Saturday Morning Reading #12

It has been a very busy but exciting week here in Zanzibar as I’ve been participating in a 10-day “Lab” where we are creating a new tourism master plan. It has been exhausting and challenging but, as is often the case with these things, I’ve learnt more in a few days than I would in a while month sitting at my desk. I’ll try to work up a blog post on my experience soon.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s your Saturday morning reading:

1) How Matters | Is the aid architecture crushing young aid workers?
Jennifer Lentfer (increasingly one of my favourite bloggers) shares a letter on how the aid environment strongly impacts the emotional experience of aid workers.
It is understandably difficult for many aid workers to find their way in the early years – and the risk is that young aid workers become so compromised by the process of “making it” that they lose that purity, energy and optimism which is the hallmark of youth and the driver of successful outcomes in the complex world of humanitarian operations.”

2) Emergent Economics | 21 things they never tell you about poor countries
This article went viral earlier this week and aims to overturns many misconceptions. For example:
“3. More poor people live in Asia than in Africa.
16. Most countries that successfully reduced poverty didn’t directly try to reduce poverty.
17. How rich countries behave is often more important than how much they spend on aid.”
Also see the follow-up post: ‘Responses to 21 things’

3) Voluntourism – The debate continues…

a) Roving Bandit | Why voluntourism might even just do some good
Lee Crawfurd on how voluntourism can do good, even if the initial direct impacts are minimal by creating a sense of empathy with the wider world – i.e. what Development in Action would call global citizenship.
“Having made a connection with someone living in extreme poverty, we forget how easy it was to not care before we had made that connection. I’d bet that the vast majority of development workers, even the most hardened economists, really got their passion from some form of real human interaction, not abstract analysis, and yet we pour scorn on young kids who venture out trying to have their own interactions and make their own connections, building their own cross-cultural empathy, because voluntourism is tacky. Does it really matter if it is tacky?”

b) TMS Ruge | On Voluntourism. Yes, again.
TSM Ruge responds saying that voluntourism causes harm and the ’empathy’ developed reinforces unequal relationships.
“Voluntourism enforces white privilege. It “otherizes” the recipients — not as development partners — but as permanent recipients who should be grateful to the white savior in their midst.”

3) From Poverty to Power | What do White House Policy Makers want from Researchers? Important survey findings.
The ever-dependable Duncan Green summarises/translates a report on what senior White House officials involved in national security under both George Bushes and Bill Clinton want from researchers.
E.g. “The best narrative (not the best evidence) wins” and “Tell better, clearer, shorter stories and you may actually be listened to”

4) Development Horizons | How do you write about development research for a fashion magazine?
Lawrence Haddad  answers the question above by writing about tax, land, food, drugs and sex.
“When food prices shoot up, children in poor families suffer the most.  When banks default, tax rates increase.  When drug enforcement is destructive it risks fuelling the problem.  When land is bought without due process we all feel disempowered.  When our friends are beaten up for being different we all die a little.”

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