Links & Contents I Liked 227

Hi all,

Some writing took place ‘behind the scene’ this week, but there’s still time for a great link review with lots to explore across all the themes!

Development news: Diabetes in Mexico; malpractice in Ghana; immersive storytelling; organizational growth-what is it good for?; UN bureaucracy in Lebanon; the forests of the Congo Basin; BBC Media Action’s new data portal; gender security for aid workers; case studies on drones for humanitarian use; African podcasts.

Our digital lives: Digital newsrooms in Botswana & Sri Lanka; the demands of friendliness; love in the time of cryptography.

New books on industrialization, doughnut economics, cultural anthropology, women in the digital sector & Nepal’s peace process.

Academia: A day in the life of an academic mom; rules for academic commentary in media; crowdsourcing needs more scrutiny; the myth of tenured radicals in the neoliberal university.


Development news

Some great tweet to explore at #WCPH2017!

How Diabetes Got To Be The No. 1 Killer In Mexico

"Diabetes is now one of the biggest problems in the health system in Mexico," he says. It's the first cause of death. It's the first cause of disability. It's the first cause of early retirement. It's the main cost for the health system."
Diabetes costs the Mexican health care system billions of dollars each year.
The disease can lead to serious eye problems including blindness, nerve damage that requires amputations and kidney failure, among other issues.
Jason Beaubien for NPR Goats & Soda on one of the big issues for the future of #globaldev: Changing lifestyles, public health and the shift from poverty to 'Western' diseases as a threat to development and social change.

Development Malpractice In Ghana

There is a huge opportunity cost to failure. When you do something stupid, you either a) wreck something that is working or could have worked, or b) or blow the people’s one chance to get anything ever. Once a well is drilled, a clinic built, or a program delivered, an NGO or government official checks a box, and future resources go somewhere else. Failure is worse than nothing.
Kevin Starr for SSIR with story of failure from Ghana that goes beyond the typical fail-fest-high-fiving and addresses real impact, malpractice and consequences beyond 'failing better' or learning.

How can NGOs use Immersive Storytelling to further their cause

Producing 360 films is getting cheaper, but I did overhear someone say they produced a film for around $35,000 which is cheap. Is it cheap? What is the return on investment? Maybe it’s more to do with training opportunity cost as I genuinely don’t believe that NGOs will recoup the costs of producing a 360 film with donations. One of the panellists claimed that VR increases the conversion rate for NGOs by 100%, another panellist estimated 80%. I didn’t challenge this or ask what they meant by conversion rate – I should have done. Are they talking about donations? Are we due to see an army of street fundraisers armed with VR headsets in the future? Scary thought.
David Girling for Social Media and Development shares some reflections on a recent event on the future of immersive journalism and storytelling.

The Refugee Rethink: Part Two

First, it turns out financial growth is not a proxy for growth in impact — it’s just financial growth. The “more awesome” bit didn’t work out; at best we just got bigger.
Second, influence works both ways. In trying to influence others, you can be influenced yourselves. You can unwittingly become part of the status quo, even become its very instrument.
And, third, mediocrity at scale is worse than low-level or isolated mediocrity. Large organizations, well-intentioned or not, can become over-confident. And when compounded by immense financial pressures (bills to pay, and growth needs growth), they can move further and further away from the customer: refugees and people in need.
Daniel Wordsworth for the American Refugee Committee shares critical reflections on the aid industry.

Communication as aid: Key takeaways from the Humanitarian ICT Forum

“The biggest takeaway for me has been that the humanitarian community is way behind the status of technology in the field,” said Anahi Ayala Iacucci, senior director of humanitarian programs at Internews. “The reality is that the humanitarian technology landscape is ... advancing really fast and we are late.”
She attended the conference to get a sense of the humanitarian ICT sector today, after three years working away from this community in Liberia and South Sudan, she said. Walking away from the conference, she advised humanitarian professionals to approach the private sector with clear asks; but also to realize that it is not an NGO, and is not there to serve the humanitarian community.
Catherine Cheney for DevEx shares her reflection from the ICT Forum. A bit heavy on the buzzwords, but in the end also a reminder that 'innovation' is a collaborative process not just a replacement of the aid industry with the ICT sector.

UN Resistance Threatens Effective Aid to Syrian Refugees

DFID and ECHO should now find a way urgently to open this tender up to other service providers—including private sector organisations such as Mastercard and PayPal—to take on the role over which the UN agencies are squabbling. (This may need some tweaking of procurement rules.) That kind of competition would push the UN agencies to improve their offer, or be driven out of this market. And in the long run, that would be better for everyone.
Owen Barder for CGDev with a case study on bureaucratic procedures vs. potential aid delivery impact on the ground.

The world’s craving for chocolate and coffee is damaging Africa’s forests

The threat to forests is largely influenced by the move of harvesting for export-oriented commodities from South America and Southeast Asia to Africa. An abundance of land, lax land regulations, and cheap labor has contributed to large-scale landholders acquiring 22.7 million hectares of land across sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade. From 1980-2000, 95% of the cropland expansion in Africa replaced forest.
Abdi Latif Dahir for Quartz with some scary numbers and trends from Africa and the Congo Basin-environmental degradation is real and expansive!

Do U.N. forces work closely with host country governments? Not in Congo.

The FARDC does not have much more trust in the blue helmets. Reflecting conspiracy theories that have widespread currency in Congolese society, many officers believe the U.N. mission perpetuates the country’s lack of security to prolong MONUSCO’s presence. This allows U.N. personnel to continue to benefit from their generous salaries and risk allowances. These beliefs have given rise to the popular expression “no Nkunda, no job,” referring to one of DRC’s most notorious ex-rebel leaders.
These negative mutual perceptions are both a cause and a consequence of weak interoperability between the two forces. Many officers interviewed for my research were skeptical about the “jointness” of joint operations, stating that MONUSCO has limited influence on drawing up operational plans. Such weak interoperability hampers MONUSCO’s capability to protect civilians and circumscribes the possibility for knowledge and skills transfer.
Judith Verweijen for Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog shares some of her insights from her research on UN peacekeeping non-cooperation in Congo.

How the Congo crisis reshaped international relations

At the center of this divergence of views were also different visions of the UN and its potential and utility in managing the process of decolonization. The ending of the secession by UN forces in 1962 reflected that African and Asian countries could implement anti-colonial policies through the UN, even when this was contrary to the interests of European colonial powers. By destroying Western consensus, highlighting the agency of anti-colonial actors and demolishing the last vestiges of Belgian colonial rule in the Congo, the UN action thereby represented the first important defeat of imperialist internationalism in Central Africa.
Alanna O'Malley for Africa is a Country with a historical essay on the crisis in Congo and how it changed international relations-not least it because the question 'Who killed Hammarskjöld?' still needs answers.

Five questions our data portal can help answer

Enter our new Data Portal (view on desktop), which brings together data, reports and visualisations from surveys conducted in 13 developing countries that there aren't a lot of statistics about. Over five years, we asked more than 75,000 (rarely polled) people about what they think, feel and want. The portal covers a range of issues from what they’re most worried about to how interested they are in politics.
We want these insights to help development leaders, practitioners and researchers better understand ordinary people in the developing world so they can produce more effective strategies, projects and communications.
Sonia Whitehead for BBC Media Action presents their new data portal.

Gender Security for Aid Workers Part 2

Perhaps the most important learning I have taken from this experience is the rarity of these conversations. Most participants say that this is the first time they have ever had this discussion in a work-related context. The absence of discussions about gender security among aid workers is a security problem in itself. Unless men and women can become comfortable talking openly about the varying security risks they face, there is less that can be done to mitigate the likelihood of the events or the impact that they will have.
In closing, I would like to challenge you to do two things.
First, ask yourself, what are the security issues that concern you the most in your work context? And, what are you personally doing to mitigate the chance that you might be involved in a critical incident?
Linda Wagener for the Headington Institute with more food for thought on the emerging issues on gender and safety in humanitarian aid.

How Drones Can Help in Humanitarian Crises

At the core of the research were 14 case studies from 10 countries that looked at the impact of drones in situations ranging from search and rescue, to damage assessments and camp management to transporting medical samples.
Denise Soesilo & Timo Luege for the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action presenting their latest report on Unarmed Aerial Vehicles in humanitarian contexts.

Kamal R Mahtani: Using systematic reviews to reduce research waste—who really cares?

Scientific, ethical, and economic reasons make it essential to conduct a systematic review of existing evidence before considering a new study. Failure to do this is simply poor practice. This recent survey shows that there is still work to be done to ensure that this principle is clearly and demonstrably supported. Given their large budgets and major influence on what does and does not get financial support, funding agencies have a particular responsibility to lead this initiative.
Kamal R Mahtani for bmj; this may fit equally well in the Academia section, but systemic reviews are also a topic in development research and they deserve more attention/funding.

Top African Podcasts
With the continued rise of reliable internet, free audio programmes, popularly known as podcasts, are making a buzz on the continent. Here are few podcasts we really think you should check out. with an interesting list of podcasts from, on and about the continent.

Our digital lives

A tale of two (digital) newsrooms
The secret is to deliver a stream of digital content so valuable that users simply can’t do without it. That meant taking a close look at exactly who Echelon is targeting and what really makes them tick, from the fund manager or entrepreneur to members of the Sri Lankan diaspora keen to reconnect with their home country.
“While we expected to be updating skills, discovering processes and sharpening awareness, we didn't expect to be confronted with challenges about understanding our audiences and breakthroughs around our own products,” Echelon Editor-in-Chief Shamindra Kulamannage wrote.
Timothy Large with interesting insights from the 'digital news front lines' in Botswana and Sri Lanka.

Politeness isn’t enough; we now demand friendliness. And it’s destroying authenticity

But from another perspective, the constant need to put on a good face and charm others can look dystopian. The first episode of Black Mirror’s latest season, “Nosedive,” shows a not-too-distant future where every person has an individual score, made up of ratings given by every person they encounter throughout the day. This rating doesn’t just affect their ability to get a cab ride, but what property they can rent or jobs they can have. It’s a world of constant, forced optimism and no genuine emotions.
Olivia Goldhill for Quartz with yet another aspect of self-branding, self-optimization and public performance in an era of the quantified self...

Love in the Time of Cryptography

“I feel like what we keep in our minds is more important,” he wrote to me over WhatsApp recently. “The accuracy of it is…mah.” This is his disdain for this digital accuracy, and it captures something. There’s an obvious, almost legalistic veracity of moment-to-moment logging, but that loses a truth that the impressionism of memory catches better. I didn’t fall in love with him word by word or sentence by sentence. I fell in love with him slowly and steadily through time, in the spaces between the words, held up by the words. Losing the words sometimes feels frustrating, but that forgetting also removes the scaffolding from a finished past—a past that was never really containable in a logfile.
Quinn Norton for Backchannel with a beautiful story that does exactly what the title promises.

Hot off the digital press

Review of Doughnut Economics – a new book you will need to know about
But great ideas, and brilliant framing, still make change – and this book is a classic combination of both. If only 10% of the ideas get implemented, the world will be a much better place. And I’m always happy to help if Kate wants to write a follow up – Doughnut Politics anyone?
Duncan Green with a book review for From Poverty to Power.

Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology

The first peer-reviewed open access textbook for cultural anthropology courses. Produced by the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges
A great new open access resource that confirms that anthropology is at the forefront of innovative publishing and breaking with old habits and traditions!

Women’s Pathways to the Digital Sector: Stories of Opportunities and Challenges

This study aims at understanding the role of ICT in realising women’s rights, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in order to identify the challenges and opportunities for women and girls to partake in ICT education and employment. The following presents a two-fold approach, consisting of a desk study and biographical interviews. The 22 portrayed women work in different roles in ICT and come from developing as well as emerging countries from all continents
Panoply Digital on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Two steps forward, one step back: the Nepal peace process

In reviewing Nepal’s peace process, this 26th edition in our Accord series takes a special focus on the function of power on inclusion, and the role of the peace process as a means to facilitate transition from negative to positive peace, or from horizontal (elite) to vertical (societal) inclusion.
Conciliation Resources with a substantial 150 page document on the Nepal peace process.


A Day In The Life Of An Academic Mom
Blogger Tania Lombrozo is an academic — and a mom. Here, she gives a window into what that's like day-to-day.
Tania Lombrozo for NPR with a pretty accurate picture on how many academics spend their 12 hour work days in the 'ivory tower'...

Lagassé’s rules for academic commentary in popular media
Op-eds and blogs are a great way of offering an informed, but provocative perspective. If there’s a topic in your area of expertise in the news, you should write about it and use your knowledge to offer a novel perspective, particularly if you expect most columnists to stick with rote points. You can also use op-eds and blogs to put new ideas out there. If you’ve got a hunch about something based on your expertise, then you can use these venues to test the waters. In both cases, however, it’s imperative that you tell the reader that you’re being exploratory or that you’re making an educated analysis, not representing the findings of a research project.
Philippe Lagassé with some basic points on how academics can engage with journalism in a win-win way.

With great power comes great responsibility: crowdsourcing raises methodological and ethical questions for academia
As researchers and academic knowledge producers, we should not forget the parameters of knowledge production. We need to think about and reflect on the methodological underpinnings of new digital methods. To begin, we should reflect on who and what the “crowd” is and what this means for our particular study. To do so, we can draw on a pragmatist methodology that requires us to be candid about what we do and why, in relation to our end goal. We should remember that crowdsourcing stems from business and the structure of many commonly used platforms will shape our data.
With crowdsourcing come great opportunities, but also great responsibility.
Isabell Stamm and Lina Eklund for LSE Impcat of Social Science with a reminder that 'sexy' digital methods still need a lot of critical academic reflection-and that a lot of c'crowd' is happening inside a black box of propitiatory systems that researchers do not have full access to.

Just Wait Until I Get Tenure
This is as true on campus as it is on the factory floor, in offices, in retail establishments. Professors routinely acquiesce to employer demands that they be repeatedly assessed, with techniques that imply that student performance and even success in life can be correlated directly to what a teacher does in the classroom. Really, it is no different than when college administrators urge faculty to tighten their belts because better times are coming. Like sheep, they comply, year after year, but those good times never come. Faculty just continue to lose weight. The professor who says, wait until I get tenure and then I will activate my radical heart and soul, is lying.
Michael D. Yates for Counter Punch on the myth of tenured radicals.


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