Links & Contents I Liked 367

Hi all,

It's getting a bit late this Friday afternoon-so without further delay follow this week's #globaldev review to Syria, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Chagos, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, the US & learn how work that George Clooney supports actually makes a difference!

Enjoy!

My quotes of the week
Whenever I spoke to affected persons, they would ask me if my home was flooded, I would tell them about my grandmother and for a brief moment we would share a commonly felt loss. And it did make a difference. Knowledge of the language, local pop culture, colloquial phrases, and power dynamics helped me to judge situations much more easily. With relatively few professionals from my state working in the humanitarian sector before the floods, I found myself being a useful bridge in many situations, explaining the context as well as the true nature of the beast that INGOs are
(Who is local?)

Though this idea of working yourself to death is indeed both Western and white, as with most “isms” and pitfalls of society, I have also had similar experiences within both POC-led community-based agencies and grassroots activism movement circles. The assumption is that these “for us by us” organizations would be where we find solace, but oftentimes it merely serves as an echochamber for heady theory but failing to actually utilize those same ideals.
(How nonprofits gaslight you into the same self-sacrificing work as capitalist corporations)

One big irony of fintech is that as the industry has grown, people have begun to use credit apps against each other, often taking from one app to pay another. While a user might be barred from borrowing from one because of unpaid student loans, for example, they could still easily get credit from a competitor. (..). She had to cover a loan she owed Tala, a Silicon Valley–backed app, from which she planned to borrow again immediately afterward. She only needed the money to pay the balance, skirt the deadline, and renew her line of credit.
(This lending app publicly shames you when you’re late on loan payment)


COVID-19 & #globaldev

COVID-19: When saving fewer lives is the right thing to do
My plea is this: amid this unparallelled competition for resources – at both international and national levels, in both government health ministries and humanitarian headquarters – let’s not limit our decisions to where we can save the most lives most easily.
Just as we assist the elderly in care homes in richer countries – even though it’s more expensive and they are more likely to die – we should help refugees and those in conflict zones who are harder to reach, even if it means we save fewer lives overall.
Beyond mortality statistics, we have an obligation to stand up for the most vulnerable. In times of crisis, we must defend those individuals and populations that fall through the cracks, those most excluded and marginalised. Not only because the pandemic can only be controlled when all outbreaks are confronted everywhere, but also to defend our common humanity.
Michiel Hofman for the New Humanitarian continues the discussion around humanitarian ethics under conditions of the COVID crisis.

Can we understand COVID-19 fast enough – and well enough – to make a difference?
What does locally-led, politically-informed and adaptiveMERL look like? In the Pacific, for example, governments and NGOs are using talanoa and tok stori to undertake needs assessment and real-time monitoring for both the COVID-19 response and responses to other recent disasters. These methods – which are grounded in Pacific traditions of conversation and storytelling – can be powerful tools for generating detailed, context-rich understanding. They can therefore provide valuable information to help programs be more effective
Lavinia Tyrrel, Linda Kelly, Chris Roche & Elisabeth Jackson for From Poverty to Power are more optimistic than me about the room for change in the context of the crisis; with aid budgets being cut, INGOs under pressure & more pressure on aid systems the room for innovation may be smaller than we anticipate right now...

A nudge toward hand hygiene: simple design features improved handwashing among Filipino students
These results show that low-cost changes to the environment can drive longer-lasting, “sticky” behavior change. We found notable increases in handwashing rates four months after nudges were installed, which suggests that the contextual and visual cues we installed helped trigger habit formation. This finding is in line with other studies using incentives and behavioral nudges, which also found behavioral impacts several months post-program installation. However, since we only measured handwashing at one point in time, we’re unable to estimate treatment effects over time. Future studies might consider alternative (but more costly) data collection approaches such using real-time sensor data or liquid soap volume in order to measure persistence effects.At a cost of less than $60 USD per school, we are recommending that the Department of Education scale up school-based nudges in other elementary schools in the Philippines, as a part of its WinS policy.
Crystal Huang, Nhu Le & Meg Battle for the IDInsight Blog. Somehow the simplicity and presentation of the intervention caught my eye as an interesting hand washing campaign example.

COVID-19: The communication crisis
State-run television channel BTV, local mosques, messages played on microphones on streets and interpersonal discussions are some of the places residents of rural villages are getting their information from.
Respondents living in urban slums rely on cable television, social media, their employers and interpersonal discussions. People of the urban middle class get their information from international media (such as BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera), online discussions and social media.
The study noted an info-demic taking place as excessive amounts of confusing and ambiguous information abound. Sensationalist news is on television, rumours are on social media, contradictory statements are being spread by some religious leaders.
In a constantly evolving situation, messaging about COVID-19 needs to be accurate and clear. The research suggests clearly defining the terms such as ‘social distancing,’ ‘quarantine,’ ‘lockdown,’ in local context and aligned with the target populations’ lifestyles. Guidelines developed in the West may not work in the global south, and thus cannot be transferred without critically analysing them in the local geographic, economic and cultural contexts.
Shahaduz Zaman, Din M Sumon Rahman, Imran Matin & Luba Khalili for BRAC.
This is an interesting post that highlights the many conundrums and paradoxes of communication during the pandemic well: There's a complex media ecosystem that reflects all sorts of pre-existing inequalities, a demand for 'clear' communication & a call for 'localized' communication...I understand sentiment, but isn't it asking for something close to impossible, or least a situation that will not be 'solved' by more or 'better' communication per se?!?

Resuming Field Research in Pandemic Times
When it comes to resuming field research in the social sciences, this decision-making process must extend to include relevant disciplinary and regional experts. Such consultation might take the form of a light and flexible process in which networks of faculty members from relevant social science disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, political science, linguistics, economics, and public health, consider brief proposals to resume field research projects on a case-by-case basis. Humanities expertise may also be relevant, as may local academics at the site of research, NGOs, and government agencies. The purpose of these expert networks would be to ensure that the necessary process of deliberation
Elisabeth Jean Wood, Douglas Rogers, K. Sivaramakrishnan & Rene Almeling for the Social Science Research Council.

Disturbing the Aesthetics of Power: Why Covid-19 Is Not an “Event” for Fieldwork-based Social Scientists
After all, in the Fanonian logic, the oppression suffered by these researchers from the South is founded on the same rationale that discriminated against Jews, dehumanized Blacks, discriminated against women, incarcerated people of color, tyrannized Muslims, and exploited workers, undocumented migrants, and others. These are the humans produced by a modern world phenomenon that Mbembe called the “global becoming negro.”
Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka also for the Social Science Research Council items blog. These 2 pieces go together well and they are not just limited to academic research. There is a Reddit thread about scientific studies looking for participants which comprises of dozens of studies looking for volunteers to complete questionnaires; those surveys are neither grounded in qualitative research nor will they be 'disturbing the aesthetics of power'. Rather, they will lead to a paper writing, peer-reviewing, publishing extravaganza with very little attention on how we continue to produce knowledge...
Understanding community networks through comics
It is not easy to explain the concepts behind community networks, both the technical characteristics of radio frequency networks and the social and human aspects of community technologies.
One of the principles we have developed in teaching technologies with a gendered perspective is language. Teaching a workshop for popular groups using colonising terms and methodologies can increase the existing barrier between people and a technology that was not created for their interests. With this in mind, images and analogies are powerful tools to make it easier to explain a technical term or an idea. We reject the premise that to do so would in any way underestimate people’s ability to understand technical matters. We believe that explaining concepts in a language that brings them closer to people and their realities is a form of resistance to the hegemonic, North-centric and patriarchal language in which technology is often taught.
Carla Jancz, Helena Prado & Thais Jussim for Instituto Bem Estar (IBE) Brasil. Although not Covid-related an interesting project to discuss technical issues with non-technical local citizens.



Development news
In the villages around Shakiso, children have been born with deformities, and women have had so many miscarriages they believe they are cursed; the bones of cattle have snapped like twigs, and men’s bodies have crumpled and collapsed without warning.
Residents who live near Ethiopia’s largest gold mine, Lega Dembi, say that for the past 15 years or so, life-threatening illnesses, disabilities, and mysterious ailments have become so widespread that almost no household has been left untouched.
“We are the walking dead,” Dembela Megersa told The New Humanitarian, describing the unaccountable pain in his back that has afflicted him for years.
Tom Gardner for the New Humanitarian; if you click on the laughable 'Corporate Citizenship' site of the mine's owner you can imagine how little they care about environmental impact...

Robbed of Their Island in the Indian Ocean, Chagossians Linger in a Pandemic-Shadowed Limbo
Exactly one year ago, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Britain to return the Chagos Archipelago, a cluster of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, to Mauritius, an island-nation off the southeast coast of Africa.
The resolution endorsed an International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion that had been requested by a 2017 General Assembly resolution. The 2019 resolution demanded that “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland withdraw its colonial administration from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within a period of no more than six months from the adoption of the present resolution, thereby enabling Mauritius to complete the decolonization of its territory as rapidly as possible.”
Six months went by — without a withdrawal.
Stéphanie Fillion for PassBlue on the limits of international law-what happens when powerful parties simply ignore rulings?

'I want my kids back': how overseas adoptions splinter Uganda's families
But Sylvia, 40, has not seen her son since he was adopted from Uganda almost seven years ago by an American couple. She is now fighting to get her son back, taking her case to the high court in Uganda and exploring her legal options in the US.
Mugalu’s adoption was arranged through an organisation called Amani Ya Zion, which claimed to be a non-profit that “raises orphans and disregarded Ugandans to be leaders through true self sustainability”, in Kampala.
Sylvia’s family say they were led to believe by Amani Ya Zion that Mugalu, who was five at the time, was going to the US to get a better education, and would be in the care of a couple from Louisiana.
“They [Amani Ya Zion] said we were blessed to have this chance,” adds Sylvia, who works for a telecoms company, and lives in Kampala with her husband, Alex, and their toddler, Lenz.
Legal loopholes in the adoption system in Uganda have allowed people from overseas to adopt children – usually from poorer families – through unregistered children’s homes, and organisations that can operate with little scrutiny or oversight
Alice McCool for the Guardian with a story from Uganda and the exploitative practices that often happen in the global adoption industry.

Making a Killing-South Sudanese Military Leaders' Wealth, Explained
These individuals profited from South Sudan’s corrupt system of patronage both before and after leading forces who committed mass atrocities. Documents reviewed by The Sentry indicate that they exploited their positions of power to empty the state’s coffers and weaken its institutions with little accountability for this corruption or for the human rights violations they perpetrated. Their posts provided easy access to government funds that appear to have financed luxurious lifestyles for relatives overseas in some instances, instead of desperately needed infrastructure, economic development, education, and health services at home. Critics of this system have been harassed, intimidated, imprisoned, and even killed
The Sentry (Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast) with a really interesting new report that continues unveiling the long history of the military-industrial complex across Africa (the world, really) benefiting from war and conflict...

World Food Programme pulls COVID-19 fundraising images after backlash
The WFP spokesperson told Devex that “this has been our best performing fundraising appeal which demonstrates that there can be many responses to the same creative content. Some people find it inspirational and it motivates them to become committed supporters to the organisation.”
However, they later added that “WFP has taken a decision to suspend use of any material that uses images of beneficiaries while it undertakes a review of the campaign.”
Asked how much the campaign had cost WFP and how much it had generated in donations, the spokesperson wrote only that the agency applies a formula across all its campaigns of spending 22.5 cents to raise $1.
The spokesperson said that WFP owns the rights to the images and that parents or guardians of all the children involved gave their consent. “Consent is always required by WFP for use of images for fundraising purposes and these guidelines were strictly followed in this case,” the spokesperson wrote.
Vince Chadwick for DevEx. Those discussions have become a bit of a ritual, haven't they? "Your comms with hungry children is outdated/offensive", "Ok, but people respond to it very well & it sparks important discussions and opens up wallets", "Is this the best you can do?", "Well, no, so we will put it on hold for now & we are sorry if you were offended"...
Who is Local?
In 2018, when responding to catastrophic flooding in my home state, I truly experienced what it is to be local. My maternal grandparents’ home, where I spent my summer holidays as a child, was badly trashed in the floods and I took leave to help in the cleanup operation. When your grandmother counts as one of the IDPs is when you realize that, for the true local, the personal and professional are too close to be untangled. Whenever I spoke to affected persons, they would ask me if my home was flooded, I would tell them about my grandmother and for a brief moment we would share a commonly felt loss. And it did make a difference. Knowledge of the language, local pop culture, colloquial phrases, and power dynamics helped me to judge situations much more easily. With relatively few professionals from my state working in the humanitarian sector before the floods, I found myself being a useful bridge in many situations, explaining the context as well as the true nature of the beast that INGOs are.
Paul George for CDA with some great reflections on being, becoming, learning to be 'local'!

Are you Stuck in the International Non-Profit Rat Race?
The longer you stay in the race, the more your personal and professional identity merges with your international non-profit life. You might start thinking that you’ll never be able to do anything as worthy or important as humanitarian, development or human rights work and that if you step aside you’ll leave a gap that no one else could ever fill. If you do leave, you’ll be stripped of your identity, and endure the guilt of letting Team Humanity down. The ego trap is the most hazardous part of this race because it tricks you into forgetting the harsh realities of the precarity, paper emergency, golden handcuff, and burnout traps. But if you do choose to stay, you risk waking up one morning as you slide towards old age realising that you’ve got no security, stability or a place you can call home.
Elizabeth Griffin on LinkedIn with some good typologies of the traps many aid worker will find themselves in during their careers.

How nonprofits gaslight you into the same self-sacrificing work as capitalist corporations
I’ve been involved with organizations that do a great job of living up to the standard they hold others to, both internally and externally—valuing the efforts that their staff puts in and having Boards that are heavily and regularly involved, voluntarily pulling the weight that is attached to their votes. I’ve been lucky to have experienced these positives, because these organizations, unfortunately, are the minority.
Though this idea of working yourself to death is indeed both Western and white, as with most “isms” and pitfalls of society, I have also had similar experiences within both POC-led community-based agencies and grassroots activism movement circles. The assumption is that these “for us by us” organizations would be where we find solace, but oftentimes it merely serves as an echochamber for heady theory but failing to actually utilize those same ideals.
Taneasha White for the Black Youth Project. So many points worth repeating in her piece, but also some hope that the 'next generation' will demand more from the non-profit sector and pushes for change.

Leading a Global Team Through Crisis Means Focusing on Local Details
To provide ready access to mental health resources, we’ve invested in a network of wellness counselors around the world. Each is professionally certified to provide counseling services, and they work with us on a contract basis; reporters can see them privately, without us ever knowing, and free of charge. We made this investment decision in light of data we’ve gathered that over a third of our reporters face verbal or sexual harassment from sources they contact for stories. In 2019, half of our reporters took advantage of sessions with trained counselors conversant in their local languages. The coronavirus crisis poses unique risks, but the mental health consequences of prolonged isolation may well be severe. So investments in local mental health resources for global team members are especially prudent now.
Laxmi Parthasarathy & Cristi Hegranes for the Stanford Social Innovation Review with some great reflections in running a global remote network organization.

The Existential Funding Challenge for Northern INGOs
Some potential areas for strategic decisions by Boards and Leadership teams are outlined at the end of this paper. These include addressing focus,purposefully scaling down, investment, mergers, relevance, niche etc.Ultimately it is about the strategic vision for where your INGO / NGO needs to head between now and 2030 rather than where it will otherwise be forced.There are several future paths for INGOs–three possible paths are to transform, die well or die badly. The first two are potential ways to achieve the mission, needless to say the latter is not.Strategic responses to the declining income across the sector were already necessary before COVID. Now those strategic decisions need to be made in a shorter timeframe to ensure that the shared vision, values and roles of northern INGOs are harnessed to achieve the social justice mission
Barney Tallack for the ICS Centre with a new report.
Modern African literature is taking a journey through the diaspora back to the continent
I want to believe that as a result of taking this course, the imaginative space of my students was expanded in a way that they experienced what Ben Okri calls “strange corners of what it means to be human.” At the end of the class, I started to read the first draft of Okey Ndibe’s latest novel, Valley of Confessions. From what I have read, I have no doubt that African writers are not stopping at bringing the African experience up for the world to see. They are venturing into a new arena where they bring the world to Africa to experience the continent first hand.
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo for Quartz with reflections on teaching his class on Afrodiasporic literature.

The Black American Amputation Epidemic
Despite the great scientific strides in diabetes care, the rate of amputations across the country grew by 50% between 2009 and 2015. Diabetics undergo 130,000 amputations each year, often in low-income and underinsured neighborhoods. Black patients lose limbs at a rate triple that of others. It is the cardinal sin of the American health system in a single surgery: save on preventive care, pay big on the backend, and let the chronically sick and underprivileged feel the extreme consequences.
Lizzie Presser for ProPublica. Inequalities in health systems and systemic discrimination in the US bring #globaldev issues back to to our Global North.

Our digital lives

This lending app publicly shames you when you’re late on loan payment
One big irony of fintech is that as the industry has grown, people have begun to use credit apps against each other, often taking from one app to pay another. While a user might be barred from borrowing from one because of unpaid student loans, for example, they could still easily get credit from a competitor. As I was reporting this story last December, one of my siblings called to ask for a soft loan of $30, which she promised to repay right away. She had to cover a loan she owed Tala, a Silicon Valley–backed app, from which she planned to borrow again immediately afterward. She only needed the money to pay the balance, skirt the deadline, and renew her line of credit. I knew what her plan was even before she finished telling me about it; many other people were doing the same thing. (I sent her the cash and told her she could keep it.)
Morris Kiruga for Rest of World on the predatory underworld of the growing Kenyan fintech and loan market.

A YouTuber Placed Her Autistic Adopted Son From China With A New Family — After Making Content With Him For Years
Myka’s profile began to rise in the parenting blogger community over the next few years. Her YouTube subscribers doubled from October 2017 to October 2018, according to Social Blade, and she now has more than 160,00 followers on Instagram. Some of her Huxley update videos, like “5 Things I Didn't EXPECT About Our China ADOPTION! International ADOPTION,” were sponsored by companies like Dreft. (It’s unclear when she first started to monetize her account and who her sponsors were.) She partnered with brands like Glossier, Good American, Fabletics, and Ibotta. The birth of her fifth child was even featured in People.
Stephanie McNeal for Buzzfeed. Yes, stories are always complicated, but this article provides insights into the monetized YouTube, Insta celebrity parenting universe with enough eyebrow-raising topics to discuss in a handful of student assignments...

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 156, 15 September 2015)
The Frontman-Bono (in the name of power) (book review)
In the end, this is another great contribution to a series that manages to find the right balance of sometimes polemically engaging with ‘front men’ of development and at the same time holding a mirror in front of us to critically check our own standpoints and comfort zones of how much ‘social change’ we really want and how our discourses have become celebritized, mediatized and professionalized without challenging the foundations of inequality and ‘underdevelopment’.
Me with a review of a great book about Bono-the front cover with George Bush actually seems far less scary now than it was 5 years ago...

Lessons from Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake for Nepal’s reconstruction
In Pakistan, during a military dictatorship, local government was excluded in relief and reconstruction plans, with most agencies, including the UN, deciding to work with the military instead of local democratic institutions. Rather than helping weak democratic institutions, they marginalised them further.
Anyone currently working in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Nepal’s rural communities needs to be aware of how easy it is to ignore the local – local governance institutions, local social hierarchies, local networks; and they should be conscious that by doing so they’re not being neutral, they’re exacerbating exclusion.
2005, 2015, 2020...Miguel Loureiro's post is unfortunately a bit of a timeless classic...

More systematic use of numbers on what people think could lead to quite radical shifts in development policy and practice. Take one of the most hallowed indicators of development – the extreme poverty line, currently set at $1.25 a day. It turns out that, when people are asked in surveys what level of income they think is needed to get by, they almost always give a figure that is not absolute but relative to the average income wherever they live.
Imagine if this kind of data was used to define poverty. It would mean the end of the absolute poverty cut-off and the beginning of a new era in which global poverty was defined in terms of relative incomes. This might mean that donors would have to give up on their cherished aspiration to ‘end poverty’. But it would be truer to how poor people see their situation and what they mean by poverty.
Claire Melamed and the quest for accessible, relevant & meaningful data.

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