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Hi all, 

Your fresh Friday food for thought!

Development news: Humanitarian crises in 2018; an excellent long-read about the protracted crisis in and around Chad; NGOs blocked from WTO summit; humanitarian data breach; WFP & the blockchain hype; the use of untested 'innovation' vs. humanitarian law & principles; Uganda's lucrative orphanage complex; visualizing #globaldev from Barbie Savior to female war photographer; from banker to peacekeeper; the language of sexual exploitation; fiction from Nigeria; transformational change leadership; journalism from Sri Lanka & 30 things to think about.

Our digital lives: China's bike graveyard; facebook enters mentoring, learning & education; the image(s) of Mark Zuckerberg.

Academia: Banning laptops & other things from the classroom; don't fall for fake conferences!


New from aidnography

Development news
Likely developments and corresponding needs of major humanitarian crises
For each crisis the ACAPS team identified the main drivers of the current situation in order to better understand and predict the future trends. Food security, displacement, health, and protection are expected to be the most pressing humanitarian needs in 2018.
Food security is likely to deteriorate into 2018 in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Yemen, and there are risks of pockets of famine in these countries.
Massive increase of IDPs recorded in CAR, Congo, DRC, Iraq, Mali, and Somalia throughout the year is likely to continue rising into 2018.
Poor WASH and health facilities are likely to further exacerbate ongoing cholera crises in Congo, DRC, Nigeria, and Yemen into 2018.
Number of people in need of protection assistance is likely to increase in 2018 in DRC, Iraq, Libya, Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, and among the Rohingya population.
ACAPS with their Humanitarian Overview for 2018. Important and sad reading...

The Emergency

In recent months, I have asked many American diplomatic and military officials to define a coherent long-term strategy for the region, but none of them have been able to articulate more than a vague wish: that by improving local governments and institutions, encouraging democratic tendencies, and facilitating development, the international community can defeat terrorism. In Chad, the security-based approach mistakes the strengthening of Déby’s regime for the stabilization of the Chadian state. The strategy is a paradox: in pursuing stability, it strengthens the autocrat, but, in strengthening the autocrat, it enables him to further abuse his position, exacerbating the conditions that lead people to take up arms.
As part of international antiterror partnerships, security forces are increasingly coming into contact with communities of people who cross international borders every day. Many who fall into this category are nomadic herders; their way of life is fundamentally at odds with the enforcement of legal boundaries, and they are indifferent to the existence of nation-states. If they are denied the freedom to move with the seasons, their cattle will die. In recent years, as the Sahelian climate has worsened, many herders who had bought weapons to protect their animals have turned to jihad.
Ben Taub for The New Yorker with an excellent long-read about Chad, the Great Lakes region and the complexities of humanitarian crisis-the story that makes the map shared above become alive with meaning.

NGOs blocked at last minute from WTO summit in Argentina

Observers from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America had their approved accreditation withdrawn by the WTO yesterday. Groups including Global Justice Now, Friends of the Earth International and the Transnational Institute are among those affected. Senior WTO officials said that they didn’t know the reason for the decision despite frequent requests for information from Argentina’s government. Many of the organisations have participated in summits since the WTO was founded.
Nick Dearden for Global Justice Now.

Security lapses at aid agency leave beneficiary data at risk

CRS, an NGO which manages $900 million of annual income and works in over 100 countries, confirmed the incident to IRIN, blaming an error in “password management”, but Mautinoa said it had found deeper flaws in the software. These claims Red Rose vigorously denies.
The revelations could cause a “shockwave” in the aid sector, according to one analyst. Another said the implications of a bigger security breach could be “terrifying” for the safety of vulnerable refugees and other people in crisis situations.
Ben Parker for IRIN. This is one of those 'told you so' stories, unfortunately.

The World Food Programme’s much-publicised “blockchain” has one participant — i.e., it’s a database

Nonprofits have the same hopes for blockchains as for-profit businesses: anything to make the bureaucracy run more efficiently. But what the WFP achieved here is from managing the disbursement themselves, and the “blockchain” is just being used as a database — which is what a “permissioned blockchain” really is.
It’s important to note that “blockchain” doesn’t get you this for free — as chapter 11 of the book notes, a blockchain won’t replace your back-office systems without as much work, time and money as any other software replacement project. Paul Currion from Disberse, another disbursement-on-the-blockchain effort, notes that:
the hard work is integrating blockchain technology into existing organizational processes — we can’t just hand people a ticket and expect them to get on the high-speed blockchain train. And … you don’t need distributed computing, simulating a competitive cryptocurrency system without the cryptocurrency or the competition, just to manage a database that’s under your organisation’s control anyway
David Gerard on the blockchain hype and how the aid industry will need to do a lot more homework to harness its 'disruptive' potential.

A lot of civil society organisations have a secret. Their tech projects are failing. What does the research tell us?
A neat overview of the 'Making All Voices Count' project and its (research) findings).

Humanitarian experimentation

Framing aid projects as ‘innovative’, rather than ‘experimental’, avoids the explicit acknowledgment that these tools are untested, understating both the risks these approaches may pose, as well as sidestepping the extensive body of laws that regulate human trials. Facing enormous pressure to act and ‘do something’ in view of contemporary humanitarian crisis, a specific logic seems to have gained prominence in the humanitarian community, a logic that conflicts with the risk-taking standards that prevail under normal circumstances. The use of untested approaches in uncertain and challenging humanitarian contexts provokes risks that do not necessarily bolster humanitarian principles. In fact, they may even conflict with the otherwise widely adhered to Do No Harm principle. Failing to test these technologies, or even explicitly acknowledge that they are untested, prior to deployment raises significant questions about both the ethics and evidence requirements implicit in the unique license afforded to humanitarian responders.
Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, Katja Lindskov Jacobsen & Sean Martin McDonald for ICRC's Humanitarian Law & Policy journal on why 'innovative projects' are not just a discursive label, but a serious issue for (humanitarian) law.

No hugs, no one to talk to: how Ugandan orphanages are harming a generation

Nevertheless, in Uganda the orphanage industry is booming. The number of orphans growing up in children’s homes has increased from around 1,000 in the 1990s to 50,000 today, according to international children’s charity Viva. Unlike past surges in figures in countries like Rwanda, this increase wasn’t borne of genocide or war – it’s in large part economic.
The financial benefits for someone who decides to run an orphanage can be considerable. People who have worked in institutions in Rwanda and Uganda say it can cost as much as £2,800 a year to support a child in an orphanage, and the bill is often footed by well-meaning overseas donors. Therefore, the more children drawn into the orphanage, the more money in the owners’ pockets. This makes children a highly prized commodity in countries like Uganda.
Some argue that the system in Uganda amounts to child slavery. “We are seeing a disturbing trend of children being drawn into orphanages and then being deployed to help raise funds for the orphanage in one way or another, whether it’s attracting sponsors and volunteers or singing and dancing for donations,” says youth studies academic Kristen Cheney, the author of Crying for Our Elders: African Orphanhood in the Age of HIV and Aids.
“When orphanages are dependent on children’s labour, the kids become trapped. Once they grow too old to attract donations, however, they are cast out and forced to fend for themselves in a world they do not know,” she says.
Helen Nianias for The Guardian on the orphanage industry in Uganda that has negative impacts far beyond a misplaced volunteer selfie...

Volunteering Abroad? Read This Before You Post That Selfie

Despite their efforts, Barbie Savior and Radi-Aid have continued to observe "simplified and unnuanced photos playing on the white-savior complex, portraying Africa as a country, the faces of white Westerners among a myriad of poor African children, without giving any context at all," Ogard says. The proliferation of these posts, she suspects, is the result of social media becoming a big part of how we communicate.
Malaka Gharib for NPR Goats & Soda summarizes the current debate around responsible volunteer(ing) communication in the digital age.

Male Photographers, Take A Seat

It’s important for women to cover every genre of news. I hate making gendered generalizations, but on average I think that where men gravitate towards conflict and hard news, women tend to prefer the periphery of violence — in quieter contexts where they can create more intimate connections with people. That obviously isn’t always true — there are remarkable female conflict photographers and male social documentary photographers — but I think those are often the stories women are most attracted to.
One of many problems with the current imbalance in our industry is that when we predominantly present news through the male gaze, we codify and reinforce that perspective. It’s important for society that we spend just as much time seeing our world through a female perspective, particularly calamity.
Daniella Zalcman for Bright Magazine on why female photographers matter for the industry-not least to add important visual nuances on how 'we' see conflict, war and development.

from private banker TO PEACEKEEPER
By the end of 2009, seriously thinking about how to professionally address “the will to make a change”, I shared those concerns with three friends: a foreign Ambassador, a professional colleague and a Human Resources Manager. All of them listened to me, but only one took the time to properly comprehend the motivations… yet instead of giving up, I felt even more motivated to follow my dream…
Carlos María de Cerón y Castro shares a 65 minute documentary about his UN peacekeeping work. I only had a quick glimpse at the video and something rubbed me the wrong way-but I need to watch and think about it a bit longer.

Whose truth is it anyway?

I have lost count of the times I have crossed out ‘transactional sex’ in track changes and replaced it with ‘sexual exploitation’. Or ‘early marriage’, and replaced it with ‘sexual exploitation’. Or ‘survival sex’, and replaced it with ‘sexual exploitation’. All those carefully neutral, unexamined terms that make invisible the reality of men’s abuse of women and girls.
I have lost count of the times I have replaced ‘people’ with ‘men’; ‘people’ don’t rape girls in school, men do. ‘People’ don’t have ‘protection issues’; women and girls are under specific threat from the men around them. I have spent whole days unpicking the assumptions that men rape and abuse women and girls because they are ‘unaware’, because they need ‘sensitisation’, because they need ‘education’. These assumptions, couched in language that appears to be sensitive, thoughtful and considered are so dangerous; immediately, the damage wrought on women’s lives is disappeared. They serve to help us look away from the reality that men do this intentionally and deliberately, and that it serves a purpose for them.
I have spent so much time documenting the damage to women’s bodies and souls, for case notes, for court evidence, for women’s credibility, even as it’s being downplayed and smoothed out. I have learned how to use the language of women’s hurt without flinching and without fear; it has been essential to be able to speak the words of graphic, embodied truth, without looking away.
Missing in the Mission with an anonymous reflection on sexual violence and language in the aid industry.

A Wave of New Fiction From Nigeria, as Young Writers Experiment With New Genres

In the last decade or so, literary festivals, book prizes and writing workshops have sprung up around the country, and a handful of influential new publishing houses have been formed, including Cassava Republic, Farafina, Parrésia and Ouida Books, which was founded last year by the novelist Lola Shoneyin.
Ms. Shoneyin, the author of “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives,” has emerged as a prominent figure in Nigeria’s publishing scene, somewhere between an impresario and a literary fairy godmother. In addition to writing fiction and running Ouida Books, she founded the Ake Festival, a five-day literary event in Abeokuta that began in 2013, and curated the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival, which kicked off this summer in northern Nigeria, a predominantly Muslim region that has suffered attacks by the fundamentalist group Boko Haram.
The Kaduna festival, which took place last month, featured a writing workshop for women that was led by the Sudanese author Leila Aboulela, and a session in Hausa, a local language, about the significance of Hausa literature in a country where English is the official language.
Alexandra Alter for the New York Times on the emerging 'political economy' of fiction writing in Nigeria.

Transformational Change Leadership

In a world driven increasingly by the quest for ‘quick-wins’, short term indicators, sound bites and dashboards, this body of work on transformational change leadership is intended to help funders, practitioners, and students keep our eye on the long game of supporting the social, human and political capital needed to lead, advocate for and sustain better lives, communities and nations, not only for this generation but for the next one.
A new project that involves a lot of great people!

the catamaran

The Catamaran is a tri-lingual portal publishing work by journalists from all over Sri Lanka. Stories in English, Sinhalese and Tamil provide background and add analysis to the most interesting stories in the country. Original reporting is available for free syndication to Sri Lankan and international media, the aim being to give novice reporters exposure and help experienced local journalists reach a wider audience. Bringing journalists from different Sri Lankan communities together strengthens vital ties and increases opportunities for collaboration, as well as contributing to capacity building in the Sri Lankan media sector.
Another interesting project from the Media 4 Development field.

30 things to think about

To celebrate ACEVO’s 30th birthday, we asked people in and around civil society for their thought-provoking insights. We hope that these will inspire debate about how to make the biggest difference over the next 30 years. We published a new piece every day throughout November 2017.
Our digital lives

Chinese bike share graveyard a monument to industry's 'arrogance'

Bluegogo’s bankruptcy last week sparked questions about the future of dockless bike sharing in China, amid concerns there are too many bikes and insufficient demand. In an open letter apologising for his missteps, Bluegogo’s chief executive said he had been “filled with arrogance”.
Benjamin Haas for The Guardian on 'peak rental bike' in China.

Facebook drops fee on donations, will match $50M/year, adds Mentor feature

Finally, it’s launching a new Mentorship feature through partnered non-profits starting with iMentor for education and The International Rescue Committee for crisis recovery. People over 18 in need of addiction recovery, career advancement or other personal help will be matched with vetted mentors who will guide them through an on-Facebook curriculum of education materials.
Together, the features could make Facebook a more popular way to donate money, and facilitate delivering support to everyone from disaster victims to at-risk youth.
Josh Constine for TechCrunch. I remain very skeptical about the advertisement platform's intentions in term of learning, mentoring etc. It fits with Zuckerberg's ambitions and rhetoric, but doing training or mentoring well is a huge challenge.

The California Review of Images and Mark Zuckerberg

The tech industry’s presentational exercises are quite different than the reality television shows that propelled a business magnate into the Oval Office.[18] Rather, the tech industry has its own modes of spectacular exhibition – some of which, as with fireside chats, invoke more traditional modes of political communication. Indeed, in the wake of Zuckerberg’s recent photo-ops in locales across America, some political commentators have pointed out the similarities between a national political campaign and “a corporate goodwill tour,” in that both practices center on forging relationships between high-profile figures and the general public whose interests they claim to represent.[19] Such observations, which identify Zuckerberg’s recent activities as expansive business tactics rather than as a burgeoning political campaign, perhaps allay concerns over how Facebook’s news algorithms and user analytics would drive Zuckerberg’s political fortunes, were he to instrumentalize Facebook as a tool of voter mobilization or state surveillance.
Li Cornfeld is one of the contributors to this really interesting collection on essays about the (re-)presentation of Mark Zuckerberg.


On Banning Things in Classrooms
I am uncomfortable with “bans” because my philosophy and values bend towards a privileging of student agency and responsibility. They have the right to make bad choices which may result in poor grades or a diminished intellectual experience. That right does not extend to harming others, but this is why I frame the classroom as a community with an ethos including responsibility to others.
I believe one of the purposes of education is to require students to run over as many potholes on the way to learning as possible. Some of those potholes should require them to confront their own habits and values. I don’t want to dictate those values for them. For students to learn, they cannot be passive consumers of content provided by others. They must also be creators of knowledge, some of which will be self-knowledge. In my view, achieving this requires maximal freedom.
One of the most significant potholes many of us will struggle with going forward is the temptation of electronic distraction. What happens to students when there is no one to ban their behavior?
John Warner for Inside HigherEd with a more philosophical or pedagogical view on banning 'stuff' from the classroom. In 2015 I asked here on the blog:

Is banning Powerpoint from the classroom the best we can do for digital, inclusive education?
Fake conferences are not fake news: beware predatory conferences

However, there is evidence that academic conferences function to facilitate commodity transactions, be that knowledge, tools, skills, reputations, or connections, which reflects the neoliberal ethos in the modern academy (Nicolson 2017b). The predatory conference can be viewed in this light, where academia is more and more focused on generating revenue. It is at best scurrilous, and worst, criminal, for organisations to make money using such a confidence trick. Always check which conferences are organised and advertised by recognised scholarly organisations in your own discipline. If uncertain ask a more experienced academic, a senior colleague or mentor.
Donald J. Nicolson & Edwin R. van Teijlingen for the BU Research Blog. If you are a regular reader of Aidnography you are probably aware of the pitfalls of predatory publishing and conferencing, but nonetheless this is a good primer on how to spot conferences best to avoid...


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