Links & Contents I Liked 447

Hi all,

It's great to be back after wrapping up teaching for the semester & enjoying more than 20 of our MA students presenting their thesis work (some even in person :), participate in our faculty's graduation event & joining us for a dinner of authentic, fantastic Syrian food in Malmö!

And than there is your weekly tour-de-force through #globaldev stuff from Ghana to PNG, from nudging to storytelling, from blockchain to the Venice Biennale!

Enjoy!


My quotes of the week
Ultimately, having a digital wallet to manage money cannot solve the root problems of abject poverty and oppression. Responsible, just, and mindful innovation is a matter of understanding people’s concerns, subjectivities, resources, relationships, and choices. Humanitarian agencies and their corporate and government partners promote big data technologies, high-tech infrastructures, and the insights, targeting, and optimization they facilitate. But refugee women workers’ perspectives show that sometimes the optimum technology is a humble envelope or a folded up receipt.
(Blockchain for Refugees)

Some stories are better left untold. Maybe you’re not the right person to dig it, maybe it is incomplete and intended to be for the interim, maybe it is toxic and can cause severe damage, if released, or maybe it is too confusing to unpack for your audience. We must learn to let it be because one of the toughest things we will do as a storyteller is identify which are the stories that do not require a telling. It’s okay.
(10 lessons from doing social justice-centered storytelling for 10 years)


Development news
Most aid funds go to just a few disasters. What about the rest?
Disasters that fly under the radar because their casualty counts aren’t so high often also happen in the same places year in year out, causing huge long-term problems. And the fact that they struggle for aid funding and holistic relief strategies only exacerbates future disasters by forcing survivors to remain in – or return to – the same unsafe locations.
“On the local level, communities are destroyed, residents lose their livelihoods, poverty increases, and they are in a vicious cycle year after year; because every year, it's the same,” explained Melissa Allemant, humanitarian response lead at Save the Children in Peru.
Paula Dupraz-Dobias for the New Humanitarian; this is really important food for thought (including for the emerging debate around photo ethics (see Tweet below): how can humanitarian & #globaldev topics gain media space, attention from donors & solidarity from 'members of the public' if they look the same or not 'spectacular' enough? The climate crisis will create (more) zones where extreme weather will become a regular occurrence and lives & livelihoods will be affected and we don't have a visual or other language to communicate this...
Colonial vice at the Venice Biennale
Announcing something that is part of the Biennale with a price list is a bit obscene and contrary to the overall goal of such an event, which is not an art trade fair. The Namibian pavilion example is instructive: RENN’s artworks are on sale for around USD16,000, and unique sculptures at just over USD50,000, as part of the pavilion’s “fundraising goals and packages.” It is highly unlikely that the Biennale’s organizers and their legal team are unaware of these economic practices that go beyond cultural extractivism, and raise serious ethical and professional questions.
In the Namibian case the association between the economic interests linked to the curator’s previous activities and the tourism economic sector are clear and need to be considered in relation to Indigenous land ownership.
Laura Burocco for Africa is a Country with a detailed review of the African pavilions at the Venice Biennale-you can't fully 'decolonize' something when it still ends of in the capitalistic space of (digital) consumption...

Ghana’s next generation of clothes designers blow the whistle on fast fashion
In Ghana, second-hand garments that arrive from Europe and North America are known as “obroni wawu” – or “dead white man’s clothes”. Each week around 15 million of them find their way to Accra, the West African country’s capital. About 40 per cent of what arrives is clearly waste, according to local activists, who say the African continent is being left to deal with the devastating effects of the West’s overconsumption and the rise in fast fashion.
Many of these clothes have been “donated” to charity shops or put in “recycling” bins in the West, but – unsellable there – they are shipped to the Global South. Local traders buy the bales without knowing what is inside them, hoping that they can make enough money from the sellable parts to keep going another day.
Sally Hayden for Irish Times adds a new nuance of local designers to the debate of not sending stuff we don't want to Africa...

Blockchain for Refugees
Residents of refugee camps are already subject to systemic patterns of paternalism and precarity. In Azraq and Za’atari, social control is established through internet restrictions, surveillance and social media monitoring, and restricted rights such as political and labour representation, work opportunities, property ownership, mainstream financial services, and movement. Ultimately, having a digital wallet to manage money cannot solve the root problems of abject poverty and oppression. Responsible, just, and mindful innovation is a matter of understanding people’s concerns, subjectivities, resources, relationships, and choices. Humanitarian agencies and their corporate and government partners promote big data technologies, high-tech infrastructures, and the insights, targeting, and optimization they facilitate. But refugee women workers’ perspectives show that sometimes the optimum technology is a humble envelope or a folded up receipt.
Margie Cheesman for Data & Society with a most excellent expose on blockchain, refugees & digital #globaldev!

10 lessons from doing social justice-centered storytelling for 10 years
Some stories are better left untold. Maybe you’re not the right person to dig it, maybe it is incomplete and intended to be for the interim, maybe it is toxic and can cause severe damage, if released, or maybe it is too confusing to unpack for your audience. We must learn to let it be because one of the toughest things we will do as a storyteller is identify which are the stories that do not require a telling. It’s okay.
Deepa Ranganathan on ethical & real storytelling.

Consultants, are you actually making the sector worse? Here are some questions to ask yourselves
Our sector loves reading white papers, forming committees, having meetings, putting sticky dots on walls, researching problems to death, and thinking that these things are the same as, if not better than, taking tangible actions to address issues. And I see many consultants encouraging and condoning this. Yes, I know and agree that the process is just as important as the outcome. But we’ve often become so enamored with process, with thinking, that we’ve over time lost our ability to mobilize, organize, and take bold steps. We already have board members who are very risk-averse, and we have funders—who are the most risk-averse and the greatest toxic intellectualizers of all—reinforcing this sort of behavior. You, the consultant, can help bring balance.
Vu Le for NonprofitAF speaks truth-as always!
Scramble for Resources (2022)
This report outlines how the Autonomous Region of Bougainville has become the target of a scramble for resources. The region, which is pursuing independence from Papua New Guinea, has attracted mining and minerals exploration companies from around the world, drawn by its valuable copper and gold reserves. Over a two-year investigation, Jubilee Australia tracked the companies vying for the right to mine on the island, ranging from one-person outfits to global operations backed by major investors.
Jubilee Australia with an intriguing case study on global mining & local implications in Papua New Guinea.

Against Decolonisation – Taking African Agency Seriously, by Olufemi Taiwo
“It does not mean a denial of the impact of colonialism on the life, times and thoughts of the colonised. But it surely means, and I cannot overemphasise this enough, refusing to define the colonised strictly by the colonial experience, however profound colonialism’s impact may have been on them.”
Martin Plaut with an interesting book review.

Has “Nudge” tempted us away from systemic solutions?
Behavioural science is a great way of finding small tweaks that can make a substantial difference to behaviour. Such tweaks help if the behaviour change itself solves a problem, but that cannot be taken for granted. It is easy to take a perfectly sound behavioural insight and turn it into a botched piece of policy.
(...)
“We have been unwitting accomplices,” write Chater and Loewenstein, “to forces opposed to helping create a better society.” That is too harsh on themselves and other behavioural scientists. Would we really have excellent universal pensions, a fit and healthy population, and a low-carbon economy, if only we hadn’t been distracted by Nudge? Of course not. But behavioural science is all too good at producing perfect icing for the policy cake; practitioners must never forget the cake itself.
I usually consider Tim Harford more part of the problem than the solution, but this is still an interesting post ;) !
Our digital lives
The Fourth Industrial Revolution: a seductive idea requiring critical engagement
Dooms agrees that the narrative of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is more aspiration than reality. But it’s precisely because it is aspirational that its terms can be shaped. What is the place of Africans in an increasingly digitised world? How are technologies affecting people’s lives, identities and access to opportunities? How can innovations advance a more just society, where people are freed up to do meaningful work? How can states use regulations and other means to ensure the benefits of technological innovation are more equally shared?
Ruth Castel-Branco & Hannah J. Dawson for the Conversation on how the discourse of industry 4.0 needs critical (re-)adjustment to determine what role 'Africa' can play.

Publications
How we classify countries and people—and why it matters
The terminology used to divide the world into the haves and the have nots has continually changed since colonial times to reflect the changing political and social environment. But every new term continues to imply and allude to an inherent unevenness. There is no denying that glaring inequality between countries does exist. But bolstered by such terminology, invariably coined by only one part of the world, we are not acknowledging sovereign states and their independent identities. It also points heavily towards how colonialism has influenced how countries view each other.
Themrise Khan, Seye Abimbola, Catherine Kyobutungi & Madhukar Pai for BMJ Global Health with a new open access article.

Reflecting on Race, Gender and Age in Humanitarian-Led Research: Going Beyond Institutional to Individual Positionality
I reflect on experiences as a minority-ethnicity researcher conducting anthropological fieldwork among Syrian refugees in Jordan. My experiences highlight how the intersections between race, gender and age profoundly shape research, challenging assumptions of "objective" humanitarian research. I echo calls for intentionally engaging with power hierarchies underlying humanitarian aid, urging humanitarian actors to analyse individual researcher positionalities.
Michelle Lokot with an open access article for Forum: Qualitative Social Research (FQS).

Round-up: OA Articles Published by Global South Authors (31 May 2022)
This is a round-up of open access materials produced by authors based in the Global South (GS) and other geographic areas that are less well-represented in the domain of scholarly forced migration literature.
Great selection from Forced Migration Current Awareness!

Academia
Metaversity, Tri-Brid Models, and the Same-Ol, Same-Ol “Innovation”
Transform the way we learn – by sticking a white dude avatar in front of a 3-D PowerPoint Screen and then strapping this transformed classroom to students face so they can virtually sit in desks from the comfort of their own homes. Even though those homes might not be “comfortable” for all, and you can only wear an Occulus so long before your face starts hurting. Funny how research studies never examine how deep the red marks in the shape of a headset are on users’ face at the end of these immersive learning sessions.
Matt Crosslin for Edugeek Journal on another emerging trend that is supposed to 'transform' higher education (full disclosure: we have had first experiments of students joining us in a VR classroom setting & I think it can add to the overall experience of studying digitally/virtually in our Glocal Classroom, but this is not the same as dreaming of some Metaverse university that will connect 'the world'...)

What we were reading 5 years ago

(Link review 237, 16 June 2017)

Is platform capitalism really the future of the humanitarian sector?
I would be a bit more careful in predicting a future of the humanitarian sector based on data-driven cash programs where NGOs mimic global capitalistic platforms.
I would also like to see a much more critical engagement with the concept of platform capitalism and the (hidden/outsourced) cost in an ‘industry’ that by definition should work for the marginalized delivery person rather than the Silicon Valley hedge fund manager.
Ideals and practices based on social justice, equality and changing power relations should always guide the work of NGOs-and sometimes those efforts cannot be simply measured by data collected along the supply chain...
I feel my thoughts from 2017 are still relevant, but also that the sector hasn't been moving forward really...

This What a Feminist Foreign Policy Looks Like
Through this initiative, Canada hopes to position itself as a “global leader in gender equality,” and support women and girls not just through direct programming, but by making women and girls’ empowerment a criteria for receiving Canadian funding. Minister Bibeau hinted that the new policy would also mean that Canada will set “aside the rigid list of countries of focus to adopt a more flexible and efficient approach” – though no specifics were discussed, this highlights the profound changes that are afoot for Canada’s aid policy.
Penelope Chester for UN Dispatch with an early example of how feminist foreign policy already turned up here 5 years ago & how debates have evolved since then into something much bigger.

Why Are Geniuses Destroying Jobs in Uganda?
Development economists are flying around the world to discuss and debate the challenge of creating jobs in the developing world. They will use automated check-in—both in the US and in developing countries. We cannot continue to ignore the obvious that technological progress is being driven in rich countries by distorted prices and availability of labor and is then inefficiently and uneconomically destroying jobs all over the world, making the dreams of billions around the world of escaping poverty and achieving prosperity through productive work harder and harder to achieve.
Lant Pritchett's article for CGD fits in well with the new piece on re-defining what the Fourth Industrial Revolution means for Africa...

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