Links & Contents I Liked 221

Hi all,

I usually don’t start the weekly review with my own stuff, but I worked quite hard on my longer essay on the state of development-there’s even a pdf-download to make it look serious ;)! 

Development news: Lake Chad crisis; cash project in Lebanon challenges donor practices; rebranding health charities in Canada; Australia’s big aid conference; development & the future of work; financial journeys of refugees; gender, ICT4D & data; we need to be generous in development work. 

Our digital lives: Design Thinking discovers decades-old participatory development truths; Uber is a big, bad company; can facebook fix journalism? Anthropologist researches check-cashing industry. 

Publication: An interesting PhD on journalism & journalists in Kenya.

Academia: Big Pharma pays big bucks for academic expertise; a history of big data.


New from aidnography
From impact to transformation: Do-Gooders, Multicolored Saviors and development as lifestyle

My post is based on a very fruitful discussion on Jennifer ‘How Matters’ Lentfer’s facebook page that was triggered by Leila Janah’s recent contribution to The Development Set. The discussion addressed many issues I have been mulling over recently-particularly how to break the cycle that even good, impactful development initiatives are caught up in, being servants to consumer capitalism and its manifestations in the second decade of the 21st century.
WARNING! THIS IS A LONG-READ! There's even a pdf-file embedded so you can enjoy a properly referenced document!

Development news

Lake Chad Basin: World's most neglected crisis rages on

The situation remains extremely fragile, particularly in Nigeria where 400,000 people could be living in famine-like conditions, and without urgent funding and access to these populations, we could see the situation worsen.
A humanitarian response plan for 2017 has been put forward to reach more than eight million people who are most in need of help across the region.
Achieving this would require $1.5bn in funding. This is a large sum of money at a time when the humanitarian system and aid budgets are being stretched like never before.
Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima and NRC's Jan Egeland for Al-Jazeera. One of the 'under-reported' crises which are not really under-reported, but even in 2017 too complicated, too distant, too expensive and too irrelevant for the 'international community'...look, the US President is tweeting again...

Unconventional cash project challenges aid status quo in Lebanon

Proponents of the new package say resistance they face often stems from aid agencies’ self-interested fear of reduced turnover, influence and relevance. Big UN agencies specialise, be it on children, food, health or refugees. Multipurpose cash undermines their operational models and cuts across their mandates. These “silos” of the current system make for “political barriers” to change, according to a source close to the process.
Ben Parker for IRIN with an interesting case study of change, stagnation and the never-ending story of the aid industry's adaptation, survival and struggle.

What's behind health charity rebranding moves in Canada

"I think this direct-to-recipient or patient is one of the biggest trends that we are in fact looking at," MacDonald said.
The good news, MacDonald said, is it shows Canadians continue to be generous.
"One of the interesting tensions that we do find in this sector is that charities are under unprecedented scrutiny to be transparent and accountable for their dollars," MacDonald said.
Commenting on the Heart and Stroke Foundation's recent rebranding to Heart & Stroke, John said it offered a chance to reintroduce the charity's research efforts to Canadians of all ages in a way that is more meaningful, without the word "foundation," which she called "meaningless."
"I think there's a basic suspicion now of institutions. When I grew up, you believed in the school system, you believed in government, you believed in big organizations," John said. "Now there is definitely a much more wide cynicism about it."
CBC News with insights from health charity branding; it is also pointed out in the article that 'trendy' new forms of direct giving may make it difficult to maintain less glamorous, but equally important infrastructure-which links in some ways back to the previous IRIN article on cash transfers.

4 takeaways from the Australasian Aid Conference

McPhun argued that the current system was not adequately prepared for the crises MSF responded to, and said it could not be addressed by trying to transcend the divide between the humanitarian action and development alone. Putting a greater emphasis on traditional development projects could make a response less timely and more risk averse, endangering lives, he warned.
Lisa Cornish for DevEx with something old, something new and something borrowed from Down Under...nothing really new or exciting (as one would probably expect from such a large conference), but maybe that's not always a bad sign?!

5 essentials for the first 72 hours of disaster response

When a country is hit by a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, a tropical storm or flooding, two things are certain: chaos will reign and coordination is key. The first 72 hours after a disaster are crucial; response must begin during that time to save lives. Here are five things that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) — the UN’s emergency coordination organization —aims to get right within, and prior to, the first 72 hours.
UN-OCHA with a concise primer of their emergency response strategy.

Shaping the future of work in a digital world – why should development organisations care?

looking at a broad range of impacts of the spread of technology from the overblown promises of the impact of broadband coverage in East Africa to the up-and-downsides of mobile ownership for young people’s work and life opportunities in South Africa. We will also be highlighting vital research and practical work on digital jobs in Africa, the gig economy in South Africa and technology use by informal workers.
What do you think? Are the threats from digitisation overblown? Or, as Duncan asked in his blog a couple of months back, is this time really different? What are the different roles for states, markets and society? And how should the development community be responding?
IDS’s Becky Faith and Ben Ramalingam for From Poverty to Power with a preview of their work on who digitization affects 'development'.

The Financial Journeys of Refugees: Charting a research agenda – Is corruption a relevant framework?

How do men, women, boys, and girls have different strategies for accessing funds during migration, keeping assets safe, and moving them across borders? How are informal networks of smugglers and money transfer agents gendered and ethnicized? How do ethnicity and religion—particularly at sites in which refugees of different nationalities temporarily reside—shape perceptions of who is most in need of assistance or protection? How does gender and family status—such as whether refugees flee alone, or alongside heterosexual family units—affect perceptions of vulnerability or threat, and thus structure relationships between refugees and authorities?
An overarching theme in our research has been that inquiries about financial transactions in forced migration open up a window to understanding refugee livelihoods, decision-making, relationships with formal and informal authorities, and perceptions of formal and informal (as well as licit and illicit) systems that affect refugees’ experience.
Roxanne Krystalli and Kim Wilson for CDA Perspectives review their research on migration and financial transactions and outline important emerging questions for further research.

What we're hopeful about for 2017: gender, ICT and data availability

in 2016 alone, we had a number of big reports that have specific data points around women's access to and use of ICT, both at a country level and at a national level. We thought it might be useful to lay out some of our favourites here - to serve as a resource for others, and to draw attention to this exciting trend, one we hope will continue in 2017.
Alexandra Tyers for Panoply Digital with a neat overview over key resources from 2016 on ICT4D.

Why we should create international organisations that embrace generosity

And treating people well is a lot further than many projects and organisations actually go. In many projects ‘beneficiaries’ are treated as slightly ignorant and misguided. That isn’t treating people well.
Treating people well means trusting and valuing them and we can only do that with integrity if we trust and value ourselves.
We so often get caught up in a work, work, work mentality. It’s engrained in the culture of many of our organisations and exacerbated by the fact that it often feels like there is so much at stake in the work that we do.
But busyness isn’t the way to change the world. Rather it is a way to get exhausted and act in ways that don’t honour our values.
Mary Ann Clements with a reminder that any development work and organizational context should be driven be generous humanity.

I left

Because nothing was worth sacrificing the freedom I wanted and knew I deserved.
Because had I ever expressed what I truly felt, I would likely not be alive today.
Yasmine Diaz with a short, powerful poem at sister-hood Magazine.

Our digital lives

Want To Fight Inequality? Forget Design Thinking

While that system may work in business, Carroll draws from a main tenant of activism for her philosophy on designing for social change: that the communities that are impacted the most by a movement should have a prominent place in leading the movement. "You cannot say that you are effectively addressing these issues if you are not including the people affected by them into your efforts, and giving them access to power," Carroll says. To come up with community-led responses to racial inequity in St. Louis, CRXLAB not only consults with the black and Latino communities who experience that inequity; they are the people participating in the workshops, benefiting from the resources, and building out their ideas.
Meg Miller for Fast Co-Design shares knowledge that has been around in the oh-so outdated, slow and what-not development sector for at least three decades; nice that design thinking and new initiatives are also discovering some of the basics of participatory 'putting the last first' development...

Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber

When I joined Uber, the organization I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng organization, this number had dropped down to less than 6%. Women were transferring out of the organization, and those who couldn't transfer were quitting or preparing to quit. There were two major reasons for this: there was the organizational chaos, and there was also the sexism within the organization. When I asked our director at an org all-hands about what was being done about the dwindling numbers of women in the org compared to the rest of the company, his reply was, in a nutshell, that the women of Uber just needed to step up and be better engineers.
Susan J. Fowler's post has been shared widely this week. Similar to the previous post on 'design thinking' this is an example of quickly the disruption-darlings of the digital platform economy start to resemble companies and organizations just like any other-soon, McKinsey will move in and the Harvard Business Review will run case studies on the likes of Uber...

How Mark Zuckerberg could really fix journalism

Neither Facebook or Google really wants to actually employ journalists, yet journalism institutions will continue to fail because of the adverse market conditions. Zuckerberg voices concern for “local journalism,” and Google’s Digital News Initiative has done the same. This is partly public relations, to quiet existing publishers. But there is more to it than that. The inquiries about filter bubbles and fake news have really hit home. The looming possibility of regulation, and the moral imperative to improve the information environment, are weighing heavily on the platform companies.
The alternative is that each technology company becomes an identifiable media entity that will staff its own newsrooms and create its own standards. This carries with it cultural and regulatory threat. But most importantly, the technology companies should support journalism because they are currently the only organizations who can.
Emily Bell for the Columbia Journalism Review shares some interesting ideas how digital platforms and journalism may come together after all.

An Ivy League professor who spent 4 months working in a South Bronx check-cashing store says we're getting it all wrong

"It felt like the only way I could answer this question: If alternative financial service providers are so bad — if they're so predatory and so sleazy and so much in the business of taking advantage of people — why are people using them in growing numbers?" Servon said.
Servon recounts her journey in her new book, "The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives," which came out in January. The book seeks to untangle the reasons millions of Americans are fleeing the "broken banking system" and opting instead for alternative financial services in ever increasing numbers, providing many first-person accounts from people Servon encountered while working in the field.
Alex Morrell for Business Insider with an interesting case study of public ethnography.

Hot off the digital press

The moral dilemmas of journalism in Kenya’s politics of belonging

This thesis explores the strategies pursued by Kenyan journalists as they contend with “the politics of belonging” in their work, arguing that the choices journalists make in the micro-processes of news production can be understood and guided from a moral perspective. The study addresses lingering questions about how journalists experience and respond to social divisions that can be created in the dynamic interaction between ethnic identity, personal networks and competitive party politics that characterizes a politics of belonging.
PhD theses usually do not make for relaxing weekend reading, but my friend and IDS comrade's PhD on journalists in Kenya is definitely worth a look!


Big Pharma Quietly Enlists Leading Professors to Justify $1,000-Per-Day Drugs

the pharmaceutical industry is deploying economists and health care experts from the nation’s top universities. In scholarly articles, blogs and conferences, they lend their prestige to the lobbying blitz, without always disclosing their corporate ties.
Annie Waldman for ProPublica with a long-read on the close ties between academia and lobbyists (strangely enough you never read about anthropologists, peace researchers or media and communication experts in those investigative pieces...)

Big data problems we face today can be traced to the social ordering practices of the 19th century.

We are in a period that can reasonably be seen as the second ‘big data’ revolution and it is revolutionary because it challenges our accepted understanding of the world and not simply because of the volumes and velocity of data generation in our new digital information technologies. Many social categories were designed to control, coerce and even oppress their targets. The poor, the unmarried mother, the illegitimate child, the black, the unemployed, the disabled, the dependent elderly – none of these social categories of person is a neutral framing of individual or collective circumstances. They are instead a judgement on their place in modernity and material grounds for research, analysis and policy interventions of various kinds. Two centuries after the first big data revolution many of these categories remain with us almost unchanged and, given what we know of their consequences, we have to ask what will be their situation when this second data revolution draws to a close?
Hamish Robertson and Joanne Travaglia for LSE Impact Blog with a historical review of data, counting, governmentality and big data!


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