Links & Contents I Liked 438
This week there are important, powerful stories from Malawi, Yemen, India, Brazil, Kenya, Saudi-Arabia/Nepal, the US & Canada as well insights into Think Tanks in Washington, localizing a movement, Web3 for good/'good' + accents in #globaldev work!
Malawian students face yet another setback after tropical storm Ana
The storm affected 398,908 learners from 476 schools and, according to Dakamau, nearly 50% of the learners in his district have been forced out of school.Madalitso Wills Kateta for DevEx with a powerful story on the climate-disaster-pandemic nexus & its impacts on Malawi.
“The learners have lost most of their school materials like text and notebooks and the situation is made worse because some schools have been completely damaged by the floods,” he said.
Steve Sharra, an education specialist with African Institute for Development Policy, said the destruction that the storm had on permanent school structures has further reduced the number of classes in the country.
How Yemeni parents are banding together to keep their kids in school
It’s hard to know just how many parents are pitching in to pay public schools and teachers directly, as the initiatives are largely informal. But Yahya al-Yanaie, the spokesperson for the Yemeni Teachers’ Syndicate and an adviser to the Ministry of Education, estimates that around 49,000 teachers at 8,000 schools are receiving some sort of income from families desperate to salvage their children’s education.Abdullah Ali for the New Humanitarian reports from Yemen (I really like that TNH tries to diversify & localize its contributors!).
It’s a limited fix: The UN estimates that around 8.1 million school-aged girls and boys in Yemen are “in need of education in emergencies support”. Kids may be unable to attend school regularly for a variety of reasons apart from the interruption of wages: When families are forced to run from conflict, as has happened to some four million people in Yemen, their schooling is often halted. Dire economic circumstances mean some parents feel they have no choice but to put their kids to work, and infrastructure is a problem too, with more than 2,500 schools destroyed, damaged, or being used for other purposes.
The river in northern India being hollowed out for concrete
What is actually happening on the Gaula and hundreds of other rivers in Uttarakhand – and all over India – is the opposite of building resilience. Instead, riverbeds are being mined in a way that multiplies flood risks. The state of the Gaula illustrates the situation across much of the Himalayan foothills and beyond in Asia.Monika Mondal for the Third Pole with powerful reporting from rural India and another aspect of the climate-development nexus & how local resilience is quite literally undermined...
Mining companies seek to expand into Brazil’s indigenous territories
According to the report, the main targets of the application requests are the Xikrin indigenous lands of Cateté, whose ethnic group has already been almost decimated by the Serra Pelada mine’s operations, and the Waimiri Atroari territory, in Amazonas state. In addition to land invasion, mining activities have destroyed places considered sacred in these regions, affecting cosmologies and rites, the indigenous groups say.Lívia Machado Costa for Diálogo Chino with another story about mining-this time from Brazil.
The colonial geographies of Kenya’s fintech boom
Mobile and digital finance in Kenya has mapped closely onto the financial infrastructures initially laid in the development of the financial system under colonial rule. Indeed, it has arguably ‘succeeded’ in large part because of those close links. A key difference between mobile and digital finance in Kenya and other countries is that the vast majority of digital lenders in Kenya are established banks. But if mobile and digital finance succeeded in large part because of its ability to ‘plug in’ to existing financial infrastructures, it has also as a corollary been constrained by the spatial limits of those infrastructures.Nick Bernards for Developing Economics presents fascinating insights into the links between colonial & racialized infrastructures & the new (fin)tech boom in Kenya.
Here’s How We Expanded Locally-Led Action to Shift the Power
Honestly, Population Conferences haven’t changed much since 1965, have they?— Rishita ‘ideological fixation w/ strike’ Nandagiri (@rishie_) March 11, 2022
Here, a report in the Eugenics Review (!) on the 1965 Bucharest World Population Conference. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/p72gLMtcNT
Our study emphasizes that the ultimate value of localization does not stem from the project-level impact alone, such as the effectiveness of an aid or development project. Instead, the ultimate value of localization is to expand locally-led practice. As demonstrated by the Inclusive Networks Model, one way to do this is to shift power with proximate leaders and redefine what it means to be an expert. It enables a far more holistic understanding of agency and power—one that derives first and foremost from local expertise and lived experience rather than foreign technical expertise, money, or special access.This report by many Flying Labs & WeRobotics around the world is a fascinating case study into #globaldev localization efforts-published in connection with the Skoll World Forum that is also featured in the final post from the blog archive...
Web3 and the Trap of ‘For Good’
The application of a “for good” framework to Web3 brings its own complications. “X for Good” projects within the tech and social impact sectors are essentially built on the theory that the right tool applied to the right problem will result in large-scale social benefits. The “X” in these projects has historically involved tools such as artificial intelligence, data, virtual reality, or games, or social media and communications platforms, among others. At its best, the “X for Good” framework allows for community-led development of appropriate tools that help create positive social impact in areas such as poverty alleviation or social justice movements. Too often, however, it results in tech solutionism and the imposition of tools on a community, neither designed with nor by communities. As Mark Latonero says, “The deeper issue is that no massive social problem can be reduced to the solution offered by the smartest corporate technologists partnering with the most venerable international organizations.”Scott Smith & Lina Srivastava for Stanford Social Innovation Review with a long-read on Web3 & the promises, pitfalls & action to create digital tools 'for good'...
Diaspora Diaries 3-The loneliness of a long-distance driver from Nepal in Saudi Arabia
Even though I have lived in Saudi Arabia for over a decade now, I have barely had any interaction with local people other than people at the airport. Just like in India, my supervisors in Saudi Arabia have all been Indians. My colleagues are either Nepalis or ajnabi foreigners. I speak mostly Hindi and Nepali, although I have picked up some basic Arabic.The Nepali Times in conversation with a truck driver; a captivating, at times poetic, at other times revealing portraits about the globalization of manual labor.
Perhaps it is that experience or because I recently turned 36 that during my dreary journeys on the road, that I have started longing for home more intensely. I want to spend time with my family now, it has been too long and my children are all grown up.
How many more times must I call my wife to confirm that I have sent her money for that month’s expenses, and that she should spend it wisely? Hemanta Rana captured it very well when he sang “चालिस काटेसी रमाउँला”. I am now nearing age 40 that he sings about, when we can start taking things easy after years of toil.
Accent and language diversity within international aid workplaces
But the most challenging disadvantage is that an accent can create an impression that we don’t know our second language very well, or that we are not competent. There are many examples of people who can both speak and write their second (or even third or fourth) language better than a native speaker but are thought to have a lower level of language skill. A throwaway comment like “Wow, despite your accent you speak quite good English!” could affect the self-esteem of a non-native speaker and make them feel hesitant or shy.Atiq Rahman for the DevPolicy Blog on the challenges of linguistic diversity in #globaldev.
Crisis of Conscience
During the Trump presidency, however, I became concerned about Crisis Group’s trajectory—specifically, that the relationship between ICG leadership and the Democratic Party’s foreign policy elite was watering down the organization’s ability to produce critical analysis and to articulate specific recommendations that break with status quo policies. There has been no decline in the quality of ICG’s research, but their conclusions increasingly lack punch. A leadership change at Crisis Group presents an opportunity for renewal, but I still detect a substantial strain of status quo bias and Western-centric attitudes in the organization’s output. The banalization of Crisis Group—into just another think tank, with a deep bench of experts but without much to say—would be a real loss for anyone interested in ending wars.Alex Thurston with a detailed, critical look at the International Crisis Group, but perhaps more generally at the Think Tank industry in Washington DC and many other Northern capitals...
The Toxics Tour - A Trip Through the Ohio River Valley
The boom in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (a.k.a. “fracking”) in this region has been driven an ongoing massive build-out of petrochemical infrastructure.Alexis Goldsmith for Beyond Plastics with some important insights into petrochemical infrastructure, pollution & grassroots activism in the US.
Alexis visited some of these facilities and met with a number of remarkably dedicated individuals and grassroots organizations who are working hard to hold the petrochemical industry accountable and prevent further build-out of oil, gas, and plastics infrastructure in this beautiful part of the country.
My latest: In all my work in philanthropy over the last decade or so, I've never seen anything quite like the Right Relations Collaborative. In it, funders must apply to a council of Indigenous aunties for the right to fund their work. 1/ https://t.co/xlYHlBgUob— Gabe Oatley (they/them) (@GabeOatley) March 10, 2022
Flexibility of virtual learning prompts some post-secondary students to pursue more online studies
"Typically, institutions see themselves as the places where students come to," Veletsianos said. "[Online learning] basically requires institutions to see themselves differently, to look at their offerings and try and figure out how those can be redesigned in ways that they can support students who are not there."Danielle Piper for CBC with a nuanced overview over how digital, virtual technology is changing Canadian #highered beyond the pandemic.
For online learning to be successful, universities will need to invest in and apply creative technologies and collaborative methods.
"I think the important part here is not to take in-person [learning], that's sort of the gold standard, and try to replicate it online or say that it doesn't work online," Veletsianos said, "but to actually take a deeper look at what it is that we are doing in-person and ask whether in-person is truly the best or if we can do different things."
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 228, 14 April 2017)
The end of the new age of humanitarianism: Insights from the Skoll World Forum
So if I haven’t made it clear: The terminology in this community is incredibly fuzzy and fraught. It’s not just at the Skoll forum where well-meaning people use terms that sound wonderful and then seem to vaporize into thin air (the meaningfulness of the terms, that is; not the people) when you ask for precise definitions or specifics. This is a semantic ailment that afflicts the entire humanitarian community.Tom Paulson's reflections for Humanosphere almost read a bit timeless when looking back five years ago...
Why does this matter? Well, I think the fuzzy language problem is inherent to what I will call Humanitarian Agenda 2000 (to mark it as taking off around the new millennium) and derives from this new contingent of anti-poverty and pro-equity advocates seeking to emphasize that these endeavors are not charity. This is not about simply doing the right thing. It’s not about your personal beliefs.
Advocates of Humanitarianism 2000 generally wanted to transform the thinking around poverty and inequity to fit something closer to an investment mindset – an investment in peace, stability and (as Jim Kim likes to say) shared prosperity. Some have always felt this way; but the lingo has really taken off in the last few decades.
Such thinking is laudable and it has been a great ride, the last 20 years more or less of Humanitarianism 2000, full of hope and excitement, of innovation and ‘positive disruption.’ But is there convincing evidence to show it’s been successful overall, as a strategy? Or is it just rhetoric masking business-as-usual leaving unresolved some of the more fundamental drivers of poverty and inequity?