Links & Contents I Liked 264

Hi all,

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the first link review of 2018!

We are reviewing some developments of 2017, add a few challenges that will be with us in the new year and sprinkle in some uplifting reflections, papers and stories to motivate us for another year of work, teaching and research on, with and around the aid industry!


New from aidnography

My development blogging & communication review 2017
Since 2011 I have shared an annual wrap-up of blogging

Third World Quarterly & the case for colonialism debate
This debate has now arrived in the UK...

Development news
The 99 best things that happened in 2017

If you’re feeling despair about the fate of humanity in the 21st century, you might want to reconsider.
In 2017, it felt like the global media picked up all of the problems, and none of the solutions. To fix that, here are 99 of the best stories from this year that you probably missed.
Angus Hervey for Quartz with an interesting overview over many stories that are relevant for #globaldev.

Q&A: Are humanitarian aid agencies approaching communications all wrong?

But more than three-quarters of the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar feel they don’t have enough information to make good decisions, and almost two-thirds said they are unable to communicate with aid providers, according to Internews’ interviews with individual refugees and focus groups.
Internews with interesting, albeit not surprising, findings on the challenges of communicating with 'beneficiaries' directly.

Rs 500, 10 minutes, and you have access to billion Aadhaar details

What is more, The Tribune team paid another Rs 300, for which the agent provided “software” that could facilitate the printing of the Aadhaar card after entering the Aadhaar number of any individual. When contacted, UIDAI officials in Chandigarh expressed shock over the full data being accessed, and admitted it seemed to be a major national security breach. They immediately took up the matter with the UIDAI technical consultants in Bangaluru. Sanjay Jindal, Additional Director-General, UIDAI Regional Centre, Chandigarh, accepting that this was a lapse, told The Tribune: “Except the Director-General and I, no third person in Punjab should have a login access to our official portal. Anyone else having access is illegal, and is a major national security breach.”
Rachna Khaira for Tribune News Service. File under 'what could possibly go wrong when you create a national database for hundreds of millions of people' ?!?

Most Influential Post Nominee: Why the Crusade Against Cash Isn’t Clearly ‘Pro-Poor’ – UPDATED

In my “Card Crusaders” paper, I advise for critically questioning the hype around digital financial inclusion, and checking how plausible the narrative linking cashless payments to pro-poor development really is. More broadly, as Maurer writes, this is also about recognising the questions that the push for digital money raises about the “democracy” of money, and its “publicness”: “Something else is afoot here. And that something is a focus on generating revenue from the privatization of the means of value transfer.” So while digital, cashless systems may look like a technical fix for including the “next billion,” there’s more at stake.
Clearly, as money moves into the digital age we can’t turn back the clock, but neither should we naively allow those who have a particularistic interest in new monetary forms to set it to whatever time they want. This is particularly important given the increasing pressure on governments to cull cash, and hurry up the digital turn by “demonetising.”
Phil Mader for Next Billion on the FinTech, demonitization and financial inclusion hype.

What happened, part I: strategy fails

I was making two faulty assumptions here: one, that credibility would lead magically to business. I imagined that like other groups I admired, we’d just have to visibly know our stuff and people would beat a path to our door. I had no idea how hard other groups like ours are having to hustle; how much leader profiles and networks are leveraged to bring in money; the institutional work they have to take on to keep passion projects going; the compromises and the endless chasing after grants. No-one funded our learning products. No-one wants to pay people to think.
And two: that the people who read and liked resources like the Frameworks would be able to use them in their work. I thought all we had to do was point out, helpfully, which way lead to a better world and everyone would excitedly start commissioning evaluations and context analysis missions, and investing in research phases in tech projects. The world does not work that way. It is possible to know that there are gaps in practice in your organization and not prioritize fixing them over the many, many other things there are to do. And many, many people know that these practice problems exist, and are prevented from fixing them by systemic challenges like the chronic underfunding of NGO infrastructure.
Laura Walker McDonald for Simlab on failing, learning and the state of ICT4D start-ups.

"Don't design yet another shelter" for refugees, say experts

Kleinschidt, who spent 25 years working for the United Nations and managed refugee camps in Africa and Asia, said the humanitarian sector was still building "storage facilities" for displaced people in the false expectation that they would one day return to where they came from.
"The logic that displacement is something temporary has created these camps," he said. "The logic that only a refugee returning home as fast as possible is a good refugee."
"The design community and the planning community, especially in Western Europe, are largely overlooking this whole topic of the need of thinking about how to plan cities, how to organise, how to manage cities and urban areas in the quickly-growing parts of our world," Provoost argued.
Marcus Fairs for Dezeen summarizes an interesting debate on how to design spaces for refugees. But as a commentator on facebook remarked:
Yes. It‘s all the designers‘ fault. And the urban architects‘. They just don‘t think. No, wake up guys, it‘s politics. Politicians, governments, they don‘t WANT refugees. They do everything they can to have refugees moved away, out of sight. Refugees are a threat to our complacent societies that have become numb and indifferent to human needs. And everything that takes place to help refugees happens in the narrow confines that governments allow organizations and volunteers to work in.
Addressing systemic inequality in human rights funding
Challenging inequities, even in a field of people committed to human rights, takes time. Changing the field will not happen in five years. Even as the largest international human rights NGOs are decentralizing or moving headquarters to the South, this is not shifting the balance of power. To move the needle, international organizations need to stop working “on” the problems of the global South and instead use their immense financial resources to empower local and national organizations to shape their own agendas, in particular advocating to funders to provide direct support to such groups. And funders in the North and South need to focus their attention on ways of building the confidence and competence of philanthropies in the global South to support human rights work.
Barbara Klugman, Ravindran Daniel et al. for Open Global Rights with some interesting food for discussion on how power dynamics in the aid industry need to be challenged in 2018 again!

UN Agencies Offering Financial Support to Interns : Sheet1
A simple Google Doc that adds to the on-going debate on how the UN system should treat interns.

Is DIY Disaster Relief the New Normal?

Their story -- one of driven citizens braving the storm to help their most vulnerable neighbors -- is an inspiring one. But it also speaks to the dangers of what can happen without adequately-funded public institutions and infrastructure. Heroic as they may be, citizens' outfits like the Cajun Navy can't be expected to compensate for severely underfunded emergency prevention and disaster response systems.
Clara Herzberg for Truthout. Her op-ed raises some interesting questions about 'development' in the US and how the aid industry can or wants to get involved in those parts of the US where the state is failing.

From Blogging to empowering girls, this Ugandan woman is changing her world

Africa On The Blog was started 5 years ago, It was an idea that I had and other people in the diaspora wanted. I actually thought it would only engage the women in the diaspora to talk about their Countries, experiences, and stories but the thing took a life of it’s own. *laughs*, So We ended up getting many people who wanted to be contributors from allover Africa including Men.
some of the contributors we had were lecturers at universities who started sending their students to us as a resource, it’s pretty much started a life of it’s own.
This is Uganda talks to Ida Horner who among many other great projects runs Africa On The Blog!

Tired of the same old New Year’s resolutions?

This may not be easy — following through on New Year’s resolutions rarely is. Like junk food, junk news is more readily available, cheaper, and yummier, at least in the short term. But proper journalism does exist — I’m talking about journalism that challenges our pre-conceived notions; journalism that gives us more than one side to a story; journalism that teaches us something about the world in which we live. But it is our responsibility to seek it out, consume it, and where possible, support its production.
By doing so, we will not only be looking after ourselves a little bit better; we’ll also help improve the state of the world. As global citizens, if we are informed, we can take part in the decisions that shape our world; we can put pressure on our governments to act; and we can mobilize. Only when we properly understand our complex world can we begin to change it for the better.
Heba Aly for IRIN with a (humanitarian) news-related resolution for the new year!

Our digital lives
Voices from the Field: Can Co-ops Displace the Gig Economy?

Infused with massive venture capital, these firms seem to pursue skyrocketing growth at all cost. In contrast, platform co-ops aim to reinvest in their users, employees, and communities, and value positive workplace practices in tandem with profitability. Getting platform cooperatives to scale will not be easy, however. Deep-pocketed firms like Uber have raised billions of dollars and have a first-mover advantage. Moreover, one of the biggest challenges with platforms is that name recognition is highly powerful and there is a tendency toward monopoly. That said, a growing number of grassroots efforts around the globe are challenging this dynamic.
MJ Kaplan for Nonprofit Quarterly on how to challenge platform capitalism with a more co-operative model.

The pursuit of mutually assured survival

In truth, this latest political upheaval across the world has brought to light not just how unprepared philanthropies were, how reactive, how little we knew about these possible scenarios. But journalism was also taken by surprise. We, philanthropies, we, the journalists, weren’t curious enough.
The current media environment is not good news for anyone in civil society, and that includes philanthropy. The information base of democracy, its norms and its operating mechanisms are ‘threatened by a storm that takes everything on its path’, as Sievers and Schneider describe.
The trap would be to believe that philanthropy is the answer to sustainability. It is not and it must not be. As journalist Gustavo Gorriti notes, ‘there is a great disparity between the consensus on the importance of free, investigative journalism for the health of democracy and the very small percentage of philanthropy allotted to support it’.
Miguel Castro for Alliance Magazine with an interesting essay on the (missing) relationship between media and philanthropy and the negative impact on civil society.

Cross-examining the network: The year in digital and social media research

Denise-Marie Ordway, JR’s managing editor, has picked out some of the top studies in digital media and journalism in 2017.
Denise-Marie Ordway for Nieman Lab with interesting food for further reading.


We all want to succeed, but we’ve also got to be realistic about what is happening’: an ethnographic study of relationships in trial oversight and their impact
Recent developments in trial design and conduct have been accompanied by changes in roles and relationships between trial oversight groups. Recognising and respecting the value of differing priorities among those involved in running trials is key to successful relationships between committees, funders and sponsors. Clarity regarding appropriate lines of communication, roles and accountability is needed. We present 10 evidence-based recommendations to inform updates to international trial guidance, particularly the Medical Research Council guidelines.
Anne Daykin, Lucy E. Selman et al. with an open access article in Trials. This is also an interesting discussion for the #globaldev community on how qualitative, ethnographic insights can improve trials and large experiential studies.

How (Not) to Fix Problems that Matter : Assessing and Responding to Malawi's History of Institutional Reform
Finally, we recommend the utility of immediate, open and honest debate. The existence of perverse incentives and ideas of how to deal with them needs to be openly discussed. This means, internally and publicly, that donors (including the World Bank) need to engage in honest discussions about how they can manage their existing disbursement pressures, for example, in a way that does not limit the functionality of reform efforts. And the Government of Malawi can show willingness to be publicly challenged on their tendency to “signal reforms” while maintaining behavior as normal.
Though both donors and government are likely to be reticient about airing their dirty laundry in public, Malawians deserve a reform approach that is honest and accountable about the existence of perverse incentives. We have enough evidence over the past 20 years of reform that things are not working.
But hope is to be found in the fact that we are increasingly aware of the drivers of those failures and, if sufficiently motivated, we can address them.
Michael Woolcock with an interesting paper for the World Bank's pdf graveyard publication site. Looks like reforms in Malawi have developed so poorly that even the Bank is calling for honesty now ;)!

Gender discrimination in political science and the problem of poor allies
Had I properly asked myself whether there were women in the department that would have been as or more qualified to participate in the panel as the manel members the answer would have been yes. But I didn't ask that question, at least not in time. Had I a practice of mentally double checking who the full set of authors are on a paper before citing it, I wouldn't have left one out. But there is a deeper issue. While I believe that such mental checks can be useful correctives, the deeper problem is that I didn't feel it necessary to ask myself these questions or respond in any other helpful way, even after women brought concerns directly to my attention. The hubris of my position seems obvious looking back, that I would so easily rely on my own assessment of the effects of my inaction and dismiss the concerns of smart people that were closer to the issue.
Macartan Humphreys on #allmalepanels, academic culture and the role of men.

2017 in review: round-up of our top posts on communicating your research with social media
The LSE Impact Blog with a final addition to the annual round-up issue.


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