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Hi all,

Development news starts with 2 powerful pieces on orphanage tourism and a sustainable future for global volunteering; how aid became big business; #allmalepanels and introducing female speakers; aid corruption in Turkey and Syria; risk management manuals are not all bad; tobacco firms supported AIDS agenda to distract from their product.
Digital lives on Re:Publica; writing in a violent world & India’s urban social media stupid.
Academia with a Canadian university's bold move to cancel 2000 Springer journals; how to comment on a draft policy paper; interview with the UNESCO chairs for community based research & it was never easy to find academic employment.

Enjoy!


New from aidnography
Bei #allmalepanels geht es um mehr als um (nicht) redende Frauen

In a guest post for my German colleague Claire Grauer I summarize the #allmalepanel debate and add a few basic 'dos' and 'don'ts' about panel diversity.

Development news

Children as products: the reality of orphanage voluntourism

Voluntourism thrives on the culturally embedded side effects of global markets and the power relation that this creates between those in the wealthy West and the developing world. In the shadow of colonial guilt and with the growing distance between the wealthy and the poor, both between and within countries, the desire to help those with less than our selves is strong. When companies offer voluntourism placements they are selling a way to satisfy those good intentions. This becomes morally problematic when we consider the means by which those good intentions are met. What is really being commodified, and sold as a fulfilling experience, is a child.
If you are among the regular readers of this blog you don't really need another reminder of how bad orphanage voluntourism is, but Lamorna Byford's piece is a well-written piece with important context that you should read and share!

Malia, The Rise of the Gap Year, and Ethical International Engagement

But to solve the problem, we need more than efforts like these. Based on two decades of work, critique, and research at the nexus of development, civic education, and global learning, I think the answer is fundamentally tied to our educational infrastructure, which:
- Emphasizes civic responsibility and participation to a greater extent than social justice while implying that volunteer service alone may be sufficient civic activity
- Often ignores the concept of human rights and major rights policy instruments
- Promotes social entrepreneurialism as a civic solution
(...)
We must build students’ understanding of structural realities and possibilities over the trajectory of their schooling careers—across all programs of study—so that they can understand their ethical roles in an interconnected world. Then they will be able to approach international opportunities from a cooperative, learning perspective, with an understanding that all countries have continuously developing systems and structures to support social welfare and health.
Eric Hartman on the efforts to create better gap-year and volunteering experiences in a global world-and striking a balance between the demand from students to use their education to 'do good' and the complex realities of developing countries.

How Aid Became Big Business

This is AidEx, the “leading international event for professionals in aid and development” and a “major platform for networking, making new contacts and doing business.” At the center of a large convention space, the marketing managers at their stalls were pitching their goods at the host of acronyms — UNHCR, UNDP, ICRC, and many NGOs — that make up this aid-funded market and together have billions of dollars to spend each year. On offer was everything from different types of tarpaulin to the services of private security firms. In a pop-up café on the edge of the exhibition area, attendees huddled in small groups, comparing notes on who won what from the different aid agencies in the previous year.
(...)
This is the myth of corporate-led global development: that companies have “seen the light” and become more progressive, and therefore should be embraced as partners. While they may sing hymns about their development “impact” and “sustainable” operations, many of these same companies continue to avoid taxes and fight against regulation. The fact that this embrace of corporations in aid and development has happened in the wake of the global financial crisis, and amid increasingly mainstream questioning of deregulated capitalism, is astonishing. It is a grand accession of power, good for profits, but delivering questionable short-term benefits for the poor and worrying long-term impacts for the world. It is a many-sided hall of mirrors that is meant to blind good-willed people and the aid agencies they work with to the reality of unchecked corporate power.
As interesting as Matt Kennard and Claire Provost's long-read on the corporatization of the aid industry is, there isn't much 'we' didn't already know and have been criticizing for years: CSR is mostly PR, voluntary standards are not enforcable and procurement is big business; but still an important review of how 'we' all to easily embraced corporate 'partners'.

Dude, Where Are The Women? #AllMalePanels In Global Development

Still, some are doubtful that sticking a few women on panels will change things.
For Denskus, any shift must be authentic — not just done to fulfill a quota. "You can't just add women and stir," he says. "Women should be invited because they are experts on the topic, not because they're women."
And why stop at gender? Simone LaPray, a speaker at the InterAction Forum from the Boston Network for International Development, says panels should include racially diverse voices from the low-income countries that development serves.
"I would be nice to not see a panel of just American experts," she says.
For now, as the #allmalepanel feed continues to hum on Twitter, many in the development space agree that adding women to high-level talks is an important first step.
Very proud to be among the experts Malaka Gharib spoke to for her piece on #allmalepanels!

Five “Don’ts” for Introducing a Female Speaker (And Why This Matters)

The reason this issue deserves attention is not that this is the only/worst form of gender (or other) discrimination out there (obviously not by a long shot); or because everyone who ever called a female speaker “Miss” is a despicable misogynist. If they were, it would be easier to snark back right there and then. Not introducing female scholars as if they were either slightly suspicious anomalies or much appreciated diversions to lighten the mood and improve the decor is crucial because it is one among few steps on an otherwise extraordinarily difficult path to gender equality that is easy to take.
Even though Charli Carpenter mainly discussed academic panels, her points add important nuances to the NPR piece on development's #allmalepanels.

Data are not dangerous: A response to recent MSF CRASH critiques

Similarly, the book implies that formalised systems of risk management, increasingly used by aid agencies, do more harm than good. Such systems, the authors maintain, bureaucratise decision-making and rob aid workers of their independence and ingenuity. This runs counter to the widespread opinion of both national and international humanitarian field workers, as evidenced in surveys and hundreds of interviews across multiple studies. Practitioners understand perfectly well that guidelines, such as the widely used Good Practice Review 8, are simply tools. It is ungenerous, at best, to suggest that the typical aid worker will abandon their own judgment and personal agency to blindly follow a manual, or will allow their situational awareness to be solely determined by numbers in a global dataset. And it betrays a lack of in-depth inquiry on how these measures are actually applied in the field.
Amy Stoddard, Adele Harmer and Katherine Harmer discuss the lates MSF-CRASH publication on risk management discourses; really interesting and once again showing what a fascinating digital space around humanitarian issues has become available for discussion and reflection.

US probe into Turkey-Syria aid corruption deepens

The three NGOs implicated have grown fast since the start of the Syria crisis, fuelled in part by funding for cross-border aid from the US and the UK. IMC (US) income more than doubled, to $232 million, between the 2011/2012 financial year and 2014/15. GOAL’s income jumped 94% between 2013 and 2014 alone (figures for 2015 are not yet available). IRC, the biggest of the three in terms in revenue, currently manages over $500 million in annual funding.
The supply chain involved is big business. While procurement data about the NGO operations is not public, goods and services procured by the UN system in Turkey has leapt as Syria’s war drags on: it purchased goods worth $339 million from Turkey in 2014, up from $196.7 million in 2013 and $90 million in 2012.
The three NGOs are big players, but they are also largely dependent on governmental sources of funding. If their relationship with USAID (the foreign aid arm of the US government) is damaged beyond repair, their capacity to continue work in other countries might also suffer.
IRIN's Annie Slemrod and Ben Parker on the all-too-familiar story of how (US) aid money attracts quasi-NGOs ready to cach in on readily available emergency funding.

Tobacco firms pushed AIDS agenda to protect profits

For example, Philip Morris paid ITGA representatives from Malawi to influence their government. The paper says the Malawi government’s subsequent statement on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control expressed the belief “that the deaths due to tobacco in Malawi are exaggerated, ignoring more important problems of malaria and HIV/AIDS”.
In the United States in the 1990s, tobacco companies funded lesbian and gay rights organisations and championed their cause during the AIDS epidemic, the paper says. But AIDS organisations began to question the firms’ intentions and to refuse funding, the paper points out.
Tania Rabesandratana reviews a paper that researched the history of big tobacco's engagement with social movements and governments to ensure that the negative impact of their product was downplayed; yet another important reminder not to trust big corporations claims to be 'good citizens'.

The Advisors Guiding the World's Top Philanthropists

The T&C 50: ​You may know their famous clients and bosses. You should know them, too.
Unfortunately, Whitney Williams list is almost entirely void of any content or context-but intersting for those with a research interest in development and celebrity issues getting to know the people and agencies behind the celebrities.

Our digital lives
My highlights from #RPten (and the most interesting stuff I missed)

Mark Carrigan shares some interesting videos from the 10th Re:publica conference in Berlin-quite a few discuss relevant issues for the development and humanitarian community as well!

What is the Writer’s Place in a Violent World?

But it is a narrative, it is language. It communicates. It is poetry because it is a language of representation. All those men, clad in orange, dragged across sand and sea, have been reduced to brightly colored metaphors. All those poppies, blood red and stuck in dirt around the Tower of London moat, were once full-bodied men strewn across battlefields.
One reminds us cruelly of our fragility, the other tries valiantly to shield us from the ugly stink and rot that also makes up who we are.
I’m speaking of violence that is put on display. At its most aesthetic, it strips back and erases a harsher reality. At its most garish,it is a billboard for all our most human and most primal fears: a symbolic language come to us so fully and frightfully formed that we have not always found the words to confront it. When it comes to war, when it comes to violence, it seems that we have not always been able to keep up. We have not always been able to locate the vocabulary that will take us from shock and stunned silence toward a coherent, visceral speech, one as strong as the force that is charging at us.
Maaza Mengiste's beautifully written essay transcends categories and is food for thought for anybody who wants or needs to write...

All hail the rise of India’s urban stupid

The driving force for the so-called urban poor is not just social status, but social-media status. They might hesitate to save up for a fancy business-school degree, which would confer its own kind of prestige. But they won’t delay spending on things that provide them with instant gratification, especially when it can be shared via social media. At that moment, some young professionals value the status update from Bali more than an MBA.
One might ask how people can justify making such short-sighted and superficial financial decisions. But each person, in their own way, is equally trapped in the social-media rat race. So you might want to forgive them for forgetting the difference between peer pressure and stupidity.
Akshat Rathi on the toxic mix of capitalism, social media gratification and new social stratas in India's urbanizing future.

Academia

Cancellation of subscriptions to 2,116 Springer journals

Available budget only allows UdeM to keep 150 of the collection’s 2,266 journals, or 6.6% of the titles. These 150 titles cover 42% of UdeM’s downloads from Springer in 2015.
(...)
Springer’s articles end up being 225% more expensive at UdeM compared to Elsevier’s.
Well done, University of Montreal library for speaking out against academic journal pricing-and taking active steps rather than being intimidated by global companies with big legal departments!
I actually find the fact that they subscribed to more than 2000 journals quite amazing-and the fact that only a few are actually read/used by the university and its stakeholders.

How to read and comment on a draft paper – your suggestions please

Please try and put yourself in the shoes of the target audience and think what would interest or inspire them. Don’t go into internal lobbyist mode, combing through the document looking for/shoehorning in references to your particular hobbyhorse!
I read the paper as I would speed read the final article: the exec sum first, then the conclusion, then the top and tail of each chapter. I try to focus my comments on those sections because they are (by far) the most important in terms of impact.
But you do need to read the whole thing. Is the paper internally consistent? Have any nuggets (killer facts, case studies, telling graphics, genuinely surprising or new findings) failed to make it to the exec sum – a common crime in NGO papers?
It may seem a bit odd to file Duncan Green's latest post under Academia. But there are obviously similarities between academic peer review and commenting on draft policy papers; I guess both industries can learn from each other: Academics need to be more open to well-written papers that may not present the most ground-breaking findings, but offer food for thought and discussion and will likely be discussed. NGO staff may want to try out anonymous peer-review to create more 'objective' elements of the drafting process.

Empyrean Research’s Interview with the UNESCO Chair for Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, Part 1

In their roles as the co-directors of the Chair, Tandon and Hall have worked to document the rapidly evolving global practice of community based research. Since the Chair was established in 2012, it has led on the publication of several books and a variety of open access knowledge products on CBR, drawing together globally diverse case studies, methodologies and practitioners. In 2015, they published two books on community university research partnerships. These publications will be the focus of the next blog in this Empyrean Research series.
The Chair is has also just launched an extensive training and capacity building initiative called NextGen which is providing training in CBR and other participatory methods to CSOs and young academics in the global south.
Another post which cuts across my headings and could easily be filed under 'development news'-my good friend Skip Bivens documents the history and knowledge sharing of a very interesting participatory action research partnership.

Grad school has always sucked: “I am sorry to be so discouraging, but the truth requires it”

Financially, chances are anthropology in 2030 will look more like anthropology in 1930 than anthropology in 1959. So I wouldn’t really encourage you to take out student loans in anticipation of a second golden age. But it is interesting to see how those who came before us dealt with the fact that, in general, grad school has always sucked.
Alex Golub puts the challenges of anthropological job markets and PhD studies into some historical perspective reminding us that besides a short 'golden age' higher education has always been a difficult industry.

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