Saturday Morning Reading #36

Here’s your Saturday morning reading (actually posted in London for a change!) featuring TOMS shoes, reviews of a new aid novel, breastfeeding, development finance, gap yah and the UK as a development cluster…

1. The Impact of TOMS Shoes | Bruce Wydick – Across Two Worlds

According to this study, TOMS shoes do little damage to local markets, are well-used but don’t have any life-changing impact, with kids receiving them much more likely to say others should provide for their family.

“We didn’t find statistically significant damage to local markets, but our estimates consistently indicated a small negative impact on local markets.  Specifically, local shoe vendors sell about one fewer pair of shoes for about every 20 pairs of shoes donated into a local community.”

“The good news is that 95% of the kids in El Salvador had a favorable impression of the shoes, and they wore them heavily: 77% of the children wore them at least 3 days per week, and the most common response by children was wearing them every day.”

“The bad news is that there is no evidence that the shoes exhibit any kind of life-changing impact, except for potentially making them feel somewhat more reliant on external aid.  We did find that children receiving the shoes reduced their time watching television, but they also spent about 15 fewer minutes per day doing homework relative to the control group, as kids with the shoes re-allocated their time to outdoor activities.”

2. Honour amongst aid workers | Terence Wood – Devpolicy Blog

A review of J.’s new book. I’m working my way through it at the moment and rather enjoying it.

“This book shows just how much well-written aid novels can teach us. Noam Chomsky once said we may well “learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology”. As an aid researcher I hope social science has something useful to offer aid practice too. But Honor Amongst Thieves is an exemplar of what aid fiction can teach us. It’s a page turner too. As you learn, you will enjoy the ride.”

Also see other reviews:
Home, Sanity and the Politics of Aid | Alessandra Pigni – Mindful Next
Love, Compromise and Capitalism | Alysia Antonucci – WhyDev

3. Is breastfeeding associated with increased earning later in life? New paper by Victora et al. from Brazil | Lawrence Haddad – Development Horizons

“The study found that adult IQ was significantly increased by duration of breastfeeding and by duration of predominant breastfeeding, as were educational attainment and adult income. […]
How big are the income changes?  For the difference between lowest and highest duration of breastfeeding the effects are big: nearly one year of additional education, 4 points in IQ and about an additional one third of the average income.”

4. First Look at Addis Development Finance Accord: What’s in It and What Should Be | Charles Kenny – Center For Global Development

“The “Addis Ababa Accord” will be the main outcome of the upcoming Addis Financing for Development Conference in July, billed as the event where we figure out how to pay for the Sustainable Development Goals. The draft is a strong one: it is wide ranging, ambitious and contains enough specifics to suggest it really would make a difference to global development.”

Possible improvements: more targets on the quality of aid, more specifics on transparency and more detail on migration, infrastructure and innovation (and better acronyms).

5. Gap yah volunteers not all bad, says new report | Joe Sandler – Global Development Professionals Network

“Among the report’s central findings was that having volunteers embedded in the local community they are supposed to be supporting helps promote trust and effective partnerships. Volunteers were also found to be engaging in meaningful projects to share their skills with local workers and help alleviate their workload, while simultaneously fostering a new spirit of altruism within the communities they worked in.
However, it was not all good news. According to the report, problems occur when the relationship between the community and volunteers becomes too one-way, with community members dependent on volunteers for skills and NGOs reluctant to share their knowledge.”

6. Why is Britain such an outlier on aid? | Duncan Green – From Poverty to Power

“The UK now accounts for roughly 1 in every 7 of the world’s aid dollars, and DFID is the only remaining cabinet level, operational aid ministry. The UK-based INGOs are disproportionately large and influential (4/11 of the largest are headquartered in the UK, and of the remainder ActionAid , now based in Johannesburg, has British roots). We have IDS, LSE, ODI and a bunch of other consultants and top academic institutions on developmental issues. So why is the UK such an extreme outlier on development? Is this just about a hangover of post-colonial guilt? Or is this more like an industrial cluster – a developmental Silicon Valley?”

Saturday Morning Reading #31

Here’s your Saturday Morning Reading…
1. CV mistakes: how to lose a job in development before you press send | Rachel Banning-Lover – Global Development Professionals Network
Mostly obvious advice (e.g.Don’t cut and paste cover letters to different organisations) – but sometimes we need to hear obvious advice!
“The worst cover letter I ever received was one where the applicant included a picture of their entire family tree just to point out they were related to some great social campaigner,” recalls Graham Salisbury. “But I wanted to interview him, not his great grandfather.”
2. DevQuest-ing your way into a development career | Giles Dickinson-Jones – WhyDev
Some DevQuestLove from WhyDev – my own profile should be up there shortly.
“This is the first reason we started DevQuest: as a simple avenue for newcomers to learn from their peers, hopefully making those initial steps a little less daunting. But there is another reason we thought the idea was long-overdue: despite a trend towards unpaid internships and young professionals programs, there is nowhere a person can read reviews of development entry points. Unless you know somebody who has gone before you, it’s hard to know what to expect when taking those first steps in your development career.”
By seeing ourselves constantly as the “helpers,” we often forget that we also need help, and that the work we’re doing is often more nuanced and complicated than an easy moral black-and-white. And also, we tend to forget that being of service includes being open to receiving support as well. When we are stressed and unconscious about ourselves and our actions, we are more likely to look down on someone in our host country who is poorer or more powerless than us, and we are more likely to be rude. It’s not pretty.
Unfortunately, this is something many of us will recognise – but by acknowledging it we (and others) can change.
“It’s all so pointless,” I said. (I’d had several pints at this point.) “I spend my time helping charities to collect high quality monitoring data – and then they just ignore it.” “Why is that?” my friend asked. “That seems completely stupid.”
The TL:DR is that incentives are often pointing in the wrong direction and leaders need to really care about learning.
You can quibble with the numbers in Oxfam’s inequality campaigning but that doesn’t hide that wealth is power and a few people control far too much.
“A 21st-century development policy means paying more attention to the impact of all our policies on the rest of the world. It does not mean making big sacrifices for the world’s poor. Better policies at home would be good for our own citizens as well as for the rest of the world. Getting rid of tariffs on imports of clothing made in India, for example, would be good for British consumers and it would be good for Indian workers and—by increasing household income—their families too.  And the same is true of almost everything else that forms part of a 21st century development agenda, from ending agricultural subsidies to allowing universities to accept more foreign students”
Let us hope that development policy is moving in this direction – now 0.7% is secure, is this where our advocacy should be directed?

Saturday Morning Reading #29

Here’s your Saturday Morning Reading…
1. Working in development: what you really need to know | Anna Marry – Global Development Professionals Network
“Aspiring development workers like Mary believe that they need prior experience to get into development. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation; you need experience in order to gain experience. Mary believes that she also needs a master’s degree to secure that first job. She knows that getting her foot in the door will be a struggle and therefore she is ready and willing to “do anything” as long as it’s related to development.
“Surely she’s right?” you ask. Well, not exactly.”
Main suggestions: Volunteer, get field experience, build transferable skills and take the initiative to specialise.
“There is no teleological inevitability about overcoming poverty – social justice is not a train journey from being Southern to being Northern. It is always a struggle, it is always about values and about power. When this truth is forgotten, or deliberately obscured, poverty gets worse. That is why we have seen the return to mass poverty in the global North. And the forgetting of that lesson also encourages failures to address poverty in the South.”
3. In Defence of Britain’s Overseas Aid | Tim Lankester – Centre For Global Development
A robust defence of ODA with counter-arguments to many of the common attacks, c.f. Moto, Easterly, Dichter and the Daily Mail.
“The British aid programme is not perfect. But it is better than most in terms of both size and quality, and it is doing an effective job in assisting development, reducing poverty and helping with humanitarian crises. It needs to be subjected to continuing scrutiny like all spending programmes, but it deserves celebration rather than the negativity to which it is too often subjected.”
4. Commitment to Development Index 2014 | Petra Krylová and Owen Barder – Center For Global Development
Essential reading if you care about development ‘beyond aid’.
“The Commitment to Development Index ranks 27 of the world’s richest countries on their policies that affect more than five billion people living in poorer nations. Moving beyond comparing how much foreign aid each country gives, the CDI quantifies a range of rich-country policies that affect poor people: (1) quantity and quality of foreign aid, (2) openness to trade, (3) policies that encourage investment and financial transparency, (4) openness to migration, (5) environmental policies, (6) promoting international security, and (7) support for technology creation and transfer.”
Here’s one for the M&E geeks – I know you’re out there (I’m one of them at times).
“If you really want to create strong M&E systems which allow you to understand success of the programme, reasons for this success, and emergent trends, indicators aren’t the place to start.”
6. Chasing Misery (book review) | Tobias Denskus – Aidnography
In the words of editor Kelsey Hoppe:
“Chasing Misery is an anthology of essays and photographs from 26 women involved in humanitarian responses. All of the women contributed their observations and insights from their experiences of humanitarian aid work over the past decade. Contributors come from a variety of countries-from Yemen to Australia-and most still work in either humanitarian aid or development around the globe.”
“After the first few reflections/chapters you feel that you are included in an interesting conversation, maybe hanging out with a group of friends on a weekend, listening to real, sad, enlightening stories from the lives and work of expat aid workers.”

Saturday Morning Reading #28

Guess who’s back… back again.
Happy New Year to all. After a hiatus due to being very busy with work, here’s your Saturday morning reading…
On soils, youths, the Millennium Falcon, the Fugees, My Own Social Enterprise, beyond aid, business time for development and Brendan’s continuing obsession with Kimye. If you’re interested in development (and I’ll assume you are) you should be subscribed to ‘The Week Today’.
2. Six resolutions for aid workers | Maria May – Global Development Professionals Network
2015 is a big year for goals in international development. Maybe these resolutions will not be in the news when it comes to the big summits but “truly can improve an aid worker’s performance as well as an organization’s impact.”
Maybe you can guess one of my resolutions from me posting Saturday Morning Reading for the first time in 4 months!
3. Migration and Development: Small Tweaks for Big Benefits | Owen Barder and Theodore Talbot – Center For Global Development
While the public discourse about migration in the UK concentrates on new ways to keep people out, CGDev see this as a window of opportunity and have suggested thirteen innovations to deliver development benefits.
“They fall into three broad categories: capturing gains from immigration, for example by training and hiring more nurses from developing countries, rationalizing our rules about immigration, for example rolling back the nonsensical limits on the number of overseas students who can come to the UK temporarily to study, and innovating, by re-jigging global rules and domestic policies to help developing countries capture more of the benefits of sending their workers to the UK, however briefly.”
Duncan reviews a new book on ‘doing development differently’/’thinking and working politically’
“Overall, the book is subtle, complex, often confusing and repays careful study. The complexity is born of deep first hand knowledge, and in the end, suggests that for all Levy’s heroic attempts to distil some general lessons, the roots of success and failure are really only visible with hindsight. Governance advisers and reformers will continue to flounder in the fog, but WWTG, and the other revisionist books and papers, can help a little by discounting some of the bad ideas, and maybe showing people how to look for (and recognize) success a little earlier. That feels like a worthwhile contribution.”
5. Institutions eat interventions for breakfast | 59 minutes of development
“The idea that the development community should focus on interventions or even technologies and spot the winners is itself problematic. Donors need to get better at spotting leaders and organizations that routinely find and implement effective solutions, and support them to expand their efforts and/or find solutions to other pressing problems.  These are actually capabilities that are extremely valuable, especially when paired with the political savviness to keep stakeholders, like the national government, happy.”
“Freelance workers available at a moment’s notice will reshape the nature of companies and the structure of careers”. Technology is transforming labour markets in developed countries. Given the spread of mobile money in any developing countries, opportunities abound.

Saturday Morning Reading #27

Here’s your (extra reflective) Saturday morning reading…

1) Cognitive dissonance: An unspoken qualification? | WhyDev – Jonathan Favini
“Certainly the intent of development is noble. At face value, the notion of alleviating human suffering, of improving living conditions or elongating lives, is unarguably good. That said, the disturbing truth is that academic and professional evaluations of the development industry have been largely negative.”

2) Africa’s economic ‘rise’ does not reflect reality | Jostein Hauge | Global development
“Raising the poverty line to $2 a day gives more startling results. In sub-Saharan Africa, this rate barely improved – from 72% to 70% between 1981 and 2010. In the same time span, developing countries in east Asia and the Pacific slashed this rate by more than two-thirds, from 92.4% to 29.7%. As a consequence, Africa’s share of world poverty has, in fact, been rising”

3) How To Write So You Won’t Be Ignored | Development Intern – Rowan Emslie
“We live in a world that is spectacularly, almost absurdly saturated with information. If you want people to pay attention to anything you are adding to this over-abundance, you’d better make sure it’s clear and easy to read.”

4) Flying off on holiday? You disgust me. | Aid Leap
“In order to reduce my carbon footprint, I try to avoid flying as much as possible. When I tell people this, they normally react with a kind of slack-jawed disbelief. Sometimes the reaction is mixed with amusement, as if I attempted to limit methane emissions by farting less. Sometimes it’s quite hostile, as if I slaughtered kittens to protect the mice living in my cupboard.”

5) Why you shouldn’t start an orphanage (from a woman who did) | Lessons I Learned
“Many things that I once believed about charity and aid turned out to be wrong.”

6) Book review: Letters Left Unsent | The DiA Blog
“The author emphasizes that the industry is not perfect. Nor is it entirely flawed either, however. It is an industry comprised of people who are capable of performing both good and bad actions, and who operate within a framework of power relations. In short, it is just like any other industry out there but with a twist: if it functions properly, meaningful change for the better can be achieved.”

7) Why the Internet makes the personal even more political | openDemocracy
“While online relationships may be a poor substitute for the emotional warmth of a face-to-face interaction, they are quickly surpassing community gatherings in their ability to reach huge numbers of people quickly. Those qualities are going to be important in any broader effort to transform society.”

8) Perverse Payment by Results: frogs in a pot and straitjackets for obstacle courses | Participation, Power and Social Change Research at IDS
“Until PbR is soundly evidence-based, while DFID may  be a world leader in payment by results, for aid to be cost-effective, and for the sake of people living in poverty, let there be no followers.  If DFID want to be a world leader, perhaps this could be in honest, insightful evaluation of PbR which goes deep into its externalities and  the realities of all who are affected.”

9) Development: not for people from different work and ethnic backgrounds? | Global Development Professionals Network
“Based on his international development experience alone Gates would not get a campaigning job with Oxfam or any other international NGO.”

Saturday Morning Reading #25

Here’s your Saturday morning reading…

1. How change happens: What can we learn from the same-sex marriage movement in the US? | From Poverty to Power
“‘Power resides in the general population’s willingness to accept the legitimacy of a regime and to comply with its mandates; however, this power finds expression in institutions both inside and outside the government: the military, the media, the business community, the churches, the civil service, the educational system, and the courts, among others. These are all bodies that, in one way or another, provide a regime with the backing it needs to survive.’
Chew away at enough of these pillars, and the whole temple will suddenly come crashing down in the kind of tipping point that we are seeing in the US right now.”

2. We Don’t Need Another Hero | AidSpeak
“The vast majority of us live more like sidekicks in the hero myths and legends. Why? Because sidekick jobs are the jobs which need doing. I frequently find myself saying to the interns and new hires who ask me for informational interviews (as well as my own full-time team from time to time): “If you want adventure, sign up for an adventure tour. If you want to save lives, get the Flash Appeal proposal done by tomorrow.” (or “make sure the report is in the proper format,” “make sure all the formulas in the spreadsheet are correct,” or “be on time for the NFI cluster meeting,” or… or…)”

3. Are Sweatshops good for women in Bangladesh? | Waylaid Dialectic
“The demand for education generated through manufacturing growth appears to have a much larger effect on female educational attainment compared to a large-scale government conditional cash transfer program to encourage female schooling.”
“This looks like more evidence (if any more was needed) that anti-globalisation arguments against trade are wrong. IT’s also evidence from an interesting direction: gender equality.”

4. The Worst World EVER…in the Past 5 or 10 Years | Dart-Throwing Chimp
“Press accounts of record-breaking trends are often omitting or underplaying a crucial detail: the data series on which these claims rely don’t extend very far into the past.”
“It’s a bit like climate change. Just as one or even a few unusually cool years wouldn’t reverse or disprove the clear long-term trend toward a hotter planet, an extended phase of elevated disorder and violence doesn’t instantly undo the long-term trends toward a more peaceful and prosperous human society. We are currently witnessing (or suffering) a local upswing in disorder that includes numerous horrific crises, but in global historical terms, the world has not fallen apart.
Of course, if it’s a mistake to infer global collapse from these local trends, it’s also a mistake to infer that global collapse is impossible from the fact that it hasn’t occurred already.”


Two weeks in a row. Boom!

Saturday Morning Reading #24

After a wonderful couple of weeks with my parents, I’m back with a fresh serving of Saturday Morning Reading. A lot of great blogging during the hiatus – make sure you check it out! Here we go…

a. Ebolanomics | The Third Transition
What are the economics of ebola beyond the initial hit?

b. Stop Worrying About Ebola (And Start Worrying About What it Means) | Adam C. Levine
Don’t worry about ebola in the West – worry about what its spread says the poor health systems in West Africa.

a. Hey aid worker, what’s your legacy? | WhyDev – Weh Yeoh
“The dilemma that each of us must face is this: is your legacy what you achieve in your work life, or how you impact those around you? The former is not the same as the latter.”

b. Letters Left Unsent (book review) | Aidnography
“The powerful feature of most of the short entries is that they do not release us from thinking for ourselves. Instead, they make us experiencing the complexity and ultimately the quiet discomfort of the world often being a tough, unfair place and you need to get politically and professionally involved beyond ‘good intentions’.”

a. Capacity building – why so difficult? | kirstyevidence
DFID’s Kirsty Newman offers advice on capacity building in a four part series.

b. SWEDOW: Why are we so obsessed with giving away our old stuff? | Blood and Milk
Alanna Shaikh looks at the psychology of what’s so attractive about giving away old shoes: Wanting to treat complex faraway problems as if they were local and to make us feel better about our own consumerism.

a. What’s the Point of the Post-2015 Agenda? | Center For Global Development
“Since talks began seriously in 2012, the post-2015 agenda has become an all-things-to-all people process, thereby doing nothing really well.” A worthwhile reflection.

b. NGOs losing the war against poverty and climate change, says Civicus head | Global Development Professionals Network
“Our primary accountability must be not to donors but to all those struggling for social justice. We must fight corporatism in our own ranks, recognise the power of informal networks, tap into the wisdom of the street and re-balance our resources. We must promote and protect civic spaces, and strive to build global people-to-people solidarity from the grassroots up.”
I make no apology for including so many posts by Duncan Green here – I really enjoyed all of these!

a. Why is it so much harder to talk about politics than about policies?
This links in well with the post above.

b. How can we get better at promoting active citizenship? Lessons from ten case studies

c. International Aid and the Making of a Better World: a great new book
Personal reflections on a career in aid by Ros Eyben

d. Four ways in which a good theory of change can help your social accountability work