Links & Contents I Liked 237

Hi all,

Welcome to a packed Friday link review!

Development news:
The UN’s ‘new way of working’; political inaction and the Congo; Canada’s feminist foreign policy; Facebook roles out disaster mapping; how to fix the humanitarian system; automation will destroy jobs in Africa; can Africa’s youth ‘hustle’ their way out of unemployment? The gender digital-divide in Myanmar; climate change projects as empowerment opportunities; opinion leaders use social media for development information; a little donation will not end poverty; how can practitioners & academics come together? 220 pounds for a visa for Nigeria? Twitter responds :)

Our digital lives:
Design education’s lack of understanding power; mansplaining; print it out and they will change!

Publications: E-Book on dependency theory; ODI on the Grand Bargain; IMS on media environment trends; anthropology of social media in South India.

Academia: Can facebook become a learning platform? A poem on a university’s brand new community initiative.


New from aidnography

Is platform capitalism really the future of the humanitarian sector?

I would be a bit more careful in predicting a future of the humanitarian sector based on data-driven cash programs where NGOs mimic global capitalistic platforms.
I would also like to see a much more critical engagement with the concept of platform capitalism and the (hidden/outsourced) cost in an ‘industry’ that by definition should work for the marginalized delivery person rather than the Silicon Valley hedge fund manager.
Ideals and practices based on social justice, equality and changing power relations should always guide the work of NGOs-and sometimes those efforts cannot be simply measured by data collected along the supply chain...
Development news

The "New Way of Working": Bridging aid's funding divide
Essentially though, the NWOW is about closer collaboration between humanitarian and development response through the pillars of: “collective outcomes”, “comparative advantage”, and “multi-year timeframes”.
These interventions, like the World Bank’s engagement in Yemen, bring important new funding and capacity to humanitarian crises. But they can also carry significant risk due to the perilous nature of the security situations in the countries in question.
“There is a risk that premature development intervention can be undone quite quickly,” cautioned Nadine Walicki, a senior strategic advisor at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva. “There have been cases of new housing provided for returnees, for instance, literally being burnt to the ground.”
Louise Redvers for IRIN. There's a lot going on in this long almost reads a bit like a wedding manual: 'The UN wants something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue' to reform the humanitarian system ;)!

The U.N.’s Tragic Inaction on Congo
Congo has few committed and powerful allies. In fact, a large part of its budget is supported by the very Western governments demanding accountability, and its army is backed up in the east by the largest United Nations peacekeeping force in the world. These paradoxes point to a critical, uncomfortable truth: In Congo, the biggest stumbling blocks can be apathy and a lack of political will. We can find out who killed Mr. Sharp and Ms. Catalán just as we can deliver justice for the hundreds of Congolese who have lost their lives in the Kasais. We just have to care enough.
Ida Sawyer and Jason Stearns for the New York Times. The piece is actually much better than the headline suggests and does not simply blame 'the UN' for the events in Congo.

This What a Feminist Foreign Policy Looks Like

Canada still only spends approximately 0.26% of its GDP on international aid, compared to the 0.7% benchmark established in 2005, and critics have said that calling for a new era and a fundamental shift without allocating any new funding seems disingenuous. “Feminism should not be used as a buzzword or a way to easily brand a political policy. And if you are going to label it as feminist, it must have real substance. Unfortunately the Liberal budget did not provide a single penny for international aid,” said Robert Aubin, a Canadian MP and international development critic from one of the main opposition parties.
Meanwhile, others have pointed out that Canada announced just last week a dramatic increase in military spending – by approximately $13 billion CAD, or a full 73% – and find it difficult for the government to claim that not even one additional dollar of aid will be available to implement the policy changes. What does this mean about how serious the Canadian government is with their new approach?, critics argue.
Penelope Starr for UN Dispatch. A feminist foreign policy is much easier said than done...

Surveillance for good? Facebook tracks disaster victims

The disaster maps may well have value in terms of strengthening Facebook’s brand, but Meier said he had also observed “a genuine interest in making sure this has a measurable impact”.
“I’m hoping that… it sends a bit of a signal to other Silicon Valley companies. I hope these companies realise they actually have an ethical responsibility,” he added. “They’re becoming like the new utilities of our time. When the power goes out… they have a responsibility to get the power back on.”
Microsoft has already been through a process of rethinking its involvement in humanitarian action. Although it has long had a humanitarian action department, “it’s been inconsistent in terms of what we do and where we do it,” said Jane Meseck, senior director of global programmes at Microsoft Philanthropies.
Kristy Siegfried for IRIN with a good overview over facebook's disaster mapping efforts guided by Patrick Meier. As always, questions about data, facebook and humanitarianism are complicated. I think it is too early to assess whether this is 'just' CSR or more. And as long as facebook does not allow access to its 'engine room' relying on a propitiatory algorithms will always be less than perfect. But then again, even if there was a way of being completely open access-how would NGOs or other organization handle data in the messay situation of a humanitarian emergency? Lots of questions...

How to Fix the Broken Humanitarian System: A Q&A with Paul Spiegel

Emergencies are becoming more and more protracted. We’ve seen this in terms of both the conflict itself lasting for many years as well as the forced displacement: A refugee is a refugee for over 10 years now. The [weaknesses of] the Band-Aid approach and the division between development and humanitarian response … are now becoming more apparent. The system is clearly not able to function.
The coordination system is less of command control, and more of a consensus system. And I think that needs to change. And number two , we have developed systems—the most well-known is the cluster system, which has become far too process-heavy—and what we’re often measuring are not impact or outcome indicators but really simple process indicators. We often don’t know the effects of what we’re providing, but rather only the number and type of medicines have been provided, and that’s insufficient.
Brian W. Simpson interviews Paul Spiegel for Global Health Now. Some of the challenges that Spiegel highlights have been around for a while, but still a lot of food for thought in this long piece.

Why Are Geniuses Destroying Jobs in Uganda?

Why are these geniuses working on destroying jobs? Well, in part just because it is cool and an interesting technical challenge, but also, at least in part because policy based restrictions on labor mobility make low-skill labor—which is globally abundant and cheap—artificially scarce in the US.
And, the technologies pioneered and developed in the US and Europe and Japan then blow back into poor countries. Automated pay-for-parking at airports, developed in rich countries to save labor costs at massively distorted prices, creeps into Uganda. As I recently flew home from giving a lecture about promoting economic growth in Tanzania I was confronted with automated check-in at the airport in Dar-Es-Salaam.
Lant Pritchett for the Center for Global Development with a powerful reminder about one of the biggest challenges for 'development' in the coming years: Making sure enough young men/people have jobs!

Organic Learning and Hustling: A Possible solution to Africa's Youth Unemployment?

On digging about their background, the guys had just gone upto to high school, no one had gone to college, but they had learnt from another guy who had taken an electronic repair course at a TVET college. These guys had learnt organically by observation and tinkering, until they got it right. While I was there, another guy joined, and was given the least expensive gadget to start repairing, I was later to learn he is the apprentice.
Given that they had done something that the swanky Samsung customer care service center up the hill would not do, I asked them, if they would consider employment say by Samsung, there was an emphatic NO! They liked the flexible hours ( that day i had to wait until 2.00pm for the shop to open, generally they show-up after midday and work until 7.00pm). Second reason, is they made more money than they would make at Samsung. Based on the foot traffic in my time there, they would easily be making KES 5000 ( USD50) a day err halfday, even when split three way, it is enough to make a living. Finally, the work culture in the shop, was anything goes, no HR, no dress code and definitely no office drama.
Shikoh Gitau needed her phone fixed in Nairobi and wonders whether 'hustling' could be a employment strategy. I have doubts about sustainability-but also about the real income potential. And working with propitiatory systems can always be tricky-what if Samsung or any other company makes it more difficult to hack their hard- and software?

Ending the Gender Digital Divide in Myanmar: A Problem-Driven Political Economy Assessment

In Myanmar, the gender digital divide is systemic, skills are not keeping pace with access, and local actors are key.
The gender digital divide in Myanmar is systemic. It is detrimental to women’s and girls’ ability to participate in and benefit from development processes, and a brake on Myanmar’s ability to prosper.
Gender is not the biggest challenge related to accessing ICTs. Two issues are more problematic for women and girls:
a. Men and boys often have more control over ICT devices and more opportunities to acquire ICT skills.
b. Women and girls often feel that ICTs and digital content are not relevant enough to justify the time and expense.
There are not enough local actors - whether government agencies or nonstate institutions - championing digital inclusion. Stakeholders often are not aware of how the gender digital divide impedes development.
More stakeholders have incentives to integrate ICTs into their work than to make gender equality a priority.
New work by IREX with an important reminder of how quickly Myanmar is 'developing'-and how important it is to ensure that inequalities are addressed right from the beginning.

Myanmar: Top UN official in Myanmar to be changed

The United Nations has confirmed that its top official in Myanmar is being moved from her position.
Diplomatic and aid community sources in Yangon told the BBC the decision was linked to Renata Lok-Dessallien's failure to prioritise human rights.
In particular, this referred to the oppressed Rohingya Muslim minority.
Internal UN documents - shown to the BBC - said the organisation had become "glaringly dysfunctional", and wracked by internal tensions.
Jonah Fisher for BBC News with more news from Myanmar...

Climate change risks can be turned into an asset for communities left to cope on their own

The findings showed substantial successes in, for example, the empowerment of women, better access to education, and increased economic opportunities. But it also showed that community cohesion increased while local governance structures were strengthened.
The results indicate that climate policies can play an important role in facilitating the growth of local institutions and addressing peoples’ vulnerability and fragility – even if, as in this case, it was somewhat unintentional.
Kashwan’s research, and my own, shows that reducing emissions through small hydropower development or reforestation can do more than just mitigate the effects of climate change. It can have wider effects that deliver positive returns in all sorts of ways. This includes reducing the opportunity for terrorist groups to recruit vulnerable and marginalised people.
Florian Krampe for The Conversation with a reminder that some climate change/mitigation efforts can 'simply' become good development projects while having a positive environmental effect at the same time.

Why do people engage with international development?

So what are the positive drivers of engagement with global poverty? Three big ones stand out.
Social norms – as respondents increasingly agree that other people are engaging and that other people admire those who engage with global poverty, they become more likely to engage themselves.
Moral case – as respondents become more persuaded by the normative case for aid, i.e. that it is the right thing to do, they become more engaged with the issue. This might not sound all that surprising but, for instance, we do not see a parallel effect when people increasingly agree that UK aid brings benefits.
Personal efficacy – as people increasingly believe that they can make a difference, they are more likely to become engaged.
Jennifer van Heerde-Hudson and David Hudson for DevCommsLab with an introduction to their research on political attitudes towards international development in the UK.

Global opinion leaders show increased use of social media for information on development

Social media is increasingly becoming a driver of conversation on several topics including global development. The World Bank’s Public Opinion Research Group conducts Country Opinion Surveys in about 40 developing countries every year and found that the number of global opinion leaders using social media to get information on global development is steadily increasing.
Zubedah Robinson for the World Bank's Voices blog. The findings are not really surprising, but I'd like to find out more how they affect the World Bank and its publication and communication: Does 'getting information' trickle down to 'reading a (pdf) report'? An interesting debate as the Bank is struggling a little bit to find its place in the global development landscape.

Here's why donating £2 a month cannot possibly end poverty

Alongside these stories we urgently need to ramp up our campaigns on the causes of poverty and situate them within this wider narrative. While many aid agencies do campaign on issues such as unfair trade deals, climate change or tax havens, we have failed as a sector to locate this within a bigger story about poverty creation and systemic change when talking to the public. Instead, we have focused on aid and charity – which, though it helps, is no long-term solution – and told people that their donation will end poverty. When it doesn’t, are we surprised that they begin to lose faith?
Matthew Bramall for The Guardian with a reminder that aid organizations need to address inequalities and create global solidarity and empathy rather than simply promising to 'save children'...

Memory, Wisdom and Mentoring: what do practitioners need from academics, beyond research papers?

In return for mentoring/accompanying practitioners, academics could be given access to new sources of data from monitoring and evaluation of aid programmes or other sources – gold dust for any academic career.
And what of the practitioners? Everyone in the aid business says they want time to read and reflect, so the standard answer is often ‘why not pack them off to a university for a week every year so they can do just that?’ But it’s not that simple. The change of rhythm between activism and reflection can be jarring. When we sent our senior advocacy team to IDS for a reading week a few years ago, IDS was horrified by their attention deficit issues – they just couldn’t stay off their blackberries. A mentoring scheme would respond to the needs and rhythms of the practitioner, rather than the need to fit around university timetables (eg by boosting their coffers through summer schools).
Duncan Green for From Poverty to Power; bringing academic and practitioners together is complicated. One issue that immediately came to my mind is that academics usually need to plan much longer in advance-my calendar for the autumn semester is already filling up quickly-so being responsive to shifting work loads can be quite challenging...

How Everyday Africa Sparked a Movement That’s Changing Western Stereotypes of Africa

It’s in that casual inclusiveness that Everyday Africa finds its voice. The Instagram feed, at 3,762 posts and counting, is catalyzing a new form of journalism that thrives not on the decisive moment but rather on a reality told in small pieces, from multiple perspectives. In doing so, it’s engaging a new generation of African photographers with newfound access to amplify their voices via social media, the internet, and mobile phones. And it’s giving them a platform—an audience nearly 330,000 followers strong, of Westerners and Africans and people of African descent alike—through which to define their own narrative.
Molly Gottschalk for Artsy with a reminder of the visual power of Everyday Africa.

Who has more power, privilege and expensive visa? Great discussion after the initial tweet...

Our digital lives
Design Education’s Big Gap: Understanding the Role of Power

But as more and more designers pour into complex social situations (whether new graduates or seasoned professionals), this unintentional blind spot can be disastrous. Perhaps this would explain why it’s taken the design discipline so long to get a credible foothold within the social sector. Why would an executive director of a non-profit expose their staff to a hubristic designer, let alone to the population they’re serving?
Should designers get out of social impact design altogether? Absolutely not. Designers are uniquely trained to be comfortable working with ambiguity without losing hope. And that right there is a powerful asset.
But if you shy away from working in the social sector, you’ll miss out on opportunities to change the world and yourself in the process. All it takes is a more reflective approach—one that acknowledges the hidden forces at play in the world around us.
George Aye for the Greater Good Studio with a powerful reminder why designers need to talk to development researchers who have been thinking about power and participation since the good old days of 'Putting the last first'!

Strange men constantly explain to me how to do my job

This is about power.
Put another way, these instructional approaches by men are not an invitation to have respectful dialogue; they are an attempt to put me back in my box.
Over time I’ve come to understand that men explaining things to me has nothing to do with what I’m writing about. It’s the fact I’m writing at all. I’m taking up space and having a public voice.
According to Dr Flood, probably not: “Mansplaining is about power and entitlement, [so] it’s probably less likely to be practiced by men who have other social positions, such as ethnic minority men or gay men or trans men or indigenous men. That means that they’re on the other side of those patterns of power.
“Gender isn’t the only story here. Gender intersects with other forms of social difference and social inequality and that shapes whose voices get heard and who is spoken to in patronising ways and who isn’t,” he says.
Ginger Gorman for The Big Smoke with an excellent piece that addresses 'mansplaining' in a deep and meaningful way!

3 Reasons Why Printing is Still a Killer App for Behavior Change

In the age of digital development, don’t forget the psychological benefit from slowing down and making something special to drive faster and deeper behavior change.
Wayan Vota for ICTworks with why printing still matters-especially 'in the field'!

Hot off the digital press
e-Book Launch: Can Dependency Theory Explain Our World Today?

At a time when the core arguments of the Dependency framework are most pertinent, they disappeared from mainstream debates on ‘globalization’ and the academic curricula…[F]or a new generation of scholars and students, this volume should be a key that opens the door to an archive and a new way of reasoning about the current global order…[W]hat is at stake is more than the economic. What is required is thinking and acting on the multi-dimensional faces of dependence…—as much economic as it is political, social, and epistemic… confronting the different dimensions of domination and dependence.
The Young Scholars Initiative of the Institute of New Economic Thinking just released an interesting E-Book!

From Grand Bargain to beneficiary: an analysis of funding flows through the humanitarian system

Focusing on the classification and analysis of expenditure, the paper has not sought to make any judgements about the value or benefit of these expenditures to the aid recipients. While this approach does not capture the quality of assistance provided to crisis-affected populations, the study aims to lay the foundation for further discussions about cost-efficiency, the quality of humanitarian assistance and the added value of each actor in the chain.
Barnaby Willitts-King, Tasneem Mowjee and Lydia Poole with a new paper for ODI.

Reflections on media environment trends – IMS Annual Report 2016-2017

In this context, the year also saw journalism facing a crisis of a fundamental nature spurred on by technological advancement, political power play and global inequality — a crisis that challenges basic notions of truth, relevance and trust.
International Media Support, a Danish NGO, presents their latest annual report.

Social Media in South India

Venkatraman explores the impact of social media at home, work and school, and analyses the influence of class, caste, age and gender on how, and which, social media platforms are used in different contexts. These factors, he argues, have a significant effect on social media use, suggesting that social media in South India, while seeming to induce societal change, actually remains bound by local traditions and practices.
Shriram Venkatraman with a new open access book from UCL Press and their project on social media anthropology.


Facebook, an Online Learning Platform?

David S. Janzen, professor of computer science at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, is one of them. He has for years taught a Java coding course on Udemy, which his profile shows more than 6,500 learners have taken.
In an email, Janzen said he has no interest in teaching a course on Facebook.
“I am skeptical about Facebook entering online learning,” Janzen said. “I expect they will have some success just based on their size, but I don't expect them to become the dominant player in online learning. There is a lot of healthy competition. Also, I'm nervous about a deep integration of social media and learning. The mix of constant interruption (social media) with a need to focus (learning) seems counterproductive.”
Carl Straumsheim for Inside Higher Ed introduces facebook's efforts to become a learning platform.

Poem About Your University’s Brand New Community Initiative

Our current day porters
Have the opportunity
To reapply for their jobs
With this new company
Slash community.
This reapplication process
Will no doubt remind them
How much they belong
To a community,
Just not quite the same community
That they belonged to before.
Susan Harlan's poem for McSweeney's actually also addresses a lot of 'development projects'...


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