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Hi all,

It feels like a lifetime since I posted my last weekly update with all the terrible news that is coming in from Afghanistan, Haiti & so many other places around the globe. The semester hasn't even started I feel more tired & inadequate engaging with our wonderful students over #globaldev questions than I can remember...

My quotes of the week

The honest answer to the question ‘Is research being used’? is probably “some of it, sometimes…we think.” Is that really good enough? (Is the humanitarian sector really using research evidence?)

Recognizing the existence of working people on great estates helped to shore up the idea of the country houses as places of shared memory. “Yes, we acknowledge that there are tensions . . . but, ultimately, everyone was on board, because class could be assimilated into the project of Englishness, right?” Priyamvada Gopal (...) said. “Race doesn’t allow that.” The spoils of enslavement and colonial power, and how they were fashioned into perfect English settings, posed harder questions, which the Trust took longer to appreciate. (Britain’s Idyllic Country Houses Reveal a Darker History)

Your creativity is not neutral. Your creativity is a whore. A prostitute to commercial vested interests, sold to the highest bidder. How’s that for a knee-jerk trigger-inducing challenge? I’m being necessarily harsh here, but on a personal note have found my own authentic creativity radically liberated after two decades of writing sustainability strategy and strap-lines for businesses. My poetry may not be to everyone’s tastes (...) but it’s essence is unarguably pure. It is selling nothing to anyone. It is its own free agent able to let loose and dance like a lunatic rather than stumble its way through a buyer’s agonising and constraining choreography.
(The OmertĂ  of Consultancy) 

Development news

Bureaucracy Does Its Thing-Institutional Constraints on U.S.-GVN Performance in Vietnam
An analysis of the impact of institutional factors on the U.S./GVN response in Vietnam. Essentially both governments attempted to handle an atypical conflict situation by means of institutions designed for other purposes. Such constraints as institutional inertia — the inherent reluctance of organizations to change operational methods except slowly and incrementally — influenced not only the decisions made but what was actually done in the field. These constraints helped lead to
- an overly militarized response;
- diffusion of authority and fragmentation of command;
- hesitation to change the traditional relationship of civilian to military leadership; and
- agency reluctance to violate the conventional lines dividing responsibilities.
The conclusion is that atypical problems demand special solutions. Policymakers must be sure the institutions carrying out the policy can execute it as intended. Adequate follow-through machinery must exist at all levels, to force adaptation if necessary. Where the United States is supporting an enfeebled ally, effective means of stimulating optimum indigenous performance are essential.
Robert W. Komer's 199-page report for Rand was published in 1972 as you see in case you open the full typewritten document; though perhaps an unusual kick off of my weekly post, it is also one of the best pieces on Afghanistan that was never written...
Nigeria’s secret programme to lure top Boko Haram defectors
It’s a complicated set of emotions. For Abba, it’s certainly not outright forgiveness. There’s little in his bare tent beyond a mattress, a nylon bag stuffed with a few old clothes, and a torch. For this, he squarely blames Boko Haram. “They are the ones that caused all this suffering,” he said.
And yet, “for the sake of peace” – and by that he means a chance to restart his stalled life – he says he would even shake Aliyu’s hand. In his yearning to see an end to the war, he took that thought a step further: “Let him come – we could even stay together in Boboshe.”
Obi Anyadike for the New Humanitarian with a great long-read investigation that touches on so many complexities of 'war', 'peace', 'terrorism' and 'forgiveness'.

Is the humanitarian sector really using research evidence?
However, I’ve also witnessed how difficult it can be for research teams, even the well-connected ones, to translate and share learning with humanitarian actors and for them to monitor and evaluate their impacts. Research uptake requires analysis, reflection, engagement, and is often an iterative process; it takes time, money and effort. It doesn’t just happen on its own, particularly given the operational challenges in engaging in humanitarian and low-resource settings.
Better communication of research can help to some extent. We’ve made progress, by supporting grantees to blog, participate in events, and produce short summaries of their studies for humanitarians. But as our grantees and stakeholders tell us, and as our recent review of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support research found, simply communicating research isn’t enough to drive use and application of that evidence by humanitarian policymakers and practitioners.
Cordelia Lonsdale for Elrha with a great summary of their recent work on the Holy Grail of 'research uptake'...
Some Good ideas on Promoting locally-led development in the UK aid system
Analysis, findings and knowledge pieces authored and developed in Western European countries like the UK or in the United States are often more valued than other insight. Expertise is often equated with academic credentials, and research, monitoring, evaluation and learning processes are often designed by those deemed to have the ‘right’ expert credentials. Entering the UK international development sector is competitive, and a requirement is for academic qualifications from elite universities, which means that lived experience tends not to count. Imagery and narratives often perpetuate negative stereotypes amongst donors and INGOs, which feed into the ideas of ‘developed versus developing’, beneficiaries rather than co-creators. The dominance of the English language also means that knowledge and learning products are developed by, and cater for, native English speakers.
Duncan Green for fp2p summarizes a new BOND paper.

UNICEF India wins prestigious award for social innovation and puppetry

The series was developed in partnership with The Puppetarians, a Mumbai-based creative agency known for edutainment videos for children using puppets. With sign language, the series has been adapted for children with special needs. (...)
While the primary target audience for the series is children, parents and teachers appreciate it too. It is estimated the show was viewed by over 650,000 people through media partnerships. The series has been disseminated widely at the district and village level through community platforms and through youth in other states who have adapted it into multiple formats.
UNICEF India with an interesting approach to edutainment with puppets.

Seek Ye First the Digital Kingdom? Between Data Extractivism and Digital Self-Determination
Part of the allure of digital transformation is its promise to provide pathways to upend old hierarchies. Digitalisation lures with the promise of "disruption" of a status quo as laggard that is often experienced as disadvantageous. From a technology-optimistic perspective, the upheavals of digitalisation promise a change that can lead to more self-determination across the Global South. In a modification of a famous quote by the Ghanaian independence president Dr Kwame Nkrumah, this credo could be summarised as follows: Seek ye first the digital kingdom and everything shall be added unto it. This attitude showcases how technical solutions are saddled with a multitude of expectations.
From a technology-critical point of view, however, purely technical solutions cannot change the described unequal distribution of power, which brings this perspective closer to Nkrumah's original quote: "Seek ye first the political Kingdom and everything else shall be added unto it”.
Joshua Kwesi Aikins for the Africa Policy Research Institute shares some interesting reflections on 'digital kingdoms' in Africa.

Britain’s Idyllic Country Houses Reveal a Darker History
Recognizing the existence of working people on great estates helped to shore up the idea of the country houses as places of shared memory. “Yes, we acknowledge that there are tensions . . . but, ultimately, everyone was on board, because class could be assimilated into the project of Englishness, right?” Priyamvada Gopal, a professor of post-colonial studies at the University of Cambridge, said. “Race doesn’t allow that.” The spoils of enslavement and colonial power, and how they were fashioned into perfect English settings, posed harder questions, which the Trust took longer to appreciate.
Sam Knight with a New Yorker long-read on the UK's National Trust's efforts to come to terms with the colonial past of grand estates.

‘Maestro of humanity’: Italian surgeon Gino Strada dies at 73

“He was a man of principle and a man who believed in something,” said Duley. “We sadly live in a world now where few people really are principled. We’re surrounded by politicians who are not principled, and many NGOs lack that leadership.
“There was a man who stood up and said what many of us believe: that the cause of so many problems in this world is war, and militarisation, and the profiting of conflict. And he stood up and said: this is what we have to stop.”
On the last few occasions Duley saw Strada, he said, he had seemed tired. But he was never going to stop. “He dedicated his life to this work,” Duley said.
Lizzy Davies with an obituary for the Guardian.

The OmertĂ  of Consultancy

Conventional consultancy simply cannot currently straddle these different worlds for anti-competitive, financial or commercial reasons, agencies can only ever really work for one market leader per sector, and most won’t even get out of bed for less than six figure sums. They become trapped in mono-client siloes of working only with the organisations, primarily dominant incumbent businesses, who can afford such eye-watering fees. And those clients dictate the pace of change at their own comfort and convenience, not at what’s required.
Ed Gillespie talks writes about the climate crisis-and so much more & his insights into (no) consultancy are interesting food for thought for #globalv consultants and how they deal with large organizations settled in their ways...

Ethnographies of Volunteering: Providing Nuance to the Links Between Volunteering and Development
This paper explores how ethnographic approaches to third sector and nonprofit studies allow for context-based understandings of the links between volunteering and development. Drawing from our ethnographies of volunteering in Sierra Leone, Burundi and the Philippines, we argue that ethnographic methods could tease out local ideologies and practices of volunteer work that can challenge knowledge monopolies over how volunteering is understood and, later, transcribed into development policy and practice at various levels.
Alice Chadwick, Bianca Fadel & Chris Millora with an open access article for VOLUNTAS.

Rethinking Value Chains-Tackling the Challenges of Global Capitalism

This ambitious volume brings together academics and activists from Europe to address the social and environmental imbalances of global production. Thinking creatively about how to reform the current economic system, this book will be essential reading for those interested in building sustainable alternatives at local, regional and global levels.
Florence Palpacuer & Alistair Smith with a new open access collection for Policy Press.

Handbook on Social Protection Systems
Combining academic discussion with cases from the Global South and North, this Handbook offers practical recommendations on how greater harmonization across social protection policies, programmes and delivery mechanisms can be achieved. It also highlights the importance of linkages to other policy fields and issues such as taxation, humanitarian aid and livelihood approaches. Overall, the chapters argue that a systems approach is needed to respond to the individual needs of different groups in society and to face future challenges from demographic change, globalization, automation, climate change and pandemics.
Esther Schüring & Martin Loewe with an open access handbook for Edward Elgar Publishing.


Reading Academic Quit Lit – How and why precarious scholars leave academia
More than anything, studying quit lit and those who have quit, reveals the long-term efforts many go to, to become securely employed academics. Passion for scholarship, as well as hope for better employment, sustain these efforts. As I and others have shown, these emotions work to maintain inequalities within academia, notably those between precarious and more securely employed academics. Quit lit, meanwhile, reveals the hidden anger, grief, and relief of precarious academics’ eventual departures. Too often, these stories are understood as futile complaints or personal stories. To fix the many problems of academia, these tales need to be understood as exposing patterns in people’s departures, pointing us to why and how they leave.
Lara McKenzie for LSE Impact of Science; an issues I also noticed in fictional or biographic writing about #globaldev where individual stories can help us to understand systemic issues much better.

What we were reading 4 years ago

(Link review 202, 7 October 2016)

Visions of Development (book review)

When I incorporated a few excerpts of some of the documentaries in a recent lecture I was finally able to fully appreciate Sutoris’ efforts that succeed on so many important levels.
His book opens a small window into an astounding archive of ‘communication for development’ and many aspects, for example agricultural developments or changing gender discourses, have only been explored superficially. But through the digital resource website he opens up another window for teaching and learning about Indian development and the development of (documentary) film-making.
Me reviewing a book that is still relevant for my classroom teaching.

Congo’s Female Tech Activists Risk Violence, Jail, and Rape to Speak Out
Activism is a dangerous business in the eastern province of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Between violent rebel groups and government crackdowns, young people challenging the status quo risk harassment, violence, jail time, and even death. Sexual violence—particularly rape—is another punishment reserved almost exclusively for female activists.
Kait Bolongaro for Vice on gender issues that are still relevant for Congo & beyond unfortunately...

What Do You Do With Your Life After You've Already Been The World's Youngest Dictator?

“I’m a new pan-Africanist, not one of the old ones. This is totally different from [Muammar] Qaddafi’s idea of a United States of Africa,” he said, a barb at the former Libyan leader who was instrumental in creating the African Union but also supported scores of rebel movements across the continent, including in Sierra Leone.
“I’m talking about things like inter-road transit to Liberia, moving towards economic integration, and movement of goods and people — that sort of thing.”
Pan-Africanism was still a powerful idea, he continued, whose social glue was music, whose power was that it couldn’t be hidden or stolen, unlike natural resources. Oil-rich Nigeria was suffering the same fate as mineral-rich Sierra Leone, he said, in that it’s been plundered by white people and members of the elite. I wanted to ask about his own role as part of that elite, but he cut off any attempt to ask questions.
“What about your own role in rights violations?”
“What about it?” he asked, the twitch back again. His whole body was coiled with tension.
“Well, in the December—”
“We were at war. We don’t need to go there,” he said curtly. Had I been somewhere other than a very small enclosed space, I might have pushed the question.
Monica Mark for Buzzfeed; 4 years later this is still a fascinating, disturbing portrait...

Conference travel as a barrier to knowledge development

Where a conference is held will impact on who attends and, more so, who does not, which will then have a consequence for what is and isn’t discussed and so have implications for knowledge sharing. Unfortunately in this day and age, the barriers go beyond health concerns and distance; and instead reflect the politics of our times.
Donald Nicolson for LSE Impact of Science; written way before the pandemic & before conference travel was more widely discussed in higher education, I can also recommend Donald's book on the same topic.


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