Links & Contents I Liked 224

Hi all,

I'll keep it short and simple as I'm more than ready to leave the office this Friday afternoon...enjoy your readings!

Development news: Humanitarian Dating; breaking the hunger cycle in Bangladesh; the limits of digital disaster response; stop giving ‘voice to voiceless’!; also stop ‘raising awareness’!; World Bank & behavior change; UNDP & innovation; ODI & influencing high-level panels; the WDR is great!; better peacebuilding; the end of aid’s golden age; Nepal shuns returning experts; the limits of hip-hop for social change. 

Our digital lives: ‘Fearless Girl’ is fake corporate feminism; gender quotas push out mediocre men; #allmalepanels are bad; digital surveillance of women in Colombia.

Publication: Labor migration and remittances in Nepal.

What if sociologists influenced policy?


Development news

How Do You Date When You’re Saving the World? A Look at the Sex Lives of Humanitarians
And this seems to be the larger narrative about humanitarian hookup culture. Your eagerness to hook up overseas reveals itself based on your view of whether sex is necessary in the first place. Some people are energized by one-night stands, Instagram DMs, Bumble matches and the chase. Others are exhausted by the politics of the game. And even more are freed by the idea that, in the end, they can always just walk away. Those attitudes are as prominent among millennials working in a Sudanese refugee camp as they are among the Friday night crowd at a bar in Manhattan. Is it realistic to date someone while you’re working to save the world? Absolutely. But is it worth it? Maybe not. After all, Gandhi wasn’t celibate for shits and giggles. As Erik sums it up, there’s a certain way people think when it comes to love and sex in 2017, no matter where they live. Relationships will always have merit, but in the age of instant gratification, sex is disposable.
Dana Hamilton for Playboy-yes, that Playboy...there is always a first of sources I thought I would never include in my review ;)! It's actually a great piece that says more the globalization of dating and relationships than simply indulging in 'emerging sex' and the likes...

Breaking the hunger cycle for the price of a bus ticket

Researchers lead by a Bangladeshi professor at Yale investigated whether and how to encourage more people to migrate to the cities during the hungry season. Using randomised controlled trials — the research method used to test pharmaceutical drugs — they told some families, truthfully, that there was work in the cities to see whether the problem was simply that people didn’t know. To other families, they also offered about $11.50 — enough for the return bus fare and a couple of days of food on arrival.
Simply telling people did nothing: it didn’t make people any more likely to go and seek work. By contrast, the tiny bursaries had a dramatic effect: the proportion of families from which somebody went to the city rose from 36 per cent to 58 per cent. Those workers earned about $110 on average, much of which got spent an extra meal each day for family members back home. Better still was the longer-term effect: many of the people who received the bursary remembered the benefit and returned to the city the following year, many working again for the same employer.
Caroline Fiennes for Giving Evidence/FT with an interesting case study on 'impact' and using RCTs in development interventions. I find the article a bit one-sided as it doesn't mention any side-effects of uncontrolled urban growth and migration. Growing cities in many parts of the world pose diverse challenges for everybody involved and a simple capitalistic model 'go work in the city' may not capture (unintended), long-term side effects.

FEATURE-Disaster response goes digital - but not for all

"Digital literacy is a significant challenge that isn't being truly addressed," she said.
A representative of United Way 211, a service that helps people across North America find local resources, said when floods hit Louisiana last year, there was still a need to knock on doors and hand out printed information about getting aid.
Estes White said offline information remained essential to piece together a full picture of the situation on the ground and reach all those in need.
"I would caution against thinking that social media is a total solution," she said.
Megan Rowling for Thomson Reuters with an important reminder about the limits of the 'digital revolution' in humanitarian communication.

Stop saying you want to give voice to the voiceless!

This is why almost all conversations about CwC or Community Engagement end up being a conversation about feedback mechanisms and messaging. Both this activities, while CAN be part of a CwC strategy, do not make up for themselves for a CwC strategy. Feedback mechanisms aim at looking at already existing programs and inform how we can make them better – AFTER we have already decided to implement that program and that activity. Most of the times., organizations do not use the feedback mechanisms to discuss the core of what they do “should we do this at all? should we do this in this way?” but just to know “how should I make this better? How do you evaluate this?”. Most of the donors that now require you to have a Feedback mechanism, do not allow you in the same way to turn the entire project upside down or even DESIGN it with the community.
Anahi Ayala Iacucci for her Diary of a Crisis Mapper with a reminder of well-known debate about the limits of 'empowerment' and development more generally.

Stop Raising Awareness Already

Too many organizations concentrate on raising awareness about an issue—such as the danger of eating disorders or loss of natural habitat—without knowing how to translate that awareness into action, by getting people to change their behavior or act on their beliefs. It’s time for activists and organizations to adopt a more strategic approach to public interest communications.
Ann Christiano and Annie Neimand for the Stanford Social Innovation Review with a really important long-read must-read for the Communication for Social Change community!

Putting Behavior Change at the Center of Development and Evaluation

By putting people at the center of the development process, we start to understand why they choose what they do and the constraints they face, including from accessing and using services, or adapting behavior. Acknowledging individuals’ decision-making processes, including implicit and explicit trade-offs, can help introduce measures to address demand-side behavior to complement supply-driven interventions and affect meaningful and lasting change.
To understand better the extent to which behavior change is already built into World Bank Group practices, IEG developed a new framework for Evaluating Behavior Change in International Development Operations. The underpinnings of the framework are rooted in research – both, standard neoclassical economics and behavioral economics – that shows behavior change is dependent on communication; information and incentives; social factors; and psychological factors. Which is why we called the framework CrI2SP.
Caroline Heider and Ann Elizabeth Flanagan for the World Bank's IEG. This is the first time I come across the Bank's new framework-interesting how economics are the go to for research on communication, social factors and psychological factors (see link below in the Academia section...)!

What’s new in education research? Impact evaluations and measurement – March round-up

Here is a curated round-up of recent research on education in low- and middle-income countries, with a few findings from high-income countries that I found relevant. All are from the last few months,
David Evans for the World Bank's Development Matters blog with more research on education.

Three years of exploration at UNDP Asia-Pacific

Finally, while we have moved innovation from the periphery to the centre of the organisation, we recognise that to break the mould and create a new norm we need to not just focus on the front end but also the back office. So how might we reimagine the future of an office for UNDP? What will be its structure, processes, staff that can drive innovation forward? So that innovation is an intrinsic principle that embodies the organisation as a whole rather than simply a part of it?
Ramya Gopalan and Haoliang Xu for UNDP share some interesting reflections on what 'innovation' means for a large bureaucratic organization such as UNDP.

A masterclass on cash transfers and how to use High Level Panels to influence Policy

Owen is something of a connoisseur of high level panels and reckons there is a particular way to making them effective:
- Start with what you think is the right answer
- Be prepared to learn and adapt that answer to improve the concept and proposal, benefitting from diversity of ideas
- Invest time and energy in finding the best language to communicate the idea, including ‘specific, actionable recommendations’ and an elevator pitch that may actually have to be delivered in an elevator at international meetings (you listening, WDR?)
- Build credibility with policy makers, eg by doing public polling to show your proposal has support, or getting it into important international documents and agreements (as CGD did with the World Humanitarian Summit)
A High Level Panel creates a team of ambassadors for your idea, so make sure they come from the different communities you are trying to influence.
Duncan Green for From Poverty to Power presents a recent ODI report on cash transfers, but equally important some thoughts from Owen Barder as to how to communicate your ideas in a policy environment.

WDR 2017 does not disappoint

First, the report brings power and politics squarely into view in work and thinking on development. For political scientists like me, this is hardly a controversial point. But, it is a very important point to make for the field of development more broadly, and for development economics in particular, where technocratic and apolitical approaches have been so influential. The report draws impressively on diverse literatures to advance a nuanced argument about the ways in which governance, politics, and institutions influence development outcomes.
A second broad contribution of this WDR is its argument for a focus on institutional “function over form” – that “it is important to think not only about what form institutions should have, but also about the functions that institutions must perform.” As David Booth writes, this WDR “giv[es] coherent meaning to ‘good fit’ approaches to governance.”
Rachel Gisselquist for UNU-WIDER is quite fond of the latest WDR!

Three flawed ideas are hurting international peacebuilding

Here’s the problem: International peacebuilders commonly assume that local leaders are corrupt, incompetent and/or uninterested in building peace without outside assistance and motivation. In my interviews in Congo, these negative perceptions reached such a point that foreign peacebuilders emphasized how “surprised” they were to meet hard-working citizens and authorities who were not corrupt or did not try to abuse their positions of power.
But of course outsiders don’t necessarily have the knowledge to build peace in host countries. They may not speak local languages, understand local customs or have the in-depth knowledge of local history necessary to comprehend and resolve the deep sources of tensions. And all societies — even those at war — tend to have local systems and skills to resolve conflicts.
Severine Autesserre for the Washington Post with a reminder on current debates in peacebuilding with interesting links to her and other colleagues' research.

The end of the golden age

Overall, NGOs have failed to be sufficiently innovative or been prepared to cannibalise their own business model to improve outcomes for beneficiaries fast enough. A group of researchers from leading universities recently argued that “the humanitarian architecture looks remarkably similar to the way it did in the 1950s – only much bigger”. Sara Pantuliano, of the Overseas Development Institute suggested that the lack of reform in the humanitarian sector was due to a failure by the UN and INGOs to give up power and change the way they operate. NGOs’ failure to lead change has resulted in donors imposing it on them
Paul Ronalds for the DevPolicy blog with reflections on the current state of the industry at the dawn (?) of the humanitarian system as we know it...

Home coming

There are many Nepalis who have retired from their jobs in the UN, World Bank, or the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and have returned to Nepal to help in post-earthquake reconstruction and post-conflict only to find the government had no need for their expertise.
“But we are still available,” said Shrestha, who is now involved with Rotary Club and after coming back has worked with the UNICEF country office in Nepal as well. “Nepal is like a piece of heaven but we have not been able to utilise its full potential.”
Bhairaja Panday worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in hotspots like Bosnia and Burma, gaining valuable experience in post-conflict reconciliation. He offered his help for Nepal’s truth and reconciliation process, and even met the Prime Minister, but has now realised that exploiting the experience of retired Nepalis is not a priority for the government.
Smriti Basnet for Nepali Times with a story that is certainly not limited to Nepal. In highly politicized environment, outside experts and expertise may interfere with the established networks and ways 'things are done around here'. As I wrote in a different context, Nepal needs all the development professionals and professionalism it can get to move forward

Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar on what hip-hop can and can't do for cultures in conflict

However, the politics of the situation always ride shotgun for Nafar. Whatever critique he's trying to make, in film, in music, he has to make sure that the message doesn't obscure the aesthetic value of that moment. Junction 48 is fun. Watching Nafar's character Kareem and his brother crack jokes at Israeli cops while they profile and search the crew, has a sardonic light heartedness to it. Nafar's lines — "The NSA is more powerful than the N.W.A," which he comes up with on the spot explaining how hip-hop and power relate — are fun. They have to be.
That ability to tickle people's rational faculties while keeping them dancing is where hip-hop's true cunning lies.
Tim Barnes for MIC with an great interview about hip-hop and the challenges of artistic expression for social change.

Our digital lives

The Sculpture of a “Fearless Girl” on Wall Street Is Fake Corporate Feminism

That’s fuzzy and inspiring and stuff, but here is the truth about “Fearless Girl”: It features a branded plaque at its base. The companies that installed it had a permit. They are advertising firm McCann New York — whose leadership team has only three women among 11 people, or 27% women — and asset manager SSGA — whose leadership team has five women among 28 people, or 18% women. SSGA is a division of State Street, which has a board of directors that includes only 27% women. SSGA is also, according to Wikipedia, the world’s third-largest asset manager, managing more than $2.4 trillion in assets in 2014. And, like any good capitalist behemoth, it has some shady dealings in its history
The best explanation that the best part of me can muster for all the enthusiasm for “Fearless Girl” is that we’re so starved for public images of women that aren’t tied to advertising or sex, we’re willing to laud just about anything. That’s sad, but it’s also an opportunity — for the city, for artists, for cultural institutions and nonprofits. You can count the number of public statues of historic women in New York on one hand. How about commissioning some more?
Jillian Steinhauer for Hyperallergic puts the 'Girl on Wall Street' hype into an important feminist and artistic context!

Gender quotas and the crisis of the mediocre man

there is clear evidence of a reduction in the proportion of male leaders (those at the top of the ballot) with mediocre competence. This suggests that quotas work in part by shifting incentives in the composing party ballots. Mediocre leaders are either kicked out or resign in the wake of more gender parity. Because new leaders – on average – are more competent, they feel less threatened by selecting more able candidates, which starts a virtuous circle of higher competence.
Tim Besley, Olle Folke, Torsten Persson and Johanna Rickne for the LSE Business Review blog with fascinating insights from Swedish political parties on how gender quotas push out mediocre men.

Time to give all-male panels the flick

Finally, and here's the real kicker, few people buy that all-male panels reflect the best expertise available. For example, in a recent online Lowy Institute survey we asked members of Australia's international relations sector (across government, civil society and business) whether they personally agreed or disagreed with the following statement:
Usually when there are panels of all-male speakers at conferences, it is because there were no women qualified for the panel. Some 87% of the 456 respondents to this question said they disagreed with the statement. Of these, 456 respondents (63%) 'strongly disagreed'.
Danielle Cave for Lowy Institute's The Interpreter with some really interesting data and food for thought as to why the #allmalepanel really is bad...

A partial portrait of digital violence and surveillance against women in Colombia

Through the work carried out by Karisma, we have been able to identify that there are women who consider it normal for their partners to control their social networks — women are often the ones who voluntarily provide their passwords as “proof of love” — and even through apps where someone’s location can be known at all time. We have also seen how, at times, women have agreed to the idea of creating family accounts, rather than personal, so that there are no “secrets” and their partners can see everything they do. This type of situation allows for the continuous monitoring and control of women, greatly limiting their freedom and independence. And this is no more than the reflection of a society that, in fact, still refuses to recognize women’s rights and gender equity.
Amalia Toled for Privacy International on important aspects of women's digital identities and their control in contemporary Colombia.

Hot off the digital press
Labour Migration and the Remittance Economy The Socio-Political Impact

Based on a study conducted in five districts, this report looks at the impact of labour migration on the economy, society, and politics at the community level. It provides an insight into how remittance is changing the economic outlook of households while highlighting differences between migrant and non-migrant households. The report examines transformations in society caused or facilitated by migration, including in gender relations, with existing power equations challenged, new forms of empowerment and aspirations becoming more prominent, and political organising at the grassroots strongly affected.
Bandita Sijapati, Ang Sanu Lama, Jeevan Baniya, Jacob Rinck, Kalpana Jha & Amrita Gurung with new publication for the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility at Nepal's Social Science Baha.

What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists?

And trying to solve social problems is a more complex undertaking than working to improve economic outcomes. It’s relatively clear how a change in tax policy or an adjustment to interest rates can make the economy grow faster or slower; it’s less obvious what, if anything, government can do to change forces that are driven by the human psyche.
But there is a risk that there is something of a vicious cycle at work. “When no one asks us for advice, there’s no incentive to become a policy field,” Professor Gans said.
It may be true that these lessons on identity and community don’t lend themselves immediately to policy white papers and five-point plans. But a deeper understanding of them sure could help policy makers.
Neil Irwin for the New York Times states quite a few things that seem very obvious for development, but also media and communication scholars to get involved in the 'real world'.


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