Links & Contents I Liked 229

Hi all,

Welcome to a jam-packed link review!

Development news: #BringBackOurGirls-All they got was a hashtag?; pepsi-fication of resistance; Kathmandu is building back unsafe; mo’ #globaldev money, but less for poor people; the right way to give; has the aid industry lost its humanity to jargon and numbers? A new WFP graphic novel in South Sudan; should we treat refugee camps as long-term urban spaces? Outdated election observing; developing countries and digital start-ups; how to avoid stealing stories; the danger of a single story; Communication with communities in Haiti; Follow the car! Peacebuilding & material objects; one of those girls

Our digital lives: How will comms teams look like in 5 years’ time? Crowdfunding is reshaping giving; inside the bleak world of content moderation.

Publication: Academics on Twitter.

The deadly sins of statistical misinterpretation; how detailed should grading scales and matrices be? Reflections on an academic career.


New from aidnography

The salary gap between expat and local aid workers – it’s complicated
One issue that seems to get lost in the salary discussion is the risk of aid work being reduced to a capital city-centered endeavour. The global elite is as much present in Geneva or London as it is in Bangkok or Nairobi, but the bulk of aid work takes place in the field and we need to ensure adequate benefits for local and expat aid workers in different environments.
So how can we ensure that frontline health workers or drivers in the regional hubs are included in the conversation rather than focusing on who should have the right to send their children to the private American school?
Don’t post direct links to your new journal article!
In my experience even a little effort goes a long way-imagine the one journalist who comes across your blog post or the curated link review that takes up your article because it can be read and shared relatively freely.
Development news
Three Years Later, the Chibok Girls Are Still Missing — And All They Got Was a Hashtag

The reality is that much more can be done. I’ve come to gradually reduce my guilt by doing something for each social cause I tag. It may be donating, volunteering, marching, or directing and producing a documentary like the one I made about the Chibok girls. I’m not a filmmaker by training. In fact, as a Nigerian(born)-American(naturalized) former educator, Waiting for Hassana mostly began as a passion project I pursued with friends to bring the story of these girls back to the forefront. It’s through the strength of Jessica’s narrative — a Nigerian woman, now age 20 — that we hope audiences leave feeling linked to her life and her story. She is no longer an unknown under some now-defunct hashtag.
Funa Maduka for Teen Vogue on #BringBackOurGirls and how the hashtag inspired further action as a filmmaker.

The Pepsi-fication Of Resistance Has A Long And Ugly History
This sanitization is not only lazy and rooted in inaccuracies, it’s dangerous, as it silences the cries of revolutionary [Black] people. Moreover, it creates the false and damning sense that if your form of protest is not equivalent to that of a Care Bear hug, it is not legitimate.
And no surprise here: Whitewashing has also long played a role in all this.
Simply put, the goal of Pepsi’s ad was…to sell Pepsi. They’re in the business of making money, and in this case, they attempted to make money by getting you to associate resistance with Pepsi. The subtext was both evident and icky: Grab a Pepsi, and you could become a revolutionary, too!
Riot gear, pepper spray, tear gas, and Black and Brown folx being beaten and disappeared into police vehicles by sadistic cops are missing from this representation because no sane capitalist would want to buy into that side of resistance. Nor is that something Pepsi would like to associate itself with.
Clarkisha Kent for The Establishment with a great essay that takes the issues raised by the Pepsi ad to the next intellectual level for discussion!

Building back unsafe

“The earthquake shook people’s houses, but did not shake their mindset,” says Dinesh Pathak, another Tokha Municipality engineer. “They are trying to save some money, but their greed could cost them their lives next time.”
Om Ashta Rai for Nepali Times with a view from Kathmandu and a mindset that has been plaguing some parts of development and planning in Nepal for years and decades...

Development aid rises again in 2016 but flows to poorest countries dip

Overall, total net ODA rose in 22 countries in 2016, with the biggest increases in the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Spain. For some the increases were due to higher refugee costs. ODA fell in seven countries, with the largest declines seen in Australia, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden. Of the several non-DAC members who report their aid flows to the OECD body, the United Arab Emirates posted the highest ODA/GNI ratio in 2016 at 1.12%.
2016 saw Germany join five other countries – Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom – in meeting a United Nations target to keep ODA at or above 0.7% of GNI. The Netherlands slipped back below 0.7% to join 22 other donors under the threshold.
The OECD with some numbers on aid budgets.

The Right Way to Give

We really can make a difference by thinking twice before putting postage on material stuff, and instead putting money we'd spend on postage directly into a local organization's coffers. Ask your neighbors, members of your religious community and your social networks what organizations or initiatives are already doing good work. Organizations on the front lines of the emerging famine crisis need our help, but they also need us to think critically before providing it.
Noelle Sullivan for U.S. News with a reminder to think before donate and to think even harder before you send stuff to 'Africa'.

Secret aid worker: we've lost our humanity to jargon and statistics

Have the lofty ideals of development to reduce global inequality and give all people a decent quality of life been abandoned in pursuit of making the very, very poor only very poor? The bar for success has been lowered so far, I’m afraid all of us in the aid sector just walk right over it. And in doing so, we have side-stepped our humanitarian calling.
The Guardian's Secret aid worker column with a widely shared and discussed piece on the 'soul' of aid work.

U.N. creates striking graphic novel to spark empathy around South Sudan famine

Now, LL3: South Sudan takes readers to the world's newest country to meet just a few of the 4.9 million South Sudanese people impacted by food insecurity and learn about the lifesaving efforts to help them.
Matt Petronzio for Mashable introduces the second installment of the WFP-sponsored graphic novel Living Level 3. I reviewed the first installment last year and look forward to reading the next story!

Q&A: Former Zaatari refugee camp chief on the tandem approach to urban planning

We’re working within a logic that has, so far, been that governments are in charge of hosting displaced people, but they shift that responsibility to humanitarian agencies. None of these structures have the right reflexes and the right skill set to develop a functioning system that is ecologically and economically sustainable. That responsibility needs to be handed over in order to ensure sustainability, innovation and change.It’s basically building a new city, and that is not done by the development agency. That is done by, for example, a public private partnership. It's not about a tech provider helping a [nongovernmental organization]
Helen Morgan talk to Kilian Kleinschmidt for DevEx about re-thinking refugee camps and understanding them as long(er)-term urban spaces. Definitely food for thought-and tricky to sell to many host governments...

International election observation is decades out of date. I should know.

However, one result of these two shifts – the rise of the tick-box, combined with a diluted version of decentralised observation – is that scrutiny of elections has become heavily focused around the day of voting itself.
Observers are dispersed to their stations just a few days prior to the vote, and governments and electoral commissions concentrate their energies on mounting an Election Day that conforms to international norms, precisely for the benefit of international officials.
This means that the preceding weeks of campaigning around the country get much less scrutiny. Yet it is in this period that systemic violence, widespread bribery and unjust infringements on freedoms of movement and expression can ensure that an election is far from “free and fair”, even if voting day itself is exemplary.
Stephen Chan for African Arguments. It's a piece from February, but still relevant ;)! He makes a good point that 'elections' often get reduced to the act of voting-great to create news images (I wrote about it here on the blog Burkas, ballots & the unbearable lightness of democratic rituals), but only one aspect of 'free and fair elections'-especially as the digital age is adding a whole different layer of complexity to the whole election process.

How Context Impacts Developing Country Digital Start-Ups

Governments must do more to build up local digital sector institutions which act as key intermediaries both within the local digital economy and between local and global digital economies.
Digital start-ups must self-analyse the constraints and freedoms imposed by their embeddedness. And they must customise models and methods from the global North; for example, rescoping the Lean Start-Up methodology to take a broader bi-sectoral and socio-political remit.
Richard Heeks for Development Implications of Digital Economies (DIODE) Strategic Research Network with research findings on start-ups in Africa.

No More Stolen Stories

At last, the hardest part in the process is the presentation. For a full profile description, go back to the subject and read them what you wrote. This might be uncomfortable, but you should do it anyway. They lived it, so they’re the best person to edit it. Let them tell you where your facts go astray or where they feel you’re misrepresenting them in the story. It is time consuming and nerve-racking, but it’s the right thing to do, and who ever said that was easy?
Jeff Paddock for La Ceiba with some good guidelines and resources on how to ensure ethical storytelling.

The danger of a single author

So while it seems admirable to get more people to read works that address cross-cultural experience all the while shoring up a dwindling book-publishing industry, as is so often the case with literary celebrity, the choice of Americanah may have less to do with aesthetic merit, in the end, than with the narrow geopolitical space allotted to African fiction in the West. This then swiftly undermines Adichie’s celebrated caveat about “The Danger of a Single Story.”
Lily Saint for Africa Is A Country on selecting Ngozi Adichi's book as the winner of the 'One book, one New York campaign'.

What a Feedback Loop Looks Like

One of the central ideas of ‘Communication with Communities’ (CwC) is that information — both its provision and collection — shouldn’t be a standalone activity; rather, it should be something that occurs continuously and is integrated into programming no matter the sector. Aid workers focused on health, nutrition, community and should all have a role in the ‘information ecosystem,’ as face-to-face communication is a widely trusted means to receive information and give their feedback.
An emergency response isn’t meant to be a static pillar; it’s a mutable organism that should adapt to the ever-changing needs of a population in crisis. And those needs are often readily expressed by affected communities. We just need to be there to take them seriously.
Rose Foran for Internews on how communication for/in/with development has worked in Haiti.

M&E Thursday Talk - Follow that car! Telling the story of conflict and peacebuilding through material objects

Researchers, including Monitoring and Evaluation specialists, face a crisis of access in many conflict and post-conflict areas. Often it is too dangerous to conduct on-site research and so researchers have to be innovative in the methodologies they use and may have to investigate proxies for the phenomenon they wish to observe. This webinar was based on a case study of following material objects (the social life of things) as a way of narrating conflict, peacebuilding and humanitarianism. It will illustrate how 4x4 (SUV) usage in Darfur can be useful in putting together a conflict analysis. It draws on an on-going research project that engages in methodological scoping in relation to peacekeeping data and humanitarian information systems.
Roger MacGinty for dm&e for peace presenting research on alternative everyday peace indicators and how SUVs can help you in conflict analysis.

One of those girls

I don’t know how to tell my parents that I won’t be subscribing to this twisted mating ritual. I want to find someone who’s going to love me for me. Someone who wouldn’t run because they found out I used to have sleepovers. These ideas are an issue. For my parents they represent a barrier between me and the perfect Arab life they have planned. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t like this. That I could just follow the rules, not ask questions and just accept things the way they are. But I have to remind myself of all the girls who grew up in households less permissive than mine, of all the girls that wouldn’t have been allowed to even think these things, let alone discuss them. I have to recognize my privilege and use it in a way that will benefit them. The fights I have are not for me alone; they’re for my sisters, my cousins, my friends, and every girl who’s ever been told not to wear that outfit lest Auntie thinks she’s one of those girls.
Asmaa Mabrouk for sister-hood is one of those girls-those girls that will hopefully continue to write great stuff and change the world!

Our digital lives
communications teams – how will they look in 5 years’ time?

Gone, or at very least going, are the days of communications teams' primary functions being press related. The days of churning out press releases, cutting out articles and chasing our tails at the behest of journalists are making way for dynamic, responsive and engaging campaigns, with perhaps a whole lot of tail chasing at the behest of the general public, who won't wait very long for our responses on social media.
And everyone seems to agree that also gone are the days of silos and specialisms within a communications team, partly because even the mammoth councils are being forced to reconsider their familiar way of working in the face of budget cuts.
Shirah Bamber for comms2point0 with a perspective from a UK city council that raises interesting questions for, among other things, the aid industry as well.

How Will The Rise Of Crowdfunding Reshape How We Give To Charity?

People still appear willing to give to organizations–and repeatedly–if they can mimic the level of supposed transparency that makes crowdfunding appealing. Such groups may even offer an additional benefit at a time when more sites seem to catalog almost every type of human suffering. “You see all those cases and they keep coming,” adds Nilsen at AFP. “Giving to a charitable organization is one way to feel like you are a part of something bigger.”
It’s probably not a coincidence that GoFundMe and GiveDirectly both operate extremely lean and clearly show where each donation will wind up. Both are enabling person-to-person transactions with trust that recipients themselves will know how best to use the funds. Even in the cases of a specific GoFundMe going viral, there’s no mandate for campaigns to have to explain how the overflow will be used, beyond the fact that lots of people are obviously now watching.
Ben Paynter for Fast Company on how donating is changing in an era of crowdfunding and what impacts it has on traditional organizations and campaigns.

A new documentary goes inside the bleak world of content moderation

“The Moderators” explores the answer, going inside on office in India where the process happens. Directed by Ciaran Cassidy and Adrian Chen, a journalist who has written about the moderation process, the documentary is a window into a largely hidden part of the internet work force: employees who sit in an office and make decisions about whether to remove explicit photos, or who examine dating site profiles to weed out fakes.
Colin Lecher for The Verge introduces an interesting and slightly disturbing documentary on how digital companies keep their sites 'clean'.

Hot off the digital press

A systematic identification and analysis of scientists on Twitter

In this work, we have developed a systematic method to discovering scientists who are recognized as scientists by other Twitter users through Twitter list and self-identify as scientists through their profile. We have studied the demographics of identified scientists in terms of discipline and gender, finding over-representation of social scientists, under-representation of mathematical and physical scientists, and a better representation of women compared to the statistics from scholarly publishing. We have analyzed the sharing behaviors of scientists, reporting that only a small portion of shared URLs are science-related. Finally, we find an assortative mixing with respect to disciplines in the follower, retweet, and mention networks between scientists.
Qing Ke, Yong-Yeol Ahn and Cassidy R. Sugimoto for PLOS One for academic nerds like me who are interested in Twitter and scientific communication.


The seven deadly sins of statistical misinterpretation, and how to avoid them
Statistics is a useful tool for understanding the patterns in the world around us. But our intuition often lets us down when it comes to interpreting those patterns. In this series we look at some of the common mistakes we make and how to avoid them when thinking about statistics, probability and risk.
Winnifred Louis and Cassandra Chapman for The Conversation with a primer on how to engage with statistics.

Should professors tell students exactly what they expect?

One problem is that expectations anchor students. The minimum becomes the maximum, and limits what students achieve. "I've got three economics journal articles. That's enough, time to move on."
Also, overly explicit expectations are an inadequate preparation for the real world. In a work environment, no one will say "I expect your research report to be spell checked and have page numbers. And, by the way, it should not be plagiarized". Part of the human capital gained in a university education is knowledge of the unwritten rules, the social norms and conventions, of intellectual life.
A related point is that part of understanding the course material is understanding what's important and what's not. When students are told precisely what will be on the exam, their ability to identify key concepts - to figure out what matters - is not tested. Instead, what's tested is students' ability to read and follow instructions. The students who succeed are the ones who are able to successfully imitate the model answers posted on the website, not the ones who come up with creative and innovative ideas.
Frances Woolley for Worthwhile Canadian Initiative with nuanced discussion on the down- and up-sides of grading scales and matrices for assessing students' work.

Some Lesser Known Lessons from Academia

I have heard early career graduate students or undergraduates considering academia say things like “I wouldn’t mind starting out at a place like the University of Kansas,” or some other institution they perceive to be of similarly low prestige. Let me be clear: you probably won’t get a job at Kansas. Getting a job at Kansas would be fantastic and is therefore exceedingly difficult. For nearly all students outside of the very top graduate programs, a job at Kansas (or similar institution) is almost certainly your best-case scenario. If you have family ties that prevent you from living outside a certain area, or a partner with an inflexible job, you will be very unlikely to find an academic job.
Daniel McCormack provides a critical assessment of what a career in academia will probably mean for many (especially in North America).


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