Links & Contents I Liked 311

Hi all,

This week's review is a bit shorter-but I'm really pleased that it's packed with great content written by women & featuring women plus a lot of food for thought on 'surveillance capitalism' large & small...

Development news:
WFP teams up with Palantir, welcomes 'mature debate' on data; Gucci & blackface; UK's successful aid; time for a change at the World Bank; women humanitarians in Fiji; curvy women in Uganda; Amnesty's martyrdom culture; the only black woman at the philanthropy dinner table.

Our digital lives: Fighting billionaires; surveillance capitalism essay; the strange case of book covers in the digital age.

Academia: Are you listening to the right music to be productive?


New from aidnography
How Development Projects Persist (book review)

But Beck’s book is also an important reminder how traditional and ‘innovative’ manifestations of capitalism are constantly expanding, looking for new places, subjects and capillary systems such as ‘microfinance’ to spread a message that ‘there is no alternative’ to Western understandings of progress.
I doubt that many organisations in the development industry would disagree with the findings. Is this not a success story that in the end women are created as neoliberal-capitalist agents – no matter how these agents try to play ‘development’ along the way? After well over two decades, development anthropology has no longer the standing to ‘expose’ hidden aspects of local power struggles, individual agency and development processes that tweak, ignore or ‘remix’ the development tool box.
Beck’s book confidently confirms a space for development anthropology in the discipline, but her comparative ethnography also raises important questions of where a more radical locus of ethnographic storytelling resides these days.
Development news
New UN deal with data mining firm Palantir raises protection concerns

The California-based contractor, best known for its work in intelligence and immigration enforcement, will provide software and expertise to the UN’s food relief agency over five years to help WFP pool its enormous amounts of data and find cost-saving efficiencies.
Ben Parker for IRIN with this week's biggest digital #globaldev story!

A statement on the WFP-Palantir partnership

WFP welcomes a mature debate on responsible use of data in the humanitarian sector founded on facts and not on speculations. We wholeheartedly hope that the conversation on this subject continues and we pledge to be a central part of it.
Recognizing the domain of data management is an evolving and critical field and affects all of us, WFP looks forward to working with humanitarian data stakeholders to review models for responsible management of data and collaboration with private sector partners at the level of the humanitarian ecosystem.
WFP's Enrica Porcari responds with an excellent example of UN bureaucratic buzzword bingo! In purest managerial language WFP makes clear that they will not listen to critics or change course-or as the PR consultant phrased it at the seminar "tell them that you 'welcome a mature debate'"!

Gucci withdraws jumper after 'blackface' backlash

Luxury fashion brand Gucci has withdrawn a woollen jumper from sale after the item was criticised for "resembling blackface."
The black "balaclava jumper" covered the lower half of the face and featured a red cut-out around the mouth.
The item prompted a backlash on social media by users who claimed the design was offensive.
BBC News with another luxury fashion disaster. It says a lot about organizational culture, value & production chains that this crap actually makes it into production rather than someone shooting it down in the first internal meeting...but I don't trust any global brand that claims that it is "learning"...

Billions of UK aid failing to reduce poverty, report finds

Greenhill said: “The lion’s share of UK aid is poverty-focused, effective and transparent – it’s real aid that we can be proud of. But some parts of government don’t adhere to these principles – in short, they’re not delivering ‘real aid’.
Larry Elliott for the Guardian with a Daily Mail-style headline that hides the essence of the report well: Leave #globaldev to the professionals because they are doing a fairly good job with the money & don't let other parts of the government fiddle with aid money!

Time, Gentlemen, Please

It is time for an open, fair, merit-based process to appoint the next President of the World Bank. And I’ll explain below why I think the Europeans may, at last, break the cartel that has prevented this.
There is time to nominate an alternative to David Malpass. Excellent candidates might include Nancy Birdsall, JosĂ© Antonio Ocampo (again), Suma Chakrabarti, Kristalina Georgieva, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (again), Maria Ramos, Minouche Shafik, and Tidjane Thiam. Let the candidates—including David Malpass—make their case, and see if the world can coalesce around the best person. It is time to call time on the Gentleman’s Agreement.
Owen Barder for the Center for Global Development with a reminder that the post-WWII global governance system is outdated, but that shifting one building block aka Gentlemen's agreement may collapse the whole infrastructure...

Underfunded appeals: Understanding the consequences, improving the system

Despite major increases in humanitarian assistance, appeals requirements are out-pacing funding. By the end of 2018 there was a record US$10.9 billion shortfall. But though we are familiar with the scale of underfunding, we know much less about its impacts.
Research into the appeals for Chad, Haiti and Somalia suggested that underfunding undermines the localisation, presence and effectiveness of response. For affected people, as well as having immediate effects, shortfalls can erode resilience, protection and security. However, these impacts are not systematically reported – the evidence is patchy, illustrative and ad hoc.
Sophia Swithern for Development Alternatives presents a new report by the Swedish Expert Group for Aid Studies.

Fiji’s unheralded frontline disaster responders: women

The programme is tapping into an often-overlooked resource for disaster preparedness and response: women. In rural Fiji, women run the households and make sacrifices to protect their communities – often in ways that men don’t grasp.
Consecutive years of drought and storms have shrunk crop yields and income for farming families. When food stocks run low, Maitoga said she skips meals so that her children and husband can eat. When there’s no rain and the government’s emergency water trucks don’t show up, she treks two kilometres to a shallow river to fill a bucket. Gounder said women routinely share what food they have and cook communally so that families don’t go without.
“Men don’t ask the neighbours. If they have money, they can go and buy food,” she said. “But the women, we talk to each other. That’s why women are the first responders. We do everything first.”
Many of the women now take the preparedness lessons they’ve learned in the programme and spread them within their own communities. Gounder, for example, said she meets with some of the women from the 465 homes in villages near her own home.
Irwin Loy for IRIN with a great story from Fiji that deserves more attention among all the billionaire talk and data nonsense ;)!

Using curvy women as tourist attractions is 'absurd'

Uganda's tourism minister has suggested showcasing curvy women in order to attract more visitors. Godfrey Kiwanda made the comments at the launch of a new pageant, Miss Curvy Uganda, in the capital Kampala.
It has sparked a heated conversation online. Angela is Ugandan and thinks the idea 'embarrasses' her country.
BBC World Service. Angela is right!

The Tragic Irony of NGO Martyrdom Culture

The AI Staff Wellbeing Review, published last week illustrates that the largest and most well known human rights NGO has a deeply entrenched, almost insurmountable martyrdom culture.
The review finds that a shocking 64% of staff either “strongly disagreed” or “disagreed” with the statement that “my wellbeing is a priority for Amnesty International leaders”. And 10% said they “did not know”?!
That’s a whopping 74% of staff working for an organisation that has a raison d’ĂȘtre to protect human dignity that either disagree, or do not know if their managers care about their their wellbeing.
That’s tragic irony. It is shameful and it is terribly sad. The result – to use the language of AI’s own reports – is “broken promises, human beings and shattered lives”.
Liz Griffin on Amnesty's staff wellbeing report (full document available from their website).

The new Aftershock (by Bobby West and veteran game designer Alan R. Moon) is an earthquake-themed Eurogame. You actually cause earthquakes in this game.
The original AFTERSHOCK is a serious (but enjoyable!) game designed to teach about humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. It has been used for training humanitarian aid workers, medical students, UN peacekeepers, and military personnel. We have run games for the US State Department, USAID, the Department of National Defence, the UK Ministry of Defence, and others, and it was a featured game at the Military Operations Research Society’s wargaming conference and the recent Serious Games Forum in Paris. The original AFTERSHOCK is also a non-profit fundraiser for frontline UN humanitarian agencies who respond to actual earthquakes and other humanitarian emergencies.
Rex Brynen for PAXisms on the strange story of two identically named, yet very different disaster (relief) board games...

The only Black woman at the social justice philanthropy dinner party

For example, many of philanthropic organisations say they want to be multicultural and embrace diversity but then only allow diverse people and cultures to come in if they adapt or conform to already existing institutional cultural norms to become insiders. This is often apparent by the phrases you will hear such as: “will she be a fit for us?” or the following phrases will be heard in the context of the successful black African woman: “she is very eloquent” and “not a troublemaker getting on well with everyone and making lots of friends – integrating into the culture.” For those black African women who enter the social justice workplace and leave shortly thereafter one often hears phrases such as: “she was out of her depth”, “did not know her own limitations”, “she had a chip on her shoulder about race and was too angry/too assertive/too bossy” or “she was just so quiet never contributing and saying anything in meetings” or “she could not take initiative, needed too much hand-holding and couldn’t integrate into the team.” When speaking to black women who leave we will almost always tell you, if you really listen, that we felt like an outsider in a room where no-one had a race or gender analysis but everyone accused us of making everything about race and gender. We will tell you that we were expected to assimilate and not critique and were never made to feel welcome on our own cultural terms or asked our opinion. The most common thing we will tell you, if you will hear us, is that we were left alone, ignored, rendered invisible and not mentored or guided by anyone. Being able to interrogate what success looks like and what standard we set for people is important particularly when we use ‘coded’ and vague language to define success often shrouded in our own implicit bias or institutional racism around the ability of black women to perform. We must identify, debate and name these cultural norms and performance standards within our organisations as a first step to making room for developing a truly diverse, multi-cultural organization where dignity and respect permeates everything we do.
Nicolette Naylor for sur-the International Journal on Human Rights with an open access journal article/long read that I will definitely read carefully over the weekend!

Our digital lives

Fightback against the billionaires: the radicals taking on the global elite

W: We must go out and mobilise and create new norms, and say, for instance, that it’s wrong for people not to have help when they are sick, they should have free healthcare. That idea was alive after the second world war. Everyone all over the world understood and agreed that healthcare should be a right. What I’m hopeful about is there is such anger at the few who are running away with wealth and power, these monopolies, these big tech companies taking our information, not paying their taxes. So much concentration of wealth and injustice by those few at the top. That is going to help us to shift the norm back to what is good for society, a human economy that works for all, a society that cares for all, including those who may not be able to work and earn. We are now a movement building.
Rutger Bregman, Winnie Byanyima & Anand Giridharadas continue the discussion about billionaires that got started at the WEF in the Guardian.

Capitalism’s New Clothes
Key to Zuboff’s latest theory of surveillance capitalism is the notion of “behavioral surplus,” a refinement of the more vulgar term “data exhaust” used by many in the tech industry. It harkens back to the distinction between informating and automating laid out in her first book. Recall that the electronic text, reborn in the latest book as the “shadow text,” has immense value for different, often antagonistic actors. When “advocacy-oriented firms” deploy it to empower customers—as, for instance, Amazon does with book recommendations drawn from the purchases of millions of customers—the electronic text follows the utopian path of informating, feeding into what Zuboff calls the “behavioral reinvestment cycle.” When tech firms use the extracted data for targeting ads and modifying behavior, they create the behavioral surplus—and this key breakthrough creates “surveillance capital.”
Evgeny Morozov takes on Shoshana Zuboff, 'surveillance capitalism' and a few things more in his long-read for the's actually a 66-page document as my office printer told me...

Welcome to the Bold and Blocky Instagram Era of Book Covers

The delight of the in-person experience doesn’t change the reality that most people will continue to buy their books online. But as our physical and digital worlds converge, books — or at least their covers — are finding a way to straddle both. You can have your eye candy and read it, too.
Margot Boyer-Dry for Vulture on the strangely intriguing topic of book covers and communicating them in the age digital age...

Chill Beats to Study/Relax to

It’s a phenomenon born on YouTube, which is just as popular for music discovery as it is for beauty tutorials or long-winded, semi-sincere apology videos. The two most popular lo-fi streams on YouTube have millions of subscribers, with thousands of people tuning in at any given time, and both have “study” in their titles. Usually paired with some serene, calming visuals, the channels—which broadcast morning, noon, and night, the most prominent tended to by a mysterious DJ who doesn’t grant interviews—the act of studying, concentrating on a task, or otherwise working is now inextricably linked to lo-fi. It’s now so associated with productivity that Spotify’s “Lo-Fi Beats” playlist, which recently surpassed 1 million subscribers, describes itself as “beats to relax and focus.”
Jody Amable for JStor Daily with a great reminder why I like to listen to lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to-literally as I compiled the review! 


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