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Hi all, 

COVID-19 is impacting all of us & I added a special section on the emerging discussion in the #globaldev sector this week; plus, bad news from South Sudan; building infrastructure won't solve problems & continued debates on ethical research in the Global South.

Enjoy!
 
My quotes of the week

Let’s not forget that hundreds of millions of people beyond the West have lived such emergency ethics on a daily basis for decades in long wars, extreme poverty, epidemics, and disasters. They are ethical experts who can advise us in the West. And we can always consult those in the gay community and beyond who endured and transformed the HIV/AIDS emergency that arose in the 1980s – the last great pandemic we all faced together.
(This age of COVID-19 demands new emergency ethics)

“Everyone is turning into virtual conferencing, but we work a lot on the ground in local communities affected by conflict. Many of them don’t have 24-hour electricity, let alone the Internet. There’s a digital divide — a big digital divide — between the developed and least developed countries, so that already excludes a big number of people.”The divide doubles, she said, when the only cellphone available in a local group is controlled by men in the family or community
(Beijing+25 Moves to the Next Stage: Vast Uncertainty)

The short-term nature of most research projects often leaves local research staff with short-term employment perspectives without adequate capacity building opportunities. Additionally, despite the risky conditions, tight budgets often do not cover health or social insurance of local staff.

(How can we make research in the “Global South” more ethical?)

COVID-19 & #globaldev

3 quick starting points & 1 structural reflection on how to make affordable online teaching a reality
A quick reminder about my post from last week

Tips for Successful Online Meetings

More so than for an in-person meeting, people may come late and leave early. Some extra time at the beginning of the meeting, and periodic summaries if you lose people can be helpful.
Bonnie Koenig for Going Global with more useful resources on successful digital collaborations.

What COVID-19 Means for International Aid
The message for the international donor community – not just traditional lenders such as the World Bank, but also emerging actors such as private foundations and China – is clear. The aid architecture needs a radical revamp so that massive amounts of money, possibly hundreds of billions of dollars annually, can be devoted to global public goods. And some of this will have to be financed by reducing existing country lending.
Arvind Subramanian for Project Syndicate with an updated discussion on 'global public goods'-a concept that was quite popular in the early 2000...

This age of COVID-19 demands new emergency ethics

Agreeing on emergency ethics will become more difficult in the next few months as the suffering deepens. Let’s not forget that hundreds of millions of people beyond the West have lived such emergency ethics on a daily basis for decades in long wars, extreme poverty, epidemics, and disasters. They are ethical experts who can advise us in the West. And we can always consult those in the gay community and beyond who endured and transformed the HIV/AIDS emergency that arose in the 1980s – the last great pandemic we all faced together.
Hugo Slim for the New Humanitarian with excellent food for thought on creating a truly global discussion around ethics, rights & responsibilities.


Amanda Glassman, senior fellow and executive vice president of the Center for Global Development explains the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic to low income countries, and what organizations like the World Bank can do to help mitigate this crisis.

“I’m Not An Epidemiologist But…": The Rise Of The Coronavirus Influencers

Head over to Twitter and search “not an epidemiologist but" if you want to see how prevalent and freewheeling the speculation about COVID-19 has become. As the pandemic has affected lives around the world, it seems like nearly everyone on social media wants to be a public health expert.
Ryan Broderick for Buzzfeed News with observation at the intersection of media, communication and public health-and a reminder about similar #globaldev debates about not being saviors and asking local experts, not expats ;)!

Development news
Wards in South Sudan overflow with young men maimed in fights over land and cattle

Hospital wards overflow with young men like Ngacho — not soldiers, but farmers and herdsmen disfigured by machine gun fire in brutal fighting over land, cattle and revenge.
(...)
UN special envoy to South Sudan, David Shearer, who toured the conflict-ravaged region this month, said bodies were lying in the open and women and children had been abducted by both sides.
Business Day with sobering updates from the 'world's youngest country'.

Massive African infrastructure projects often hurt, rather than help, local people

But such negative impacts are more than economic. While some internationally financed transport projects are very popular with many city-dwellers – such as the light rail in Addis Ababa, regardless of its other failings – others can generate widespread anger and various perverse local impacts. The reality is that the kinds of projects attracting big finance are rarely structured to benefit those who most urgently require infrastructure access.
Tom Goodfellow for the Conversation with new research on one of #globaldev's oldest questions on how building infrastructure will lead to 'development'...

Randomized control trials and the Tipping Point Initiative’s journey to align the gold standard with our mission

Efforts to ensure the random selection of participants strongly influenced group formation – while we weren’t able to prioritize communities most in need or participants clustered around an accessible community center, in some ways this stretched us to test our model in more difficult circumstances. In one community, this process meant that half of the randomly selected girls would be unable to participate due to both a river and jungle in the middle of the cluster that were deemed unsafe to cross, completely blocking participation. Ideally, we would have eliminated this community from the list of potential sites if all stakeholders were given enough time for that discussion and negotiation. For most communities, this process meant much longer distances to travel in order to participate. Such distances may be feasible for adults with access to a bicycle or greater mobility, but for girls participating in weekly sessions, the heavy demands of school and household chores can quickly dampen their own enthusiasm and their parents’ approval to participate.
Anne Sprinkel for CARE insights reflects on the challenges of implementing RCTs from a #globaldev program perspective-a voice that is less heard in the academic discussions & publications around RCTs.

Why Abortion is becoming more available and safer around the world

Of course it is a positive thing that women have more access to abortion, and that they are able to self-administer where there are more repressive conditions. But this can’t distract us from the more fundamental issue that safe and accessible abortion (whether surgical or medical) should be freely available to all women because it is their right.
At times, the article seems to be falling into a trap – saying that if women are getting access to abortion pills, then we don’t need to worry so much if they are doing so under safe conditions, or if they are getting this access because they are empowered to do so within society.
Duncan Green and Fenella Porter for fp2p on the complicated discussions around the politics of abortions.

Beijing+25 Moves to the Next Stage: Vast Uncertainty

Suggestions that “virtual” Forum sessions could be held across the universe of cyberspace, a tactic the UN is using more often, won’t work in these civil society gatherings in which grass-roots participation should be protected, Cabrera Balleza said.
“I’m not confident right now that there will be a meaningful alternative,” she added. “Everyone is turning into virtual conferencing, but we work a lot on the ground in local communities affected by conflict. Many of them don’t have 24-hour electricity, let alone the Internet. There’s a digital divide — a big digital divide — between the developed and least developed countries, so that already excludes a big number of people.”
The divide doubles, she said, when the only cellphone available in a local group is controlled by men in the family or community — even if the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders is paying for airtime.
Barbara Crossette for PassBlue with some great food for thought on the limits of virtual meetings, global movements and feminist agendas.


The opportunities and limitations of consulting work. Freedom versus the frustrations of being peripheral to decision-making

Our digital lives

Central authorities slow to react as Sweden’s cities embrace automation of welfare management

“The municipal sector has a naive view of technological advances. They think a “robot” will be impartial and objective. But how were these robots constructed? When I asked municipalities about this, they told me they followed the social workers’ processes. This means there’s a risk of copying in the norms, ideas and values that are already present in the system. There’s very little critical discussion of this.”
When Kungsbacka, a town of 20,000 inhabitants 300 kilometers north of Trelleborg, introduced the ”Trelleborg model”, as it became known, in 2018, 12 of 16 social workers left their work in protest. Some of them have returned to their jobs but the majority left for good.
Katarina Lind and Leo Wallentin for Algorithm Watch with some interesting insights from 'home' that resemble a lot of the tricky issues we are discussing in the #globaldev & #ICT4D communities.

Publications
Reality Bites: Making Realist Evaluation Useful in the Real World

It argues that realist evaluation can add value by enhancing the clarity, depth, and portability of findings, helping evaluators deal with context and complexity in pragmatic ways, and providing helpful tools and lenses for implementers to critically appraise their programmes and generate learning. However, novice realist evaluators face a number of potential pitfalls, especially in large-scale evaluations.
Melanie Punto, Isabel Vogel, Jennifer Leavy, Charles Michaelis & Edward Boydell with a new working paper for IDS.

Academia

How can we make research in the “Global South” more ethical?

The short-term nature of most research projects often leaves local research staff with short-term employment perspectives without adequate capacity building opportunities. Additionally, despite the risky conditions, tight budgets often do not cover health or social insurance of local staff.
Jana Kuhnt, Janina Steinert & Lennart Kaplan for Democracy in Africa with a good overview over the emerging discussions around 'doing fieldwork in the global South'.

As The War On Terror Winds Down, The Pentagon Cuts Social Science
In a written statement, the Pentagon says Minerva was eliminated “to align more directly with the Department’s modernization priorities.”
Price says he reads that statement as part of general shift by the Pentagon’s research arm, away from broad areas of inquiry and towards technology development programs. “Less money for humans, more money for robots,” he says.
Geoff Brumfiel for Oregon Public Broadcasting. As bad as Minerva has been perceived, less social science research funded by the Pentagon is also not good news...


What we were reading 5 years ago

(Link review 147, 1 June 2015)
Is banning Powerpoint from the classroom the best we can do for digital, inclusive education?

I am not defending bad Powerpoint presentation, of course, but I do not really feel comfortable with the notion of ‘banning’: Teachers, students, managers and IT staff have the challenging task to provide flexible, engaging solutions to teaching and education in the 21st century. The ceiling-mounted projector, connected to a floor-mounted PC with proprietary software from global companies is not the set-up we should be aiming at-because uncreative environments all too easily lead to uncreative traditional lecturing situations.
Me on Powerpoints - a timely post from the archive for the current online teaching debates!

Confessions of a humanitarian: 'There are days I'd sacrifice world peace for a chocolate croissant'

If I worked for the UN, however, I could serve the common good and stay in hotels that someone – other than me – has listed on TripAdvisor. Think of the time I would save, my greater overall efficiency in reaching the unreached, if I had a room with a window, and my toilet flushed, and my hotel towel was not a hepatitis risk. I am sure – and I have mentioned this in my last three performance improvement plans – that I am cynical only because I have tinnitus from trying to sleep through Nollywood marathons and because I eat in hotels where breakfast is basted in amoebas.
There are mornings, let me be frank, when I would sacrifice world peace for a bite of a chocolate croissant.
Dara Passano with reflections from the good old dates of humanitarian blogging/ranting in the Guardian.

Lost on the Ebola money trail

Might some donor money have been better spent on the local health system? Maybe. Maybe not. But if budgets continue to be opaque, it’s impossible to learn how to optimize aid to countries that desperately need it. As Alexander Kentikelenis, a sociologist at the University of Cambridge says, “There is no shortage of good intentions. The question is to what extent NGOs help in the ways that really matter.”
Amy Maxmen with some reporting on Ebola-I'm sure that we will see similar debates in the aftermath of COVID-19...

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