Links & Contents I Liked 350

Hi all,

It feels good to kick-off the new year with a small anniversary post; this is link review 350 and it certainly won't be the last one ;)!
At the last bigger anniversary in November 2018 I shared My key learnings about #globaldev 20 years after I took my first undergrad course.

But let's focus on 2020. As I wrote before the holidays, I'm not pretending to 'catch up' with events of the last few weeks and instead share an eclectic mix of content that somehow caught my attention.

I just returned from a fantastic week in Bandung hosted by the Universitas Katolik Parahyangan and among the many highlights a visit to the Bandung conference museum was certainly very special for any #globaldev enthusiast-'the first transcontinental conference organized by colored people'!

My quotes of the week
Decolonizing has to be a collaborative journey and a collective struggle of committed individuals. It is one of undoing and redoing, of unlearning to relearn, of questioning, reconsidering, and being open to different possibilities. It is not a singular pursuit, but one grounded in contexts and epistemologies with multiple outcomes. It first starts with unshackling our minds, decolonizing our senses, cultivating a consciousness of ethics, and practicing critical hope, rather than accepting the normalization of colonialist ideals, scientific racism, Eurocentric hierarchies, hegemonic constructions or dominant tropes
(Decolonizing Development Education and the Pursuit of Social Justice)

The Shareback Sessions provide people with the opportunity to discuss what the data says, collectively define problems and strategically find ways to address those problems. Like Poverty Stoplight, it recognizes individual agency, and solemnly respects each individual’s local knowledge.
(Three Examples of Data Empowerment)


New from aidnography
Blogging and curating content as strategies to diversify discussions and communicate development differently

In my longer essay, a forthcoming paper, I am arguing that engaging with online social media in the form of curating a regular development blog column is a simple, yet effective way to provide decolonised resources in the context of development studies teaching, research and communication.
Development news
Looking Back at 20 Years of ICT4D, and the Approaching Future

But even with a service that was as obviously useful as mPesa it has taken over a decade to develop a critical mass and a supporting ecosystem: it went from 1 million users in its launch year of 2007 to 33.4 million users in 2018. Behavior changes move more slowly than technology and even this type of SMS to cash transfer service has moved more slowly in other parts of the continent.
Review of the Decade: Ten Trends in Global Education
Edtech has for years been hailed as a way to leapfrog failing school systems. Philanthropists and investors love it and it’s a popular policy choice for national governments. Despite the hype, it’s still a “faith-based” endeavour in many low- and middle-income countries (although we know more about what works in developed countries than we did a few years ago). We also know a bit more about what does not work, for example giving children laptops.
The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade
In many ways, philanthropy and venture capital worked hand-in-hand — the former set the policy agenda for ed-tech and the latter fueled the entrepreneurs and stoked the market for it.
Russell Southwood for ICTworks, Lee Crawfurd & Susannah Hares for the Center for Global Development & Audrey Watters for Hack Education with lists and reflections on ICT4D and the limits of digital #globaldev.

Imagining the Next Decade of Behavioral Science

As a field we are concerned with impact, ethics, and rigor, and we have ideas on how to use behavioral science to improve the world.
We won’t know for 10 years whether any of these ideas will come true, who was right and who was wrong. But that’s not the point. The point is to put out into the world our hopes and fears, our vision for a better field and a better world, and ways we can get there.
Evan Nesterak for the Behavioral Scientist. This is a very long post and also not directly related to #globaldev-but after the 2019 Nobel Prize for RCTs it is also a reminder that behavioral science's influence will only grow...

State of Peacebuilding 2019: Seven Observations

If we really allow ourselves to dream big, we can imagine every city, every housing project, every computer program designed with peace ethics in mind. How can organizations and cities be designed to overcome racism and sexism? How can computer programs foster digital listening and finding common ground rather than increasing polarization? How can businesses be rewarded for building peace across intergroup lines?
Lisa Schirch shares her reflections on how the field of peacebuilding is responding to old & new challenges.

Sida opens up JPO positions for applicants from partner countries

Sida is now widening the scope for the Swedish JPO programme. Nationals from more than 35 countries can apply to the current vacancies. Those are countries where Sida is engaged in development cooperation.
Excellent move by Sida to harness local talent!

Buried for 50 years: Britain’s shameful role in the Biafran war

What is truly shameful is that this was not done by savages but aided and assisted at every stage by Oxbridge-educated British mandarins. Why? Did they love the corruption-riven, dictator-prone Nigeria? No. From start to finish, it was to cover up that the UK’s assessment of the Nigerian situation was an enormous judgmental screw-up. And, worse: with neutrality and diplomacy from London it could all have been avoided.
Biafra is little discussed in the UK these days – a conflict overshadowed geopolitically by the Vietnam war, which raged at the same time. Yet the sheer nastiness of the British establishment during those three years remains a source of deep shame that we should never forget.
Frederick Forsyth for the Guardian on the 'nastiness of the British establishment' that unfortunately still seems quite dominant when we think about Iraq, Yemen and many other conflicts where the UK's engagement has made things worse...

Britain secretly funded Reuters in 1960s and 1970s - documents

The documents show the Information Research Department (IRD), a British anti-Soviet propaganda unit with close ties to British intelligence, led negotiations with Reuters.
The British government’s funding of Reuters in the 1960s and 1970s was disclosed in a 1992 authorised history of the news agency “The Power of News: The History of Reuters”.
In 1969, Reuters needed money to further expand in the Middle East and Western powers such as Britain wanted to bolster their influence against the Soviet Union by expanding news services across the world, the documents showed.
Guy Faulconbridge for Reuters with another interesting historical development about news, journalism and communicating political messages.

The inside story on how Rwanda removed VAT on sanitary products

So, what led to the removal of VAT on sanitary products? Moreover, what brought about this victory after years of campaigning, and policy trials? What was different this time?
I sat down with the Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Dr Diane Gashumba to understand how the removal of VAT on sanitary products came about and to try and understand the context that allowed this rapid development.
“At the beginning we thought Icyumba Cy’umukobwa was enough, but we didn’t think about the girls who weren’t attending schools. In addition, while the policy is there it’s not implemented in all schools,” Dr Gashumba said.
She explained that while the government had been working to address this issue for some time, what really turned the tide was the engagement of Rwandan youth demanding change, NOW.
Ynis Isimbi for From Poverty to Power with good news and interesting insights from Rwanda.

30 Funny Pics Of Filipinos Dressed Up In ‘Unsuitable’ Donated Clothes At A Volcano Evacuation Center

Although the situation looks bleak at the makeshift shelters where evacuees are staying, people are striving to pass the time and make each other smile by dressing up in the strangest clothes they’ve received as donations. In the rush to get supplies to victims of the disaster, people have been tossing everything from party dresses to work uniforms into donation boxes.
Lili North & Li Nefas for Bored Panda with a the latest 'SWEDOW' issue-this time from the Philippines.

In Haiti, a Result of Peacekeepers Who Abuse Their Power: ‘Petits Minustahs’

While relationships were more nuanced than outsiders might expect, the bigger picture is vividly clear. Lacking access to education and employment, many women and girls are drawn into transactional sex with peacekeepers in exchange for food and money. Inevitably, some pregnancies result, and the UN’s response is to simply send the implicated peacekeepers back to their home countries, leaving women to raise their children without the imagined support or assistance. These children typically grow up without access to education, thus perpetuating a cycle of poverty.
Some participants who spoke with us suggested that having fair-skinned children was a good thing, a notion that seemed to go hand in hand with an assumption that a fair-skinned foreigner would likely provide for his new family. Despite this belief, in our research we found no instance of child support by peacekeepers.
Not all sexual interactions were perceived as exploitive or abusive. Some study participants clearly described long-term love relationships between adult Haitian women and UN peacekeepers. And perhaps not surprising, stories of petits Minustahs were more likely to be perceived as the result of relationships, in contrast with other interactions that were seen as more “business” in nature.
Susan A. Bartels for PassBlue. Their research has been featured widely these past few weeks and creates a lot of food for further discussions.

@ifrc You may have heard of #coronavirus. Here are some tips from the World Health Organization on how to reduce the risk of infection #edutok #health #news
♬ Did Too Much - LLusion
Why There's A Global Outcry Over Volunteering At Orphanages
"Just because it's been happening for decades doesn't mean it's right," says Chloe Setter, senior adviser on trafficking, modern slavery and voluntourism at Lumos, the children's rights organization founded by Rowling in 2005. The idea isn't to shame orphanage volunteers, she says, but to start "questioning and challenging our own beliefs."
Joanne Lu for NPR Goats & Soda with a 'classic' topic that has been featured here many times...just say No to orphanage tourism!

‘She was absolutely adored’: Iranian scientist spent her life fighting for Indigenous voices in conservation

A few weeks after her return to Canada, Azhdari was planning to go into the field to meet with her research partners in the Miawpukek First Nation and Parks Canada, in Newfoundland, to get the work started.
“She was fighting very hard to remove many of the policy barriers that prevent Indigenous peoples from moving forward with their own ideas for how to protect and manage their territories,” Moola says. “She was able to achieve enormous, enormous things.”
Eighty per cent of biodiversity globally is found on Indigenous territories. The Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2011-2020 strategic plan expires this year, and Azhdari was fighting to make sure the next plan would incorporate Indigenous perspectives as governments decide how to meet those new goals.
Though most of Azhdari’s work was behind the scenes, developing the data to guide that process, she was also a strong spokesperson for her cause. She was featured in a video released by the ICCA Consortium in 2019, sitting among bushels of wheat, wearing the dress her mother sewed, the same one she wore when she spoke in Egypt.
“We are Indigenous nomadic peoples, and for thousands of years we are living in a biodiverse area, conserving all the aspects of our territories, with all the assets that we have in our territories,” she said. “ICCAs, for me as an Indigenous person, are territories of life.”
Jimmy Thomson for the Narwhal remembers Ghanimat Azhdari, a PhD student at Canada’s University of Guelph, where she was working with Indigenous communities in the boreal forest to map cultural sites. She died along with 175 others aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.

Reflections of a humanitarian bureaucrat

Today, the humanitarian organizations that oversee and spend the vast majority of this $29 billion are big transnational bureaucracies, and there is a sense across the sector that the pendulum has swung wide enough towards administration. A better balance between dynamism and bureaucracy now needs to be struck as we work on the cusp of global climate crisis and increasing conflict.
There are perhaps eight key features of bureaucratization which tend to stifle and inhibit more creative and fast-moving humanitarian cultures of charisma, adaptation and renewal.
Hugo Slim's essay for ICRC's Humanitarian Law & Policy blog has been shared widely since it came out and is definitely worth your attention...

Our Silenced Voices: What we lose while working with international “humanitarian” organizations

It is still difficult for me to forget the face of the forty-something mother from one of many focus group discussions I held during my work in the “humanitarian sector”. After sharing a torrent of challenges she faces, she asked, “Now that you’ve come and heard our problems, what benefit would you have served us if you don’t return here to do something about it?”
And I did not.
This was one of many moments in which I felt like I had robbed someone of their voice in my line of work. In fact, I was robbed of mine as well. All that I wanted three years ago was to make this miserable world more tolerable; and choosing to do “developmental” work under International Non-Governmental -“humanitarian”- Organizations (INGOs) was to serve that exact purpose. These three years were a series of reports, meetings, conferences, proposal applications, unfulfilled promises, cases where I felt helpless, assumptions on what our society needs, imposed definitions of “development”, and voices denied the right to speak themselves. The result was a constant and overpowering sense of feeling useless, passive, and restricted which defeated my initial purpose and made me more miserable.
Today, reflecting on my experience as an outsider, I can say that the humanitarian developmental work that these organizations lead, in its current form, results in projects that might serve to benefit society. However, the question that we must ask is: What do we lose along the way?
Ayah Al-Oballi shares her reflections as a 'humanitarian bureaucrat'...

Be the change (not just the call for change)

Whether you perceive it or not, the ecosystem of aid and development entities is in a constant state of evolution; changing theory, changing practice, changing understanding about what it means to “help.” Today’s brilliant innovation will be tomorrow’s old hat. The practice that you so passionately evangelize this week could well be proven harmful next week. The issue that we go to the wall over this year will be little more than a footnote in some grad student’s doctoral thesis ten years from now. Which is not at all to suggest that we should not push for change. Quite the opposite! But simply a reminder for us all to, again, remain humble and conscious of the reality that the humanitarian industry evolves in response to the world around us.
It's great to see J. blogging again!

Our digital lives
‘When money is offered, we listen’: foundation funding and nonprofit journalism

it shows that there appears to be cases where those who receive foundation funding and those who provide it have very different ideas of what journalism should look like and how it should be produced. Indeed, considering how critical some of the journalists we interviewed were about these foundation-funded initiatives, it seems possible newsroom managers who apply for and accept foundation grants feel more passionately about the directives associated with those grants than the reporters and editors ultimately tasked with implementing them.
Jacob Nelson & Patrick Ferrucci for the Columbia Journalism Review on why foundation funding remains a tricky subject-including for #globaldev news!

Three Examples of Data Empowerment

Among the many initiatives of Data Zetu, a nonprofit organization based in Tanzania, I find the Shareback Session particularly powerful. The program has collected a tremendous amount of data about people and their communities and decided to “share this data back” with the very people who produced it. The Shareback Sessions provide people with the opportunity to discuss what the data says, collectively define problems and strategically find ways to address those problems. Like Poverty Stoplight, it recognizes individual agency, and solemnly respects each individual’s local knowledge.
Michael Cañares for Data Empowerment with some short, interesting examples of how data can be empowering.


Decolonizing Development Education and the Pursuit of Social Justice

This is because decolonizing development is a collective project, not an individual one, nor one that has a timeframe or prefigured set of goals. It requires difficult questions be asked and possibilities envisioned collectively in order to pursue equitable and emancipatory transformations for planetary justice. Decolonizing has to be a collaborative journey and a collective struggle of committed individuals. It is one of undoing and redoing, of unlearning to relearn, of questioning, reconsidering, and being open to different possibilities. It is not a singular pursuit, but one grounded in contexts and epistemologies with multiple outcomes. It first starts with unshackling our minds, decolonizing our senses, cultivating a consciousness of ethics, and practicing critical hope, rather than accepting the normalization of colonialist ideals, scientific racism, Eurocentric hierarchies, hegemonic constructions or dominant tropes.
Farhana Sultana for Human Geography with a new article.

Decolonization, Decoloniality, and the Future of African Studies: A Conversation with Dr. Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni

The other issue is this: colonial global matrices of power are not resting to allow decolonization to take place. This system always devises methods of reinvention, by appropriating the antisystemic forces pushing them back, into itself, so that it gives the system a new lease of life. The problem of the decolonization of the 1960s was that we wanted to be part of the (European) game (sometimes called Africanization or inclusion into the system without fundamental change). The decolonization of the twenty-first century is to question the rules of the game, not to be part of it. We need to get it right this time. The additive approach (in curricula, or of Global South names in reading lists, or other) is a shallow approach to decolonization. It legitimizes the structure. We need to change the structure itself.
Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni talks to Duncan Omanga for the items blog of the Social Science Research Council.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 139, 09 March 2015)
Blinded by Humanity (book review)

In fact, when I finished reading the book it left me with a very satisfying feeling that I learned something about the historical scope of what the UN has been achieving for decades that goes beyond the usual critical engagement of how the UN failed in this crises or on that issue.
Barber’s main achievement is that he manages to analyze the past of global governance so we younger scholars, students or junior professionals have a sounding board to discuss the present and envision a future between well-paid international civil service and a truly global forum to engage with sustainable development.
Me, reviewing another interesting memoir.

Charities: Flattering Reports, Poor Data

Fiennes says funders would be better served if they began asking charities to cite research that already exists instead of asking them to create their own. After all, plenty of nonprofits across the country do similar kinds of work. “We do not need every one of these organizations to be conducting an evaluation of their programs,” she says. “We would be much better off if a few people answered the question centrally, and then other people were able to use that answer.”
Caroline Fiennes with challenges that feel as contemporary in 2020 as they did in 2015...

Essay: The death of international development

Of course, those who benefit most from the present economic system will not permit these changes until they are forced to do so – forced, that is, by a combination of economic crisis, environmental catastrophe and rising social discontent. And if the headlines are anything to go by, this is precisely what they have coming. Dramatic change is inevitable; the question is, what form will it take? Instead of wringing our hands about the death of development, we would do well to grasp the opportunity it provides to evolve new narratives and new visions, speaking to the public about the imperative of justice, and uniting people in opposition to an economic system that impoverishes and degrades. We dare not allow the development industry to stand in for the political struggle that this moment demands. Instead of placing our hope in development technocrats, we should take a cue from the new social movements – Occupy, the Indignados, the Arab Spring, the Chilean Winter, Idle No More – that are actively confronting power and imagining the new world to come.
Jason Hickel in 2015.


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