Saturday Morning Reading #53

Here’s your Saturday Morning Reading…

1. Refugee influx a major opportunity for Germany, leading economist says | Kate Connolly – The Guardian

“The opportunity is for refugees to not only fill the gap, but as we know every person who finds a job and pays taxes makes a contribution to economic productivity and output. We will see that the benefits will outweigh the costs within five to 10 years. This is not me being an optimist, I’m just looking wider than this myopic, short-term perspective, that in the long run, refugees will be a net gain for the economy.”

2. ‘How can I avoid becoming cynical about aid work?’ | Global Development Professionals Network

According to the NGO agony aunts:
– Adopt a lifelong learning philosophy
– Know yourself, find mentors, and play to your strengths
– Remember the progress that has been made over the last 20 years

3. Industrialisation in Africa – More a marathon than a sprint | The Economist

“Factories are not creating nearly enough jobs for the millions of young people moving into cities each year. Most of them end up in part-time employment in low-productivity businesses such as groceries or restaurants, which are limited by the tiny domestic economy; Africa generates only 2% of the world’s demand. To grow fast, African countries need to shift workers into more productive industries. Their governments need to provide the infrastructure and the incentives for manufacturing firms to set up. Without determined action, they risk another lost decade as the commodity bust deepens.”

Saturday Morning Reading #52

Saturday Morning Reading #52

Here’s your [day-late-due-to-sand-boarding-fun] Saturday Morning Reading…


1. WorkDev #3: Climbing the career ladder | Maia Gedde – WhyDev

Great advice aimed at those who have worked a couple of years in development but need to think about what happens next.

Top tips:
– Adopt a life-long learning philosophy
– Get a mentor.
– Don’t be afraid of challenges. It’s good to change jobs regularly.
– Keep abreast of developments and share your work.
– Maintain a sense of balance and purpose


2. Friday Note: Do Less Research, Get More Impact | Ruth Levine – Hewlett Foundation

Communication of findings in an understandable and useful way is often overlooked in favour of fancy techniques. But then what’s the point of all that work in the first place?

“We also often see researchers reaching to explore ever more nuanced policy questions and applying sophisticated econometric and other abstruse techniques. It’s impressive, and may be just the ticket to get the resulting paper into a prestigious journal (or at least into a years-long cycle of revising-and-resubmitting). But more often than not the analyses that serve policy audiences are those that simply and compellingly bring to light facts about the conditions of people’s lives, the quality of public services, and the potential costs or savings from a particular government program. That is, the studies that present descriptive and basic analytic results in straightforward ways that connect to specific policy domains and decisions—the kind that a technocrat in the Ministry of Health, Education, Planning, or Finance might need to come up with a better program design and stronger budget request.”


3. DfID’s new Energy Africa campaign is right to look to off-grid solar power | Kevin Watkins – Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

In general, it’s a ‘second-best solution’ to a well-run grid system, but to say no to off-grid power is to deny many people electricity for a long time.

“Even the ‘ambitious’ power generation scenarios developed by McKinsey and the International Energy Agency would leave 500-600 million Africans without access to electricity in 2030. My colleague Andrew Scott estimates that around 60% of this population will have to be reached off-grid, through household-level systems or mini-grids serving communities.

That is why Energy Africa is right to look beyond the grid. Asking rural populations in Africa ‘do you want access to the grid’ strikes me as a loaded survey question. In a country like Tanzania, only 7% of the rural population are connected to the grid – and the country’s power utility (Tanesco) is a byword for inefficiency, corruption and disregard for the rural poor.”


4. Why you should never get a job at a charity | Alex Swallow – WhyDev

Don’t do it just to make yourself look like a better person, for an easy option or because you want to do things for people rather than with them.

Saturday Morning Reading #51

Hello from Namibia. After a long hiatus, here’s your Saturday Morning Reading!

“What will progress in the fight against inequality look like? It will look like people power.”

2. Dilemmas over the data movement | Duncan Green – From Poverty to Power

This post resonated with my experience in Zanzibar where often data is collected only to be put in a report mainly for donors (that few will read) rather than as a source of learning:
“Access to data and information alone doesn’t automatically lead to any changes in policy or behaviour. […] What emerged from this is a picture of an enormous, multi-billion dollar data machine that has so far been largely supply driven by data providers and lobbyists. […] International players often pre-suppose what is needed and offer solutions or systems that meet certain reporting requirements – but may not get used for much else.”

3. XKCD Marks the Spot | Bill Gates

The Gates Foundation commission a special XKCD in honour of World Polio Day that makes fun of the obsession over innovation.
“Let’s develop a mobile app that checks users for polio then uses a 3D printer to…”

4. Nine things we learned about the global goals | Global Development Professionals Network

Some choice quotations from NGO leaders about hypocrisy, ending the divide between development and humanitarianism, having civil society and business at the table and more.
Amnesty’s Salil Shetty: “You cannot claim to support sustainable development when you are reluctant to reduce the consumption of the rich or transfer technology. You cannot preach about human rights while practising mass surveillance. You cannot lecture about peace while being the world’s largest manufacturers of arms.”

Saturday Morning Reading #50

Here’s your (slightly cynical) Saturday Morning Reading…
1. Making International Development Research and Assistance Work | Ken Opalo – An Africanist Perspective
I had this thought just the other day – if governments had to actively say yes to any donor project, rather than not say no, national priorities would stand a better chance of being funded as opposed to half the government working to keep donors happy. People working for donors may be surprised by how much of some governments’ activity/attention is dictated by the international community.
“Imagine for a second how different IMF or World Bank interventions would be if all their agreements with developing countries (say above a prescribed dollar amount) were subject to ratification by host-country legislatures. The process would be messy, yes (looking at you, Greece*). But I’d argue that finance ministers would get much better deals for their people — in no small part on account of greater levels of intra-elite accountability in the management of aid resources.
The irony of development research and practice is that we talk a lot about the importance of institutions, but then turn around and come up with ideas to circumvent them (and their elite membership) at every opportunity.”
This is the best one so far. Development satire always welcome.
“None of us knows how to monitor what we’re doing or – even harder – evaluate if a project achieves anything. Usually we just count up how much money we’ve spent.

The M&E guy was supposed to do it, but then he said he had tonsillitis – an obvious lie to get out of working over the holidays. I mean, his doctor note said he needed to recover on Zanzibar. As if!

So I copy-pasted the M&E plan of that agriculture project you funded last year. Everywhere the plan said “chickpea” I changed that to “child”.”
“I know there are a lot of run-on sentences. That’s because the pedants in HQ think that grammar is kudzu. Their tracked changes, once merged, were blinding. Microsoft actually ran out of colours to express them all. Even worse were the comment boxes, wherein each reviewer argued – hysterically! – that her/his input was essential enough to make you, the donor, welcome a narrative that exceeds your page limit by a good 800%.”
3, The pope v the UN: who will save the world first? | Global Development Professionals Network
Speaking of committees and sprawling documents…
“The encyclical is visionary. It is bold, uncompromising and radical, where the SDGs are staid, timid and mired in a business-as-usual mentality.”
“The SDGs are right to embrace a wide range of issues […] But they have confused thoroughness with holism, lists with patterns. It’s a mistake born of outdated thinking. The pope, by contrast, has struck at the systemic nature of the issue.”
“The SDGs frame the problems of global poverty and inequality as things that just exist, as if they have no cause. “Every country is primarily responsible for its own development outcomes,” the document insists. Apparently colonialism, slavery, resource theft, debt, structural adjustment and financial crises don’t have anything to do with it. Poverty and ecological crisis don’t just exist, they are caused – by institutions with specific interests. Unlike the SDGs, the pope dares to cast blame.”
On David Miliband and Ravi Gurumurthy’s article in Foreign Affairs on how the aid system needs to change:
“It’s kind of amazing that “be more efficient”, “stop doing things that don’t work” and “do the things that do work” are all revolutionary statements in aid. Good for them for finally pushing this.
I will push back at Miliband and Gurumurthy in one place, though. It comes down to what I see as a humanitarian blind spot: the perverse incentives they help create, and the silence on the crimes that result.”

Saturday Morning Reading #49

Here’s your Saturday morning reading on Wiki Development, principles for doing development education differently, why microfinance isn’t dead, a special report on Nigeria and why Oskar Schindler was the greatest aid worker of all times.
Ever found yourself having to Google multiple sources in order to find out how to do your job in the sector? Wish there was a place to bring all this information together? The concept of WikiDevelopment is to create an online platform that serves as a hub for knowledge sharing in the international development sector, inspiring a more open industry that encourages more efficient and effective development and social impact worldwide. There is precedent to a certain extent – with websites like Eldis and others touching on what could be, but not realising the potential for a really useful innovation in the sector.
The team are currently doing market research and would love to hear some more feedback from those working in NGOs especially. The survey should only take 5-10 mins. It looks like its a project worth keeping tabs on so check out the survey and their website.
2. Teaching the next generation of development professionals | Dave Algoso and Cauam Ferreira Cardoso – Devex
Learn this stuff and you’ll be on the cutting edge of the profession!
Principles for doing development education differently:
1. Development work is multidisciplinary and multidimensional.
2. Exposure is a fundamental part of learning and — just as importantly — unlearning.
3. Understanding identity, privilege and personal biases matter.
4. Adaptive development takes adaptive management.
5. Development work demands individual self-care and personal resilience.
3. Taylor Swift, Zombies, and why Microfinance isn’t evil | Maria May – 59 minutes of development
Microfinance is dead. All hail microfinance.
Recent studies showed that micro-credit did not have a significant impact on well-being. However, while it does not lift people out of poverty,”it does afford people more freedom in their choices (e.g., of occupation) and the possibility of being more self-reliant” This is the same conclusion I came to with group from UCL when looking at rural cooperatives in Northern Ethiopia during my masters course field trip. In addition, the studies were looking at microcredit as opposed to the many other parts of the microfinance universe and other studies have found a significant impact in some circumstances.
4. Nigeria – Opportunity knocks | The Economist
In this week’s Special Report, the Economist suggests that, having consistently failed to live up to its huge potential, Nigeria now has a rare chance to turn itself round. It includes articles on the diaspora, the election, diversifying away from oil and keeping the peace.
“If you haven’t looked hard at the life of Oskar Schindler, then maybe you should. It will help next time your brain begins to freeze at a donor conference or when you wake up in the middle of the night and your cot is soaking with sweat and you think, this is totally impossible.”
I’m sold… The book he mentioned is now ready to read on my Kindle.

Saturday Morning Reading #48

Here’s your Saturday Morning Reading…
1. Why Technology Hasn’t Delivered More Democracy | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
2. Violence against development | 59 minutes of development
4. If I ran the innovation zoo | Linda Raftree – Wait… What?

Saturday Morning Reading #47

Here’s your very belated (again) Saturday morning reading…
The summer volunteering season is here (judging by the number of people arriving in Zanzibar at least!)
Ken’s top advice: Be respectful, work with the grain, keep a diary and don’t share poverty porn on Facebook.
2. What can soccer tactics tell us about the limitations of planning? | Duncan Green – Global Development Professionals Network
“In football, as in politics, there will also be a huge amount of activity during a match that does not directly affect the progress towards a specific goal. Working out what activity is relevant will emerge only as the game progresses. At the start, it is impossible to identify how each of the 22 players will behave during 90 minutes. And yet the current application of logframes means that we are essentially being asked to predict the entire passage of the match – and the actions of both supporters and opponents.”
3. Cameron can assure a lasting legacy | Dr Camilla Toulmin – International Institute for Environment and Development
A challenge to David Cameron…
“Robust advocacy within the G7 from Cameron for a strong set of SDGs and an ambitious climate change deal would show that he is as serious and consistent in his commitment to tackling global poverty and climate change as he has been on the delivery of UKAid.”