.
As such, donor funding is not bad for journalism.
But without clear checks and balances in place, donors will become totally indistinguishable from the crowd of owners and funders who use journalism to protect their friends, name and wealth.
Marius Dragomir with a good review of the debate regarding philanthropical engagement in news media.

Hot off the digital press

Sustainable livelihoods and governance in media development

In this publication, media scholar Linje Manyozo traces the history of media development and examines the two main theoretical models it is based on – good governance and sustainable livelihoods. He also presents three theoretical traditions (modernization, information interventions and public sphere) that have defined and shaped the way media development is understood today.
Interesting new paper by C4D and M4D colleague Linje Manyozo at the Deutsche Welle Akademie.

The Rise of Digital Politics

This paper explores this emerging digital political landscape and the impact it is having on the political process, what it means for politicians, and the effects it has on the people who take part. It also includes the results of a survey Demos commissioned with Ipsos MORI, representative of UK social media users, at the height of the 2015 UK general election campaign, to study how people used social media to engage with politics and what opportunities this creates to reconnect people to a political process that many feel distant from.
New paper from Demos UK.


Inside Psychology’s ‘Methodological Terrorism’ Debate

If you examine Fiske’s argument and the rebuttals to it closely — and talk to the researchers who have the most at stake when it comes to the question of how social science goes about correcting errors — there’s a strong case to be made that the particular brand of civility touted by Fiske could be bad for psychology, that it will only solidify practices which haven’t done a very good job keeping sloppy findings out of the literature, leading to what is currently a growing crisis of confidence in the field’s ability to publish sturdy results. There’s a strong case to be made that the only real way forward is for psychology to open itself up yet further to informal, online forms of criticism and debate — even if that means that things get unruly, uncomfortable, and sometimes rude.
New paper: “Why most of psychology is statistically unfalsifiable”
The reason is, essentially, that the resolution of the findings is simply lacking. Even high-powered replications, by themselves, will not help to assess the robustness of the psychological literature, because the original studies are so imprecise that one cannot call them into question with a new set of results.
Jesse Singal for the NY Mag and Richard Morey on Medium on the current debates around statistically significant findings and debating psychological science in public. In our post-factual world where even clear 'truths' are challenged constantly, we social scientists need to be careful not to add more doubts to the debate, but publishing high-profile results of small-sample studies...

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