Links & Contents I Liked 276

Hi all,

After a short Easter break, your favorite #globaldev link review is back!

What I realized when going through 2-week's worth of content was how quickly a nice review shaped up that features powerful and empowering stories by and about women.
There are stories about women shaping the Canadian foreign service, Helen Clark's challenges as senior UN diplomat, how journalism contributed to social change on FGM issues in Liberia, but also on how menstrual pads and consumerism won't 'fix' debates on periods. There is also new research on women's care work and a post on the commodification of self-care.

The other theme for this week is how 'the digital' interacts with development and humanitarianism: From the challenges of employing digital volunteer humanitarians and multiple digital identities to questions of how social media contribute to crises, biometrics in the humanitarian sector and big data for resilience!

Plus: Skip the annual report, don't listen to Nick Kristof & be a nice medical volunteer!


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Development news

Annual reports: Stop the madness!
Invest whatever writing and design energy you have in a website and social media that carry a distinctive brand, voice, and up-to-date content, and don’t forget about making it all show up in search results. It’s 2018. People do not form their views about an organization based on self-generated pamphlets delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
Ruth Levine for the Hewlett foundation. This may not be the most 'development' opener for my review, but as many organizations are struggling to hand in end of fiscal year reports an important reminder for everyone how communicating development should take place outside the annual report...

The making of a gender-balanced foreign service

She looks back on her first decade or so with kids as her “Wonder Woman” years, juggling her priorities as a foreign service officer, wife and mother. She made it a point to always have breakfast during the week with her sons, never accepting early-morning meetings unless she was travelling. On the flip side, weekday evenings were fair game for representing Canada at receptions and work functions. “There were two worlds, and I was running in between them, and I was working very, very hard,” Blais recalls.
As her kids grew into teenagers, and the “adrenaline stopped pumping,” Blais did go through a period of intense burnout and soul-searching. “I was petering on the edge for a while there, and finally it went off balance altogether.” Looking back, she thinks maybe she could have “dialled down the intensity a little bit” and still have made her way. “But I am pretty convinced that I am where I am today because I was very dedicated to my work,” she said.
Now, with her team at the UN, she is careful to apply what she knows about the importance of mental health and maintaining a “very fragile equilibrium.”
“What I try to do now as a manager is to let my staff know that perhaps you don’t need to be here until eight or nine o’clock. Do you really need that, or are you doing it because that’s what you feel you must do to do a good job? Sometimes those are two different things.”
This is something Blais wishes someone had done for her. “I think women tend to be very intense. We care so much about the work, and not to say that men don’t, but there’s a real, almost emotional attachment to the quality of our work that can be dangerous if we don’t manage it better.”
Catherine Tsalikis with 'Stories from the women driving Canada’s diplomatic corps toward equality' for Open Canada. Great long read that takes a historical approach to look at how women make careers in diplomacy.

'The House of Cards of the UN': Helen Clark film reveals a shadowy world

Yet the film finishes in Manhattan, where the documentary recorded the last six months of Clark’s campaign within a less accommodating environment. “I think that what does come out is the unreality of that bubble of life in New York,” Clark says of the process the film depicts, “which is governed by those who got their seats on the security council in 1945 before you and I were born.”
Despite inevitable leaks to journalists, there is, she says of the election, “Nothing transparent about it. Compare that to real life out there, real people, and the need they have of the UN for peace, security and development. And that’s quite a disconnect.”
Clark made it to fifth place in the sixth ballot before her own candidature was killed off. Watching the film, she suggests, one can make “an informed guess” as to who was responsible for that.
Van Badham for the Guardian with an another interesting story about global female leadership and diplomacy.

How Should Nick Kristof Report On “The World’s Most Wretched Country?”

This isn’t the first time Kristof has come under fire for centering white characters and ignoring local efforts. Kristof is frank about his decision to use “bridge characters” (such as American volunteers in the country he’s reporting on) as a strategy for getting American readers to pay attention to remote conflicts in countries they may never have heard of.
'Times' Column Is Slammed For Its Portrayal Of Central African Republic
"Kristof represented CAR as if it were miserable across the board, and that the people who live there are victims," Knuckey told NPR. "It represents a brand of journalism that has been heavily criticized for decades, and that is harmful."
Kristof himself says he was a "little bit" surprised by the reaction on social media but "understands the frustration that people have with the lack of coverage about things they care deeply about," referring to researchers, academics and aid workers who work to improve conditions in the CAR.
For Moussa Abdoulaye, a Central African activist, founder of a community school and consultant for media companies like Al Jazeera, VICE and HBO, perhaps the worst offense was Kristof's depiction of his country as a hopeless place.
Abigail Higgins for Bright Magazine & Malaka Gharib for NPR Goats and Soda with a story you probably noticed last week (time really flies on the Interwebs...). Nick Kristof's justification for wanting to 'mobilize' an American audience seems outdated and is not backed by any evidence other than his self-proclaimed 'I have been doing this for years and it got me trips abroad, book deals & panel invitations'...

Menstrual Pads Can’t Fix Prejudice

We must resist the well-meaning impulse to improve the lives of menstruating girls through consumption. The greater need is for people to understand that periods aren’t something shameful and best kept hidden. When menstruation is treated as normal, it becomes more than a nuisance, a punch line or a weapon wielded to keep women in their place.
Our aim must be to transform the revulsion into respect, to shift from “eww” to “oh.” We need to redirect resources toward promoting innovative, inclusive and culturally sensitive community-based education about the menstrual cycle. And the audience must be not only girls, but also everyone surrounding them — boys, parents, teachers, religious leaders and health professionals.
But menstrual activism won’t be meaningful if it is reduced to Western-style “better living through more consumption.”
Chris Bobel for the New York Times. I think we need to challenge the "better living through more consumption" narrative in so many development-related fields, projects and approaches!

How to take the right risks in international development

Yet these supposedly ‘safe’ programs do involve risks – just ones that are less obvious. Institutionally-focused programs typically offer individuals fewer incentives to buy into reforms, increasing the risk that there’ll be no political will to make reforms ‘stick.’ Since institutional change is slow, these programs also tend to have longer time horizons, increasing the likelihood they will struggle to demonstrate impact in the short-term, something that can leave aid providers exposed to criticism back home.
Accepting that even familiar, ‘safe’ programs come with risks will make it easier to move away from a mind-set of avoiding risk, because it forces us to confront the fact that avoiding all risk is impossible.
Susan Dodsworth & Nic Cheeseman for the Devpolicy Blog introduce their latest on risks/rewards and democracy assistance. Interesting research-but how does that reflect the realities of policy and practice where risk is usually seen in a negative way and short-term gains almost always outweigh longer term risks?

IDS and partner research highlights barriers to women’s empowerment
IDS and partners took the twin opportunities of International Women’s Day and the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women to share research highlighting key barriers to women and girls being empowered, particularly around unpaid care, decent work and life choices.

Liberia bans female genital cutting in a triumph for local journalism

In the years since that story, FGC has been a constant fixture in newspapers, on radio talk shows, and in Liberia’s politics. Once taboo, it is now on everyone’s lips, including, to our great joy, the girls themselves. In tribal areas, news of what happens in initiation ceremonies is reaching the girls, and they’re pushing back.
At this year’s International Women’s Day celebration, Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee applauded Mae for advancing the cause of Liberia’s women. “When I started as an activist, you could not say the word ‘FGM’ in Liberia in a negative sense,” Gbowee told a crowded stadium in Monrovia. “Today, you can talk about it. For me, as a feminist and as a fighter, I have to remain optimistic that change is definitely going to happen.”
Mae Azango & Prue Clarke for the Columbia Journalism Review on journalism, media power and social change.

Q&A on Digital Humanitarians with Researcher Wendy Norris

However, I’ve noticed recently a new and rather troubling use of social media as a de facto emergency call network when government systems are overwhelmed during a natural disaster. Quite desperate people are publicly posting private information online to pass along to official search and rescue teams and ad hoc volunteer groups that form to help evacuate trapped residents. The information lingers on search engines and insecure websites created by the grassroots rescue groups with little to no privacy protections against identity theft. I’m very concerned that folks who are trying to piece their lives back together are now at risk of data exploitation, too.
It is incumbent on digital humanitarians and our institutional partners to revise their organisational data policies to secure and/or mask personally identifiable information in light of this emerging trend. Crisis informatics researchers also have an enormous responsibility to ensure that we work closely with our institutional review boards to implement security protocols for storing and hashing social media data that may contain personally-identifiable information from crisis-affected people.
Carolina Are talks to Wendy Norris for the Humanitarian News Research Network about the opportunities, risks and rewards for digital humanitarian volunteers.

Digital Identity at the Margins

The concepts of ascriptive and expressive identity are useful because they show how the interactions with institutions and individual expression involve vital questions of power. Ahmed’s ascribed identity as a refugee is both enabling and constraining, particularly around movement and social life. Access to a means of expression such as Facebook gives Ahmed momentary freedom to express himself and be whoever he decides to be. This in turn has implications for two concepts which initially appear quite abstract — but which have concrete impact on the well being and personal dignity of refugees.
Emrys Schoemaker and Paul Currion for the Global Policy journal share important nuances around digital identities, risks and opportunities for refugees far beyond current 'leave facebook!' polemics.

Humanitarianism’s other technology problem

While the problems of humanitarian access and aid cannot and should not be boiled down to a single issue, the daily drumbeat of news on how social media is shaping our societies and politics should not be ignored by the humanitarian community. After all, humanitarianism exists in a political world. If these platforms have these platforms have the potential to undermine the very norms which construct our existence as a sector, the norms that protect both aid workers and civilians, and effect the decisions of policy makers towards aid, then the humanitarian community desperately needs a strategy address the new media world we live in today.
Daniel Scarnecchia with a good overview over the debate of how social media and digital tools have played a powerful and detrimental role in humanitarian contexts, again, far beyond the 'Cambridge Analytica thinks I'm a liberal' debate!

Advice To Parachuting Docs: Think Before You Jump Into Poor Countries

The authors of the position paper seemed a bit oblivious in one way, as well. As the Annals of Internal Medicine notes in an editorial in the issue that published the paper: "We were perplexed and disappointed that no authors from low- and middle-income countries were included and no input from in-country collaborators was acknowledged."
"I think they are comprehensive and well-written and I do not hesitate to congratulate the team that has come up with it," says Dr. Bernard Olayo, a public health specialist who practices internal medicine in Nairobi, Kenya. "But they could have done a much better job if they had received input from physicians and institutions that receive such kinds of doctors."
The doctor should be "a humble visitor," the paper states.
"I think the era of the physicians as master and commander is over, and that's very good thing," says Dr. Khan. A physician in any setting is part of a team, he believes, and that team includes the patient.
Marc Silver for NPR Goats and Soda reports on another volunteering/voluntourism front line and a community that slowly comes to terms with new challenges of young people going abroad to do good...

An experiment in participatory blogging on Ebola in Sierra Leone
Then we read out the blog from the laptop; Tommy was translating line by line. In terms of their suggested changes to our draft, there were few. Some wanted to discuss the theft of a blackboard from the school. Overall, they were hugely enthusiastic, and some wanted their names and photos included. We were reluctant to do that in case there were repercussions for them, and explained that to them. When I read out ‘Everybody made promises and didn’t come back. We care for each other and now we are being punished; where are the NGOs now?’’ – everyone stood up and clapped and cheered!
Then we had a really nice event – I did some magic tricks and we had running races for the children, then hopping, then the whole village joined in. All sorts of competitions. It ended up with me having a race with the primary school teacher. It was a dead heat. We were all mobbed by the kids at the end!’
Duncan Green for f2p2 talks to Tim Allen, Melissa Parker, Tommy Hanson, Lawrence Babawo & Ahmed Vandi about a great example of participatory community blogging in Sierra matter what the economists tell you, anthropologists are the real development super starts :) !

Doing Development the Right Way: A Conversation with Charles Piot

I do think our training as anthropologists aims our attention to the social life of communities, with all its messiness and conflict and fissure. Do these insights also enable us to find solutions to the problems of development in small-scale contexts like this? In principle, yes.
To stay with the example of the cyber café we’ve installed: despite the frustrating loss of time – eight months of inactivity – my students and I have familiarity with the lines of authority at the cyber café and in the larger community, and we know what jealousies might be in play—so we are able to brainstorm solutions with local allies.
In this case, a promising outcome is in progress – and one that may vault the cyber-café into a whole new orbit of activity, with a private entrepreneur from a different ethnic group managing it, while adding a photo-copier and printer, and installing a money transfer kiosk. (Local wisdom is to go outside the community to look for a manager, as locals might attempt to poach on the goodwill of a family member or close acquaintance, quickly bankrupting the enterprise.) So – perhaps! Only time will tell if this will be a failure-into-success story. If it does, even a success will surely generate its own new round of challenges and setbacks. But, development in such a context is always like this.
Alma Gottlieb talks to Charles Piot about student fieldwork in Togo, learning with communities and doing small-scale development differently; again, anthropologists rule!

Resisting the commoditisation of self-care & building our capacity for collective care

I see some of what is happening, in particular online, around ‘self-care’ as a commodification and the development of a kind of ‘self-care’ industry that sells us stuff so that we can meet a need that the ‘do-it-all’ culture around us is creating.
In other words I see blogs and books full of all the things we should do for ourselves. But often they ignore the fact that the reasons we are so bereft of care are structural.
Mary-Ann Clements for Jijaze with an important reminder that we can't consume our way out of the #AidToo challenges...

Engaging with people affected by armed conflict
Engagement with, and accountability to people affected by crises remains one of the areas in the humanitarian sector that, in recent years, has seen the least progress. In 2017, the ICRC and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative surveyed the existing literature, and interviewed over 60 humanitarian workers and donors to see what’s working, what’s not working, and how things can be improved, especially in conflict and violence, in today's digital world. This is what we learned...

Biometrics in the humanitarian sector

We identified four key ways in which biometric data is different from other pieces of personal data.
Uniqueness and immutability: Unlike names, appearances or home addresses, most forms of biometric data are singularly unique to the individual involved and cannot be changed. As people like Shoshana Amielle Magnet have written, the act of distilling an individual’s identity into a unique number or code may be viewed as dehumanising, and may embed discrimination along the lines of gender, race, or socio-economic status.
Richness of information: Some biometric data contains a richness of information that exacerbates the risks created through its collection, storage and use. Depending on the type of biometric data, a lot of personal information can be gleaned, from health conditions, to family members.
Mode of acquisition: The act of acquiring biometric data is often far more intrusive than the collection and provision of other types of personal data. In some cultures, an iris scan could be considered invasive, for example, as Privacy International notes in its 2013 report, Biometrics: Friend or Foe of Privacy?.
Flexibility of use: As technology advances, biometrics are increasingly used for surveillance and monitoring. Advancements are also permitting passive identification. For example, the use of facial or iris recognition at a distance, without the knowledge or involvement of the individual concerned.
Carly Nyst & Zara Rahman for the Engine Room with a new report for Oxfam.

Big Data for Resilience Storybook

Aimed at an audience of resilience and development practitioners, the Storybook offers diverse experiences and practice-based recommendations to leverage Big Data’s potential and address its risks as part of efforts to build resilience.
Angélica V. Ospina for the International Institute for Sustainable Development with a new report.

Hybridity on the Ground in Peacebuilding and Development

At a workshop in Canberra in December 2015 (where I was present) held to discuss the draft chapters for this volume, it became clear how widely entangled the dynamics of hybridity are, across so many issues from rights, identity, indigeneity, materiality, local governance, justice, reconciliation, sustainability, the nature of the state and international system, globalisation and the commons, to name but a few. It begins to bring a far more complex view of peace and order, one that accentuates
the open and hidden violence of more parsimonious approaches. Indeed, as an epistemological framework, with methodological–ethical sets of tools, it offers a completely new ontology of relationality across at least four dimensions as opposed to the black-and-white world of rational
self-interest. Due to the work of the scholars included in this study, it is gradually becoming clear that another world is not just ‘possible’ but is already in existence and that concepts and thinking about peace and peacebuilding need to respond.
Joanne Wallis, Lia Kent, Miranda Forsyth, Sinclair Dinnen & Srinjoy Bose with a new open access E-book with ANU Press. I wish there was a concise overview/abstract right away on the website...



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