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Hi all,

Development news: Arms industry does well on refugee and terrorism threats; The hopelessness of Australian refugees in Nauru; hungry children in Northern Nigeria; the future of INGOs; how to sabotage an independent evaluation; the pros & cons of poverty simulation exercises; what’s an ‘aid worker’ anyway?! 


Our digital lives: Silicon startup schools; new book on digital humanities & media 

Academia: The growing knowledge monopolies of academic publishers

Enjoy!


New from aidnography

Expat Etiquette (book review)

One of the key reasons why I recommend the book and happily add it to the supplementary reading list of our courses is that it provides a nice contrast to an increasingly professionalized and securitized environment in which aid ‘takes place’. Do not get me wrong: I am all for well-trained, well-paid and mentally stable professionals who do not simply board a plane to see how things work out for them in a refugee camp in Sudan. But I also want and aid community that attracts caring, maybe even quirky, individuals who sometimes drink a bit too much at an expat club and on rare occasions take a taxi even when this may violate the security protocol of the organization.
Expat etiquette is an important reminder that aid happens in real life and with real people-and at the end of the day a phrase in Spanish and vague knowledge of a British football team can be more useful than remembering the step-by-step protocol of your de-escalation workshop.
Development news
Arms dealers making a killing from the European refugee crisis

the report shows that “far from being passive beneficiaries of EU largesse, these corporations are actively encouraging a growing securitisation of Europe’s borders, and willing to provide ever more draconian technologies to do this”.
(...)
Writer and activist Jeff Halper calls this the “global pacification industry”, parlaying years of occupation and battle-tested technology in the service of controlling borders and people. For example, Israel Aerospace Industries has worked with Airbus to create a surveillance drone, used in Gaza, to track refugees in Europe.
Antony Loewenstein on how the military-industrial complex benefits in many ways from wars in the Middle East, the terrorist threat in European countries and the urge to 'secure' Europe's borders.

‘It’s Better to Die From One Bullet Than Being Slowly Killed Every Day’ - The Cruel Fate of Refugees Forsaken in Nauru

The despair on Nauru is palpable. Although around 70% of the people sent there have been recognised as refugees, they have nowhere to go. Australia has said it will never accept them, but hasn’t offered them any viable alternatives. Even those who have received Nauruan travel documents cannot leave: the documents state “refugee” as their nationality and those who have tried to use them to get visas to go to other countries have quickly realised they are useless.
Initially, people were told they were being sent to Nauru “for six months” of processing. Three years later, they feel deceived and forgotten.
Amnesty's Anna Neistat on the fate of refugees in Nauru-an important read as some European politicians want to 'learn' from the Australian experience to 'solve' refugee problems in Europe.

244,000 hungry children

“We just got access to areas previously under Boko Haram control and completely inaccessible for the last few years; areas like Monguno, Baga, Kukawa, Gamboru-Ngala, Dikwa, Bama, Gwoza and more,” Laurent-Badin told IRIN.
One of the biggest problems in the region is malnutrition and children are particularly vulnerable. For the malnourished, susceptibility to – and death from – other diseases like diarrhoea, and malaria, which is prevalent in the region, is nine times higher. A further two million people remain inaccessible and have no humanitarian assistance whatsoever.
Eromo Egbejule for IRIN. Even in our digital age there are 'forgotten crises' and Nigeria is one of the places where more humanitarian attention is needed.

What’s to be done with Oxfam?

Institutional inertia is a feature of all large organizations, though it’s often quite subtly expressed. Deviations from ideal scenarios like ‘putting ourselves out of a job’ or ‘handing over control’ can easily be rationalized until the boundary between altruism and self-interest eventually disappears—so what’s good for Oxfam is automatically seen as good for the people on whose behalf it works. And there’s a common belief that roles and relationships can be successfully adjusted without reducing the size or importance of the institution itself. After all, that’s how institutions think.
Michael Edwards' piece has been widely shared and discussed this week. Similar to the UN system I believe that our global imagination of 'civil society' or 'NGOs' will keep the Oxfams of the world alive for a while-just like the idea and idealized myth of a UN system that ensures 'global governance' keeps a security council in place that has been outdated for 25 years now. But maybe their will be accelerated change in the coming years that will disrupt INGOs?!

How to sabotage an independent evaluation: 8 steps for undermining learning and accountability in humanitarian and development work

ensure that you and your organization hire the evaluators rather than leaving it to your donor. This way you can also hire your old university classmate, your former co-worker, or your best friend to conduct the evaluation and give you a clean bill of health. If you don’t know any evaluators with solid credentials and malleable ethics, don’t worry—most major humanitarian and development agencies have relations with “independent” evaluators who constantly work with your organization and who wouldn’t do anything (i.e., provide honest feedback on challenges and failures) to risk that lucrative relationship.
Steven A. Zyck lists some well-known issues around 'independent' evaluations that have become so professionalized that learning rarely takes place.

The woman behind two development 'justice' Twitter campaigns

“I think there is a superiority syndrome among Westerners that they should speak in behalf of people from lower income countries, and this is very often reflected in panels,” she said. But it is alarming, especially when these speakers or so-called experts, “pontificate” about what should be done on the ground, she argued.
“They get a microphone, things are written up and tweeted, and the risk of not hitting the target, the risk of giving wrong advice is much higher if you don’t involve the people that [the topic] is actually about,” she said.
Jenny Lei Ravelo for DevEx on Tina Tinde's Twitter campaigning approaches and her advocacy around kidnapping and 'white panels' on development issues.

Simulating Poverty: Is this an Effective Way to Understand the Experience?

Participants are sensitized to what it is to be poor, albeit in a room condensing one month of challenges into a day, gaining insight into the state of chronic crisis that consumes so many working poor families. At least half the family groups ended the simulation exercise homeless without getting their nutritional needs met. Participants described feeling “overwhelmed, helpless, lonely, confused, inadequate and desperate.”
James Schaffer on the growing trend of poverty simulation exercises; his post deserves a more comprehensive answer, but in short, the very least is to embed such simulations, workshops or exercises in a broader context of activism, engagement with local communities or studying the problem further.

Themes around Health Communication Scholarship in Asia

As the panel discussed the nitty-gritties of health communication and learnings in health communication scholarship in these few countries, a few common themes around health communication came out.
Suchi Gaur with a shirt and concise overview over main themes of health communication (and C4D in the broader sense).

‘Links I Liked’ that I Like
Jamie Pett presents bloggers and newsletters that he follows-as much as I feel that I am in great company, I realize that there does not seem to be a regular link review by a female blogger-even though they contribute to some of the group blog and are featured in the actual link reviews, of course.
Is Jamie missing other colleagues in his list?

Aid Worker

Perhaps the most common complaint that I hear from colleagues and people I supervise is that they feel as if what they’re doing doesn’t matter. Very often, it turns out, they’re comparing their actual job—“grant acquisition specialist,” maybe or “food security technical officer”—to this mythical thing called an “aid worker.”
J. with some reflections on a term almost as dear as 'the field' in our collective imagination of development...

Our digital lives
Silicon startup schools: technocracy, algorithmic imaginaries and venture philanthropy in corporate education reform

Startup schools are analysed as prototype educational institutions that originate in the culture, discourse and ideals of Silicon Valley venture capital and startup culture, and that are intended to relocate its practices to the whole social, technical, political and economic infrastructure of schooling. These new schools are being designed as scalable technical platforms; funded by commercial ‘venture philanthropy’ sources; and staffed and managed by executives and engineers from some of Silicon Valley’s most successful startups and web companies. Together, they constitute a powerful shared ‘algorithmic imaginary’ that seeks to ‘disrupt’ public schooling through the technocratic expertise of Silicon Valley venture philanthropists.
I don't share academic journal articles often, but Ben Williamson's open access article is very interesting food for thought on how the Silicon Valley discourse will 'disrupt' our educations systems.

Digital Humanities and Digital Media: Conversations on Politics, Culture, Aesthetics and Literacy

The observations shared in this book take the form of conversations about digital media and culture centered around four distinct thematic fields: politics and government, algorithm and censorship, art and aesthetics, as well as media literacy and education. Among the keywords discussed are: data mining, algorithmic regulation, sharing culture, filter bubble, distant reading, power browsing, deep attention, transparent reader, interactive art, participatory culture. The interviewees (mostly from the US, but also from France, Brazil, and Denmark) were given a set of common questions as well specific inquiries tailored to their individual areas of interest and expertise.
Another more comprehensive resource on 'digital lives'-Roberto Simanowski's edited open access book.

Hot off the digital press

Special issue on Open Data for Social Change and Sustainable Development
The latest open access issue of The Journal of Community Informatics

Academia
Knowledge Monopolies and Global Academic Publishing

In our ongoing research, we argue that in academic publishing and scholarly communications we are seeing the kind of consequences Innis was fearing in his critique of ethnocentrism. Knowledge-sharing and universal access are crucial, but we also need to work on the idea of the equality of all knowledge(s). In other words, this means we need to work harder, collectively as academia, to improve the visibility of local academic knowledge, and so redefine and reshuffle its present geographical, epistemological and political hierarchies.
Domenico Fiormonte and Ernesto Priego on global knowledge monopolies, academic (journal) publishing and accumulating wealth, knowledge and metricized value in the digital age.

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