Links & Contents I Liked 279

Hi all,

Critical food for thought and uplifting stories from around the #globaldev world from Nepal, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Colombia, the US and the UK and from inside large aid organization - with a little sprinkling of tweet-able insights.


Development news

Nepal's female masons dig deep to lay foundations for change and renewal

“Some people complained that it would take women two months to build it, but we finished it on schedule in a month,” she says. “People acknowledge that we are capable now, even if they do not specifically praise us.”
Because of her building work, Ranjana is earning an income for the first time – about £6 a day. “I used to be totally dependent on my husband’s money, but now I can contribute to the children’s expenses. I can stand on my own feet.”
Sharmila Tamang has become a contractor, overseeing the building of 12 houses, with three more under way. “I do contracted work as if I was building my own house. People say I work hard. We women have become the first choice for building a house in the village,” she says.
Pete Pattisson for The Guardian with a great story from Nepal to mark the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake in 2015.

Order of Canada recipient Peter Dalglish accused of abusing children he pledged to help

A Canadian man who spent decades working with children’s organizations and received the Order of Canada for his global contributions is now locked in a crowded detention cell in Kathmandu accused of having sex with minors.
Nathan Van der Klipp & Joe Friesen for the Globe & Mail with another story from Nepal, a well-researched investigation into the work of Dalglish and the accusations that have lead to his arrest.

A Debt Crisis Seems To Have Come Out Of Nowhere

It's a problem that has come seemingly out of nowhere. Over the last five years a worrisome number of low-income countries have racked up so much debt they are now at high risk of being unable to pay it back — with potentially devastating consequences not just for their economies but for their citizens, many of whom are already living in extreme poverty.
Nurith Aizenman for NPR Goats & Soda with a closer look at the latest iteration of one of development's 'classic' struggles...

Where's the diversity among charity trustees, asks critical report
Almost 80% of senior leadership teams in the top 500 charities lack any ethnic minority professionals, while 62% of the charities have all-white boards, the research found. Gender diversity, compared with other sectors, was “better than most”. However the analysis shows imbalance at the top. In a sector whose workforce is 65% female, men are still taking up almost 60% of senior leadership roles.
Inclusive Boards published similar research two years ago, but found “insufficient improvement” – only a 0.3% increase in the levels of ethnic minority individuals on charity boards. It also found that the percentage of all-white boards had actually increased, by 5%.
Karen McVeigh for the Guardian introduces a new report on #BoardSoWhite...

The murky process of reporting sexual harassment at UN

The fractured U.N. system is not well positioned to make the process user-friendly, said one senior U.N. official with knowledge of sexual harassment procedures.
“If you have to report it through your immediate hierarchy, there is a conflict of interest there — possibly a conflict [of] interest and capacity issue going through HR. The ombudsman is somebody considered to be close to the management,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic.
“Basically, the system up until now has not been very friendly. It is not very user-friendly, especially for somebody who is possibly traumatized, possibly depressed, or having a difficult time.”
Amy Lieberman for DevEx on the slow shifts within the UN system around investigating sexual harassment.

A Star Performer Created a ‘Toxic Culture’ at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Say Insiders

Former staff members say Loijens's fundraising prowess allowed her to get away with treating people badly. Her value to the organization, they say, includes the deep knowledge she has developed over the years about how to value complex assets such as artwork, real estate, and especially stock in privately held companies that can bring significant tax benefits to donors when they give it away. Donors who give appreciated assets to a nonprofit need not pay capital-gains taxes, and they can take the appreciated value of the asset as a tax deduction.
Several former staff members say Carson and Loijens were consumed by their desire to grow the foundation, recruiting donors from San Francisco, which has its own community foundation, and from the East Coast, where it opened a development office in 2017.
A former staff member says: "Emmett values asset growth at the foundation above all other measures, and she is the head of development. There has been a lot of growth in assets there — she gets credit."
Marc Gunther for the Chronicle of Philanthropy on the Silicon Valley Community Foundation where growth was the mantra...

#AidToo – What Now and What Next?

Changing this culture requires self-reflection on the part of all aid workers, both managers and staff. It requires open and honest discussions about personal and institutional responsibilities in addressing inequality in the system. And leadership that is willing to create listening spaces for staff; where what happens in the office is not solely about maintaining the public image of do-gooders that get results, but about acknowledging the vulnerabilities and limitations of being human. We need to be talking to each other more, supporting each other and seeing the value in human relations as part of the humanitarian agenda; how we relate to each other as colleagues and how we relate to the people we are wishing to help. Inner reflection, plus honest discussions within and across organisations, are a starting point to transcending some of the power imbalances inherent in the aid system and encouraging a joint, inclusive, vision of what a ‘good’ working environment within the sector could be.
Gemma Houldey shares important reflections on the tough road ahead after the initial #AidToo moment and movement. I'm also alo looking forward to welcome her next week to a class we will be teaching on the topic!

Alone at the Border No More: New Day Care Centers Watch Over Children of Rwandan Traders
The center also employs a nurse who meets with mothers and offers contraceptives. As a result, about 8 in 10 of the mothers now take birth control measures, says Onesphore Biryabanzi, gender and family promotion officer for the district.
The vision is for the day care center to fight both child abuse and poverty, Biryabanzi says.
Mothers who leave their children at the center can now apply for small loans to start their own businesses in Rwanda thanks to a partnership between the district and a local partner Action pour le Developpment du Peuple.
“This will contribute to reducing the number of women crossing the border and that of children left behind in the day care, because their mothers will stay with them in the village, busy running their projects [that are] expected to improve their living conditions,” Biryabanzi says.
Janviere Uwimana for Global Press Journal with a great story of local change from Rwanda.

When an Orphanage Can Provide What a Parent Cannot

Sfeir said there’s a straightforward — but logistically challenging — way to fix that. “All the money used for creating the orphanages can be [redirected] to develop a school with local teachers,” she says. Tourists’ money could instead be used to help build schools or to support unseen costs like teachers’ pay and transportation — something Child Safe is working to create a system for.
What is clear is that Cambodian students want those with the power — be it the government or international investors and tourists — to create better options for them.
Kosal Visal, a 22-year-old who has lived in a Phnom Penh orphanage for a decade striving for an education that his two farmer parents never had says that, as things stand, orphanages are still the best option.
“Living with family, you feel warmth, of course,” he says with a sigh. “But coming here you have access to education. So you choose the orphanage.”
Janelle Retka for Bright Magazine deserves a lot of credit for reporting differently on the 'classic' development story about Cambodian orphanages!

Overlooking the Capacity of Local NGOs

Local groups’ rootedness in the communities they serve results in a deep knowledge about these local relationships and coping mechanisms, which may never be fully understood even through the most comprehensive needs assessment or baseline study. Their day-to-day interaction and connection with their “constituency” allows for more access to those in need and more expertise about their social context than any other development actor.
Jennifer Lentfer with a reminder that shouldn't actually be necessary in 2018, but is probably more timely then I'd presume: Work with local, diverse organizations!

Where Countries Are Tinderboxesand Facebook Is a Match

A reconstruction of Sri Lanka’s descent into violence, based on interviews with officials, victims and ordinary users caught up in online anger, found that Facebook’s newsfeed played a central role in nearly every step from rumor to killing. Facebook officials, they say, ignored repeated warnings of the potential for violence, resisting pressure to hire moderators or establish emergency points of contact.
Despite criticism and concerns from civil society groups, the company has done little to change its strategy of pushing into developing societies with weak institutions and histories of social instability, opening up information spaces where anger and fear often can dominate.
Amanda Taub and Max Fisher for the NYT with a long-read on Sri Lanka, Facebook and the dark side of ICTs...

The World Bank’s flagship report this year is on the future of work – here’s what the draft says

Which brings me to the biggest blind spot of all – power. In the technocratic lala land of the WDR’s authors, the best results coming from the enlightened philosopher kings who are assumed to be in charge around the world stepping in to adroitly enable everyone to ride the technology tiger, as the market and its new gizmos rip through the status quo. What about imbalances in bargaining power, vested interests, political capture and their consequence, rising inequality? Not much on any of those, I’m afraid. All in all, a fascinating document (when was the last time a WDR quoted Marx, Nehru and Lenin?), and well worth close study (I’m sure I’ve missed lots of gems). My overall take? History may be on the side of the optimists, but boundary conditions on growth, and technological acceleration could mean that this time really is different.
Duncan Green for From Poverty to Power reviews the forthcoming WDR. This seems to be a case of 'everything has already been said - but not by everyone' and to me this questions the role of 'flagship reports' and the World Bank in shaping developing discourses even more (see Tweet below...).

'Culture is power': the Colombian sex workers who launched a newspaper
“This neighbourhood is depressing. It has a high level of violence and drug addiction and many social problems, so we want to bring a little more happiness to the community. The project could also mean that people in the neighbourhood have a bit more culture, because culture is power.”
The latest edition has a gossip section, a “Monica recommends” column and a budget recipe – how to make a meal for less than 10,000 Colombian pesos (around £2.50) – for the poorly paid workers.
But La Esquina also covers more hard-hitting subjects, including the horrifying reality of botched plastic surgeries that often afflict the country’s transgender women.
Steven Grattan for the Guardian on an innovative media project in Bogota (which despite all the transformation that cities have been undergoing in Colombia is still a rough place for women).

Smart thinking from USAID on putting adaptive management into practice
I guess we westerners cannot avoid being westerners and seeing the world as westerners all the time.
We keep seeing change as the result of the actions of individuals and leaders with specific traits and skills, instead of perceiving as key the relationships among them and the basic conditions that enable them to achieve things.
Therefore the superabundance and hypercentrality of “leaders” we see… even when we perform a literature review!!
Three out of the four “implications for staff” focus on leaders and key individuals. And the fourth, which is about teams, seems to treat them mostly as a collection of individuals, which “need space and time to develop trusting relationships”.
This is not to say that leaders and individuals do not play a role. They do. But they are trees which matter as part of the forest. And adaptive management cannot become a serious thing as long as we remain unable to see the forest for the trees. Obvious things like “for adaptation teams matter, more than individuals”, or “you cannot get meaningful adaptation if people do not stay enough” need to be recognised. What is the value of selecting and contracting any incredibly good leader or key individual, if he/she will leave in two years, just in time to destroy the “trust” that was starting to emerge around him/her?
If expecting that the core of a team stays together for 5 years to get an important job done is something unrealistic for the aid industry… well, then we are probably not trying hard enough when we talk about “adaptive management”, and we are just still “blah-blah-blah-ing”.
Even though is was posted by Duncan Green for From Poverty to Power, I am quoting Pedro Prieto Martin's comment which I think is more relevant than the fancy visualization that has been shared...

A new digital imperialism and how to respond to it

I would argue that a population with critical digital literacy skills would be the best defence against psychological profiling, microtargetting, and fake news. National digital literacy campaigns could increase citizens' critical understanding around privacy, data security, fake-news and understanding of how to combat gender-based and race-based online violence and hate speech. This is about more than technical skills. Such programs would need to raise citizens' critical consciousness about the political economy of data and how we can work together to tackle online abuse and technology injustice. In learning how to decolonise the digital world it will be instructive to draw upon the literature on colonisation and decolonisation including Albert Memmi, Audre Lorde, Paulo Freire, bell hooks and Ngugi wa Thiong'o
Tony Roberts for IDS with some interesting food for thought-but somehow I am afraid that it is already too late to introduce critical development thinkers to the ICT4D debate...

Communicating with Communities during Conflict: “Mediated” avenues to inform those in need

When it comes to conflict and post-conflict environments, passing on information to the population based on what is needed by those who experience the crisis is a vital and yet challenging task for aid organisations.
Valentina Bau for Peace Insight with a great overview over recent research and case studies on communication for development in conflict environments.

Our digital lives

A World Without Wizards: On Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
The reporting on the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal has danced around this issue by invoking the expert judgement of researchers whose careers are tethered to the success of psychometrics. Wylie himself is still in the psychometrics business. When he describes the overwhelming power of weaponized digital propaganda, he is not a dispassionate analyst; he’s also drumming up future business opportunities. Stanford University Professor Michal Kosinski is also constantly interviewed and profiled in articles about Cambridge Analytica’s psychometric breakthroughs. Kosinski has published several articles on the topic of psychometrics, and is indeed a leading expert on the topic. But his next grant, his next paper, and his tenure case all hinge on convincing peers, peer reviewers, and the public that psychometrics represents a significant breakthrough. One should expect him to offer an optimistic assessment of the current and future viability of psychometrics. Likewise, if you ask researchers at Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Center whether psychometrics is valuable to political campaigns today, what answer do you think they’re going to give you?
Dave Karpf for Civicist with the best piece on the FB/CA topic so far!

Women in tech suffer because of American myth of meritocracy

Yet the meritocracy myth, which my research shows has a stronghold in the world of entrepreneurship, means that women are constantly told that all they have to do to get more of that $22 billion or so in venture capital funding is make better pitches or be more assertive.
The assumption is that women aren’t trying hard enough or doing the right things to get ahead, not that the way venture capitalists offer funding is itself unfair.
The next step is to move away from gender-neutral approaches and instead adopt “gender-aware,” proactive measures to change unfair practices. This includes setting concrete goals to achieve gender balance, examining the gender composition of boards, committees and other influential groups in the organization, and assessing the tools and channels used for outreach, recruitment and support of entrepreneurs.
Banu Ozkazanc-Pan for The Conversation on so of the myths the tech sector sustains to create the illusion of 'meritocracy'...

The GenderAvenger Toolkit: You Can Make Sure Women's Voices Count Wherever There Is Public Dialog went live in February 2014, and it’s not hyperbole when I say “we’ve come a long way, baby.” Over the last four years, we’ve called out conferences and their organizers, called in those inspired to do the work, and raised the bar for including women on stages, in magazines and newspapers, and on television news shows. A large part of what has enabled this work is our GenderAvenger Toolkit. Our community has been the inspiration behind its growth, which is now made up of four robust tools: the GA Tally app, weekly Action Alerts, the GA Pledge, and the Stamp of Approval.
Elan Morgan introduces Gender Avenger's tools to speak our against the notorious #allmalepanel.


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