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Hi all,

A long week comes to a summery, sunny conclusion! 

Development news: Once more: Does aid work?! Media & democracy in Afghanistan; Cameroon’s ‘auntie army’; do women in Latin America get empowered by microfinance? Traveling in Uganda; the trouble with medical voluntourism; RCTs-it’s complicated; One Belt, One Road & questions of economic empowerment; private security & inequality; how UNDP Eurasia communicates; C4D for vaccination; Read-of-the-week: my poor mother wasn’t trash. 

Our digital lives:
Switching the lens on service & serving; the ideas industry. 

Management in a neoliberal world; live poor, die young. 

Why haven’t MOOCs replaced professors? Flipping the classroom the right way.


New from aidnography
Revolution and Authoritarianism in North Africa (book review)

There were a couple of reasons why I selected Frédéric Volpi’s book for review.
First, Volpi is looking at Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia-four diverse societies and political systems that experienced very different ‘revolutions’/revolutions in 2011.
Second, he is adopting a macro-analytical perspective and is less concerned with ethnographic details of ‘the streets’. And quite frankly, the third reason was that books published by Hurst are usually interesting, readable and well-edited contributions to shape my own thinking and teaching.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It provides plenty of food for thought and discussion and will certainly make a very good introductory text for students before they start discussing the countries, societies and revolutionary dynamics in more detail. Volpi’s book also makes a very important contribution to the emerging debate on how ‘we’, particularly in academia, need to continue with nuanced and careful analysis as mediatized events gain momentum and sound bites replace complex reflections.
Especially the political science and international relations community also needs to admit how limited their power of prediction really is when contested spaces are re-negotiated.
Development news
Should America Keep Giving Billions Of Dollars To Countries In Need?

Nonetheless, researchers have tried for decades to connect the dots between aid and growth, says Glennerster of the poverty lab at MIT. But results have been mixed. "I can show you 40 papers that have appeared in economic journals in the last 10 to 15 years saying that there's been no relationship," says Kenny. "Twice the number that say there is. Some say it's a mix. All those stories are plausible."
Malaka Gharib for NPR Goats & Soda. As much as the piece provides (yet another) overview over the 'Does aid work?' debate, I would have liked to read about other aspects of 'aid'-including humanitarian aid or 'softer' forms of support that may not lead to economic growth, but to better media, governments and societies in the longer term. Aid can be many things-but it should also play a role in working towards global solidarity, connect citizens and communicate inequalities as well as addressing them.

‘The media here is one of the greatest tools of democracy’

Still, the challenges to independent journalism in Afghanistan are immense and growing. Reporters face physical attacks and intimidation from the Taliban, warlords, criminals and the country’s own U.S.-backed government, which has imprisoned at least 60 journalists, according to media watchdog groups. And funding for media from the United States and other Western governments, is dwindling, leaving many radio stations with aging equipment sorely in need of repair.
“Afghanistan’s is a donor-created media, that’s the reality of it,” Maimanagy said. “There is no advertising market of any significance and there isn’t going to be for a long time. There is this adamant enemy that considers media a promoter of values they don’t believe in, like women’s rights and democracy, and they are not timid about attacking journalists.
We don’t know what this all means for our future. But we know that the media here is one of the greatest tools of democracy, and we need to fight for it.”
Sharmini Boyle for Internews with an important reminder of what media can and should do in democratic societies once you leave the overheated filter bubbles in our own backyards...

Cameroon's 'auntie army' of rape survivors battles sex abuse of girls

Although funded for many years by the German development agency GIZ, RENATA receives small grants from international donors, but is no longer fully sponsored by anyone.
So the aunties work as volunteers, often holding down second jobs as hairdressers, shop-stall owners, teachers, restaurant managers to make ends meet.
Some of their revenue is under threat following President Donald Trump's order to reinstate the global gag rule that bans U.S.-funded groups around the world from discussing abortion.
Aba, the RENATA spokeswoman, said despite their dwindling resources, she and the other aunties are determined not to give up.
"We won't lower our arms - we will continue, we will find other revenues. We will continue our fight," she said.
Inna Lazareva for Thomson Reuters Foundation with a piece from Cameroon featuring civil society engagement to support girls and women.

Microfinance & Austerity: No Womens' Empowerment without Community Involvement

How austerity policies and microfinance can bankrupt rather than empower women. Professor Girón discusses why microfinance cannot replace development banks.
My travels in Uganda, like life, were not as perfect as the pictures
I posted beautiful pictures of my trip to the islands, with an incredible jungle trek and a beautiful sunset. But I didn't show you how my friend and I were left stranded on a ferry port after the bus took our money and left. I didn't show you the tears I shed while trying to negotiate with a boda driver to take us to the city. I didn't show you the pain of the motorcycle digging into my lower back as we tried to fit three people and two luggage bags on an hour-long ride along a dusty, dry road.
Facebook is a fraud.
No wait, scratch that. I am a fraud.
Uganda is a beautiful country with beautiful people with incredible stories who gave me so many opportunities as a dancer and international worker. You'll find all of that in my photos.
But that's not the whole picture. It's all too easy for me to post the highlights, to watch the "likes" pop up one after another in my notifications, and to read comments like "Girl, I'm jealous!"
Justina Li for the Globe & Mail. The complexities of life, travel and 'going to Africa''s not just an experience for social media feeds...

The Trouble with Medical "Voluntourism"

Empirical data about the medical voluntourism industry is sparse. The most-cited figure estimates up to 10 million volunteers travel abroad annually, spending approximately $4 billion. Volunteers are predominantly young women; the number engaged in international medical volunteering is unknown.
Ultimately, patients and local health systems need foreigners’ good intentions to be re-directed towards the people on the ground, already doing the meaningful work in the long term. Putting the safety and needs of local health systems and patients first will ensure help doesn’t harm.
Noelle Sullivan for Scientific American. I think I have posted one of Noelle's pieces before-but as the summer and end-of-semester travel season starts, an important reminder to those venturing abroad...

Randomized control trials for development? Three problems

Similarly, we decide (sometimes using RCTs) that people save too little. Perhaps they even said so in a survey. However, did that survey ask whether they would also like to spend more on their children’s education, or dietary diversity, or better doctors, or any other specific reasons? No. But we researchers “know better.” So when we find we can nudge them into saving more, we think we are helping when, perhaps, we are doing them a disservice because of our tunnel vision.
Jeffrey Hammer for Brookings. For me the key point to take away from the debate is that context, nuances, culture, attitudes etc. matter a lot-rather than tweaking the quantitative foundations behind RCTs. Whatever the 'next generation' of RCTs will look like it will need more communication experts or anthropologists rather than 'better' econometric input.

China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative: Can A Bilaterally-Negotiated ‘Globalization 2.0’ Internalize Human Rights, Labor, and Environmental Standards?

The One Belt, One Road Initiative may indeed lead the world towards its “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, but the lack of other truly competitive sources of foreign financing is what ultimately reinforces China’s monopolistic advantage over foreign-financing of infrastructure and connectivity projects. It should also serve as a prudential warning for developing countries, to be vigilant about their own regulatory environments and institutional capacities and to avoid “neocolonialism” achieved through negotiating disparities in bilateral arrangements. Directly internalizing international economic, social, and cultural rights, international labor agreements, and international environmental agreements – (to many of which China is already a State party) into the long-term domestic regulatory frameworks governing One Belt, One Road projects is one way of redressing the bargaining imbalance for developing countries and ensuring mutual accountability for all global partners in China’s push as a ‘responsible power’ driving ‘Globalization 2.0’ bilaterally through the One Belt, One Road initiative.
Diane Desierto for EJIL:Talk. Even though this is a long-read with lost of legalistic aspects I found this one of the most interesting pieces this week in connection with China's 'new Silk Road' endeavor. It is am very interesting piece which addresses very fundamental questions about development, participation, ownership and new forms of power!

The industry of inequality: why the world is obsessed with private security

But when private security enables the rich and even the middle class to bypass the state, this can intensify a country’s inequalities. Regarding the expansion of private security in Latin America, the UN Development Programme has warned: “This phenomenon further increases inequality, as social groups have different capacities to deal with crime.”
Speaking to the Guardian from Bangalore, where he teaches at Azim Premji University, Jayadev observed that India has witnessed a broad “succession of the rich from the rest of the economy”.
Many people there, he said, already “rely on private services in every facet of their lives” to provide “all of the things the state might [otherwise] ... including security”.
Claire Provost for The Guardian with an interesting piece that exemplifies very well what 'inequalities' mean-and that many states are unlikely to 'catch up' with basic services, including security, and the '1%' paying their way out of these challenges will only slow down service access for the remaining majority.

How to stop the global inequality machine

And it doesn’t help that developing countries have the deck stacked against them at the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO. Because rich countries have all the power in these institutions, they get to make the rules that shape export prices and wages in the rest of the world.
The point is that wages are not somehow naturally low in the south – they have been made low by design. Wages are an effect of power.
Jason Hickel for The Guardian with more food for thought and discussion-his new book is on my summer reading list.

UNDP Eurasia – social media strategies

Blogging has been a major part of UNDP Eurasia’s outreach for at least 5 years now, before I started working here. We call this part of our strategy to Work Out Loud – don’t share only your success, but your failures as well. There’s as much for people to learn from your failures as from your successes – and they’re almost always more interesting. Blogging allows us to share results from the field without having to go through the formalities of finishing a project and producing an 80-page report. Blogging also allows us to reach younger crowds or those coming across our content on-the-go because of its more conversational tone. Finally, blogging helps put a human face on the work that we do. If we’re doing our job right, then it’s personal and fresh and interesting and brings in audiences who wouldn’t normally tune in
David Girling interviews interview with Mehmet Erdogan for Social Media for Development with insights into UNDP social media strategies.

The Comprehensive 'Communicate to Vaccinate' Taxonomy of Communication Interventions for Childhood Vaccination in Routine and Campaign Contexts

Without a comprehensive framework integrating communication interventions from routine and campaign contexts, it is not possible to conceptualise the full range of possible vaccination communication interventions. Therefore, vaccine programme managers may be unaware of potential communication options and researchers may not focus on building evidence for interventions used in practice.
Jessica Kaufman and colleagues for BMC Public Health with new research on an important C4D topic.

My Mother Wasn't Trash

In the United States, our approach to solving Appalachian poverty doesn't differ substantially from our approach to solving African poverty. In both cases, outsiders came in to exploit resources and left generations of poverty in their wake. While the process was substantially more extreme, racist, and violent in Africa, in both cases conservative political leaders think those left behind economically should just make better decisions and stop being poor. That approach will not work in either instance. Neither will sending food and secondhand clothing. And don't even get me started on the idiotic and theologically-flawed thinking that leads fundamentalist Christians to think they can solve poverty by evangelizing the poor folk.
While we must not approach any instance of poverty, whether in Kinshasa, Congo or Frakes, Kentucky, with the flawed notion that we fully understand it, we must understand that the solutions will be found in action both by those who are impoverished and by those who are not. This is not a problem to be fixed by condescending outsiders, but neither is it a problem to be fixed only by those who are impoverished. Neither group can fix it alone.
The process starts, I think, with taking time to listen. Then, we can try to understand. I might understand it a little better than most because I grew up white trash. I have seen my mother and my family members and my neighbors be forced to make impossible choices between a limited number of shitty options. I have at times had to make those impossible choices myself. Even having grown up poor and having spent my academic career researching and writing about poverty, I do not claim to understand it fully. We must realize that there exists no single narrative about Appalachian poverty. Not all poor people are the same. Not all impoverished families fit into a single category even if they are united by similar demographics.
Joshua Wilkey for This Appalachia Life with personal, challenging reflections on poverty and 'helping the poor' that 'we' in the aid industry are also faced with regularly.

Our digital lives

These three pictures make a powerful statement about race and power among women
For the photographer, the baseline intention of the project was to bend race expectations. "When you see an image of someone from a different background, what is your expectation of them?" Buck asked rhetorically over the phone. "When you see an image from someone [of a different race], what is your expectation of them and are we challenging it? Why do we expect a certain thing from someone of a [certain race] and expect them to be serving another [race]?"
Sarah A. Harvard for Mic with more details on flipping the perspective on serving and service.

The “Ideas Industry” and Populist Reaction in Education Policy

Overall, Drezner leaves a troubling impression about the state of policy deliberation in American politics and the influence of wealthy patrons. His argument also helps to shed some light on the polarization that has developed within education policy between a reform movement supported by many wealthy philanthropists and thought leaders (such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton family) and a populist reaction involving teachers, unions, and scholar activists like Diane Ravitch.
Sarah Reckhow for HistPhil reviews Daniel Drezner’s new book which is also on my summer reading pile.

Hot off the digital press

Journal Issue #5 Management

Many of the contributions point to how management is entangled in contemporary economics that engage in managerial micro-control. In particular, the management of public institutions, cultural or educational, is under attack, and so are its workers (and if not existing under the threat of closure, they operate under enforced austerity and self-monitoring, especially but not only in the West). The result is a hyper-individualised isolated student or worker who is addicted to work and pathologically tired and numbed. Such an individual is expected to contribute to the current economy, rather than maximise their interests, or, and more importantly, engage in productions of solidarity that mobilise critical thinking and creativity.
New open access issue of the PARSE journal.

Inequality: Live poor, die young

The Death Gap presents a Marxian view of inequality as a societal disease that in turn produces biological disease, dispersed differentially across the sociopolitical hierarchy. Although he is a physician, Ansell uses metaphorical language that may stump readers in biomedical fields. Moving beyond epidemiological frameworks that model what would happen to an individual exposed to a single causal factor, Ansell weaves a much more complicated story, in which structures of disadvantage affect every step of the process of survival. The Death Gap provides an overarching framework for understanding the root cause of ethno-racial and economic disparities in illness that seamlessly weaves together the very best research in epidemiology, public health, medical sociology, health policy and psychology.
Abigail A. Sewell for Nature reviews The Death Gap.


Why Haven't MOOCs Eliminated Any Professors?

What MOOCs can’t do is mentor, coach, guide, and connect. The role of the professor is in part to profess - but in much larger part to educate. The educator / learner relationship at the heart of all high quality postsecondary education can no more be scaled than any other crucial human relationship. MOOCs have thrown into sharp relief just how valuable an education is that is built upon relationships. If a MOOC replaces a course, then perhaps that course should be replaced.
Joshua Kim for Inside Higher Ed with some interesting suggestions on why MOOCs have not (yet?) 'disrupted' education as fundamentally as some may have thought. I think MOOCs when used well can continue to be a good marketing tool: 'If you liked this overview, why not sign up for more?'. I also think that MOOCs can be integrated into regular courses, thereby creating more incentives for completing the course and getting proper credits if not degrees. But the core business model of higher education is still working reasonably well...

Flipping, active learning and the post-truth era

Active learning continues to emerge as practice and we are going to find it hard going at times, precisely because there will not be any one path. Students need to be part of helping make this happen and the most profitable way of doing that is by making them genuine stakeholders in the process. That means bringing them in at the curriculum design stage, talking with throughout the delivery phase about running adjustments and debriefing afterwards.
If post-truth has taught us anything, then it’s that passionate commitment counts for a lot. We’re passionate about making L&T work better, so let’s use that together all the other academic values we hold, to effect change.
Simon Usherwood for Active Learning in Political Science on the challenges of making 'flipped' classrooms work.


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