Links & Contents I Liked 302

Hi all,

After a busy first day of another great teaching seminar my link review goes live a bit later than usual.

Why did the UNEP boss fly so much?

Why do you people still volunteer in orphanages in Kenya?
Why is the nonprofit sector not paying better?
Why am I a big fan of Malaka Gharib & Lawrence Haddad?
Why don't academics read the works they cite?
Why are we not making better progress in decolonizing the academy?

And more surprising insights...


Development news
Australian aid groups apologise after finding dozens of sexual misconduct cases

The institute made it clear misconduct was underreported. Of the 119 organisations that belong to ACFID, 33 did not respond to requests for information.
Of the 76 claims, 31 were substantiated, the institute found. Of those, 17 were cases of sexual harassment and 14 were abuse and other forms of misconduct.
David Wroe for the Age on how #AidToo is unfolding in Australia.

UN environment chief resigns after frequent flying revelations

Numerous Unep staff have contacted the Guardian criticising Solheim’s perceived closeness to China and the project he initiated related to the environmental sustainability of China’s huge infrastructure Belt and Road Initiative. The US in particular was concerned and its representatives raised a long list of questions as far back as April, including about how the project was funded and how intellectual property rights would be protected.
Another concern to staff was the $500,000 sponsorship Solheim agreed to give the Volvo Ocean Race, despite it not being mentioned on the VOR sponsors’ web page or announced by Unep.
Solheim emailed staff on Tuesday and said: “I wanted UN Environment to be a lead agency for reform, even if it raised some questions. Doing things differently is never easy and I will depart knowing I never spared a moment in my effort to implement this vision and leave UN Environment more capable and more impactful.”
One senior employee welcomed Solheim’s resignation: “It will let us get on with the job we have to do, which is a big one. This was getting in the way.”
Damian Carrington for the Guardian on the resignation of UNEP's Erik Solheim.

The Media Barely Covered One of the Worst Storms to Hit U.S. Soil

Race and class, too, may play a role in the Marianas’ relative invisibility in political and media arenas. People in the CNMI are predominantly Chamorro, Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Carolinian, Bangladeshi, and members of other ethnic groups that are often marginalized in the U.S. As of 2015, 51 percent of people in the CNMI were living below the poverty line, a figure that’s only exacerbated by traumas like Yutu. Keith Camacho, an associate professor of Asian American studies at UCLA, sees parallels between the CNMI and other impoverished groups across the U.S. “The way the United States treats the territories in the Caribbean and in the Pacific Islands is very much akin to how the U.S. government treats poor and working communities in Detroit, in the heartland, in the rank and file of white workers in the South, in poor communities in Los Angeles, in disenfranchised communities in Philadelphia,” he said.
Alia Wong & Lenika Cruz for the Atlantic with really interesting 'development' story from the American periphery. I have collected links previously on similar issues around 'natural disasters' and their relevance for #globaldev debates, e.g. hurricane Maria.

Outcry over 'saviour complex' fuelling exploitation of Kenyan children

“Family-based care is a sixth of the cost of an institution, but when we are working to close orphanages not everybody likes to hear that.
“It’s entirely possible to get children back to their families. Typically we trace the family, then we work on psychosocial support. Nobody is suggesting getting the orphanages closed right away but if you slowly redirected the money towards family care it would be very easy.”
For Otiende, there is too the question of why a “tourist” volunteer could do work that a local might be far better qualified for. “For the cost of a flight from the US to Kenya, we could pay for a senior psychotherapist to treat around 20 children and families a month.
“There are some great funders, UBS for example. Potential funders only want to support one child. They don’t want to hear work you are doing with a family. We get letters that say, ‘We would like to sponsor a little boy or girl so I can show my daughter how lucky she is.’ Well, why does teaching values have to be at the expense of a vulnerable person?”
Otiende wants people to look at why they think they can help. “I ask people, ‘Could you volunteer in your own country in this type of work?’ No. You can’t just come with a dose of optimism.”
Harriet Grant for the Guardian. I was a bit hesitant to post yet another story about orphanage voluntourism in Kenya, but the abduction of an Italian volunteer is a sad & important reminder to cut back on irresponsible 'adventures' in Kenya and the global South.

Jamaican dancehall artist hits a nerve by ‘bleaching’ her skin — did fans get the message?
On October 22nd I posted a picture of myself where I looked like I altered my appearance and metamorphosis to match the ‘Eurocentric beauty standards’. I fearlessly addressed an issue that has been swept under the rug and boldly took the stance in bringing a taboo topic to the forefront. I chose to do this in the manner I did because I believe Colorism is plagiarizing (sic) our black community … I want to openly say it was not a ‘publicity stunt’. I wanted to create awareness of ‘Colorism’ and it was more so done intentionally to create shock value so that I could have the world's undivided attention to deliver the message in my music.
There are dark skin[ned] women across the world complaining every day that they are being downplayed and degraded, but the raw truth is it is us ‘black women’ and ‘black men’ that are fighting against each other and tearing down our own race.
Emma Lewis for Global Voices with a good overview over the story of Jamaican artist Spice starting a discussion with her audience around skin bleaching and 'white' beauty standards.

The humanitarian #MeToo crisis: the really hard work is just beginning

For international organisations like the ICRC, one crucial step towards meaningful cultural change is to build a truly diverse, gender-balanced workforce. We also need a fully inclusive workplace that is respectful of our diverse staff. This is essential for staff motivation and engagement, and ultimately for operational effectiveness and sustainability. Diversity without inclusion is mere window-dressing – a hollow achievement.
To that end, we have consulted hundreds of staff in delegations around the world about the issues that matter to them, focusing on what they see as the key barriers to inclusion and how they can be overcome. This unprecedented global conversation unlocked sensitive issues that many staff had previously felt unable or unwilling to speak out about. Resident (local) staff, particularly women, and LGBT and disabled staff were among those to speak out about issues of sexism and discrimination. Their voices and ideas – and sometimes hard truths – have formed the basis of a new global approach to ensuring diversity and inclusion, one with organisation-wide ownership. The overarching priorities are clear: to ensure inclusion of resident staff and to achieve gender balance – not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of creating an enabling culture that makes people feel connected and respected, and which allows them to grow.
Yves Daccord for the Humanitarian Practice Project on what #AidToo means for the humanitarian sector.

Nonprofit Salaries and Wages Not Keeping Up with Inflation and Its Consequences

While every sector has its challenges (rising health care costs and labor shortages are impacting just about every type of employer in every part of the country) what is particularly insidious about the continuing pressure on nonprofit salaries is that this is largely a choice that funders (individual or organizational) are imposing on the very causes they are intending to support.
Perhaps it is beyond time that this issue is not relegated to the subtleties of nonprofit surveys and executive summaries. How can we hope to change the hearts and minds of the individual citizen (from whence all funds originate, regardless of how they are ultimately distributed) when our own community continues to perpetuate, through both silence and acquiescence, this ritual of gradual decline?
Keenan Wellar for Nonprofit Quarterly. Although the data are from Main, USA, they are also relevant for #globaldev discussions-touching on the pertinent of how the sector can and should lead by example when it comes to inequalities, gender,...

Ask People What They Want. It’s Not That Complicated.

We cannot write off an approach to development that moves power closer to citizens. We cannot decide to pull funds out of a program objective when the most critical element was underinvested in, to begin with. Rather than dropping our ideals, we must invest in them through clear program objectives, funding, and evaluation efforts. We must stay the course, replicate what we know works, change what doesn’t, and continue to pursue a world in which all people are empowered to determine their own futures.
Stacey Faella & Kara Weiss for Bright Magazine. Community-driven development is difficult to measure, but essential to fulfill our ambitions about delivering aid.

What might a 100% experimental Oxfam Country Programme look like?

If we want to give the country the space to experiment, we will have to find enough unrestricted funding (not tied to specific projects) and spend time identifying a country director with the right instincts and drive, then let them appoint their team.
What kinds of experiments they decide to try would depend on context and skills, obviously, and an extended inception phase of listening and incubating ideas with local partners before designing a programme, but some possible ideas, which could cover the three main areas of long term development, humanitarian response and advocacy, include
Danny Sriskandarajah for fp2p on how Oxfam GB plans 'Nextfam'-perhaps the organizational structure of an (I)NGO may simply not be needed in the future anymore?!?

Two More Aadhaar-Related Starvation Deaths in Jharkhand

The Right to Food Campaign said in another Aadhaar-related death, 75 year-old Seeta Devi, who lived alone, starved to death in Gumla district on October 25. She did not have any food or cash at home before her death. Even though she had a ration card, due to illness, she could not go to the ration shop in October to authenticate her identity. She was also denied old age pension as her bank account was not linked with Aadhaar.
Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar for the Wire. These are terrible examples of some of the pitfalls of data-driven systems and what happens to those who may fall through the digital cracks.

How I Learned To Talk To My Filipino Mom About My Mental Health
I can't blame my mom for her reaction. She just has a really different view of mental health — what it means and how to treat it. And by caring so much about what she thought, I was just being a dutiful Filipino daughter, concerned about my her and my family's reputation; but also a dutiful American one: hoping to foster a more open relationship.
I told my mom what I'd learned. She agreed with pretty much all the researchers' points — except the last one. She could talk to Nanay, my grandma, about anything, she told me. In high school, she had a terrible breakup with her boyfriend and cried for a whole month. She remembers that her mom helped her get through it.
So I tried again. I asked her, why didn't she take my troubles seriously when I told her about them this summer?
She was scared, she said, "that I didn't make you strong enough to stand on your own."
"I wanted you to think, maybe, that you could overcome it," she added. "That this was only a temporary situation."
They were lovely words, words I needed to hear from my mother.
I just wish, I told her, you could have said them to me then.
Food fighter: 2018 World Food Prize winner Lawrence Haddad
You were raised on welfare in England, a low societal rung in a globally rich country. How does growing up with this dichotomy affect your work today?
It gave me a sense of the important role the state can play. Economics is quite a conservative discipline relative to other social sciences, so I often battled against the idea that welfare is simply a state handout. I always say that it can be a hand up – it’s just how you design it. If you design it in a way that builds skill, builds asset, builds capabilities, then people can get off welfare. They want out of that situation, because it’s not exactly great for your self-confidence. I think I was lucky in that my mom shielded me from a lot of that stigma, but I know she felt it, and was quite ashamed. It also made me realize that inequality is a really important shaper of people’s confidence and drive, and appreciate the relativeness of inequality – if I have a safe, dry, warm house and decent diet, but someone who I consider my peer has much better than me, chances are I will still feel bad.
So, I think my feelings around inequality, gender issues, and a sensitivity about stigma – I think all of those things are reflected in my work.
In the spirit of American Thanksgiving I would like to give thanks to Malaka Gharib and Lawrence Haddad (GAIN Alliance). Malaka continues her excellent writing for NPR and I love her stories about struggling with as well as enjoying multiculturalism in the US at a time when negative, divisive news often dominates my newsfeed. I was a PhD student at IDS during Lawrence's tenure as Director and I'll always remember him as a kind listener, gentle, yet persistent advocate and great human being :)!

Our digital lives

6 core falsehoods about the digital sphere

I call the following 6 ideas “core falsehoods” because they are not held and argued by just one specific stakeholder group: It’s not “what technologists believe” or “what technology sceptics and critics believe” or “what politicians, the general public or journalists believe” but a set of ideas argued by key figures in each of the relevant social and political groups. Ideas that tech evangelists and the most harsh critics do (at least to a significant degree) share.
In reality what happens is that existing, formalized, structured patterns of discrimination, violence and power are being automated through software systems: Yes a machine makes the call not to give you health care very quickly when the person who used to make that call using the same criteria and formal decision trees used to take weeks to come to the same conclusion.
And there is something to say about the way people targeted by that kind of violence could try to talk to a human being on the other side and get them to change their minds but in reality that has very little if any effect: The person “making the decision” is not making the decision at all, it’s just going through the established processes and communicates the result. The “deciders” are more often than not just the friendly – or not so friendly – faces for systemic violence. But you can be sure that they are sorry (they really are!) and probably depressed.
Making discrimination quicker through automation is not the issue. You could even argue that code might be auditable to detect bias and discrimination (I wouldn’t given how currently audits rarely do anything because of “trade secrets”).
The issues are discrimination and violence. Talking about it as a tech problem dilutes the issue and implicitly accepts the actual problems.
J├╝rgen Geuter for tante with excellent food for thought on the digital condition.

Notifications every 2 minutes: This in-depth look at how people really use WhatsApp shows why fighting fake news there is so hard

The boundaries between different types of news (information, analysis, opinion) has collapsed in India. “With the definition of news becoming expansive and all encompassing, we find that anything of importance to the citizen is now considered ‘news.'”
The researchers found that the respondents’ default behavior was to keep notifications on and “we believe this behavior is quite widespread, for many respondents, when asked how they come to know about a news event, say that it’s ‘because of notifications’…In India, citizens actively seem to be privileging breadth of information over depth.” In a striking difference from America, the researches found that “Indians at this moment are not themselves articulating any kind of anxiety about dealing with the flood of information in their phones. If anything, they only see the positives of social media.”
Laura Hazard Owen for Nieman Lab on a BBC News report around social media news use in India.

The impact of emergency aid work on personal relationships: a psychodynamic study

This qualitative research study explored the conscious and unconscious impact of emergency aid work on the personal relationships of those who deliver it. Six experienced staff members of an international non-governmental organisation (INGO) were invited to reflect freely on their
relationships in unstructured interviews. Using psychoanalytic theory, the data were analysed for both surface andhidden content. Every participant identified the significant external split that aid work created between home life and the field and described conscious strategies to manage this challenge. Their narratives, however, also indicated deeper inner dilemmas along with more unconscious strategies for protecting themselves against the anxiety generated by those dilemmas. Although deployed in response to the relational demands of the work, these strategies also appeared to form part of patterns of relating developed prior to entry into the sector.
Marc Snelling with a new open access article in Journal of International Humanitarian Action.

Why (almost) Everything We Know About Citations is Wrong: Evidence from Authors

Authors do not cite works they perceive to be below a minimum threshold value of quality, supporting the normative view. However, above this threshold, frequency of use is unrelated to quality. Instead, usage is determined by social constructivist elements: scientists tend to cite works they are not influenced by and that they do not know particularly well.
Although normative considerations play a role, the threshold-nature of the role makes it invalid to infer differences in perceived quality between highly and lowly cited items. In sum, our findings elucidate what drives citation decisions, severely undermine the normative view of citation practices, and require a radical reassessment of the role of citations in evaluative contexts.
Misha Teplitskiy, Eamon Duede, Michael Menietti & Karim Lakhani for the STI 2018 Conference Proceedings with an open access paper.


Questions academics can ask to decolonise their classrooms

To help bridge this gap, we’ve come up with a series of questions to encourage academics across faculties to unearth some of the norms, assumptions and everyday practices that are taken for granted and which may be entangled in the “hidden curriculum”. This might help us to think through the “how” as well as the “what”, as a first practical step towards “decolonising” our teaching.
Decoloniality, ‘diversity’, and discomfort: Transforming the Academy.
If we are to truly embody an ethic of decoloniality in our academies, we must look outside our classrooms and reading lists. We must actively challenge practices that continue to make our universities unequal and create a space that is truly intersectional. Proper representation to minority staff and students in the governing structures of universities, addressing the social and economic inequity between white and minority ethnicity staff and students and providing them space and agency to voice opinions that question the privilege of their peers. To decolonise means to have difficult discussions about race, class, gender, and privilege. It is to disrupt the accepted status quo and rupture the “comfortable ignorance” of those immune to the ramifications of race.
Shannon Morreira, & Kathy Luckett for African Skies and Anamika Misra continue the debates on how 'decolonization' can be applied in academia.

Less than 5% of papers on the use of research in health policymaking tested interventions to see what worked. But those studies reveal a number of strategies for improvement
The first thing to note is that, although we identified over 300 papers on the use of research in health policymaking, the vast majority of these were descriptive. Very few – in fact just 14 of 304 articles – actually concerned testing interventions to see whether they worked. There is a serious discrepancy, therefore, between surging interest in this area and the small number of studies actually testing strategies.
The 14 articles we did find (reporting on 13 intervention strategies) tended to be methodologically weak. Only one study used an experimental design, while one other used a pre/post-test design. The others used a range of approaches and were characterised by an absence of control groups, small sample sizes, and self-report data. Most measured outcomes related to factors that influence research use rather than actual research use.
Danielle Campbell & Gabriel Moore for LSE Impact Blog on how research, policy and journal articles often operate in very different spheres.


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