Links & Contents I Liked 306
|Christmas Tree in Milan, Italy
I'm leaving some great readings here for the holidays.
Aidnography will take a short break and I'll be back with my #globaldev review of 2018 at the beginning of January!
New from aidnography
Don’t let agencies and influencers ru(i)n your development communication!
A “quick fix” is not to work with “influencers” that have no sustainable connection to aid work, NGO campaigning & meaningful global engagement.Development news
I can’t see any benefit coming from these engagements and generating a few tweets, Insta posts and signatures to an online petition are some kind of development communication plastic engagement that will only pollute an ocean of mediatized engagement and get an innocent sea turtle entangled in your web of single-use campaign fast food waste.
I would also urge organizations to be more careful, perhaps even conservative in their approaches of working with agencies.
At the end of the day development communication is neither a new product nor are some of the topics suitable for viral outrage. At the end of the day communicating solidarity, complex global problems, local approaches to address them and positive multi-cultural messages is difficult in an age where Northern charity brands are struggling to (re)define their roles while their money is still needed in humanitarian crises and shrinking civil society spaces in many countries.
Ravaged by Ebola and war, Congo named most neglected crisis of 2018
"Given its scale, it's incredible how neglected the situation in Venezuela is," said CARE humanitarian expert Tom Newby. "The world needs to wake up to this crisis."Emma Batha for Thomson Reuters Foundation with some insights into what large humanitarian organizations saw as crises that deserve more attention.
Afghanistan was ranked the most neglected crisis by Islamic Relief Worldwide, and South Sudan by Save the Children. The UNHCR named Burundi while mixed migration was highlighted by the Danish Refugee Council.
Swahili Speakers Debate Disney's Trademark of 'Hakuna Matata' For T-Shirts
"We have used [hakuna matata] as our Kenyan slogan since l was born almost 5 decades ago ... Disney, no way you are getting this one. You borrowed it during Lion King, now you think you can keep it? ... Create your own original stuff," wrote Florence Maina, a signer on the petition page.Malaka Gharib for NPR Goats & Soda on the interesting case of Disney trademarking an iconic Swahili phrase.
Why are we so afraid of gender-based analysis?
Using a GBA+ lens involves asking deliberate questions about not only gender but also diversity impacts and outcomes, focusing on who receives most of the benefits and who bears more of the costs in policy planning and decision-making, including decisions about resource development. In this case, it also involves making sure that environmental impact assessment processes seek out and listen to the voices of Indigenous women and other community members whose experiences have historically been overlooked.Susan Manning, Jane Stinson & Leah Levac for Policy Options introduce a new report on the value and scope of gender-based analysis beyond 'women'.
Culturally relevant gender-based analysis recognizes the diversity among members of communities. It is an important analytical tool that can help to identify gendered impacts and aid in the development of plans to mitigate the worse impacts on women, to ensure that all members of our communities (Indigenous and non-Indigenous, women and men) can share in the benefits of resource extraction and to make it less likely that more marginalized members of communities, including women and girls and people with disabilities, will face more negative impacts than positive ones.
How Britain stole $45 trillion from India
Yet during the entire 200-year history of British rule in India, there was almost no increase in per capita income. In fact, during the last half of the 19th century - the heyday of British intervention - income in India collapsed by half. The average life expectancy of Indians dropped by a fifth from 1870 to 1920. Tens of millions died needlessly of policy-induced famine.Jason Hickel for Al-Jazeera with a end-of-the-year reminder about remaining decolonization challenges
Britain didn't develop India. Quite the contrary - as Patnaik's work makes clear - India developed Britain.
What does this require of Britain today? An apology? Absolutely. Reparations? Perhaps - although there is not enough money in all of Britain to cover the sums that Patnaik identifies. In the meantime, we can start by setting the story straight. We need to recognise that Britain retained control of India not out of benevolence but for the sake of plunder and that Britain's industrial rise didn't emerge sui generis from the steam engine and strong institutions, as our schoolbooks would have it, but depended on violent theft from other lands and other peoples.
Massive farmers’ march highlights India’s stark inequality
The question remains, though: will any of this really change the future of India's farmers?Rezwan for Global Voices with an update on the difficulties farmers in India face.
How the global trade in tear gas is booming
Non-lethal weapons are a multibillion-dollar-a-year business and the industry seems to be growing. The industry could be worth more than $9bn by 2022, according to Allied Market Research, a company that does industry forecasting. CSI supplies not only Egypt, but also Israel, Bahrain and US police departments, like the one in Ferguson, Missouri.Jen Kinney for PRI's The World/BBC. Even though this is technically not a 'development' story it is an interesting insight into a product that is increasingly against protestors and civil unrest all around the globe.
Companies don't broadcast their profits, but at the trade conferences that Feigenbaum attended, they projected growth
"The claim by the industry is that this industry is growing, that during 2011 where we had mass global protest, that sales in tear gas actually tripled, that we're continuing to see market growth particularly in East Africa, in the Indian subcontinent - so, in places where there's ongoing conflict, and where there's less international and national regulation, that we've got growing markets," Feigenbaum said.
The dangers of NGO-isation of women's rights in Africa
Thus, many groups without a drop of activist spirit in their blood, whose stance completely contradicts the ideological needs and the essence of feminism and women's rights, are promoted haphazardly because they comply with the regimented terms of engagement (the rules of the game).Hala Al-Karib for Al-Jazeera with a great essay on depolitization of civil society and NGO-isation beyond women's rights organizations.
On the other hand, activists who struggle to own the agenda have to stay under the radar and are often stigmatised as being "too political".
Moreover, most of the current modalities of Northern support to the South are heavily merchandised. Work on social change and gender equality is gradually being turned into a commodity under the claim of addressing corruption and taking control of resources and spending. In the past 20 years, USAID and the UK government have channelled the majority of their resources to developing countries through private companies.
These types of sub-contracting companies who act solely based on financial calculations were put in control to engage on extremely complex issues, including peace and reconciliation, sexual violence, anti-terror and others. These entities lack not only expertise and knowledge but also the genuine interest and empathy that would qualify them for a role within local civil society.
The tyranny of good intentions
The architects of this effort had every degree, pedigree, and piece of resume candy on offer in the Western world. But while they may have outclassed Meyler on credentials, what they shared in common with her were good intentions. Like Meyler, most of those in charge of aid efforts believed they were improving the lives of long-suffering Liberians. But good intentions are tricky. They can absolve us of the responsibility to engage in critical self-examination and provide cover for us to downplay or brush off our failures. And more importantly, they often serve to mask the ideology that underlies our efforts to “help,” blinding us to how conditioned those efforts are by our view of who we are and whether our solutions are, in fact, the right ones…Ashoka Mukpo for Africa Is A Country on white saviors, More Than Me and the complexities of doing good.
Debiasing: a systematic discipline and delight for development professionals
We need a systematic, timely and cost-effective approach offsetting the biases and for finding and exploring the seas between the islands. Here is what, again and again, I have found works astonishingly well, and far better than one might suppose.Robert Chambers for IDS with timeless advice on how to (un)learn navigating 'the field'!
Ring fence a day. Take a day’s leave if necessary. Do not have any government or NGO person with you – just a driver, perhaps a colleague, and (in my case usually) an interpreter.
Hire an unmarked vehicle.
Drive out from your urban centre in any direction for 15-20km.
Turn off left or right and drive for 5-10km.
Turn left or right again and stop anywhere, perhaps a poor or typical village or other settlement.
Wander around on foot, meet people, explain who you are and your interests, notice and ask about things, be friendly and interested, ask what people would like to show you, seek out those we might not meet – women, children disabled, low status, living on the fringes, key informants like teachers, local representatives, masons, health workers and so on.
Tea shops can be brilliant. Go to a tea shop and chat. A male bias can be expected, but discussions can be immediately frank and revealing. You can carry out quick order-of-magnitude surveys based on people’s knowledge of different villages and other questions.
Follow up on offers to show you things, or take you to see people or things.
Go to several contrasting places during the day.
I Spoke Out About My Private Trauma. My Community Didn’t Want To Listen.
Their attacks felt reminiscent of the verbal and emotional assault many women experience when they share stories of sexual harassment or rape but aren’t believed, only blamed. Instead of receiving empathy and support for speaking up and, trying to prevent future harm, we were punished. Constant denial of your harm can cause you to doubt yourself. At times, I wondered whether the emotional toll was worth my advocating to prevent others from being harmed.Mariya Taher for Bright Magazine on her advocacy journey against FGM and the complexities that often hide behind terms like 'behavior change'.
Tomorrow and Beyond: How the UN is Shaping the Future of Technology
In 2019, the panel will put forward practical proposals on how to strengthen cooperation in the digital realm across sectors and geographies. As part of putting together this report, they want to hear from digital innovators and interested parties like you.Annie Rosenthal for +SocialGood. I actually put this up for a bit of fun...as you can see from the quote the UN is keen to shape the future of technology by jumping on bandwagons, setting up panels and, wait for it! 'putting forward practical proposals'!
Podcasting in charities: what you need to know
We spent two years developing the concept and researching the idea at CharityComms before publishing an episode, spending as much time a possible talking to podcasters, shadowing podcast recordings and attending events. The length of time doesn’t matter but getting to the heart of whether this is a channel your audience wants to hear this content on, and how podcasting suits the content, is critical.Susheila Juggapah & Robyn Lewes for CharityComms. In case 'starting a podcast' is on your 2019 to-do list this is a good starting point to think about it strategically!
The Everyday Projects: Using Instagram to Challenge Stereotypes About Faraway Countries and Unrepresented Populations
He and DiCampo are trying to take the project further, with an educational focus: they are going to middle schools and high schools in America, using it as a launching point to teach storytelling and how to use photography to tell your own story. They talk to kids about misperceptions, using Everyday Africa and the other Everyday feeds to help them discuss the stereotypes they’re burdened with and to help them tell their own local story.Caroline Are talks to Austin Merrill for the Humanitarian News Research Network and presents a positive case study of how Instagram can contribute to development communication.
Our digital lives
Algorithmic Accountability: A Primer
Algorithmic Accountability: A Primer explores issues of algorithmic accountability, or the process of assigning responsibility for harm when algorithmic decision-making results in discriminatory and inequitable outcomes.Robyn Caplan, Joan Donovan, Lauren Hanson & Jeanna Matthews for Data & Society with a great intro to the power of algorithms.
This brief explores the trade-offs between and debates about algorithms and accountability across several key ethical dimensions, including:
Fairness and bias;
Opacity and transparency;
The repurposing of data and algorithms;
Lack of standards for auditing;
Power and control; and
Trust and expertise.
The Humanitarian Metadata Problem - Doing No Harm in the Digital Era
This joint report by Privacy International and the International Committee of the Red Cross aims to provide people who work in the humanitarian sphere with the knowledge they need to understand the risks involved in the use of certain new technologies. It also discusses the “do no harm” principle and how it applies in a digital environment.Privacy International with a new report.
The past and future of Journal of African Cultural Studies
Since its inception, the journal has undergone a number of name changes and has been published by a range of publishers. Its publication histories, and the formats and platforms through which it has been published, usefully track the shifts in institutional histories and the trends in teaching and researching African Languages and Cultures at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), from where a journal focusing on African Languages and Cultures has been edited (with some interruptions), since 1960.Carli Coetzee & Stephanie Kitchen with an open access editorial for the Journal of African Cultural Studies that offers fascinating insights into academic publishing over many decades of the 20th century.
Conference attendance boosts authorship opportunities
Campos says that the results might seem intuitive, given that researchers attend conferences in part to seek collaboration. But, she says, the study quantifies what many academic researchers already believe to be true. Furthermore, it gives weight to the idea that even though scientists have many ways of meeting virtually and beginning professional relationships, in-person meetings trounce online ones. “Even in this connected world, personal communication — face-to-face interactions — still matter, to foster collaboration and launch productive scientific partnerships,” Campos says.Paul Smaglik for Nature. As a self-proclaimed skeptic of (large) conferences I think this is a fascinating paper. No mentioning of conference papers, for example, so mere attendance seems to trump the slog of presenting a paper-that's huge. At this stage, there is comparison to smaller events-so what is the size of conferences that are most 'useful' for future collaboration? The mega-conferences of the disciplinary associations or a much more selective event with 87 colleagues, many perhaps from places with closer geographic proximity? So I'm careful with generalizations of how useful conferences really are...
Thought Leaders or Self-Replicating Media Nodes: the perils and possibilities of using social media as an academic
Social media can be enticing for scholars because of what the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu described as their “excessive confidence in the powers of language”. It is easy to get sucked into social media in the belief that continuing to talk will improve the conversation. For instance, in an usual article the physicist Philip Moriarty vividly describes the grim realisation that half a million words of comment and response he’d produced as one of the most enthusiastic digital engagers I’ve met in academia produced nothing of lasting value for himself or for others. It can be remarkably easy to get sucked in, consuming vast amounts of time and energy while exposing yourself to the risk of abuse and harassment. To point this out isn’t a case against engagement, as much as a reminder that there are no intrinsic limits to how much time you can spend on this.Mark Carrigan with excellent reflections on what it means to be a digital scholar / scholar in the digital age.
Read More Work By Stephen Ellis
A quick look at this list of Stephen Ellis’ publications shows the breadth of his research: from South Africa to West Africa, from the history of Madagascar to the role of religion in Africa, and from aspects of Nelson Mandela’s past to crime in Nigeria, to name just a few. Stephen Ellis was a fascinating man and a first-class researcher. I hope that this bibliography makes all his works even more accessible to readers.Democracy in Africa introduces the Stephen Ellis bibliography. 'This present darkness' was one of my favorite books in 2016.