Links & Contents I Liked 238

Hi all,

Happy midsommar from Sweden! Enjoy reading this weekend!

Development news: Combat charities in Mosul; one year after the World Humanitarian Summit; does Daily Mail’s criticism of aid matter? NGO-government relationships in Kenya; the WHO DG reflects on her tenure; Africa is far away from being a digital knowledge economy; a refugee city in Uganda; the rhetoric of partnerships lives on; Rwanda’s dictatorship; famine as weapon.

Reviewing ‘Stay & Deliver’; global humanitarian assistance report; women & world employment trends; social media tools in Kenya; do age-of-marriage laws work? (Spoiler: No!); do certification schemes help farmers? (Spoiler: Not really!).

Our digital lives:
Philanthropy and the program officer; the rich give little; Silicon Valley’s flawed theory of history.

Academia: Reviewing MOOCs; higher ed institutions demand public scholarship-but don’t little to protect staff from backlash; open access in international organizations.


New from aidnography

Combat charities and the mediatization of extreme humanitarian volunteering

As a kick-starter for more discussions, my post will focus on three aspects: the (American) hero narrative, the responsibility of media organizations to engage with content from such combat organizations and implications for volunteering/voluntourism and the humanitarian project.
No matter how many times they try or who bankrolls their efforts, an American guy shooting at people in a far-away land will not be the solution to end war and conflict…
Development news

One year on, World Humanitarian Summit scorecards are due
The coming days will see a flurry of publications and announcements as the humanitarian community takes stock of commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit last May and assesses reforms. The diary includes a formal UN consultation and a blizzard of panels, launches, and side events in Geneva.
Ben Parker for IRIN. A lot of interesting discussions took place on Twitter (see above) and this post provides a good opportunity to catch up with events, reports and more!

Does the Daily Mail's criticism of aid matter?

Rather, the key conclusion is that newspaper headlines are not an accurate reflection of what people think about aid. Nor do they appear to have an immediate, direct and mass effect on public perceptions. If government officials do interpret public attitudes towards aid through media headlines, they are wrong to do so.
Martin Scott for The Guardian reviews survey data and concludes that the Daily Mail's agenda-driven terrible journalism does not seem to reflect general sentiments on international development and has limited power to influence 'the people'.Kenyans will vote in August. Why are NGO-government relations an issue?
Finally, evidence tells us that NGOs work where they have more freedoms. The more that Kenya moves away from democracy, the less likely NGOs are to concentrate their efforts there — be it for education, health care or providing humanitarian assistance in war-torn neighboring countries, like Somalia and Sudan. Nairobi could lose its appeal as a hub for NGOs throughout East Africa, which would also mean a loss of jobs and income for Kenyans involved in these services, in the NGO sector, and for global organizations based in Kenya.
Jennifer N. Brass for Washington Post's Monkey Cage with research-based insights into Kenyan politics-just in time for the forthcoming elections.

My decade leading the WHO: dirty fights and steps toward universal coverage

Going forward, I would like to see the WHO do more to address financing issues, both for its own budget and the health budgets of low- and middle-income countries. Member states keep asking the WHO to do more with the same budget, while resisting proposals to “sunset” some areas of work that fit the mandates of other UN agencies. Such a full-menu approach impairs strategic leadership. Overall, the tendency in international public health is to move away from official development assistance towards greater reliance on domestic resources. I worry about this. In large parts of the developing world, especially in Africa, small-holder farmers in the informal sector remain the backbone of the economy, severely limiting domestic resources derived from taxes.
Margaret Chan for Stat reflects on her tenure as WHO Director General.

Africa risks fading from digital knowledge economy

Going further than this, towards a transformation into knowledge economies, will need far more concentrated effort than simply increasing internet connectivity. One barrier highlighted by our findings is the short supply of locally produced knowledge.
Without investing to shift the trends shown in our research, Sub-Saharan Africa is facing a worryingly diminishing role in the world’s digital knowledge economy.
Sanna Ojanperä and Mark Graham for SciDevNet with a reminder that Africa's transformation into knowledge economies are more difficult than just getting people online.

A Bold Experiment in Uganda

This is what Zuckerman has been up to in Uganda. He’s evangelizing community-owned and community-sustained spaces within the settlements. And he sees this kind of open, bottom-up approach as a template for building not just the future of refugee settlements, but also the future of cities worldwide.
Kathi Vian for the Institute for the Future. The idea of treating refugee settlements as 'cities of the future' seems to be getting some momentum-but I am a bit more skeptical that this will be the 'future of migration' in an era of substantial control and skepticism about the 'refugee crisis'.

Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System – by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier

Indeed, the main flaw I found in the book lies, somewhat perversely, in its underlying optimism. The persistent critique of humanitarian actors neglects an acknowledgement that humanitarians are more often than not acting in spite of a wider political and legislative environment on immigration that is largely designed to discourage (im)migration entirely.
The authors state towards the conclusion, in reference to these policies, that ‘few people want to feel they are a mean bastard’, whilst neglecting to mention that acting like a ‘mean bastard’ is implicit in the British government’s hostile environment around immigration. Indeed, the current British administration is likely to welcome the recommendations of the book, emphasising as they do solutions not much further beyond the borders of the country of origin.
Gayle Munro for LSE EUROPP reviews Alexander Betts and Paul Collier's latest book.

Partnerships: Handle with Care

It is disillusioning for all of us, and particularly for our ‘partners’ in the developing world, to have business as usual re-badged as partnership.
How many of us are working in partnerships where the more powerful partners genuinely make themselves accountable for the quality of their partnership practice, to their less powerful partners? Do we build in time to explain our organisations, drivers, incentives, risks, to each other, or are we too busy for that? Do we conduct regular relationship management health checks alongside our project management assessments? Do we plan standard processes like annual plans, reports, monitoring and evaluation, communication, to reinforce partnership principles, or do we run these processes the way we have always run them? Do we cherish the diversity which draws us to a partnership in the first place, or crush it by applying standardised monitoring and reporting requirements?
Yeshe Smith for the Australian Council for International Development with a great reminder about the gap between partnership rhetoric and reality!

The perenial dictator

So the statistics about Rwanda’s economic growth published by the World Bank, and then by most media outlets, are based largely on a single source: the Rwandan government. Few Rwandan journalists, economists or analysts dare to question the government. This is how the government’s statistics become the truth, in Rwanda and abroad. Such statistics are supported by images of Chinese-made buildings in Kigali, and Transparency International surveys of Rwandans who say that their president and government are not corrupt.
Anjan Sundaram for Africa is a Country with a reminder of how the 'international community' often wants to believe in narratives of progress from countries that may not support open and liberal discussions let alone allow the way: I reviewed Anjan's great book on journalism in Rwanda!

The Nazis Used It, We Use It

Drawing on a long Anglo-American tradition of economic warfare and blockade, the counter-humanitarian trend in London and Washington is both morally distasteful and practically stupid. When international aid fails to feed the hungry and treat the sick, extremist projects flourish. If security strategists and xenophobes think that humanitarian crises will burn themselves out at a safe distance they are mistaken: the biggest demographic outcome of famine has always been migration – the Gulf countries are learning this lesson, as millions of Yemenis cross their borders. The threat to the values of the humanitarians coincides with dramatic demands on their knowledge and skills. Their best strategy is to take the initiative and propose that starvation be added to the list of crimes against humanity.
Alex de Waal for the London Review of Books with a fascinating, historical long-read on famine and humanitarianism.

Hot off the digital press

Presence and Proximity - To Stay and Deliver, Five Years On

The report shows that humanitarian community continues to grapple with the problem of its ability to stay and deliver effectively and responsibly in highly insecure environments. Progress has been made in a number of areas. Humanitarian leaders consistently talk of their commitment to staying and delivering where at all feasible, and we have seen notable instances where UN agencies, NGOs, and others have stayed and delivered at great risk. Yet despite these improvements, this study also broadly finds that not enough has changed, particularly at the field level, since the publication of To Stay and Deliver in 2011.
New report by the Norwegian Refugee Council in collaboration with UN OCHA.

Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2017

In addition to our annual analysis, the 2017 report introduces salient topics to support the reform of crisis-related financing. This includes analysis on the links between poverty and crisis, risks and resources and across several of the Grand Bargain commitment areas such as transparency, localisation, earmarking, cash and multi-year funding.
Development Initiatives just published their annual report with lots of food for thought, data and visualizations!

World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for women 2017

However, the report finds that there are significant socio-economic and gender norm constraints influencing a woman’s decision to participate. Accordingly, the report introduces a comprehensive framework to address the drivers of these gender gaps and outlines a series of policy recommendations to improve the labour market outcomes of women.
The ILO also published an interesting new report recently.

Using Digital and Social Media to Monitor and Reduce Violence in Kenya’s Elections

3) social media monitoring of violence should be undertaken in conjunction with other reporting systems that seek to overcome inequalities in digital access and use
Caitriona Dowd for IDS with a handy overview about social media's role in the forthcoming elections in Kenya.

Do Age-of-Marriage Laws Work? Evidence from a Large Sample of Developing Countries

By this measure, most countries are not enforcing the laws on their books and enforcement is not getting better over time.
We conclude by arguing that better laws must be accompanied by better enforcement and monitoring in to delay marriage and protect the rights of women and girls.
Matt Collin and Theodore Talbot for CGDev. I think 'better enforcement and monitoring' was one of those lessons I first learned in my undergrad development studies classes more than 15 years ago...

Effects of certification schemes for agricultural production on socio-economic outcomes in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review

There is limited evidence on their effects on a range of intermediate and final socioeconomic outcomes for agricultural producers and wage workers. There are positive effects on prices. But workers’ wages do not seem to benefit from the schemes. Income from the sale of produce is higher for certified farmers, but overall household income is not. Context matters substantially for the causal chain between CS interventions and well-being.
Carlos Oya, Florian Schaefer, Dafni Skalidou, Catherine McCosker and Laurenz Langer for 3ie. In global value chains, those at the bottom get ripped-off...

Our digital lives

Through the Eyes of the Program Officer

But when looking outside of their direct grantees, the perspective of program officers changes. Only about half of program officers who responded to our survey believe that nonprofit organizations, in general, are well run. Even fewer think that nonprofit organizations are well equipped to assess their performance. Just 39 percent believe that nonprofit organizations have the knowledge necessary to assess the results of their work, and fewer than 10 percent believe that nonprofit organizations have the resources necessary to conduct such assessments.
Jennifer Glickman introduces a new survey on foundation program officers for the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

Hold the Toasts to Generosity. In Fact, the Rich Give Away Very Little of Their Wealth

Even as a growing number of wealthy donors step up to give, many are holding back and the far upper class as a whole is only parting with a tiny sliver of its wealth. Some of the very richest Americans—like Jeff Bezos and the Mars family—give barely anything all.
Why don’t the rich give more? There are various reasons, including that giving away money wisely is harder than it looks. It takes time, focus and energy—which can be in short supply for busy people still involved in their careers. Also, many wealthy people may simply care more about preserving and growing their family's assets than about helping out others.
David Callahan for Inside Philanthropy with a reminder about the scope of current philanthropy-don't wait for donations, make sure the rich pay proper taxes :)

The Poverty of Entrepreneurship: The Silicon Valley Theory of History

But their universal fascination with charismatic leadership shows that behind the tech economy’s democratic façade beats a deeply authoritarian heart. For Horowitz, while the “culture” of a company or a nation is embodied by its employees and citizens, it can always be channeled by a wise leader to specific ends. The enslaved people of Haiti could never shape their own culture—only L’Ouverture, CEO of the Haitian Revolution, could.
John Patrick Leary for The New Inquiry takes on venture capitalist Ben Horowitz and his narrow interpretation of the history of innovation which is indicative of the mindset of a lot of Silicon Valley movers and shakers...


MOOCs Moving On, Moving Up
With some exceptions noted previously, MOOCs are mainly a technology business, focused on providing a return on investment (even for nonprofits like edX) by targeting the large nondegree professional development and technology training market. Though the MOOC experiment over the past five years has resulted in many positives, this era also reminds us that when it comes to degree attainment, there really is no magic bullet. The hard, in-the-trenches work of helping the students of today get and remain focused, learn, and stick it out to degree completion remains the province of mainstream higher education -- MOOCs or no MOOCs.
Cathy Sandeen for Inside Higher Ed reflects on her predictions about MOOCs she made a couple of years ago. Spoiler alert: MOOCs have not made colleges/universities obsolete and not 'everybody' studies at MIT at the moment...

Everything But The Burden: Publics, Public Scholarship, And Institutions

The point is, institutions have been calling for public scholarship for the obvious reasons. Attention can be equated with a type of prestige. And prestige is a way to shore up institutions when political and cultural attitudes are attacking colleges and universities at every turn. And, faculty are vulnerable to calls for them to engage. We’re all sensitive to claims that we’re out of touch and behind on neoliberal careerism. And some of us actually care about engaging publics (shocking, I know). But the prestige chase on one hand and eager faculty on the other means we haven’t asked what institutions owe its constituent members for public engagement.
Tressie McMillan Cottom with an important reminder that 'public engagement' (espcially at US universities) is a bit more than 'leaving the ivory tower and give a talk'-and in the digital age it can come with backlashes that many institutions are not well equipped to handle.

Open Access Policy In International Organisations

The question of open access is “much broader and more complex” than just access to research, Beauchamp said. The shared objective of open access is, according to Beauchamp, encouraging users to take the content and share it without any technical or licence barrier.
Elise De Geyter for Intellectual Property Watch with an good overview over debates inside international organization on how to make data and other information open access; it's a bit more complicated than simply putting an open access license on each product...


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