Links & Contents I Liked 260

Hi all,

After a lot of food for the body for most who celebrate Thanksgiving, here's your weekly food for mind & soul ;)!

Development news:
Protracted conflict & lives in South Sudan; Radi-Aid award finalists; reparations as radical philanthropy in Africa; governance (un)reform in Nepal; innovations in bureaucracy; communicating a project evaluation from Uganda; successful community-driven activism in Malawi; pity, politeness & charity communications.

Our digital lives:
Better (humanitarian) news consumption; self-care beyond bath salts & chocolate; the sound & power of algorhythmic governance.

An ethnography of social media in Trinidad; fixing the journalist-fixer relationship; gender equality in higher education.

Academia: De-colonising education in South Africa; the utility of blogging & blogs in #highered.


New from aidnography
The complexities of the ‘lifting people out of poverty’ narrative

It was probably Dina Pomeranz’ long thread on what she is thankful for that encouraged me to write down what I have been mulling over for a longer time: The very powerful and usually very unidirectional discussion around ‘our world is not getting worse, but better’ usually supplemented by at least one reference to how ‘millions of people have been lifted out of poverty’.
The ‘lifting people out of poverty narrative’ often overlooks that our digital now is already very complicated.
Adding new consumers will unlikely bring sustainability and happiness any time soon...
Development news
South Sudan needs bold alternatives, not this dumpster fire of failed interventions

South Sudan's dumpsite of failed policy interventions is now so cramped that policy makers have convinced themselves they have no room to manoeuvre.
One failed initiative rests on the aborted foundations of previous ones. Pride, bureaucratic inertia, and the realities of multilateral diplomacy prevent starting anew.
The United States remains the leading global actor on South Sudan. But US diplomacy and leverage can only be helpfully applied if there is a larger vision for South Sudan beyond hopes that a state can be built in time for democratic elections and a nation will emerge from the rubble of ethnic cleansing.
That vision should come from the South Sudanese themselves. They regularly circulate proposals for a restructured South Sudan that decentralises governance and the power structure, a similar approach applied positively in recent years in Kenya and Somalia. Others propose formally prescribing shared sovereignty through quota allotments and rotating executives.
The outside world's main contribution to South Sudan’s war has been to cement the conditions for its perpetuity.
Alan Boswell for IRIN with a sobering analysis about the risks of prolonging war and conflict in South Sudan even further and the protracted situation that needs (international, American) leadership.

What War Can’t Destroy

“If I was living in this environment, I would have given up,” Ms. Hylton said. “That was the biggest surprise — that people here hadn’t given up, there was still so much hope.”
But there was also still so much sadness. It wasn’t always obvious, but it was there. As Ms. Hylton said: When you interview people, they often put on a brave face and tell you what you want to hear. But when you take out a camera and ask someone to stare into the lens, it’s different. An honesty is revealed. She especially felt this when making a portrait of Wokil, a comedian.
“His posture was very cool, he was trying to be very cool,” she said. “But you could tell he lived through some of the worst stuff.”
“Loss, I recognized loss,” she said. “It was in his gaze.”
Sara Hylton, Jeffrey Gettleman & Eve Lyons for the New York Times with a different side of the story of people surviving war and conflict in Juba, South Sudan.

Radi-Aid Awards 2017: Here are the finalists

This year’s finalists show that poverty, migration crisis and trafficking can be presented in creative and nuanced manners that contribute to engagement and enlightenment. But the worst examples – which might as well could have come straight from the 1980s – are unfortunately still out there, depicting oversimplifications, stereotypes and celebrities as spokespersons for the poor, says Beathe Øgård, President of the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH), who arranges the annual event.
According to the jury, Ed Sheeran’s video is basically about himself, and reinforces the stereotype of “the white savior”, as all the three British finalists do. Fundraising campaigns about hunger catastrophes are not easy to make, but the way DEC videos depict these issues is unnecessarily oversimplified.
An online voting project worthy of your time :)

Reparations as Philanthropy: Radically Rethinking « Giving » in Africa

Yet, paired with capitalism, liberalism can often be an extremely inconvenient set of philosophies. While Europeans may not have wanted to believe that Africans were humans, fundamentally of course they knew that they were. And so, in order to absolve themselves – and to justify the extraction – they came up with the idea of colonialism as a so-called “civilizing mission.” Europeans would be the custodians of Africa’s vast resources until Africans grew into the ability to manage them themselves. This is the root of modern-day philanthropy in Africa. In the words of Rudyard Kipling:
« Take up the White Man’s burden—
The savage wars of peace—
Fill full the mouth of Famine—
And bid the sickness cease. »
What marvelous conjecture! It is as though I were to come to your house, steal your things, kick you onto the street and then proclaim to the world that I will grudgingly take up the burden of caring for your lazy, unwashed self.
Uzodinma Iweala for LeMonde on how to re-think 'philanthropy' and 'charity' when engaging with 'Africa'.

The centre tries to hold

Even a cursory examination of the directives, regulations, and acts mooted by government in recent months shows how difficult it is to change a mindset oriented towards orchestrating governance and development from Kathmandu. Changing the hearts and minds of those who feel threatened, so that they accept and support constitutional provisions for shared and self-rule, is likely to be the costliest and most wasteful of efforts that can be anticipated.
Chances are high that provincial and federal elections will return even fewer positive results for marginalized populations and favor those with privilege, deep pockets, and narrow self-interest.Importantly, however, constitutional provisions for local government provide reassurance that the power and resources needed to address local interests and needs are now, more than ever, within reach if opportunity is seized. It is now conceivable that newly-elected leaders in provinces and municipalities can address previously intractable development problems in a more effective manner. Each provincial and municipal government must find its own constitutionally empowered way to raise revenues and address needs. In many ways, the arena of accountability has shifted much closer to home, and those in new leadership can no longer pass the buck to Kathmandu.
George Varughese for the Nepali Times with a reminder of the never-ending saga that is 'governance reform' in Nepal...

Innovations in Bureaucracy

The World Bank might be a bit more ahead of the curve here, and held a workshop earlier this month on “Innovating Bureaucracy.” I wasn’t able to attend (ahem, wasn’t invited), and so as the king of conference write-ups doesn’t seem to have gotten around to it yet, I’ve written up my notes from skimming through the slides
Lee Crawfurd curates conference papers/presentations which is slowly becoming a 'thing' in the digital #globaldev community?!?

SMC North Uganda Evaluation

This is the working website of the SMC North Uganda evaluation. It contains background materials, field notes, evidence and references.
Notes are provided to give a sense of the conversations that took place, and to put evidence in context. They are not been edited to be a final product.
My colleague Silva Ferretti and her team prepared a great blog to accompany a more traditional evaluation project. A great way to 'communicate development'!

Using community-led activism and public opinion to stop harmful development

In February 2017, the World Bank dropped its proposal to finance the project. A representative from the United States government noted that the overall financial and safeguard risk levels were higher than previously anticipated and had become unmanageable. The representative also highlighted that the resettlement costs were higher than suggested and that the government of Malawi had expressed a reluctance to provide fair compensation. The World Bank’s decision was preceded by a move by the African Development Bank to withdraw from the project due to high risk levels in the resettlement action plan.
These decisions followed months of advocacy and research by affected communities and local civil society to ensure project financiers exercise due diligence and prevent harm. Arguably, without research and advocacy from the community level, these decisions may have looked very different. The withdrawals from the project sent a powerful message to governments that the consent of those directly affected is indispensable in the pursuit of any development objective. In addition, the withdrawals drew the attention of other human rights activists, showing what is possible to achieve with concerted effort and community-level data.
John Mwebe and Preksha Kumar for Open Global Rights on how community-driven action facilitated by the International Accountability Project helped to influence policy-making.

On pity and politeness, or why charities need a communications rethink

Despite being well-delivered and impassioned, Hawkins’ talk left us with the same sense of deflated overwhelm and powerlessness that we get when we read the news in the morning. The same guilt for living cushy, privileged lives. The same plea for support ringing in our ears. Gone was the fire we’d had in us after having the very basis of our existence put into question by Kate Raworth and our minds blown by Margaret Wheatley’s wisdom on how (not) to change the world.
And it seems to me that charities have nurtured a vested interest in pity. They have become masterful in appealing to it. They know exactly how to present numbers, images and human stories in ways that push all the right buttons. They do so with good intent, and to some extent it has worked. It is out of pity for others that we are attracted to helping the needy and the vulnerable at the centre of Hawkins’ accounts.
Agnes Otzelberger with reflections from the Meaning Conference and how a MSF presentation framed solidarity as pity...

Our digital lives

Over the last decade, we've awoken to the fact that junk food hurts us. It's time for a similar revolution in our news consumption. Much as a nutritionist gives us tools for healthy eating, Heba Aly gives us tools to stop consuming and supporting junk news. As director of, Heba Aly strives to put quality, independent journalism at the service of the most vulnerable people on earth.
This Is What ‘Self-Care’ REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake
If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.
It is no longer using your hectic and unreasonable life as justification for self-sabotage in the form of liquor and procrastination. It is learning how to stop trying to “fix yourself” and start trying to take care of yourself… and maybe finding that taking care lovingly attends to a lot of the problems you were trying to fix in the first place.
It means being the hero of your life, not the victim. It means rewiring what you have until your everyday life isn’t something you need therapy to recover from. It is no longer choosing a life that looks good over a life that feels good. It is giving the hell up on some goals so you can care about others. It is being honest even if that means you aren’t universally liked. It is meeting your own needs so you aren’t anxious and dependent on other people.
Brianna Wiest for the Thought Catalog. I don't often include 'self help'-type posts in my review, but in light of discussions around aid worker and academics' well-being Brianna's post nails it quite well!

Algorhythmic governance: Regulating the ‘heartbeat’ of a city using the Internet of Things

Our analysis reveals: (1) how smart city technologies computationally perform rhythmanalysis and undertake rhythm-making that intervenes in space-time processes; (2) distinct forms of algorhythmic governance, varying on the basis of adaptiveness, immediacy of action, and whether humans are in-, on-, or, off-the-loop; (3) and a number of factors that shape how algorhythmic governance works in practice.
Claudio Coletta and Rob Kitchin with an open access article for Big Data & Society.


Social Media in Trinidad

Drawing on 15 months of ethnographic research in one of the most under-developed regions in the Caribbean island of Trinidad, this book describes the uses and consequences of social media for its residents. Jolynna Sinanan argues that this semi-urban town is a place in-between: somewhere city dwellers look down on and villagers look up to. The complex identity of the town is expressed through uses of social media, with significant results for understanding social media more generally.
Jolynna Sinanan with the latest addition to the Why We Post open access book series.

Fixing the Journalist-Fixer Relationship

Subsequent interviews with fixers who participated in the survey indicated underlying tensions that often remain hidden in professional interactions. A fixer with more than a quarter century of experience working with one of the American news networks put it bluntly: “Unfortunately they still look at us as ‘brown’ people with funny accents, and though I have reported and done some of the most important and daring stories for (the network), it is a struggle to get a producer credit. Meanwhile, white kids – years my junior – get their names up (in the credits).”
The rare time fixers do come out of the shadows is when they are arrested, kidnapped or killed.
“Local journalists (working as fixers) no longer occupy the privileged position they once did,” said Courtney Radash, advocacy director for Committee to Protect Journalists. “We have seen increased killings of journalists.”
This, combined with a greater reliance on fixers in conflict zones, has created a scenario in which fixers are in ever greater danger.
Peter W. Klein & Shayna Plaut with a new publication from the Global Investigative Journalism Network and emerging questions on how to 'decolonize' global journalism and foreign correspondent engagement.

EqualBITE: Gender equality in higher education

EqualBITE digs into the messy reality of higher education gender issues, presenting people’s stories, experiences and frustrations and – more importantly – what can be done. University of Edinburgh students and staff share real-life experiences of gender challenges and opportunities, and their constructive responses. The book condenses current academic research into practical actions that do make a difference.
EqualBITE is a pragmatic and positive response to gender issues in academia – a catalyst for creating a culture which is better for everyone.
Judy Robertson, Alison Williams, Derek Jones, Lara Isbel and Daphne Loads with a new open access book.


Professor Robert van Niekerk, Professor of Social Policy at the Institute of Social and Economic Research, Rhodes University, will compare and contrast the response of students, academic staff, support workers and senior administrators ('stakeholder') at Rhodes University, an historically white academic institution in South Africa, to the Feesmustfall protests in 2015 and 2016 and the campaign to de-colonise the university from its apartheid (and post-apartheid) legacies.
Michael McQuarrie on writing for blogs: “the most utility comes from allowing me to think through a problem that is bugging me and then publish something about the result”
Blogs on the other hand are more often trading on perspectives and opinions. I find these valuable – there are a lot of people who have opinions I’m interested in – but if they are polished essays they tend to end up in magazines or newspapers and if they are polished research contributions they tend to end up in academic journals. Some people use blogs to develop their research, or for purposes other than offering a take on something. Then there are blogs like [LSE USAPP] which trade on summarising research. These are very useful for me. Friends, current and former students, and people I have never heard of have all published things that interest me on [LSE USAPP]. But I still find that I find the most utility for me comes from allowing me to think through a problem that is bugging me and then publish something about the result. I might use these to initiate conversations or for teaching more than for research. Most generally, blogs open up a flexible venue where turnaround can be rapid while reaching a somewhat different audience.
Michael McQuarrie for the LSE Impact Blog on the value of blogs and blogging in #highered.


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