Links & Contents I Liked 345

Hi all,

I was at a great workshop last week, discussing communicating #globaldev research with EADI member organizations in Germany. So I took a short break from my link review and focused on discussing development communication IRL ;)!
But without further delay, another packed blog with reviewing content for the 345th time :) !!

My quotes of the week

Donors tend to spend their funds on short-term, cosmetic interventions, which fail to address the systemic constraints that beset Africa’s media. Just as development organizations can overly focus on capacity building initiatives, donors channel the majority of their efforts into trainings and workshops, believing that African reporters need to hone their journalism skills. But this is often not the case. Most African journalists know what constitutes good reporting; they speak with multiple sources, support claims with primary sources, and provide critical analysis. 
(The mistakes donors make when funding African media)

Partner organization staff gave examples of the everyday interactions with international volunteers and how those interactions influenced or challenged their perspectives on gender issues to move beyond a narrow focus on women in development, including increased understanding of gender inequality in relation to experiences of people who identify as LGBTQ. Opportunities emerge for engaging in critical reflections – and changing attitudes on - socially-defined gender roles.(The Role of International Volunteers in Supporting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Programs)

Development news
Senior Trump official embellished résumé, had face on fake Time cover

Ian Dailey, former chief of staff of Linking the World, defended how the organization has presented itself publicly. Daily said it is a small nongovernmental organization (NGO) that does not run large-scale programs, and instead tests new technologies — including drones — and new approaches to humanitarian relief.
"We are not implementers of programs. We pilot new technologies, testing their practicalities, and seek to identify the 'unintended consequences' that are rife in our industry," Dailey told NBC News.
In a 2017 video posted on her nonprofit's website, Chang can be heard describing her work while a Time magazine cover with her face on it scrolls past.
"Here you are on Time magazine, congratulations! Tell me about this cover and how it came to be?" asks the interviewer, who hosts a YouTube show.
"Well, we started using drone technology in disaster response and so that was when the whole talk of how is technology being used to save lives in disaster response scenarios, I suppose I brought some attention to that," Chang said.
Dan De Luce, Laura Strickler & Ari Sen for NBC News. To be honest, I'm less interested in her engagement with the current administration and more in the #globaldev aspect of embellishing a CV with dodgy humanitarian claims feat drones and working in 40 countries...

MIT Media Lab Scientist Used Syrian Refugees to Tout Food Computers That Didn't Work

But the situation on the ground never matched the fantastic claims that Harper made about the WFP project in public appearances during the spring of 2017 and in briefings for corporate patrons of the Media Lab in the spring and fall of 2017. Harper and a colleague also cited the personal food computer’s successful deployment in the Azraq camp in emails to potential partners and patrons for the Open Agriculture Initiative and for Fenome Inc., a spin-off company that Harper founded in 2016.
Even as Harper took the stage in Georgia, it was clear to those working with the food computer at the World Food Programme (WFP) and at Fenome that the project wasn’t progressing as the team had hoped. Indeed, in September 2017, the WFP project officially ended without any of the machines having completed a single grow cycle, according to the official in charge of the project. The WFP’s personal food computers weren’t even deployed at the Azraq camp, home to some 35,000 Syrian refugees, but rather at a facility run by Jordan’s National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension, in Mafraq, an hour’s drive from Azraq.
Harper did not respond to detailed questions about the WFP project sent to him by IEEE Spectrum for this article.
Harry Goldstein for IEEE Spectrum with another bad news story involving the MIT Media Lab-this time with a direct link to #globaldev issues...

The children labouring in Malawi's fields for British American Tobacco

Now, however, British American Tobacco is facing a watershed legal action on behalf of potentially hundreds of these children and their families. Human rights lawyers Leigh Day argue that the company is getting rich while the children and their parents who do this backbreaking work are trapped in grinding poverty, which they say amounts to “unjust enrichment”.
BAT says it tells farmers not to make their children work. The lawyers say they have no choice. Most children are deprived of an education, which should be a path out, because their families struggle to afford even the small fees, exercise books and uniforms required.
Augustine, the deputy head of the local primary school, is unusually frank. “Most of the farmers are not sending their children to school,” he says.
The attendance register plummets in February and March during harvest time, he says. But in the mornings, after school and at weekends the children are also in the fields.
The peak age of the children working the tobacco crops is between 13 and 17.
“Most of the time they are tired and hungry,” he says. “They don’t do well. They fail exams. It is difficult for them to catch up with their fellow pupils. They repeat classes.”
Sarah Boseley for the Guardian with a struggle as old as the promise of 'development'-unfortunately with very little interest and engagement from the digital community.

Woman who married Maasai tribe warrior after meeting on volunteering trip launches Airbnb-style tourist experience
A German woman who married a Maasai tribe leader after she fell in love with him while volunteering in Tanzania has launched an Airbnb-style tourist enterprise that supports local health initiatives.
Stephanie Fuchs, 33, has set up a "cultural experience" where travellers can participate in ”real” Maasai life by living in huts and rearing cattle.
Part of the proceeds go to initiatives such as making reusable sanitary kits for women in the area and supporting the tribe.
Ellena Cruse for the Evening Standard. The article is a bit more nuanced than the headline suggests, but there is still a fair amount of white saviorism going on that deserves further discussions.

A scramble for safety in flooded South Sudan town

In the village of Gumuruk, a 15-minute helicopter ride from Pibor, an elderly woman, Joung Maze, stood shin-deep in water outside her home explaining that she’d heard stories about intense flooding from her father but never seen it in person.
“Everything and everywhere is covered with water; we cannot access a better place,” she said. “There used to be very good water from the tap… now we have to drink dirty water.”
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir declared a state of national emergency last month, but David Yau Yau, the governor of Pibor, said the national government “has not yet taken any initiative towards this situation”.
Alex McBride for the New Humanitarian with a sad reminder of how the climate crisis is already affecting many vulnerable people across Africa and beyond.

Picturing poverty - listening to women and children in the UK

The People in the Pictures research provides unique qualitative evidence from the perspectives of contributors to justify the need for responsible and inclusive NGO image making, both in the UK and overseas. It demonstrates that adults and children have critical views on representations and image making, and that those must inform both research and practice. Images that are used to represent poverty, must be the result of meaningful dialogue with those they represent or intend to benefit. Research and debates on visual representations of UK poverty should seek to include the experiences and perspectives of those featured or those who belong to the landscapes being pictured.
Siobhan Warrington for UK Poverty with some interesting reflections on depicting (child) poverty in the UK.

Why This American Still Cherishes the UN

Through these tempestuous times, vanden Heuvel began to gravitate more and more toward viewing the UN — the body that had been created by his hero, Franklin Roosevelt — as the best way to resolve global problems. Almost as an epiphany, in 1977, another Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, appointed vanden Heuvel to be the new US envoy to the European office of the UN in Geneva. There he took on the responsibility of serving as the US delegate to the UN Commission on Human Rights, the US representative to GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and liaison to the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization and the International Red Cross, among other agencies. By the end of Carter’s presidency, vanden Heuvel shifted to New York to become the deputy US permanent representative to the UN.
Stephen Schlesinger for PassBlue. Looking forward to reading the book as part of my research on #globaldev memoirs!

ICTs and Precision Development: Towards Personalised Development

ICTs are thus leading us on a precision development track that will lead to personalised development. The promise of this can be seen in the examples above: individualised information on learning level, farm status, or health status that then enables a much more effective development intervention.
I'm not sure I share Richard Heek's enthusiasm about 'precision development', but many initiatives will enter the #globaldev marketplace anyway and need critical engagement.

A look at the Lebanon uprising through its chants

Ever since it erupted on the night of October 17th, the uprising in Lebanon has unleashed a wave of creativity that continues to rock the very foundations of Lebanese politics. Whether to express anger or joy, or somewhere in between, the chants have become a central point of unity. They are often created on the streets, improvised from scratch or adapted from a pre-existing chant or tune from Lebanon or the region.
Joey Ayoub for Shado Mag with an interesting overview over contemporary protest chants in Lebanon.

How colonial rule predisposed Africa to fragile authoritarianism

Of course there is much more to Africa than fragile authoritarianism. And the way in which these legacies played out was not uniform. It was shaped by variations in the colonial power and the different strategies that the Belgian, British, French, and Portuguese deployed.
The decisions of African leaders and the nature of the nationalist movement that fought for independence were also of great importance. For example, in two countries – Botswana and Mauritius – they enabled multiparty democracy to be built and maintained after independence.
But in many ways these exceptions prove the rule. On the whole, colonialism reinforced the authoritarian elements within African societies while undermining the elements of inclusion and accountability that had previously balanced them out. The cumulative impact of these changes made it more difficult for African countries to forge democratic futures.
Nic Cheeseman & Jonathan Fisher for the Conversation with more fresh evidence on the lasting negative impact of colonialism.

The mistakes donors make when funding African media

Underfunded media platforms in Africa are unable to pay their reporters who depend on their sources to pay them for positive coverage. Brown envelope journalism is so deeply entrenched that, in Nigeria for example, most newspapers do not pay their staff. Instead, they expect their journalists to earn a living by soliciting bribes from their sources. Underpaid and crunched for time, local journalists often reprint press releases or report stories citing one source. As a result, stories in the local press become regurgitative, poorly written, unimaginative, and biased, undermining the ambitious aims of journalistic rigor workshops hope to accomplish.
Adewunmi Emoruwa for the Mail & Guardian with a great commentary on #mediadev funding & failed strategies.

Blog 1: The Role of International Volunteers in Supporting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Programs By Rebecca Tiessen

The broadening of understandings of gender equality and feminism(s) as a shared experience. Partner organization staff gave examples of the everyday interactions with international volunteers and how those interactions influenced or challenged their perspectives on gender issues to move beyond a narrow focus on women in development, including increased understanding of gender inequality in relation to experiences of people who identify as LGBTQ. Opportunities emerge for engaging in critical reflections – and changing attitudes on - socially-defined gender roles. For example, women in the rural communities talked about feeling motivated to take on leadership roles when they saw women international volunteers in positions of power and/or interacting at the same level with male colleagues. Other community members and partner organizations considered attitudes towards international volunteers who transgressed gender norms as generally positive and setting an example for shifting the inequitable gender division of labour. Long-term relationship building can result from the transnational flows of international volunteer programs leading to life-long friendships, ongoing capacity building, and shared learning.
Rebecca Tiessen shares first insights from her new research project on the role of international volunteers.

Old Contenders
In that moment I recognized three things: 1) I may be the only U.S. veteran these Iraqi colleagues have considered a friend, 2) the viewpoints of Iraqi citizens – in this case, doctors – is one of many sides of Iraqi society I had no exposure to when I was here as a soldier, and 3) I’m hearing an unfiltered perspective of the war not commonly shared when one is dressed in military uniform. As a human, these inter-cultural exchanges help to expand understanding of other perspectives and erase commonly-held stereotypes. As a veteran, this represented a powerful moment of being able to connect with a people I knew only through the bullet proof window of an M1114 HMMMV.
Adam Tousley for Missing in the Mission shares some interesting reflections on returning to Iraq as a humanitarian worker and veteran of the US military.

150 years of humanitarian reflection

Dating back to 1869, the International Review of the Red Cross is the oldest international publication devoted to humanitarian law and action. Its archives represent a precious primary source on the history of the ICRC and of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, but also on the development of humanitarian law and action at large. To mark the occasion of its 150th anniversary, the journal produced a special edition exploring how the journal reflects the evolution of warfare and humanitarian action over the past century and a half.
The International Review of the Red Cross with a special open access anniversary issue.

Randomization in the tropics revisited:a theme and eleven variations

The RCT is a useful tool, but I think that is a mistake to put method ahead of substance. I have written papers using RCTs. Like other methods of investigation, they are often useful, and, like other methods,they have dangers and drawbacks. Methodological prejudice can only tie our hands. Context is always important, and we must adapt our methods to the problem at hand. It is not true that an RCT, when feasible, will always do better than an observational study. This should not be controversial, but my reading of the rhetoric in the literature suggests that the following statements might still make some uncomfortable, particularly the second: (a) RCTs are affected by the same problems of inference and estimation that economists have faced using other methods, and (b) no RCT can ever legitimately claim to have established causality.
Angus Deaton adds more food for thought to the RCT debate.

Reframing the Present: Mock Aid Videos and the Foreclosure of African Epistemologies

Drawing from Afrofuturist and African theories that demonstrate the importance of reinterpreting the past in order to imagine (im)possible positions and relationships for women of color in the future, I look to reframings of the present in rhetorics of international aid work with Sub-Saharan Africa. I examine six mock aid videos produced by the aid "solidarity" organization SAIH Norway to reveal ways that these videos ask the audience to reconceptualize Western relationships to Sub-Saharan Africa by reframing environments, agencies, and knowledges. I argue that these videos set a foundation for reframing present international aid relations in ways currently considered impossible, yet still do so by foreclosing African epistemologies.
Jenna Hanchey with an interesting new paper for Women & Language.

Disaster risk reduction in conflict contexts

Enabling environment: strategies, projects and understanding vulnerability
•Conditions of conflict are largely treated as an externality to the disaster and DRR context.
•Efforts towards effective DRR in conflict contexts are overly projectised and piecemeal.
•Insufficient attention is being given to understanding the role of fragility, conflict and violence in disaster vulnerabilities.
•Claims that DRR tools and frameworks adequately consider fragility, conflict and violence are not substantiated with evidence. •‘Do no harm’ and conflict sensitivity are currently under-utilised in DRR intervention design, delivery and monitoring processes.
•Collaborations between the DRR community and peacebuilding and conflict prevention specialists are yet to be established.
•Conventional arguments for investing in DRR may not gain traction, with governments typically labelled as fragile or conflict-affected. •No financing mechanisms exist which specifically target financial support to DRR in conflict contexts.
Katie Peters for the ODI with a new report.


Academics hide, play dumb, don't care or over-perform. Everything to oppose the system and administration.

Ese concludes that researchers think the management and university system are unable to do a good enough job handling free and independent research.
“Professors undertake these forms of resistance because they want to do a better job teaching, researching and to adhere even more strongly to academic norms,” says Ese. “Academics believe some aspects of the academic system are destroyed by the managerial systems rather than improved.”
Ese can only describe the problem — he doesn't have a solution.
Georg Mathisen & Nancy Bazilchuk for sciencenorway on a qualitative PhD whose findings probably sound familiar to many academics in many systems...

Interview – Yolande Bouka

I am also excited to see some tangible steps to address the skewed political economy of knowledge production, consumption, and dissemination. From journal editors demanding authors to pay attention to their citation practices and holding them accountable to scholars from underrepresented groups, demanding more space in existing publication outlets and creating and building legitimacy around new ones, there is movement. We still have a long way to go to truly upset the status quo. Women, racialized scholars, and scholars based in non-Western institutions are still facing stubborn barriers despite amazingly innovative and robust scholarships. But, as someone who focuses on issues of politics, gender, and security in Africa, when I hear people talking about the importance of Black Feminist Thought to their IR scholarship, or when I see the work of young African female scholars like Christelle Amina Djouldé getting published and cited, I can’t help but think there is hope for our discipline. That said, I also expect that as these movements gain ground in decentering Western hegemony in the discipline, we will see either the commodification of or backlash against new approaches.
Yolande Bouka for E-International Relations with another great interview on how to decolonize IR and political science!

Welcome Mark Carrigan, Mentor-in-Residence for November

I learned that there’s an enthusiasm for curation, even if the term itself might divide opinion. In Jill Rettberg’s terms, Sociological Imagination was a filter blog: it selected from the overwhelming abundance of internet content in a way liable to appeal to a specific audience. At its best this is a enormously nourishing activity in which you indulge your fascination with the world in a way which resonates with the same fascination in others. But it’s hard to sustain this because the demands of the attention economy mean that it’s necessary to ensure a certain regularity of updates. When you have other demands on your time this means your engagement can easily become routine and formulaic, a case of ticking something off a to do list rather than really engaging with what you’re doing.
Janet Salmons talks to Mark Carrigan for the SAGE Methodspace about his new book and being a digital scholar (and the joys of curating content on the Internet...)!

What we were reading 5 years ago

(Link review 134, 5 January 2015)

My development blogging review 2014
Me, reflecting on my fourth year of #globaldev blogging

Disruptive reflections from 2014

A good way to honor Alessandra Pigni who left is far too soon is re-connecting with her blog.

The Evolution of Academic Blogging

Bottom-line, blogs have evolved and the number of researchers who don’t consider them serious contributions will continue to decrease. There’s no turning back now.
Susan Gunelius on peak (?) #highered blogging.

Five years later, and I am proud of Delivering Development again

We can design projects that not only fail to make things better, we can actually make things much worse: we can kill people by accident. We can gum up the global environment, which is not going to only hurt some distant, abstract global poor person – it will hit those in the richest countries, too. We can screw up the global economy, another entity that knows few borders and over which nobody has complete control. This is not “oopsie!” This is a disaster that requires serious attention and redress. So, good first step World Bank, but not far enough.
Ed Carr with reflections that seem very timely in the current RCT and Nobel Prize debate...


Popular posts from this blog

Happy retirement Duncan Green!

Dear white middle class British women: Please don't send used bras (or anything, really) to Africa

Should I consider a PhD in International Development Studies?

61 authors, 39 chapters & 3 very happy editors! Our Handbook On Humanitarianism & Inequality is finally published!

Racism in the aid industry and international development-a curated collection