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Hi all,

It's Friday-and you know what that means: New #globaldev stuff and more from Aidnography!

Development news: Immersing with a family in Kenya; aid reforms; refugees & DAC-spending; the inflexible humanitarian architecture in Syria; Australia wants to outlaw orphanage tourism; towards a more equitable study abroad experience; donors & their urge to professionalize grassroots movements in Nepal; are there enough decent jobs in Kenya? Humanosphere's hibernation & the future of humanitarian reporting; aid worker mid-life crisis; what's the big deal about evidence?

Our digital lives:
The difficulties of female journalists in the Middle East; over-hyped Fintech; Twitter's glass ceiling for women and minorities; a CEO sleep-over; Tumblr is difficult to monetize.

Publications: The People in the Pictures; public attitudes towards migrants; women know stuff.

Academia: Better networking; morality & open access.


New from aidnography
Radio Okapi Kindu (book review)

Unlike some aid worker memoirs, Jennifer Bakody manages right from the start to frame her story around the team of Congolese journalists, thereby avoiding the stereotypical pitfalls of a young Western woman going to ‘find herself’ in a remote place in the deepest and darkest and most dangerous part of Africa that all too often provides the backdrop for these books.
Her story is essentially about good journalism and good radio in a remote place-and that remote location happens to be in DRC in 2002.
Radio Okapi Kindu is definitely among my favorite aid worker memoirs now and a great addition to this emerging genre that continuous to surprise me with fresh voices and approaches to communicating development in engaging and different ways!

Development news
Truly left behind…

Last week I spent 24 hours with with Susan and her 5 kids in her homestead in Kuria, Migori County. This was a chance to immerse myself in the life of someone living well below the poverty line and reflect on what it means for my own efforts to tackle poverty. Despite the potential shallowness of a privileged expat like me dropping into a poor person’s life for 24 hours in the full knowledge of returning to my nice house and comfortable life, it was an incredible experience, raising more questions than answers.
How do we approach development through the eyes of people like Susan? When we talk of development, we often focus on helping the government deliver services to poor people, making sure there are health services, schools, and water. But people like Susan can’t even get to them, even if they are physically close. What more can we do more from the individual upwards rather than the service down. We’d see the deep socio-cultural barriers more clearly — like the practice of Nyumba Mboke — and how it holds families like Susan’s back even if there are reasonable services available.
Pete Vowles, the Head of DfID in Kenya, reflects on his immersion with a local family; IDS did a project with Action Aid on immersions for senior aid managers in the early 2000s and their publications still provide excellent food for thought.

Aid reform: Cash, World Bank stand out as localisation stalls

Analysts say the growing role of cash-based aid and the juggernaut of the World Bank moving into the humanitarian space are the two most visible areas of change. In other parts of the ecosystem, disputes and inefficiencies continue: The humanitarian community has not yet shown it can put “egos and logos aside” to forge other fundamental changes, one senior analyst summarised.
Ben Parker for IRIN summarizes key debates from recent high-level meetings in Geneva.

Debating the rules: What in-house refugee costs count as aid?

The working group is currently unpacking the meaning of the term “refugees” — and whether it should cover, for example, asylum seekers, refugees distributed under the European Union’s agreed quota system, migrants or some combination. It is considering the period within which sustenance costs are eligible and whether the timeframe should be changed from the current 12 months.
The DAC is also examining the methodology used for assessing costs and whether it can be based on estimates per refugee — as is currently done by some donors, Harcourt says — or whether it must be based on real individual costs attached to individual people.
Abby Young-Powell for DevEx with an update from OECD-DAC discussions on how domestic spending on refugee can be included as aid spending-and what the limitations are.

Lessons from humanitarian operations in Syria. Inflexible architecture?

My experience is that too many INGO’s are not confident of their status in regard to modern conflict. They rely too much on external guidance, encouragement or pressure from major donors, peer agencies, affected community representatives or perceived public pressure reflected in the media. Syria’s war has shone a powerful spotlight on the importance of organisational skill sets: the experience of operating in insecure, low-intensity or post-conflict environments are not qualifications to operate effectively in a hot conflict. Nor do they equip organisations with the ability to negotiate the delivery of aid across asymmetric battlefields. In Syria, where the civil war has spawned multiple combatant armies and militias, domestic and international, with overlapping and shifting objectives, even defining the conflict is difficult. The complexity of Syria’s asymmetric war has provided lessons that must be recognised and understood by humanitarian organisations.
I would also argue that the inflexible cooperation architecture currently favoured by UNOCHA and other agencies has no place when responding to the humanitarian needs of civilians trapped in asymmetric conflict. Coordination systems that distract from the business of delivering vital assistance and do nothing to enhance the impact of humanitarian response will inevitably cost lives.
Rae McGrath for Cable on delivering humanitarian aid in Syria and broader systemic challenges based on his experience as Mercy Corps director.

Child exploitation fears drive push to outlaw 'orphanage tourism'
Senator Reynolds also argues orphanage tourism should be a category of modern slavery because around three-quarters of the children are not orphans — they have at least one living parent.
"Some of these orphanages are well intentioned but most of them are for profit and some of them are run by organised crime because ultimately children in these facilities are a commodity," she said.
Sinet Chan, who grew up in a Cambodian orphanage, has pleaded with Australians not to donate to or volunteer at orphanages.
"The support of orphanages has created a thriving industry in which children are separated from their families and subjected to terrible abuse and neglect, as I was — being used as a commodity to generate funding," she said in a submission to a federal parliamentary committee investigating if Australia should have a law against modern slavery.
Louise Yaxley for ABC Australia. As much as I agree with the notion that orphanage voluntourism is a bad idea, of course, I am not sure I would subscribe to the notion of 'modern slavery'-but maybe that's more of a legal than a practical argument.

Against the romance of study abroad

We cannot expect that US institutions will embrace a more radical project of reciprocity without pressure. If UW and other institutions of higher education really want to build more equitable global partnerships, we suggest treating our partners as co-faculty with appropriate titles and compensation; supporting reciprocal exchanges and opportunities for students from host countries to participate alongside our US students in their home countries; and finally, situating reciprocal study abroad squarely in university efforts to address diversity and equity. This final step would not only address issues of access for US-based students, but begin to engage with the neo-colonial power relations that continue to benefit US institutions of higher education, often at the expense of our “global partners.”
Ben Gardner and Ron Krabill for Africa is a Country on reframing traditional discourses of study abroad and 'service learning' in the context of US academia.

Why grassroots activists should resist being ‘professionalised’ into an NGO

And so genuine activists get frustrated and seek escape. They seek ways to block out the disempowerment process. They refuse to participate while the senior manager is doing a staff performance appraisal and are indifferent to organisational rituals like one-to-ones, meeting the press or quarterly reviews with the donors. The movement-turned-NGO rebels by not sending reports to the donor within the stipulated time and saying “the computer crashed”, even if that means the donor giving you a red mark and threatening discontinuation of funding.
A good leader is sensitive to the disempowering ecosystem created by a large, process-driven NGO/donor. That leader provides the emotion that donor-pleasing NGOs are incapable of having. They have the power to bring joy to the team, discuss their issues, vent their frustrations and encourage their ideas. More importantly, a leader protects the interest of the movement, not because that is the expected “professional” leadership process, but because they are an empowered human being and knows why they are a leader.
Sunil Babu Pant for The Guardian on the disempowering engagement of many donors in Nepal and elsewhere.

How Kenya is Failing to Create Decent Jobs
The analysis reveals important information about job creation and wage trends. It demonstrates that the number of middle-income earners, who are likely to comprise a substantial proportion of a middle class, is small and not expanding any faster than gross domestic product (GDP) growth. This has important implications for Kenya’s economic and social development.
Kwame Owino, Noah Wamalwa and Ivory Ndekei for Africa Research Institute with an assessment of the 'growing middle class' narrative in Kenya.

A reader responds: Why Humanosphere’s hibernation matters

In short, Humanosphere’s hiatus is important because it represents a further narrowing of the already limited range of sources of information about humanitarian issues – just at a time when it is needed most.
News about humanitarian and development issues is generally ‘not commercially viable’ because it is both expensive to produce and rarely attracts mass audiences or significant advertising revenue. As a result, donor funding is one of the few – and often the only – substantial source of funding available.
Despite its importance, though, there are ‘significant limits’ to a donor-funding model – as Humanosphere’s experience illustrates.
Martin Scott for Humanosphere on the current state on uncertain future of humanitarian journalism.

Secret aid worker: mid-life crises hit earlier in the humanitarian world

I’ve also been through enough mission-born-but-eventual-long-distance relationships that have failed because of my ‘passion’ to continue helping the world’s children (read: spending hours in a sweltering office staring blankly at excel spreadsheets to fulfil student loan obligations) that I can’t help but laugh at the naivete of my lustful 24-year-old colleagues. But at the same time, I can’t picture myself in my forties or fifties in a small village with bucket-showers and movement restrictions that force me to take a car for the 100 metres between my house and office so I can have lunch.
The Guardian's Secret Aid Worker on getting older and wiser in the industry...

What’s the big deal about evidence?

Evidence is an important part of the decision-making picture, but it is only one element. As evidence advocates, we need to be conscious that even where there is reliable, relevant evidence, and demonstrable change – it’s not necessarily evidence that brings about change
Tari Turner for the Australian Council for International Development. My short answer to her initial question is that 'the big deal' is that people in power often seem to expect that evidence can 'do stuff' on its own. Evidence does neither replace action-nor does it neatly confirm your policies and approaches in many areas-especially if they are driven by political imperatives and not on the ground realities!

Our digital lives

The “double-edged sword” faced by local and foreign female journalists in the Middle East
A new paper by Yeganeh Rezaian, Joan Shorenstein Fellow (fall 2016) and Iranian journalist, shines a light on the difficulties women reporters face while working in Muslim countries, as well as the importance of the stories they tell.
Rezaian, who formerly worked for Bloomberg News and The National, was imprisoned in Tehran along with her husband Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post. She shares her own stories of being silenced and harassed, as well as those of other women reporters. In addition to imprisonment, women journalists in Muslim countries can experience online harassment and blackmail, defamation of character, unwanted advances in exchange for access, and the expectation to ask softball questions of officials, among other problems. Rezaian writes that such tactics not only oppress journalists, but are also part of a “larger goal of silencing women and defusing grassroots attempts at gender equality.”
Yeganeh Rezaian for Harvard's Shorenstein Center introduces a new report on female journalism safety in the Middle East.

Seven signs of over-hyped Fintech

A great many people in finance have now reached the point where they would like a way to identify Fintech technologies which are unlikely to solve real problems, work any better than existing technologies, are generally impractical or simply need a lot more explanation.
Martin Walker for LSE Business Review; his reflections also apply to many other digital field, including ICT4D...

Twitter’s Glass Ceiling Revealed for Women and Minority Races

That’s interesting work that reveals the clear existence of glass ceiling effects on Twitter. “We show that the Twitter glass ceiling effect, typically applied to females, also occurs in Twitter for males, if they are Black or Asians,” say the researchers.
This has significant implications for the way inequality can be tackled. A first step is always understanding the nature of disparities, and this work goes some way to achieving this.
But the next stage of working out how to level the playing field is a much more difficult task.
MIT Technology Review presents a new (open access) research paper on gender variances in Twitter activity.

The CEO Pikeout: How The Rich & Powerful Do Charity

Ten of the 70 CEOs who committed to sleeping out call it quits before McDonald’s breakfast is served at 5am – although one does return at 4:50am in a fresh new suit ready for the day ahead.
One by one, cabs come to collect the dignitaries and by the official 6am finishing time only half a dozen CEOs are left.
Virtues have been signalled. Connections have been made. Money has been raised, and, of course, people will be helped.
Sure, $5 million could have been $6 million if those CEOs who signed up but didn’t fundraise had of followed through. And $6 million could have been $10 million if the rest of the actually participating CEOs had hit their targets.
And perhaps a bigger impact could have been made if the media, the homeless and the general public were allowed to cross paths with the decision makers in any real and meaningful way.
The Underground Observer on a CEO Sleepout event in Australia to raise funds and awareness for homeless people.

Tumblr’s Unclear Future Shows That There’s No Money in Internet Culture

But the truth is that running a platform for culture creation is, increasingly, a charity operation undertaken by larger companies. Servers are expensive, and advertisers would rather just throw money at Facebook than take a chance on your weird, problematic network. Generating and incubating internet culture has little market value in and of itself.
Which means Tumblr has to hope for patience and kindness from Verizon while it seeks a way to make money. It’s not an impossible task (though Verizon’s hope that Yahoo will be the content arm of a major advertising operation is not promising for the company). There are signs that the internet-culture machines are finding ways to make themselves sustainable: YouTube is not shutting down anytime soon, but pre-roll ads weren’t doing the job, and now it has a premium subscription service in order to collect revenue directly from users. The next hubs of internet culture will learn from the mistakes of the past decade, hopefully by doing one of two things: developing a way to collect revenue directly from its audience, like Twitch or Patreon allow now, or by eschewing the notion of a sustainable business at all. It can be easy, in the era of just a handful of megaplatforms, to forget that the internet used to be a much more decentralized place, where things went viral across disparate platforms and websites and forum threads, rather than within a single one.
Brian Feldman for NY Mag on Tumblr, making platforms sustainable and the rather encouraging insight that maybe not everything can be commercialized, datafied, disrupted and sold :)!

Hot off the digital press
The People in the Pictures

We commissioned research in the UK, Jordan, Bangladesh and Niger, to listen to and learn from those who contribute their images and stories, as well as members of their communities. The research explored:
what motivated people to agree to Save the Children filming or photographing them or their children
how people experienced and perceived the image-making process
how people felt about their portrayal in the resulting Save the Children communications.
Latest report from Save The Children.

Understanding public attitudes towards refugees and migrants

This working paper is intended as a primer – outlining current global polling data on public attitudes, and analysing what the literature has to say about the drivers influencing these attitudes.
Helen Dempster and Karen Hargrave for ODI with a new paper.

Dude, Women Know Stuff

“In every instance in which you can make a difference, take personal responsibility to be inclusive and fight back against implicit gender bias,” the authors conclude. “Remember, women also know stuff. You should ask them about it.”
Colleen Flaherty for Inside Higher Ed introduces the new report from the political scientists of Women Also Know Stuff.

Banish the Smarm

In the slimy version of networking, one connects with others in order to gain opportunities to publish or otherwise disseminate one’s scholarship. A model based on sincerity, depth, and generosity, however, inverts that logic. Networking doesn’t enable scholarly achievement; instead, scholarship itself is the most important form of academic conversation — i.e., networking. The second act of generosity that every scholar can engage in is service. As academics, we perform a tremendous amount of unpaid labor. We serve on the boards of scholarly organizations and journals, review manuscripts and grants, work on committees. We do this labor because our profession would collapse without it. But we also do it to contribute meaningfully to our scholarly communities.
Robin Bernstein for ChronicleVitae disentangles academic networking.

The moral economy of open access
The analysis disentangles the ontological and moral side of these claims, showing how OA changes the meaning of knowledge from a good in the economic, to good in the moral sense. This means OA can be theorized as the moral economy of digital knowledge production. Ultimately, using Boltanski and Thévenot’s work on justification, the article reflects on how this moral economy frames the political subjectivity of actors and institutions involved in academic knowledge production.
Jana Bacevic and Chris Muellerleile with a new open access article in the European Journal of Social Theory.


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