Links & Contents I Liked 242

Hi all,

Did I mention that 'summer' has so far passed by the South of Sweden and I am finishing this review on a November-like gloomy afternoon...anyway, there is lots to discover this week-regardless of whether you are going to read on a beach, in the office or in front of a cozy fireplace ;)!

Development news: Orphanages and exploitation in Haiti; Somali piracy reloaded; African academics and their wish list for the WHO director; The G20 and the limitations of its Compact With Africa; inside the dysfunctional UN in Myanmar; remittances, rice & real estate in Nepal; Kathmandu’s wood carvers; reviewing emergency shelters; lunch meetings are a terrible idea; Americans want to help homeless people, but…; social justice orthodoxies; South African poets on writing & changing minds.

Our digital lives: Reclaiming social entrepreneurship; the trouble with Bridge academies; a 4,000 USD Renault for India; why study journalism these days? 

Publications: Manufacturing humanitarian martyrdom; blockchain & #globaldev; Twitter, facebook & the general public. 

Academia: Bureaucratization of utopia; impact of long-term development research; Sara Ahmed, feminist killjoy.


Development news

Charities and voluntourism fuelling 'orphanage crisis' in Haiti, says NGO
Networks of traffickers are suspected of recruiting and deceiving children into orphanages to gain money from abroad, the Haitian state research authority (IBESR) believes. Indeed, Lumos found evidence of parents believing their children would receive a better education in orphanages, orphanage directors paid “child finders” to recruit children to the orphanages, and in some cases families were paid $75 to give their child away.
“Many parents are deceived into giving up their children, purely so that unscrupulous individuals can make a profit,” said Lumos’ CEO, Georgette Mulheir.
Naomi Larsson for the Guardian with another story about the global orphanage industry; interesting side note in terms of celebrity engagement that JK Rowling support the organization that carried out the research that supports the piece.

The Somali pirates are back (SPOILER ALERT: they never really left)

"They … challenged the local mafia by presenting real arguments against the benefits of being recruited as a pirate. They are the pirate conflict’s unsung heroes. Unlike many Western-led awareness campaigns, they were both matter-of-fact and unpretentious," Yusuf says.
The director himself says he showed illiterate young men in the coastal cities videos of how pirate ships were blown up and statistics proving how few pirates actually struck it rich.
Puntland's smuggling gangs collaborate not only with pirates and terrorists, but also with some of the region's politicians. These politicians are dependent on shady arms deals because the UN has had an arms embargo placed on Somalia since 1992.
Magnus Boding Hansen for IRIN with a detailed report from Puntland and the shifting frontiers of 'piracy' and its new complex re-configurations in an unstable region.

African academics set out what Dr Tedros needs in his toolbox to tackle health ills

A leader like this is needed at the helm of the WHO. Dr Tedros will understand that Africans can be included in partnerships rather than dominated in the quest to find solutions to the unique challenges that the continent faces.
Andrew Githeko, Bob Mash, Karen Daniels and Thumbi Mwangi for The Conversation share their views on what the new Somali director of the WHO could focus on.

G20 summit: Africa’s loss

Its macroeconomic framework – fiscal policy discipline, privatisation and deregulation – smacks of the neoliberal ‘Washington Consensus’ that was thought to be a thing of the past. The CWA has no room for nuanced recommendations that take Africa’s particularities into consideration. It does not distinguish between emerging economies and conflict-ridden poorhouses; countries that export and import raw materials; coastal states or landlocked countries; states in West and East Africa; or nations that are heavily indebted and those that are not.
The CWA is heavily influenced by the Anglo-Saxon financial model, which is based on stocks and bonds. In contrast to that, East Asia and Continental Europe financed their successful development models through retained corporate profits, commercial bank corporate credits, and taxes and mandatory levies for public sector investment.
Robert Kappel and Helmut Reisen for International Politics & Society review the G20 Summit's newly established Compact With Africa.

Inside the ‘glaringly dysfunctional’ UN mission in Myanmar

In recent years, friction and antipathy within the UN team have been something of an open secret in Myanmar. Humanitarians, who see rights abuses at the root of crises that involve displacement, hunger, violence, and statelessness want to raise the alarm, according to several insider sources. They voice resentment about development people who keep quiet for the sake of relationships with the government, which they have to work with to improve people’s lives. Each thinks the other is morally bankrupt, naive, or both.
Poppy McPherson for IRIN with a story from Myanmar and the eternal quest of the aid industry to find a balance between supporting 'development' and/or supporting social an emerging new hotbed of catch-up capitalism it would be great to see power issues and social justice addressed more clearly by the aid community...

Remittance, rice and real estate

“Most of the urbanisation was in the last three years, now more than 70% of paddy fields are gone, and even the remaining land has been bought up by real estate developers,” says Ward Committee Chair Kamal Bahadur Thapa, who blames the lack of local government for the unplanned growth.
The irrigated fields of Pokhara and Lekhnath used to be famous for their rice diversity, with famous varieties like Jetho Budo, Jhinua, Ramani and Sili, but many of them are now on the verge of extinction.
“Even on the remaining fields, most of the rice is of the hybrid or imported varieties, our own rice is being lost,” says farmer Sabitri Bhandari, 54, whose father sold all the family's land to property developers.
Yuvaraj Shrestha for the Nepali Times with a story that definitely deserves some research attention: How is the money from remittances changing geography and exporting Western/Northern notions of a 'real estate market'?

In post-quake rebuilding, Kathmandu's carvers reclaim a fading heritage

Today in the workshop, Pushpa Raj Shilpakar, one of the project’s most gifted carvers, is bent over a statue of a two-toned goddess: half old, half new. She has gone stub-nosed, details having blurred through the centuries. Flicking away woodchips, Pushpa Raj carves her new hand into a plain block, shaping fingers, and with his finest chisel, her minuscule nails.
Asked if he had worked on similar designs before the earthquake, he gave a wistful smile. “Nothing like this,” he says. “These designs – it’s like they were made by a god. I still can’t understand how they did it.”
Many Shilpakars feel indentured to the trade, unable to pursue better-paid jobs because of their truncated schooling, Surya Bahadur says. He would rather his children not join their ranks. Several of the craftsmen’s younger relatives, seeing the precarious finances they would inherit, have shunned the grueling apprenticeship to qualify as a carver, a rite that can take upwards of a year. This trend could spell the end of traditional woodcarving.
Tirtha Ram is buoyed only by the significance of temple restoration, which he frames as his “actual” work, as opposed to his “commercial” work.
Atul Bhattarai for the Christian Science Monitor with a very different story from Nepal...well, maybe it isn't such a different story after all, but a follows the common theme of how heritage and tradition fit into a growing capitalistic model of state building.

Emergency Shelter: Housing for the Age of Mass Displacement

Perhaps an alternative way to view this issue is not to consider architects as designers of individual living units but instead as professionals able to provide expertise at various timescales of temporality, carefully considering the economic suitability of proposed design solutions while helping to steer global funds more locally. Looking towards the future, to really address the issue of mass displacement, we must prepare for the next generation of ‘global cities’ and leave behind the idea of developing out of town camps—by definition unable to sustain themselves long-term—and instead look at how we might revise low-cost and collective living in our existing urban centers.
Hannah Wood for Archinect with a great review of current issues around migration, displacement and shelter from an architectural perspective!

Why you need pull-based community meetings

One variant of these meetings is the dreaded "lunch and learn" - one of my pet hates. There are many reasons why I dislike "lunch and learn";
- they assume that community meetings can't take place in "real working hours" and need to be held at lunchtime (thus perpetuating the idea that "KM is not Real Work";
- they assume you can eat and listen - that you don't need to pay full attention;
- they assume you don't need to take any notes (with your hands full of sandwiches);
- they assume that the people who turn up will be passive listeners and not active contributors. After all, how much can you contribute with your mouth full of food?
This is the worst way to transfer knowledge - a one-way presentation to a bunch of people who are busy doing something else.
Nick Milton on how to engage with a community like you mean it...

Americans want to help the homeless — as long as they don’t get too close. This explains why.
As we expected, people who are more easily disgusted are more likely to support bans on public sleeping and panhandling than those who are less easily disgusted. But they are just as likely to support policies providing aid or housing to homeless people. We also found no evidence that disgust sensitivity predicts more negative attitudes toward homeless people in general.
These findings suggest that when media coverage mentions concerns about cleanliness it amplifies the effects of disgust on exclusionary attitudes. Policymakers who want to combat homelessness should bear in mind that much of the public supports their efforts — but only from a distance.
Scott Clifford and Spencer Piston for Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog present interesting research that raises equally interesting questions for advocacy and fundraising in the aid industry.

Kin Aesthetics // Excommunicate Me from the Church of Social Justice

Don’t shut them out because their politics are outdated or they don’t wield the same language. If we are interested in building mass movements to destroy mass oppression, our movements must include people not like us, people with whom we will never fully agree, and people with whom we have conflict. That’s a much higher calling than railing at people from a distance and labeling them as wrong. Ultimately, according to Garza, building a movement is about restoring humanity to all of us, even to those of us who have been inhumane. Movements are where people are called to be transformed in service of liberation of themselves and others.
Frances Lee for Catalyst shares their reflections on social justice orthodoxies.

Writing Between Resistance and Celebration Two Black South African Poets On Writing, Urgency, And Changing Minds
First, there’s this expectation that the writing must be universal, it must fit everybody in. At the same time, you need to be Black and feminist and all the other labels, and perform those identities in a way that makes you digestible too. Also, on top of that, you can’t alienate white audiences too much. I’m very aware of this, while also trying to write outside of these expectations and be truthful and honest. Which is difficult, because there are too many people watching you, and once you speak, they won’t allow you to change your mind about some of the things you’ve said. I want to be allowed to change my mind.
I guess in my dream world, the work is sitting with people who have influence and power to shift things. They are people who make decisions that impact the rest of us. But more than that, the work is in the hands of people who think or believe that they don’t have the right to access imagination. I want those people to have the space to dream, sit, read, and indulge in joy and pleasure. In my dream world, the work is shifting something. And not in an airy sort of way, but in a tangible way, which goes back to my answer.
Maneo Mohale for Bitch Media interviews artists Koleka Putuma and Vuyelwa Maluleke and you definitely want to read this beautiful piece!

Our digital lives

But, as she explains, "we don't need more social businesses, we need more social change" and that requires more than just starting new businesses. It requires system change leadership. Daniela explores the difference between being a social business founder and a system change leader and then unpicks how we talk about, fund, and educate for social entrepreneurship, as well as what needs to change in our education and funding systems to fuel more system change leaders.
No Education Crisis Wasted: Billionaires Seek to Make Education in Africa Profitable
And the data that May earlier described as “robust?” They are up for sale. At least, that’s what a leaked Bridge presentation, meant for investors, from 2016 suggests. In this presentation, Bridge outlined new profit-making opportunities, including the sale of customer information to lenders and insurance companies, and increased profit margins on school lunches and student uniforms.
What has happened to May and Kimmelman’s dream? Opposition from governments, non-governmental organizations and trade unions seems to have slowed down Bridge’s growth considerably. It also looks like the company is not going to reach its planned target of two million pupils by 2018. The company wrote me that it currently has just over 100,000 pupils.
Not all of Bridge’s innovations are bad, of course. Absenteeism among teachers appears to be lower at Bridge schools than at state schools. Juul says that other schools could also take Bridge’s electronic payment methods as an example as a way to tackle corruption.
Maria Hengeveld on Alternet takes a closer look at Bridge academies in Liberia and Kenya - beyond Nick Kristof's assessment and the recent New York Times coverage.

Why This $4,000 Renault Is as Disruptive as the Tesla Model 3

In India, a Tesla is literally from the future. An Indian future that’s coming, but one built upon a universe of customers that need to own a moped first, then a Kwid, then something else while they wait for infrastructure to catch up.
Indian driving culture may take a lot longer.
The Indian and American markets may be half a world and many decades apart, but human nature is fundamentally the same. Understand it, and Tesla’s appeal here is obvious. So is that of the Kwid over there, where for $4000 you can also buy a piece of the future. It won’t have the Model 3’s bells and whistles, but it will have a lot of things you haven’t seen before, at a price you can afford.
And there’s nothing more disruptive than that.
Alex Roy for The Drive. In some ways, this may be bit of an outlier for my link review, but in other ways the story of Renault in India is a very interesting (and also scary from an environmental and consumerist aspect) story about 'development', disruption and how global brands are re-shaping local markets.

The Paradox of a Journalism Student With No Faith in Journalism

How does a journalism student that doesn’t have faith in American journalism, answer what they’ll do with their journalism degree? You could have an hour long debate about the merits of journalism and journalistic systems, the viability of journalism outside of economic and political influences and devoid of ulterior motive, and your solutions to the current media system…. check, check and check.
Yet with this comes the startling but expected realization that I have no solution. How does one remove the deep ties to political influence and market viability? Can you exist outside of the media system and still become as successful as those working within it? How do you reconcile your increasing nihilism about American systems and societal systems in general with your idealised view that someone needs to fix it?
Triggering Thought asks some important questions that we as teachers or researchers have a difficult time answering ourselves...

Hot off the digital press

Dying for humanitarian ideas: Using images and statistics to manufacture humanitarian martyrdom

Although we would all prefer to die a hero rather than a victim, the heroising of aid workers raises
at least two problems.
The first is that it produces a being set apart from the rest of the human race – better, more worthy.
The second –and the most problematic for the professional sector we are concerned with here – is that treating aid workers like heroes can also lead us to believe that death is an integral part of the system, an occupational hazard. It seems to us that this is where the real danger lies: setting sacrifice up as a virtue within a sector that has made “humanity” one of its cardinal principles.
Michaël Neuman for MSF-CRASH with a new report that I need to read in detail; but some of his reflections remind me of my recent post on Combat charities and the mediatization of extreme humanitarian volunteering.
By the way: The MSF-CRASH website could do with a little bit of TLC...

Blockchain and Economic Development: Hype vs. Reality

We argue that, while blockchain-based solutions have the potential to increase efficiency and improve outcomes dramatically in some use cases and more marginally in others, the key constraints to addressing these challenges often fall outside the scope of technology—and that these constraints need to be resolved before blockchain technology can meet its full potential in this space.
Michael Pisa and Matt Juden for the Center for Global Development with a new paper.

Twitter and Facebook are not representative of the general population: Political attitudes and demographics of British social media users
We find that Twitter and Facebook users differ substantially from the general population on many politically relevant dimensions including vote choice, turnout, age, gender, and education. On average social media users are younger and better educated than non-users, and they are more liberal and pay more attention to politics. Despite paying more attention to politics, social media users are less likely to vote than non-users, but they are more likely to support the left leaning Labour Party when they do vote. However, we show that these apparent differences mostly arise due to the demographic composition of social media users.
Jonathan Mellon and Christopher Prosser with a new open-access paper in Research & Politics; on the one hand, the findings are not *that* surprising-on the other hand the question remains about the general importance of social media for election campaigning-and more complicated questions around 'propaganda' and 'manipulation'...

The Bureaucratization of Utopia – A Report

Through the various ethnographic cases they explored, participants were able to highlight the tensions, contradictions and paradoxes that bureaucrats encounter when seeking to implement ‘good governance’ principles (such as ‘transparency’, ‘accountability’, ‘participation’). Their contributions also underlined the ubiquitous presence of audit and other measurement techniques in the global governance of the world, forcing the various actors interacting in this field to develop administrative skills in order to preserve their audibility and remain relevant. What these trends seem to highlight is the increasing reliance on ‘techno-legal devices’, to use Ballestero’s notion, (reports, indicators etc) to solve big world issues and to ‘neutralise’ politics. But shouldn’t we rather conceive these dynamics as another expression of politics, the mere ‘gloss of harmony’ (Müller 2013) covering inherently political – and therefore controversial – issues?
Julie Billaud for Allegra Lab with a neat summary/overview of their latest conference.

Timing is everything... or not?

Lastly, not only direct relevance to policy is important, one should also keep in mind that influencing practice can in turn be relevant for policy makers. Without denying that policy does have an impact on practice, it has long been recognised that the policy cycle does not work in a linear way, or is even starting with policy. Hilhorst: ‘In reality, practice is shaped by many factors outside of policy. Practice has a life of its own, and it is often the case that the policy cycle happens in a reverse way. Interesting work on innovation shows that innovation usually starts in practice, and it is therefore equally - if not more - important to target research uptake at communities of practice.’
The Dutch science research council NWO features research findings from Thea Hilhorst's long-term research project.

Sara Ahmed: Notes from a Feminist Killjoy

I think there are many ways we are asked to rush over things that are hard—in politics and in life—and the writers who have taught me most, including Audre Lorde, especially Audre Lorde, have taught me to stay with what hurts however much it hurts, until you have worked something out about yourself and the world. Audre Lorde also says that sometimes to survive we have to become stone. Sometimes to survive the weather you have to harden yourself. She invites us to embrace our imperfect broken bodies with bits and pieces missing. I think when the project is to survive heavy, hard histories, we do need multiple tactics; sometimes they are in tension with each other. Sometimes we need to lighten our loads, to laugh. Sometimes we need to be weighed down, to stop under the weight.
We are not going to get it right when we are living with wrongs. We are not going to build a house that is light enough to accommodate everyone. It is an ongoing, unfinished project because it is a question: how to build a feminist world when the world we oppose is the world we still inhabit.
Nishta J. Mehra for Guernica with a long interview with Sara Ahmed.


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