Links & Contents I Liked 277

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Some of the highlights from this week's review: ICC prosecutes gender-based violence; how we are getting China in Africa wrong; OLPC in Madagascar; the blockchain refugee camp in Jordan; the value of communicating 'human experience' & in Japan an AI is running for a mayoral position!


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ICC prosecutes Islamist militant on groundbreaking gender-based charges

The former extremist fighter is accused of a long list of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, extrajudicial punishments and participation in a policy of forced marriage, which the court argues “led to repeated rapes and sexual enslavement of women and girls”.
Jason Burke for The Guardian on latest developments in how the ICC includes gender-based violence in its charges for war crimes.

NGO Leaders Sign Pledge to Show Commitment for Change

More than a hundred CEOs of NGOs from across the nation are promising to improve how they address and prevent sexual abuse and harassment by and among their staff. Their public pledge was signed last week by members of InterAction, an alliance of 185 American NGOs working to combat poverty across the globe.
At the time of publication, 118 signatories said they will commit to establishing “working environments free from sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment by and of NGO staff within our organizations and the countries in which we operate.”
Amy Costello for Nonprofit Quarterly on InterAction's pledge which did not really make the news in my networks...

whatsapp vs. gender based violence: notes on a pilot
The elephant in the room is of course that the adults were almost entirely inactive during this pilot. It was so time consuming to manage the youth group that it was impractical to chase them up while the pilot was happening, but afterwards we found out that they hadn't been 100% clear on what they were supposed to do, and furthermore were much more taken up with the demands of day to day life than their younger counterparts to participate.
Despite this, we feel that this model would be a great way of distributing key information to local populations, through working with young-people-as-mediators (or 'techno-educators', as they liked to call themselves) in the knowledge that they don't only share with people their own age. Given that we were able to reach about 250 people from a group of five, with evidence of more reached, there is a strong chance we can reach thousands with a standard size WhatsApp group of 256.
Isabelle Amazon-Brown for Panoply Digital on digital pilots, scaling up and using ICT4D in the field.

U.S. politicians get China in Africa all wrong

China is often lambasted as a nefarious actor in its African dealings, but the evidence tells a more complicated story. Chinese loans are powering Africa, and Chinese firms are creating jobs. China’s agricultural investment is far more modest than reported and welcomed by some Africans. China may boost Africa’s economic transformation, or they may get it wrong — just as American development efforts often go awry.
Deborah Bräutigam for the Washington Post with new evidence that suggests that China's engagement in Africa is more complicated and nuanced than often portrayed in the global North.

Former Senior United Nations Official Facing Pedophilia Charges in Nepal
One of the world’s leading experts on humanitarian work with street children and children affected by war has been arrested on pedophilia charges.
Brendan Cole for Newsweek with what could be another #AidToo moment-this time in Nepal.

After the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, can we talk about data privacy in Africa now?
This all means it’s time to start having a serious, educational conversation about how today’s data fueled web really works — and whether our data should be protected by default.
Poor data practices are nothing new here in Africa. The Cambridge Analytica saga simply provided a spotlight. But perhaps there is a silver lining: With tens of millions of Africans using Facebook, this saga might spark better laws, and a better understanding of how the web really works. And in the meantime: Please read the terms and conditions, no matter how difficult that may be.
Linet Kwamboka for Quartz seems optimistic that the current Facebook debates will have a positive impact on data privacy and protection in countries such as Kenya or Nigeria.

Humanitarian response in Lebanon: changing social norms or reproducing them?

Although aid organisations are increasingly concerned about promoting gender equality, when faced with people’s immediate needs and the urgency to addressing them as fast as possible, social interventions can rely on, and reproduce, unequal gender roles and norms, rather than working to improve them. For instance, targeting mothers for information about children’s health or education is valuable, but may be limited given that some women do not have full mobility or financial means to follow up on the information and given that it leaves out the father’s role in parenting.
Lana Khattab for open democracy on a research project in Lebanon that was led by one of my colleagues from our Communication for Development program!

How kids in a low-income country use laptops: lessons from Madagascar

Laptops have introduced the children of Nosy Komba to previously inaccessible tools. But we found that original projects were limited. While applications used were designed to foster creativity, children need support to develop creativity skills.
Educators have a crucial role to play here. They can help to nurture children’s creativity: the can help them to connect their lived experience and to express their imagination to produce original content. This will unlock new forms of expression and different kinds of literacy, including visual.
Sandra Nogry for The Conversation with a reminder that One Laptop Per Child is still around. Not quite surprisingly the research stresses the role of educators and a creative, social environment over the tool of the laptop. In what seems like a blogging lifetime ago I wrote about OLPC in Ethiopia in 2012 (quite proud of my early use of 'digital colonialism'...):
My guess is that the transition from basic skills that may be taught through a laptop to secondary and tertiary education skills that will be needed to sustainable transformation are probably very difficult to learn.
But more importantly, OLPC should reach out to critical voices to discuss their engagement and communication strategy that could be misinterpreted as an emerging form of digital colonialism.
Inside the Jordan refugee camp that runs on blockchain
Though Bassam may not know it, his visit to the supermarket involves one of the first uses of blockchain for humanitarian aid. By letting a machine scan his iris, he confirmed his identity on a traditional United Nations database, queried a family account kept on a variant of the Ethereum blockchain by the World Food Programme (WFP), and settled his bill without opening his wallet.
The real promise of using blockchains may not be realized until organizations like the WFP and the UN have the courage to open at least parts of the system to other agencies, and then to take the bravest step of all and turn over ownership of the data to beneficiaries like Bassam, who currently has little say in the matter because he has to be in the system if he wants to eat.
Russ Juskalian for MIT Technology Review from the Zaatari refugee camp with an update from the blockchain frontlines and WFP march to the front of the UN innovation queue...

Opinion: But wait until they see your black face

While aid organizations are finally coming to terms with the lack of women in leadership positions and seeking to remedy the situation, this will not translate automatically into more black women in leadership. Black women generally have no internal champions to shepherd them through the politics of getting to the executive suite, nor are they groomed through the organizational pipeline for leadership roles. In a recently released impact study on gender and racial diversity in the aid sector, Quantum Impact reported that of the 162 organizations analyzed, four out of five organizations (80 percent) had leadership teams that did not have a representative number of people of color. Half of all organizations (51 percent) had no leaders of color.
Angela Bruce-Raeburn for DevEx on the challenges of POC women in the development industry.

Report reveals the pitfalls of ‘clicktivism’

Moreover, the report says the voices of those with lived experience are often inadequately represented in charity digital campaigns.
“Digital campaigners often work in silos, away from those with lived experience (and even organisational colleagues); those with lived experience are inadequately supported in participating in campaigning; and charities are often poor in identifying which of their campaigning supporters are able to offer lived experience.”
Those with lived experience of an issue are the very people that should benefit hugely from the rise of digital, says the report. Their voices can be amplified through the multitude of channels and can be effective agents of change instead of passive case studies.
But right now, these voices of lived experience are being overshadowed by the sheer volume of voices that digital campaigning permits, the report warns.
Chloe Green for Charity Digital News on the new 'Lost Voices' report. I think there are some great newsletters out there that are much more efficient than data gathering on campaign platforms. 'Lived experience' in my view means engagement content-including the lived experience of those who work in NGOs and behind campaigns.

Human experience will always speak louder than any campaign – podcast

The old way of appealing for help during a human rights crisis, simply by telling people all that is wrong in the world, risks making the public fearful and hopeless, says Thomas Coombes, Amnesty International’s deputy director of communications. The solution, he says, is to offer hope, even in the darkest times imaginable. Asking people fleeing war and persecution to tell their own stories is the best way to forge a direct emotional connection and reach out to people watching an appeal
Lucy Lamble for The Guardian talks to Amnesty's Thomas Coombes.

Talking about turnover – Part I: the problem

The possible reason for this is that short term contracts are considered the norm, and a peculiar aspect of the way humantiarian work is managed. However, if we consider failure to retain as the main problem, we can see how short/fixed contract are worth of investigation as a major driver – no matter the rationale behind their use. I will come back to this point in the next post, where I deal with possible solutions to the problem.
Francesco Caberlin for Seeking the Link reviews the literature and identifies gaps in finding our why humanitarian leave the industry.

Grant reports are broken. Is it worth trying to fix them?

I guess that brings us back to the subject of final reports. I reluctantly conclude that bureaucracies will always require them, and that we should not be naive about abolishing them altogether. But they will likely never be efficient vessels for conveying information or learning. For those, I wish we could find a way to increase by half the amount of time that program officers and grantees spend together hashing out how things are going, what they are learning (together), and ideas for iterating. I think program officers would find this more rewarding than the constant staff retreats, strategy refreshes, and internal reporting they are caught up in. If we could find a way to do that with an attitude of genuine inquiry (as opposed to evaluation), that would go a long way toward accelerating learning and building the relationships and trust need to enhance the odds our programs will succeed in improving the world.
David Sasaki continues the debate featured already in last week's review on how the Hewlett foundation want to challenge traditional grant reporting.

Our digital lives
There's an AI Running for the Mayoral Role of Tama City, Tokyo

The Artificial Intelligence, which has been dubbed under the name Michihito Matsuda, seems to operate by a simple slogan; "Artificial Intelligence will change Tama City."
If you assumed that artificial intelligence itself couldn't run for mayor, you're absolutely not wrong; that just happens to be where things get truly interesting. The two-person team pushing Michihito Matsuda consists of both Tetsuzo Matsumoto, the vice president of mobile provider Softbank ($74 billion revenue), and former Google Japan representative Norio Murakami. Standing at the forefront of this all, however, is Michihito Matsuda.
Lachlan Johnston for Otaquest with plenty of techno-philosophical food for thought.

Escape the echo chamber
Is there anything we can do, then, to help an echo-chamber member to reboot? We’ve already discovered that direct assault tactics – bombarding the echo-chamber member with ‘evidence’ – won’t work. Echo-chamber members are not only protected from such attacks, but their belief systems will judo such attacks into further reinforcement of the echo chamber’s worldview. Instead, we need to attack the root, the systems of discredit themselves, and restore trust in some outside voices.
C Thi Nguyen for Aeon with a long-read essay on digital culture, filter bubbles and echo chambers.

Evaluating C4D Resource Hub: Launch at the Social and Behaviour Change Summit

The C4D Hub was developed through a three-year research collaboration with UNICEF C4D that aimed to bridge the divide between adaptive and participatory evaluation approaches, and the more dominant accountability-driven, results-based approaches. The principles underpinning C4D value participation, inclusion and local knowledge. C4D often encompasses intangible and interconnected social changes, that are difficult to predict and are ideally community driven. The C4D Hub is designed to encourage R,M&E that reinforces C4D principles and encompasses the complexities of social change.
Jessica Noske-Turner for Better Evaluation with an overview over their Communication for Development and Social Change tools.

Black Mirrors

Ezili’s Mirrors is important because through it Tinsley shows us ways that black femme life and black queer life exists and asserts itself as other than the abject, the undesirable, the inappropriate, and the excessive. The book illustrates how and why the figures of Ezili, only one goddess among a pantheon, serve as such an effective foundation on which alternate black narratives, representations, and ways of seeing have been built. Tinsley does not suggest that the task of decolonial epistemological critique is easy. The challenge of extracting the oppressor implied in Lorde’s quote is not dismissed. Instead, she proves that it is possible by illustrating how creating and embodying epistemological alternatives has already been and is currently being done across the black Atlantic.
Alexandra Smith reviews Omise′eke Natasha Tinsley new book for the New Inquiry.


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