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Hi all,

We are half-way through our MA thesis presentation seminar and my head is spinning (in a good way!) from all the great work our students have been doing, pushing the boundaries of 'communication for development'. Great work featuring Cambodia, Ethiopia, Spain, Senegal, Thailand, India, Palestine, digital health, immigration discourses and child marriage! Very proud teacher day(s)!


My quotes of the week:

Sometimes, don’t apply for a grant that might be a better fit for an organization led by and serving people of color. Be aware of how you may be perpetuating things like Trickle-Down Community Engagement (TDCE), where your org gets significant funds which you then trickle down a small amount to small grassroots organizations. Don’t be a gatekeeper. And don’t ask us to do stuff for free.
(Vu Le in
Why more and more executive directors of color are leaving their positions, and what we need to do about it)
One individual was refused because they said ‘on the balance of probabilities we don’t believe you are a researcher’. This is deeply insulting.
“Across the board I think this adds up to evidence of institutional racism in the Home Office. It’s so arbitrary.  (Melissa Leach in
‘Prejudiced’ Home Office refusing visas to African researchers)
New from aidnography
6 points to consider before applying to an MA program in international development

I would like to take this opportunity and zoom out a bit for some general reflections on MA programs and what they can and very often cannot deliver.
Keine weißen Retter
Tobias Denskus, der an der Universität von Malmö in Schweden Entwicklungs-Kommunikation unterrichtet. Denn transportiert würden stets die gleichen Stereotype.
„Bei Frauen sehr oft, die halten dann Kinder in den Armen und sprechen mit den Müttern, bei Männern hat man dann oft eher dieses Bild vom Fußballspielen auf dem staubigen Dorfplatz, und da ist die Kritik sicherlich am größten, zu sagen: Diese Art von Kommunikation, die kann man heutzutage auch anders gestalten. In eigentlich allen afrikanischen Ländern wächst die Kulturindustrie rasant; es gibt also auch eine somalische Hiphop-Truppe oder eine nigerianische Geschäftsfrau, die absolut fähig, authentisch und detailliert über Situationen vor Ort berichten können, ohne dass man eben da diese weiße Person aus dem globalen Norden einfliegen muss.“
I play a small part of a great radio feature on 'white saviors' that Germany's public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk just aired.

Development news
‘Prejudiced’ Home Office refusing visas to African researchers

“The UK has just committed to investing heavily in the Ebola outbreak in DRC [the Democratic Republic of the Congo]. Here at IDS we are leading a major collaborative research programme to look at efforts to avoid big pandemics.
“At our inception meeting in April all six of the Africa researchers were either refused a visa or it arrived too late. One individual was refused because they said ‘on the balance of probabilities we don’t believe you are a researcher’. This is deeply insulting.
“Across the board I think this adds up to evidence of institutional racism in the Home Office. It’s so arbitrary. Our colleagues here at Sussex and at other institutions now routinely meet in other countries, Dubai for example.”
Harriet Grant for the Guardian with yet another example of the growing problem of visa refusals for Southern researchers and academics. Fewer meetings in the UK and hopefully fewer mega-conferences in the US should send a clear message to our disciplines and funders that this is really damaging what's left of global reputations.

Oxfam 'mismanaged' sexual abuse claims in wake of Haiti earthquake, Charity Commission concludes

An exhaustive 18-month inquiry by the Charity Commission has concluded that Oxfam was more interested in its reputation than dealing frankly and openly with the issue some of its workers engaged in “sex parties” with prostitutes on the Caribbean island in 2011.
While stopping short of accusing the charity of a cover-up, the commission says Oxfam did not investigate properly other reports of serious abuse or report openly to the charity commission, government departments or the Disasters Emergency Committee.
The commission has also warned Oxfam has not done enough to ensure the safeguarding of its army of charity workers and gave it 30 days to submit an action plan to show improvement.
Penny Marshall for ITV. This has been and will be widely discussed across the sector, of course, but I think that ITV creates a good foundation for and summary of key issues for further debates. In 2018, almost exactly a year ago, I wrapped up my initial collection of material about the unfolding scandal in Haiti:
Oxfam, Haiti & the aid industry's #MeToo moment-a curated bibliography

Comic Relief to cut back on celebrity appeals after Stacey Dooley row
Comic Relief is to send fewer celebrities abroad after criticism that stars like Stacey Dooley were going to Africa as "white saviours".
The charity's co-founder, screenwriter Richard Curtis, told MPs TV appeals "will be heading in the direction of not using" celebrities abroad.
He said they would be "very careful to give voices to people" who live there.
MP David Lammy, who had criticised the Dooley film, praised the plan to move away from "tired, harmful stereotypes".
Earlier this year, Comic Relief and Dooley - a documentary-maker and Strictly Come Dancing winner - were criticised after she travelled to Uganda to make an appeal film about the charity's work in the country.
BBC News with the other big aid industry story this week. Maybe my White saviour communication rituals in 10 easy steps will become obsolete at some point...

Why A $790 Balenciaga Hoodie Has A World Food Programme Logo

"Do not get sucked into the marketing that this choice makes you a hero," Richey told AidEx, an organization that supports humanitarian workers, in an online interview in May.
"This goes to the core of the debate on what the whole development industry is about," says Savina Tessitore, who has worked at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. and gone on humanitarian missions to Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan and Thailand. "Whether it's changing the structural conditions of poverty and vulnerability or giving crumbs that fall off the table to the poor and hungry."
"Who can buy [$850] fanny packs?" Tessitore asks. "Very rich people who are such because so many more are very poor, some to the extent that they cannot survive without some form of foreign aid. It's downright obscene."
Others in the aid community share her perspective. "What is gained by co-opting your logo to clientele that, if able to afford a $800 hoodie, should frankly be doing a hell of a lot more [for charity]?" says Patrick McGrann, who has been employed by various aid organizations and U.N. agencies over a span of 15 years. He is currently working on a Ph.D. on humanitarian aid at the University of London. "[It's] a pretty lame way to broaden partnerships."
Malaka Gharib for NPR Goats & Soda with a very balanced and detailed piece on UN-corporate 'partnerships' for fundraising. Yes, the UN system should be funded adequately to avoid such campaigns, but there is also a fairly think layer of corporate BS packed around such collaborations.

The women of Ukraine’s festering war
“There’s nothing to do at night,” Natasha complains of her village, Nikolaevka, which is on the government-controlled side of the line but within firing range of the forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Growing up, she had hoped to be a model. But she’s unemployed and has to raise her two children alone.
“There are no opportunities here,” she says. “In the night we sit quietly like mice in our houses. There’s nowhere to go.”
In the day, Natasha and other women gather in Nikolaevka’s community hall to chat. Even indoors, they’re wrapped up in coats, hand-knitted hats and scarves.
The village suffers from little heating because the fighting limits access to coal and firewood, inhabitants say, and gas lines that should provide heating are damaged by the shelling and badly driven military vehicles.
Ian McNaught Davies with a photo feature for the New Humanitarian from one of Europe's conflict front lines.

Taming the Wild West of Digital Health Innovation

If a product requires a high level of digital literacy, it might be inaccessible to people who already lack access to education or health care; as a result, adopting it would exacerbate and entrench inequalities. To optimize the design, reach, and effectiveness of digital-health programs, user capabilities and technology requirements must be aligned. Welcoming innovation includes humility about the limits of technology and the pressing need to strengthen health systems to ensure that they serve all members of society. Then there is the question of who is designing and delivering health innovations – and who is accountable for them. In the past, innovation entailed collaborations between governments, donors, NGOs, and research organizations. In the digital age, new actors – such as mobile network operators and technology companies – have joined this process, each with its own language, agenda, and incentives. Without mediation, this can lead to distorted power dynamics, with some initiatives becoming “too big to fail” and governments struggling to exercise oversight.
Asha George, Amnesty LeFevre & Rajani Ved for Project Syndicate list some challenges that go beyond digital health issues and affect all of the ICT4D discourse. I'm just a bit worried that we are already in a state of global 'Wild West' in many digital areas...

How to truly decolonise the study of Africa
But the problem with this 21st-century "scholarly decolonial turn" is that it remains largely detached from the day-to-day dilemmas of people in formerly colonised spaces and places. Many academics mistakenly maintain that by screaming "decolonise X" or "decolonise Y" ad nauseam, they will miraculously metamorphose into progressive agents of change.
Robtel Neajai Pailey for Al-Jazeera with great reflections on how to move beyond a simple 'decolonization' rhetoric.

Pan-African aspirations by neoliberal means

Yet it remains to be seen how beneficial AfCFTA will be to African nations and peoples, taking into account its limitations. Without a minimum of redistribution among African states, as well as heavy investments in industrial and transport infrastructure, purely trade integration attempts may only marginalize the least competitive African States and regions. More importantly, it remains to be seen how this free-trade area will serve to foster the Pan-African ambition of a continental bloc that will no longer have to import from the Global North.
Andres D. Medellin for Africa is a Country with a longer essay on African free-trade ambitions in a neoliberal global world...

You can train an AI to fake UN speeches in just 13 hours
In a new paper, they used only open-source tools and data to show how quickly they could get a fake UN speech generator up and running. They used a readily available language model that had been trained on text from Wikipedia and fine-tuned it on all the speeches given by political leaders at the UN General Assembly from 1970 to 2015. Thirteen hours and $7.80 later (spent on cloud computing resources), their model was spitting out realistic speeches on a wide variety of sensitive and high-stakes topics from nuclear disarmament to refugees.
MIT Technology Review with an interesting new research paper...many UN organization are paying a small stipend to interns these days, but it still seems cheaper to train them than an algorithm that probably wouldn't work with the UN's outdated IT infrastructure ;)!

In ‘Winner Takes All’, Anand Giridharadas takes down philanthropy’s ‘MarketWorld’: Book Review

But Giridharadas is not so nuanced when he is alone on the page, when he seems to take a cruder, polemical line: the individuals may be honourable but the enterprise stinks; this is all about self preservation; what is needed is a much greater role for the state. He portrays MarketWorld as a monolith, showing no interest in teasing it apart to see if its various manifestations (social enterprises, impact investors, social impact bonds, management consultants) have different strengths and weaknesses. Nor does he ever discuss where the boundaries between state and market should lie. He seems torn between conspiracy theories (they are only doing this to save their skins) and a more nuanced understanding of ‘paradigm maintenance.’
Duncan Green for From Poverty to Power with his #globaldev review of Giridharadas much discussed book.

Why more and more executive directors of color are leaving their positions, and what we need to do about it

You can be amazing allies to leaders of color, which will prevent us from leaving our positions. Get trained and regularly refreshed on implicit bias, white fragility, etc. Support your ED colleagues of color by sending potential grants and donors their way. Sometimes, don’t apply for a grant that might be a better fit for an organization led by and serving people of color. Be aware of how you may be perpetuating things like Trickle-Down Community Engagement (TDCE), where your org gets significant funds which you then trickle down a small amount to small grassroots organizations. Don’t be a gatekeeper. And don’t ask us to do stuff for free. Here are other suggestions for being a good partner.
This was the longest post ever, sorry y’all. Being an ED is a rewarding and magical job. And it is stressful AF. And being an ED of color is even more so. And thus many of us are leaving our jobs, and this is something the entire sector needs to worry about, especially funders, because the way we fund organizations and leaders of color directly affects how long they stay at their jobs, which affects how effective we are at addressing systemic injustice. This is a critical issue. We need to treat it as such.
Vu Le for Nonprofit AF says good-bye with long, powerful post to his non-profit executive director post.

Our digital lives
This Picture Featuring 15 Tech Men And 2 Women Looked Doctored. The Women Were Photoshopped In.

Last week, men’s lifestyle magazine GQ published this photo of Silicon Valley executives including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston from their pilgrimage to a small village in Italy to visit Brunello Cucinelli, a luxury designer famous for his $1,000 sweatpants.
But if you think something looks a little off in this photo, you’re right: A BuzzFeed News “investigation” reveals that two women CEOs, Lynn Jurich and Ruzwana Bashir, were photoshopped into what was originally a photo featuring 15 men.
Ryan Mac for Buzzfeed News. An important moment when the 'diversity' smokescreen of the tech industry is lifted for a moment and reveals a bunch of dudes on expensive trips to Italy...

N.I.H. Head Calls for End to All-Male Panels of Scientists

“I want to send a clear message of concern: It is time to end the tradition in science of all-male speaking panels,” Dr. Collins wrote.
“Starting now,” he added, “when I consider speaking invitations, I will expect a level playing field, where scientists of all backgrounds are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities. If that attention to inclusiveness is not evident in the agenda, I will decline to take part. I challenge other scientific leaders across the biomedical enterprise to do the same.”
His announcement was applauded by scientists who have long urged speaker diversity at conferences.
Pam Belluck for the New York Times makes this article from June 2019 sound as if NIH (or more precisely: A powerful older white man who has been in charge for a while)
just found the Holy piece in the Guardian from December 2016:
It's the 21st century ... how is the #allmalepanel still even possible?

Against the Great Man Theory of Historians

Just as Caro’s implicit theory of political power seems to belong to a mid-century world, the picture he paints of his own immersion in his work as simply a facet of his tenacious character also seems to belong to an earlier moment. Even if Caro feels that he had no choice but to keep researching and writing as though time were no consideration, the fact is that other people facilitated all of this — his publisher, his agent, his journalistic relationships.
Most of all, his work has been made possible by his wife Ina (a writer in her own right), who Caro describes as the “only” assistant he has ever trusted or tolerated. Her research contributions have been oft noted in profiles of her husband, but one anecdote that stands out here is the description of how she sold their Long Island home and moved them to the Bronx — without even telling her husband she was doing so, presumably to avoid causing him stress. And then there is the mention of how, once the rest of the money for The Power Broker came in, Ina commented that she was finally able to go back to the dry cleaner and the butcher. This was news to Caro, who apparently had not been thinking much about laundry or dinner (let alone the daily care of their young son).
Kim Phillips-Fein for Jacobin reviews Robert Caro's memoir. This fits in well with the 'all-male panel' discussion as patriarchy and power work in many different ways in academia.

Refusal as Care

At the community meeting the elder did a specific thing: in her affirmation of herself, she was also pointing out my preference as an outsider. Yes, I was invited. But I was invited by someone who was in a position of authority who made a decision to include me in the space with little or no input from others. When I arrived at this meeting, there was little at stake for me. I very much wanted the attendees to see the value in the project. I wanted people to want to talk to me. But at that point, I had not thought through how I might be disrupting a shared space, perhaps a sacred space, for those living in the same neighborhood—one in which anti-Black policing, continued disinvestment, and food apartheid were everyday realities—whose risks and rewards were the very reasons they gathered that evening. On the telephone the elder did another specific thing: she let it be known that just because the president invited me into that shared space didn’t mean that invitation extended to her private space. Her invitation to call her was an invitation to be checked: my authorized presence and stamp of approval stopped at her doorstep.
Ashanté Reese for Anthropology News shares some important reflections on 'refusal'-a topic that is becoming more important as ethnography (and anthropological field work) becomes more intrusive (?) - or curious to find and research new, formerly private or otherwise closed spaces

Opting out of league tables is, of course, a type of prestige game

In other words, what I am asking is: why do those who could also opt out without penalty not do so? Certainly those in the middle of the rankings cannot leave in the same way that Oxbridge could. So what is the benefit to Oxbridge of staying? My suspicion is that the very culture of competitiveness might be what such institutions wish to preserve, even if that wish is subconscious.
Martin Paul Eve on how Birkbeck College's decision to leave the UK league table ranking can also be used for marketing and elite signalling...


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