Links & Contents I Liked 219

Hi all,

A long week is finally winding down-and there is great content curated for you!

Development news:
What do we need a World Development Report for? More inconvenient truth for development; how to create prosperity, not just resource-recipients? Does the UN have a culture of (male) impunity? Cheap garments are now made in Myanmar; Beckham denies using UNICEF to boost his image; what is ‘localization’ of aid? The impact of edutainment in India; unusable Nigerians; Who owns Appalachia? Will robots disrupt public sector and aid industry?

Our digital lives:
Literary festivals in an age of gentrified self-marketing capitalism; Teen Vogue & the emergence of feminist journalists; sexual violence in Canada challenges of big data.

Publications: IDS Bulletin on Engaged Exellence; report on data and activism

Ethical frameworks for volunteering abroad; tenure and diversity


New from aidnography

We had a great time yesterday at a seminar with visiting American students who joined us from Denmark to enjoy our 'Glocal Classroom' in Sweden!

Development news

What does the new World Development Report say?
It’s great that the WDR has gathered such a lot of evidence that media, including social media, can affect the sharing of particular pieces of knowledge, stimulating people to take action. But increasingly the challenge is in how to support national discussions, which are rooted in facts, bridge divides between different societal groups and ensure that it’s not just the elites who can influence policy. These are extremely challenging issues but, for media and governance, I’m increasingly convinced that they’ll be the focus of the next year’s debates.
The WDR 2017 on Governance and Law: Can it drive a transformation in development practice?
While the message that “politics matters” may not be a new one, the fact that the World Bank—with its apolitical mandate—is saying it, is hugely significant. The emphasis on “elite bargains”, citizen engagement and international action in promoting governance change certainly feels a long way from the technocratic reform agenda of the 1990s.
But articulating this argument is one thing, actually acting on its implications is quite another. So the big question is whether the WDR can genuinely lead to a transformation in aid practice both in the World Bank and beyond.
Two landmark publications from the World Bank and DFID bring ‘good fit’ governance into the mainstream
This report is a striking synthesis of the accumulated evidence and argument against the former ‘good governance’ orthodoxy.
It begins by setting out the genuinely universal requirements of effective governance for development under the headings: ‘commitment’, ‘coordination’ and ‘cooperation’. It then goes on to argue for the importance of a set of three ‘levers of change’ (contestability, incentives, and preferences and beliefs) and, digging deeper, three types of ‘drivers’ (elite bargains, citizen engagement and international influence).
Behind each of the headline concepts is a detailed and richly illustrated analysis. The three-level framework works well to give coherent meaning to an otherwise disparate and disputed body of historical and comparative material.
Will Taylor for BBC Media Action, DfID's Stefan Kossoff and ODI's David Booth share reflections on the latest World Development Report. These are professional voices very much from the inside of the aid industry and I am still struggling with the wider use and impact of annual flagship publications such as WDR or Human Development Reports.

The inconvenient truth about foreign aid

In sum, poorer countries routinely put more resources at the disposal of donor country interests than they receive in foreign aid, yet it isn’t easy to demonstrate this inconvenient truth conclusively. Estimating the extent of the aid system’s collusion in ‘perverse’ aid is often guesswork because the system’s upper reaches lack transparency. Laws, rules, political agreements and sheer inattention shield many counter-flows from public view. Every year, thousands of evaluations of aid’s ‘downstream’ activities take place but I know of no formal evaluation of aid mechanisms ‘upstream’ that would indicate with precision who benefits and by how much.
David Sogge for openDemocracy continues the debate on how much the global North benefits from aid flows originally designed for the South to 'alleviate poverty'.

Obsession with ending poverty is where development is going wrong

The eradication of poverty is not the same as the creation of prosperity. Development practitioners should focus on the latter. Simply owning a toilet, even when it is used, does not equate to living a prosperous life. Similarly, having your child attend primary school when your household still lives on less than $10 a day does not exemplify prosperity. The theory that poverty is a resource problem cannot answer both questions. In fact, creating prosperity is a process problem, not a resource problem.
Instead of pushing many of the SDGs, what might it look like if the UN actually set up an innovation group that developed products, such as M-Pesa, that people could pull into their lives? The UN Global Pulse Labs is an interesting attempt, but the initiative is still too focused and prioritises what experts determine are the needs as opposed to entrepreneurs.
Efosa Ojomo for the Guardian of how we need to re-think development as a process-problem to create prosperity, not just 'outputs'.

UN Secretary-General Guterres' Biggest Challenge: A Culture Of Impunity

I thought I would be helping vulnerable women and children in war-torn areas achieve these fundamental rights. Little did I realize how much time I would spend fighting for my own dignity, and those of my female colleagues, within a UN system surrounded by too many male colleagues violating people they are mandated to protect and silencing those who speak out against the abuse. Will Guterres end a culture of impunity for staff who cause suffering? Can he transform the United Nations into an organization that holds every employee accountable to the lofty UN Charter? Yes, Mr. Guterres, I can image what it is like to see levels of “suffering that are unimaginable.” Too much of the suffering I have seen is perpetrated by UN employees, almost always men, who have enjoyed a lack of accountability for too long.
Lori Handrahan for Forbes. I always find it tricky when a whole organization's culture is subsumed under one label. I am sure (male) impunity exists, but it is difficult to assess the scale of some of these challenges within a bureaucratic, diplomatic and political organization that may often fall short of completing its mandate.

How high street clothes were made by children in Myanmar for 13p an hour

Researchers found wages below the full legal minimum at factories supplying Sports Direct, Henri Lloyd, New Look, H&M, Muji, Pierre Cardin and Karrimor (owned by Sports Direct).
The lowest wages of just 13p an hour were found in factories supplying H&M, Karrimor, Muji and Pierre Cardin. The day rate for those workers was £1.06. Myanmar’s labour laws permit factories to pay newer workers at reduced rates.
Workers say they struggle to live on such low wages. Thiri and Yadana, who both worked at a factory supplying Lonsdale, said they could only afford to live in a makeshift hut in a squatter area without electricity or running water.
Gethin Chamberlain for the Guardian with a 'classic' tale of capitalistic 'development': From Bangladesh to Vietnam or Cambodia and now Myanmar global companies are extremely skilled in finding the next cheapest place to produce goods-which once again demonstrates that they have zero interest in long-term, sustainable development and CSR reports are window-dressing-particularly in the garment industry!

Beckham denies using charity to boost image

Citing emails between Beckham and his staff, the reports claimed he initially refused to put his own money into his humanitarian 7 Fund, tried to obtain reimbursement from the UN children's agency UNICEF for expenses met by his sponsors and was using his humanitarian work as a springboard for his own profile.
The Beckhams and their celebrity engagement-reminded me of a post from 2014 about his wife:
Celebrity development bullshit bingo-Victoria Beckham UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador appointment speech edition

Interview with Ben Parker: What does "localization" of humanitarian aid mean in practice?

"Localization," from a journalist perspective, it looks like another piece of jargon from the aid industry. It's a word that is trying to carry too much meaning - it has to do with equity, it has to do with justice, it has to do with redistribution of wealth and power, it has to do with guilt from the Northern NGOs. It has to do with so many things all at once. So as a journalist, it's exactly the kind of language that we struggle to use and communicate with to the public.
Liz Arnanz from Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) talks to IRIN's Ben Parker.

Changing social norms through entertainment education: the case of a soap opera in India

Impact assessment results revealed that the series was able to increase awareness on some key issues: A higher number of women (39% compared to the 24% baseline), men (31% compared to 2%) and mothers-in-law (43% compared to 23%) felt that early marriage led to a loss of opportunity for education. A significantly higher proportion of men, women and mothers-in-law agreed that early childbirth posed a risk to the lives of mothers and children. A positive shift in attitudes was visible too: 86% of mothers-in-law, up from the 57% baseline, felt that the ideal age for a woman to have her first child is 21-25 years. Fewer women (17% less than the baseline) believed that once a girl is married, she can’t return to her parents’ home. Fewer men (22% less than the baseline) believed that a woman should be beaten on suspicion of unfaithfulness.
Poonam Muttreja for the OECD Development Matters blog. And interesting example that 'communication for social change' can deliver results!

Unusable Nigerians

On one hand, the Niger Delta is rendered usable through the extraction of millions of barrels of black gold that account for 80 percent of Nigeria’s government revenue and 40 percent of gross domestic product. On the other hand, the landscape of the Niger Delta is devastated, and the inhabitants must wake up every day in abject poverty to see the oil industry operating all around them, never helping their communities.
The boom and bust of Oloibiri reveals the extent to which the Nigerian government views most Nigerians as nothing more than one out of many useable resources to be exploited and discarded. The Niger Delta embodies the contrived neglect of the majority of Nigerians by a state that continues to fail in its responsibilities towards its citizens.
Omolade Adunbi for Africa is a Country with reflection on contemporary Nigeria. This is particularly interesting as we currently have Eromo Egbejule visiting our faculty and he always points out how complicated 'Nigeria' is-and how many positive things are going on at the same time as there is a disregard for 'unusable people'.

When Corporations Own the Mountains: Researching Land Ownership in Appalachia Then and Now

Who Owns Appalachia, a large scale investigation into land ownership and taxation in southern Appalachia, is a landmark publication for several reasons. It was the first widespread application in the US of what would come to be known as participatory action research (PAR), in which academics and community members from across the region worked collaboratively to gather and analyze data for the study. Moreover, the study revealed massive inequalities in land ownership and taxation in the region, vis-√†-vis corporate landholding companies and local citizens.​
The current political context in the US also reinforces the need for communities and citizens to know how to analyze and assess their own situations through the collection and collaborative analysis of their own data. Knowledge and information are becoming rapidly politicized in the age of ‘post-truth’ politics. People must be able to generate and build their own empirical knowledge of their situations rather than trusting in information which may have been shaped by external agendas.
Participatory action research is a process which grounds people in the reality of their communities and combats efforts of intentional misinformation. People working together to understand and to transform their own communities from the grassroots is a powerful antidote of the messages of fear, confusion and helplessness which permeate both the news media and social media channels at this point in time.
Felix Bivens shares some fascinating insights about participatory development methods, community-driven research and entry points for bottom-up-driven change! Must-read!

Will a robot take your job? 250,000 public sector admin jobs at risk

"Public services can become the next Uber, using the gig economy to employ locum doctors and supply teachers," the Guardian reports a Reform representative as saying. Although, Uber is not mentioned in the report itself.
"Across public services, workforces have been designed around workers: they are hierarchical, too large and unresponsive to user needs," the report says.
It claims that by replacing humans that use online processes to complete tasks, jobs can be reduced. It provides the example of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reducing its admin staff from 96,000 to 60,000 in the last ten years by providing more online services.
Matt Burgess for Wired UK. When new ideas, 'reforms' etc. reach places like the UK's public sector, the aid industry is probably next to be 'disrupted'...

Our digital lives
Literary festivals are carnivals for global travellers. They have no space for serious questions

Gentrification, the creation of anodyne spaces where the global traveller can feel at home is a critical factor in the making of the contemporary global city. The exclusion of the poor, the stigmatised and the eccentric from these spaces is a necessary part of the process. But to formulate and execute exclusionary policies without risking a political backlash requires a diminution of the public voice. And this is where I believe the literary festival has played a key, if perhaps unwitting, role.
And this is the crux of the matter. Over the last decade or so the carnivalesque, celebratory and spectacular approach to ideas and literature has come to occupy a disproportionately dominant space in our lives, to garner and focus cultural clout within itself.
Amrita Shah for Scroll.In with a beautiful essay on how many parts of the cultural industry have lost or sold their soul in a drive for capitalistic self-branding on all levels...

The true story of how Teen Vogue got mad, got woke, and began terrifying men like Donald Trump

But over the course of the past decade or two, the underlying paradigm of women’s media has changed. Magazines for women and girls, ranging from Teen Vogue to Elle and Cosmopolitan, understand that political advocacy and more traditional lifestyle or entertainment coverage are not mutually exclusive. That shift is largely thanks to the rise of the feminist blogosphere.
Throughout the 2000s, a combination of loathing for former US president George W. Bush and the increased accessibility of blogging platforms led to the emergence of feminist blogs. Some, like Feministe, launched as early as 2001. By 2004, major players like Feministing and Shakesville had joined the scene. And by 2008, “feminist blogging” had become a large and noisy subculture, one which has since launched New York Times bestsellers (by my count, there were two this year alone), created a launchpad for several writing careers (mine included), and arguably helped to create an entirely new genre of mainstream media.
Sady Doyle for Quartz. It was tempted not to post the article because of his name in the title, but this is a really important contribution on how blogging and digital media are transforming some aspects of political journalism.

Will the police believe you?

A 20-month investigation by The Globe and Mail reveals that sexual-assault victims are more likely to be believed in some areas of the country than in others
Robyn Doolittle, Michael Pereira, Laura Blenkinsop and Jeremy Agius for the Globe and Mail with an interesting piece of data journalism and visualizations, but also with a powerful reminder of how important and difficult it can often be to understand 'big data', find nuances and put it in a meaningful context-especially in a context such as sexual violence.

Hot off the digital press
Engaged Excellence

Four pillars of engaged excellence are identified as delivering high quality research; co-constructing knowledge; mobilising impact-orientated evidence, and building enduring partnerships. Uniquely, the articles in this IDS Bulletin bring these together to show that they are interrelated and mutually dependent, with contributors raising challenges around reflecting more deeply on what engaged excellence means in different contexts. The complexity and interrelationships become most real when the four pillars are applied in practice. The value of this IDS Bulletin is that it illustrates the challenges, trade-offs and difficulties of using such an approach while contributing to a more cognitively just world in which our research engages with those at the centre of change.
The latest open access IDS Bulletin.

Report: Contentious Data and the Politics of Big Data for Activism
This is a short report-but a great resource as a 'who-is-who' in data activism!

Making volunteering abroad a more ethical experience

Before voluntourism became trendy, volunteering abroad was the domain of non-governmental organizations focused on development. Volunteers needed hard skills and time.
World University Service of Canada sent its first hands-on volunteers overseas in 1977. Today, WUSC sends 100 students overseas annually, most through the Students Without Borders program, a partnership with postsecondary institutions. As a serious development organization focused on meeting its partner communities’ needs, the assignments are driven by the skills required, not what volunteers are looking for. “These aren’t placements for the sake of placements,”
Moira Macdonald for University Affairs with a long, well-resourced article on student experience abroad, i.e.

Tenure and Diversity: An Interview with Patricia Matthew

With technological diffusion, critically engaged scholarship has embraced digital platforms to communicate, diffuse, and archive. Scholars who are also members of marginalized groups disproportionately take up this kind of engaged scholarship, often without commensurate credit from university administrators or colleagues […] Those activities look very similar to those associated with cultivating academic microcelebrity. There is a sense of a “public” to which we are in service. There is the ethos to disseminate scholarship and to leverage technology to de-institutionalize information.
I’ve heard Tressie talk about this, and she notes that even as colleges and universities see the market value in having their faculty engage with an online public, they don’t have the practices in place to protect them when the right shows up with pitchforks. We saw that in the case of George Ciccariello-Maher, the Drexel professor whose institution chastised him for his tweet mocking the concept of white genocide. Academics of color are even more vulnerable, and I already see it taking its toll. I am seeing more and more accounts locked, and I know many faculty of color who have quietly left Twitter, which is a shame and a loss. Having said that, I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing for faculty of color to hang back a bit and to find new ways to connect and circulate their ideas and work. If Twitter and our institutions aren’t going to do the work to protect us from harassment, then they shouldn’t profit from what we contribute to the public sphere.
Colin Dickey interviews Patricia Matthew for the L.A. Review of Books. This is a long interview and I am focusing on one rather small aspect around digital engagement; the long comment by user 'veritas unitas caritas' also deserves some attention as it challenges different notions of 'diversity'.


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