Links & Contents I Liked 278

Hi all,

I think this week's review has all the features of yet another enjoyable read-if I say so myself :) !

There is Jeff Sachs, pertinent career advice (two weeks-that's how long it takes before you are forgotten once you left an organization), fundraising dilemmas, ivory trade in Uganda, manufacturing success in Vietnam, One Laptop Per Child again, a cautionary tale on mobile phones, the tale of two UNESCO chairs for ICT4D, safeguarding policies in Haiti-and pop-up skyscrapers for disaster zones...

Elon Musk wants you to walk out of meetings, blockchain is overrated + more snarky tweets on technology.

New articles on fieldwork ethics, Australian public opinion on aid policy & #CommunicationSoWhite.

And finally some anthropological insights into changing inequalities around giving birth in Mexico!


New from aidnography
Squeezing development research juice out of the Millennium Village Project evaluation

There is no doubt that the MVP debate will find its way into textbooks, course syllabi and many more academic research and writing. I am also pretty sure there will be a celebratory conference in 2025 to mark the 20th anniversary of the project.
But 13 years after the project started we need to continue those debates, even if they will remain marginalized, on how to communicate development differently, with communities and real people, on smaller scales rather than simply relying on more technology, better tools and bigger RCTs.
The Lancet papers are a powerful reminder of how development knowledge is produced and legitimized and how the habitus of conducting research seems to have changed very little during the 13 years of one of global development’s most discussed projects in the 21st century.

Development news
How to be a global humanitarian

You are only one inspirational quote from GH superstardom. Use words such as ‘vision’, ‘humbled’, ‘empower’ and ‘change’. They should just trip off your tongue. Practise, practise, practise until it feels natural. Make speeches at every opportunity.
Emilie McMeekan for Tatler. I like this list because I'm not 100% sure whether the Tatler is really trying yo give serious career advice or takes a slightly ironic stab at Meghan Markle.
Two weeks
Keep in mind that it will take a maximum of two weeks for your office or team or organization to move on after you leave. If you were to be fired or resign tomorrow, the most you can expect is that after two weeks, your colleagues will still tell stories about you at the local relief zone watering hole. This means you can relax, turn the self-importance dial back a few notches, and manifest some genuine humility. You’re not the only smart one on the team. Turn off your computer and leave the office. The world won’t end if you work sustainable hours.
J. for Missing in the Mission continues to provide some of the most poignant career advice in the industry!
The fundraising dilemma: raising money but depressing hope?
What’s the point? To raise money? If so, the DEC appeals were a brilliant success. However, if we are also concerned about wider effects and longer-term engagement with global poverty and social change, the report card is definitely more mixed. There is tentative evidence that the harder-hitting appeals get more people to donate, but they also significantly reduce the number of people who say that they would donate. And, on top of this Marmite effect, there is also the negative spill over effects on people’s sense of being able to make a difference.
Is there a trade-off between fundraising and building engagement? Our results suggest that there is. But what can or should be done about this?
David Hudson, Jennifer van Heerde-Hudson & Paolo Morini for DevComms Lab present findings from an experiment on how to communicate development and raise funds.

I did the first long-term study investigating illegal ivory traders. Here’s what I learned.

First, the illegal ivory trade isn’t organized by a transnational crime syndicate or international gang. Rather, local traders buy and sell from and to a variety of sources, depending on what opportunities arise.
Second, the transnational trade does not oversee and guide ivory poaching. Rather, international ivory traders largely depend on local black-market traders.
Chinese buyers and Facebook pages may be important for the illegal ivory trade; without a market, there would be no reason for the supply and trade. But transnational crime relies on local actors. Local actors are the ones who supply the illegal ivory, and are in turn dependent on international actors to sell it. For this, local traders have various degrees of power and autonomy. For those attempting to curb this crime, it’s essential to understand that local traders are not a unitary group.
Kristof Titeca for Washington Post's Monkey Cage shares some fascinating research insights on illegal ivory trade in Congo and Uganda.

Vietnam’s manufacturing miracle: Lessons for developing countries
Vietnam has achieved its success the hard way. First, it has embraced trade liberalization with gusto. Second, it has complemented external liberalization with domestic reforms through deregulation and lowering the cost of doing business. Finally, Vietnam has invested heavily in human and physical capital, predominantly through public investments. These lessons—global integration, domestic liberalization, and investing in people and infrastructure—while not new, need reiteration in the wake of rising economic nationalism and anti-globalization sentiments.
Sebastian Eckardt, Deepak Mishra & Viet Tuan Dinh for Brookings with interesting food for discussion on old development truths and new challenges.

OLPC’s $100 laptop was going to change the world — then it all went wrong

There’s surprisingly little hard data about the long-term impact of OLPCs on childhood education, though. Zamora points to some case studies for individual countries, and says OLPC wants to commission more comprehensive research in the future. But the organization has mostly focused on anecdotes and distribution numbers as markers of success. “OLPC was always very averse to measuring how well they were doing versus the traditional school system,” says Gros. “There have only been a very limited number of attempts to actually measure how well students were doing with OLPC versus not, because it was very hard to do.”
Adi Robertson for The Verge with a long-read on another by now 'classic' development project that has kept the ICT4D community busy for a decade. Last week's review featured a case study from Madagascar on OLPC use.

Against the myth of ubiquity: reflections on five years of mobile phone diffusion research

Yet, if our objective is to ensure and promote equity, then we should consider the potentially regressive nature of the mobile phone platform. Savings generated by more efficient service delivery for a mobile-phone-using part of the population could for instance be used to expand service access to more marginalised groups, who are costlier to reach. However, if we continue to believe in mobile phone ubiquity, then the persistent reproduction of this myth in the global technology and development discourse will not only render it meaningless. It can also obscure potentially harmful development practices.
Marco Haenssgen for Oxford University's QEH with new research insights on the 'mobile phones will fix development' discourse.

Why Do Social Entrepreneurs Skirt Around Fixing the Government? Because It’s Hard.

In essence, Code for America is playing the long game, in a way that most of their peers at Skoll might not be. In the social enterprise world, speed and scale are highly valued currencies. The government offers massive scale, but not the speed. “We don’t have one silver bullet that’s going to fix government,” says Pahlka. “I’m okay that it’s going to be a generational project, I’m okay developing capabilities and strengthening institutions over time.”
It may not be, to a traditional technology company, the most “efficient” way to spend one’s time, but in the end, perhaps it will offer the thing social entrepreneurs crave most: impact.
Sarika Bansal for Bright Magazine on Code for America's approach to technology and social change; personally, I have very little hope for any initiative that tries to engage with the US government, but that's probably a separate discussion...

The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D is not the same as the UNESCO Chair in ICTD

I fear that this confusion sadly does not reflect well either on the political establishment in Pakistan who approved this nomination, nor on the professionalism of those involved in the nomination itself. I would hope that the Pakistani press and those on social media will recognise this and respond accordingly. I am sure they will agree that this is not a matter of pride for Pakistan, but actually sadly reflects rather badly on them. I am somewhat saddened by this and only write to clarify the confusion that has already arisen and has been pointed out to me by colleagues. It will not make the slightest difference to the ongoing work that my colleagues continue to do in this field.
Tim Unwin is not amused that Pakistan decided to establish another UNESCO chair in ICT4D...

Safeguarding: Reflexions Of A Global South Leader Amid #AidToo

If you stand for gender equality and against abuse, do your practices reflect that? How are you inclusive of women’s leadership? The Haiti Community Foundation has a very participatory, bottom-up approach. In our pilot region, to ensure that women leaders’ voices are included, we ask that one of the two representatives sent by communities to our planning meetings be a woman leader.
Marie-Rose Romain Murphy for Global Giving on the challenges of adopting safeguarding policies in small local organizations and practical advice from Haiti.

Collapsable skyscraper for disaster zones wins conceptual design competition

By stacking the functions of disaster relief tents on top of each other, the architects estimate the structure would take up to 30 times less room than a traditional tents or containers used in disaster relief.
This would reduce the cleanup operation required to clear the ground in an area that has been hit by hurricanes, floods or earthquakes, allowing survivors to be temporarily housed near their existing communities.
India Block for dezeen with another humanitarian innovation the industry has been waiting for...

Our digital lives

Elon Musk: Just walk out of bad meetings
He then added a list of productivity tips including advice to:
Cancel large meetings or if you have to have them keep them "very short"
Walk out of a meeting or end a phone call if it is failing to serve a useful purpose.
Avoid acronyms or nonsense words. "We don't want people to have to memorise a glossary just to function at Tesla"
Sidestep the "chain of command" to get the job done. Managers insisting on hierarchies will "soon find themselves working elsewhere"
Ignore the rules if following them is obviously ridiculous.
BBC News on Elon Musk's great advice for any sector that has meetings!

Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future

Blockchain systems do not magically make the data in them accurate or the people entering the data trustworthy, they merely enable you to audit whether it has been tampered with. A person who sprayed pesticides on a mango can still enter onto a blockchain system that the mangoes were organic. A corrupt government can create a blockchain system to count the votes and just allocate an extra million addresses to their cronies. An investment fund whose charter is written in software can still misallocate funds.
Kai Stinchcombe adds to the ongoing discussion on how blockchain will (not) change the world and/or the aid industry...

The Illusion of User Choice

The idea that privacy is the core objective of data protection is quite individualistic. It assumes that harm can mainly be posed to the individual and its rights. While this can be true, my main concern is the harm that the data industry can potentially cause to societies. The algorithmic clustering of society into groups and profiles, and the discrimination that can result from that. The power that companies – who weren’t elected and who bear no social obligations other than to please their customers – are accumulating every day. The shifting power dynamics and their consequences on groups and societies at large.
With the narrative of “user choice”, internet companies are diverging our attention from the real problem: their power and influence on society. The Data Problem is not so much about your personal data, but about how all of our data in bulk feeds this new Infocratic System.
Maria Xynou for Boomerang Effect. A lot has been written around the recent facebook debates, but Maria's post is an important reminder that whenever corporations promise individual choice, the truth is that we probably have much less power as consumers than we think we have.

Ethics Abroad: Fieldwork in Fragile and Violent Contexts

Our observations do not suggest a moratorium on research in fragile and violent contexts, but they do mean being attentive to—and working to combat—potentially exploitative dynamics. Becoming sufficiently acquainted with social and political norms to confidently navigate risk can take time that academics do not always have. However, there are measures that researchers can take to better prepare for the ethical challenges they may face in the field. Drawing on the observations of researchers working in violent and fragile contexts across multiple methodological traditions, table 1 delineates a set of concrete questions and recommendations to guide scholars embarking on this type of research. Yet, it is not only individual researchers who need to be more reflective about the ethical implications of work in fragile and violent contexts. As a research community, we also can do more to ensure that researchers who travel to work in these settings are appropriately trained and prepared, that ethically problematic research is not rewarded, and that the contributions of local partners are adequately credited.
Kate Cronin-Furman & Milli Lake with an open access paper for Political Science & Politics on how to be an ethical researcher in difficult environments, see also:

How Community Philanthropy Shifts Power: What Donors Can Do to Help Make That Happen
This GrantCraft Leadership Series paper by Jenny Hodgson and Anna Pond focuses on how funders around the globe are challenging this norm by sharing and shifting power into the hands of local leadership. It explores examples, advice, and the driving questions for donors interested in producing people-owned changes, without losing sight of their institutional interests.
Anna Pond and Jenny Hodgson with a new paper for Grantcraft.

From Words to Action: A Practical Philanthropic Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Philanthropy too must acknowledge its place in the context of transformative demographic changes. Addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has been an ongoing challenge within philanthropy, and while there has been progress, it requires continual work.
Barbara Chow with another new paper for Grantcraft.

Aid Policy and Australian Public Opinion

Although Australians are generally supportive of aid, most backed major aid cuts in 2015. However, most Australians think the purpose of Australian aid should be helping people in poor countries, not bringing benefits to Australia. There is a clear left–right divide in responses to all questions; however, some variables correlated with support for aid fail to explain variation in views about aid's purpose.
Terence Wood with a new open access article in Asia & The Pacific Policy Studies.


As part of an ongoing movement to decenter White masculinity as the normative core of scholarly inquiry, this paper is meant as a preliminary intervention. By coding and analyzing the racial composition of primary authors of both articles and citations in journals between 1990–2016, we find that non-White scholars continue to be underrepresented in publication rates, citation rates, and editorial positions in communication studies.
Paula Chakravartty, Rachel Kuo, Victoria Grubbs & Charlton McIlwain with a new open access article in the Journal of Communication.


How Natural Birth Became Inaccessible to the Poor
I am a proponent of birthing practices that respect women’s choices and resist the unnecessary hyper-medicalization of women’s bodies. However, humanized birth in Mexico should not be available only to wealthy, light-skinned people. Poor Indigenous people cannot access birth facilities like the one Pilar chose, of course. But they have birthing traditions of their own that stretch back thousands of years. The government’s attempts to control Indigenous women’s bodies are based on economic, cultural, and racial discrimination.
When Pilar checked out from her stay at the lush humanized hospital in Mexico City, she was given a wooden keepsake plaque with her baby’s footprints handcarved by an Indigenous artisan. This should not be the closest that Indigenous people come to natural birth.
Rosalynn A. Vega for Sapiens with anthropological insights from Mexico on power, inequalities and women & their bodies as 'sites' for 'progress'.


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