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Hi all,

A busy week for curating development news:

More on Yegna, the state of development journalism & anti-aid campaigns; report writing has not adapted to the digital age;
Oxfam app between clicktivism & digital transparency; what’s next for US aid? dropping bombs (literally…); ICT4D has an obligation to protect the vulnerable; how to become a local aid worker? How to give to beggars? The parody of doing good; being a proud humanitarian; ruling the world by numbers course

Our Digital Lives: Background readings on ‘fake news’

Instagramming pregnancy; safe abortions in conflict zones

Academia: What should women who are planning to join academia know? Rigging PISA; an anthropology of stock exchanges


New from aidnography

The poor state of development journalism: Daily Mail, BBC & 'Ethiopian Spice Girls'

The Daily Mail campaign against ‘wasteful’ foreign aid is in full swing and in the latest example we can see that it has real impact as DFID promptly executes the Mail’s campaign wishes. In addition, the Mail’s campaigning in the age of ‘post-factual’ journalism is unfortunately taken up by the mainstream media echo chamber and finds willing amplifiers, for example the BBC.
My development blogging & communication review 2016
My 6th annual blogging review recapping another year of writing stuff on the Internet...

Development news

A statement from Girl Effect about Yegna and our work with DFID

Yegna is Girl Effect’s multi-platform culture brand, rooted in Ethiopian culture, which inspires positive behaviour change for girls. Using storylines that confront real-life issues such as early forced marriage, violence and barriers to education, the Yegna brand works through a radio drama, music, talk shows, and clubs to reframe the way people think about girls - and the way girls think of themselves. It provides role models and inspiration authentically drawn from girls to surface the issues that are important to them. It gives voice to their desire to stay in school, stay safe and healthy, have economic opportunity and participate fully in society.
The Girl Effect responds to the media coverage.

Welcome to the global war on aid

In this context defending cash transfers or explaining CEO pay packets, while necessary, will not be enough to change the minds of those already opposed to foreign aid. Nor will the war on aid be won through the usual NGO tactics of hand-wringingly polite press releases and slickly-edited testimonials. In an age of fake news, this is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
The aid industry needs to connect to their public using innovative approaches like GDLive, which provides recipients a platform to talk about the impact that cash transfers have had on their lives. We might even need to use Meme Magic to ensure the message gets through: aid is not just a sensible use of public money – if we do it right, it's one of the best uses of public money.
Paul Currion on IRIN News puts the Daily Mail media discourse into a broader perspective on how 'we' need to communicate not just 'better' but also differently to stand up for aid spending.

Reporting Progress

If you work anywhere near D.C., you’re probably pretty good at producing reports. In 2015, the U.S. Congress alone officially requested around 4,300 written reports. Tens—perhaps even hundreds—of thousands more are generated inside federal agencies, government contractors, think tanks, and other nonprofits. But the processes that we’ve come to rely on to create all of those reports are woefully behind the times.
Joseph Miller addresses an issue that goes way beyond Washington and other Western capitals-it's a pertinent development issue: How can we share our work better in the digital age?

New Oxfam app aims to rebuild trust in charities and increase donations

Oxfam’s head of fundraising, Paul Vanags, said: “Charities are striving to meet the public’s demand for a closer, more modern and responsive relationship with the charities they support … My Oxfam provides a window on to the lives changed by our supporters’ generosity and allows users to control their giving from the palm of their hand.”
Alice Ross for the Guardian; an interesting project at the intersection of digital slacktivism, new approaches to transparency and innovation in charity donations...

U.S. foreign aid boss highlights success in exit memo, but critics say it's time to overhaul the agency

Harris, the UCLA professor, said that although the agency had managed to increase resources for food security, refugees and healthcare and had largely been able to protect effective development projects from pressure by Congress, some of its projects were linked too tightly with the foreign policy goal of preventing terrorism.
“Terrorism is a violent form of doing politics, not a direct response to economic privation,” Harris said. “The more USAID can de-link these two policy goals, global development versus anti-terrorism, the better.”
Ann M. Simmons for the Los Angeles Times; I find it difficult to imagine that the development apparatus will move into a positive direction under the incoming administration...

How Many Bombs Did the United States Drop in 2016?

In President Obama’s last year in office, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries. This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single “strike,” according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions.
Micah Zenko presents a new study by the Council of Foreign Relations-the kind of 'wasteful taxpayer money' spending the likes of the Daily prefer not to write about...

Humanitarian Information Security and the Obligation to Protect

All humanitarian actors – whether they work for a humanitarian agency, are crowd-sourced volunteers on the Internet, or from the private sector – must be educated on the Obligation to Protect and how all parties must ensure appropriate and secure use of ICT and datasets.
Aid workers and beneficiary populations are often among the most vulnerable people on earth — they exist in crisis, with little or no ability to identify and minimize risk on their own. The goal of good security should be to minimize the risk that they will be further victimized by electronic malfeasance.
Rakesh Bharani with an important reminder that ICT4D openness and transparency also comes with responsibility to protect digitally.

From aid recipient to aid worker: is it an impossible leap?

Actually, the first barrier to getting into development I faced wasn’t my lack of connections. It’s that I don’t have a computer, nor can I access one at my university, despite their requirement that essays are typed. Internet cafes exist but they are not cheap and often not open long enough if you have to work long hours to fund your studies. This is a barrier many in the west wouldn’t even think of. But consider how vital the internet is for job hunting – from Googling CV templates to researching companies to filling in the actual job applications.
If the aid sector is serious about recruiting more young people from my background, NGOs need to pair up with high schools and universities to offer workshops on how to gain experience in this area.
Jackie Nasmunsi's story for the Guardian is a powerful and important reminder for 'us' inside the aid industry about the barriers our professionalism and our rituals create to fulfill our aspirations for a more 'inclusive' sector and HR strategy.

How I Give to Beggars

Understandable, but I hope I’m not alone in finding this morally questionable. In countries without a social safety nets, people begging on the street often genuinely have no other way to avoid starvation, and giving a few pennies can do more real good than your fancy new M&E framework. (Hard to believe, I know). For aid workers to simply ignore people who have nothing is an unpleasant dereliction of the instincts which got many of us into this business in the first place. So for those also wrestling with this challenge, here’s how I give.
Aidleap with short and practical post on a key issue that every person traveling abroad has encountered: How to engage with begging and beggars?

“Doing good” in an age of parody

What might appear to be a paradox – that young people volunteer for NGO’s abroad while aware of the critique of such work – is not only built on a long history of such debates in philanthropy but in its contemporary iteration, and is a logical outcome of neoliberal subject-making. Familiar images of Africa both presented in earnest or satirized continue to represent Africans as needing help. These allow a new generation to continue their self-development through service on the continent despite their awareness of the ethical problems. How does this happen?
If, as neoliberal citizen-, their primary responsibility is towards their own advancement (because that is in itself a social good and globally responsible), there is no contradiction in being both critical of and a participant in voluntourism
Elsa Gunnarsdottir and Kathryn Mathers for Africa Is A Country. And interesting debate about the limits of humor and parody in the context of 'doing good' and the 'neoliberal elephant' in the room. 

Exhale on 2016.

The next time somebody learns about your work and says, “You do such wonderful things in the world,” do not turn your head down and mumble something like, “Oh, I don’t really do that much,” or, “It’s really nothing,” even if those sentences are what you are really thinking. Meet the eyes of the one who has complimented you and say, “You’re welcome. I’d love to talk to you more about refugees and humanitarian affairs.” Take time to engage and to explain. Explain the roots of the Syrian crisis and your own government’s role in it, the Iraqi crisis and your own government’s role in it. Talk your listener through the refugee vetting process. Lay out precisely how much of your country’s national budget is invested in international development; you don’t need to emphasize what a tiny percentage of the budget it is. The numbers speak for themselves.
Missing in the Mission is an aidwork(er) blog I can only recommend highly to add to your blogroll!

Ruling the World by Numbers: Preliminary Syllabus – Comments Welcome

Here’s the preliminary version of the syllabus. Comments welcome. We also have the facilities to stream the lectures live if there are people who wants to audit the course. Let me know.
Check out Morten Jerven's new course & resources that come with it!
Our digital lives
Moral panic over fake news hides the real enemy – the digital giants

The moral panic around fake news illustrates how these two denials condemn democracy to perpetual immaturity. The refusal to acknowledge that the crisis of fake news has economic origins makes the Kremlin – rather than the unsustainable business model of digital capitalism – everyone’s favourite scapegoat.
Evgeny Morozov for the Guardian with reminder that 'fake news' is not simply a spy-story, but the debates comes with deep-rooted political economy...

Understanding fake news in 2016: Before the truth gets its pants on*

Below is my effort at basic reading list on some good academic work discussing how people get their news, why they believe what they do, and how models from traditional news work may or may not apply to the social media world. People study this question in mass communication, but also within the disciplines of information science and human-computer interaction.
Jeanine Finn with some excellent academic background reading, most of them open access, on the history of 'fake news'.

Hot off the digital press

Learn It, Buy It, Work It: Intensive Pregnancy on Instagram

This article analyzes how pregnant women perform their pregnancies on Instagram. We ask whether they rely on and reproduce pre-existing discourses aimed at morally regulating pregnancy, or reject them and construct their own alternatives. Pregnancy today is highly visible, intensely surveilled, marketed as a consumer identity, and feverishly stalked in its celebrity manifestations. This propagates narrow visions of what a “normal” pregnancy or “normal” pregnant woman should be like. We argue that pregnant women on Instagram do pregnancy via three overlapping and complimentary discourses of “learn it,” “buy it,” and “work it.”
Katrin Tiidenberg and Nancy K. Baym's new open access article in Social Media + Society discusses performing pregnancy in the digital age.

Sexual violence-related pregnancies in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: a qualitative analysis of access to pregnancy termination services

Women in this study had limited access to evidence-based safe abortion care and faced potential consequences from unsafe abortion, including increased morbidity and mortality. Increased access to reproductive health services, particularly safe, evidence-based abortion services, is paramount for women with SVRPs in eastern DRC and other conflict-affected regions.
Gillian Burkhardt, Jennifer Scott, Monica Adhiambo Onyango, Shada Rouhani, Sadia Haider, Ashley Greiner, Katherine Albutt, Michael VanRooyen and Susan Bartels' open access article in Conflict and Health features interesting insights on reproductive health challenges in conflict environments. It's also the first time that I've come across the term 'evidence-based safe abortions'.


Are The PISA Education Results Rigged?
By allowing countries to potentially rig the test, the OECD is failing in its mandate to help governments foster prosperity by providing information. In the case of the bizarre B-S-J-G grouping, PISA administrators have again made another exception for China—just as many foreign businesses have been forced to do—in the hope that the nation will eventually play by the rules. Perhaps the OECD's intention in allowing cities and groups of cities/regions to compete is to coax China and others into eventually releasing nationwide results.
But in so doing, the OECD is merely kowtowing to Beijing, acquiescing in the samples submitted by other countries and sending a message to our children that bending the rules is acceptable.
Gary Sands for Forbes. This is about more than just dodgy statistics. It confirms once more that when fairly undemocratic and unaccountable institutions such as the OECD spread their neoliberal gospel, it has huge potential policy implications even if recommendations are based on selective numbers...

Book Review: Anthropologists in the Stock Exchange: A Financial History of Victorian Science by Marc Flandreau

Flandreau has unearthed plenty of valuable sources that will help further studies on the topic and provides thought-provoking interpretations. As with any work that succeeds in doing so, Anthropologists in the Stock Exchange merits a great deal of reflection. Flandreau’s analysis of the epistemic ties between colonialism and the stock market offers a valuable contribution to the growing and essential literature on capitalism and racism. However, Flandreau has missed the opportunity to link his work to broader interpretations about the stock market, the economics of the state and racism. This should encourage scholars to follow up his research with their own.
Ed Jones reviews an interesting book for the LSE Review of Books.


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