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 #46

Here’s your very belated “Saturday morning” reading (due to an impromptu weekend in Nairobi)…
“Projects to increase an individual’s income in developing countries can help people get a better livelihood amongst those available in that country, but they probably aren’t going to change the overall set of opportunities facing people living in a country. If you want to earn yourself rich, you need to sell stuff to rich people – that means exporting goods or services to rich countries (trade), moving to a rich country to sell your labour (migration), or encouraging rich people to come visit your country (tourism).”
“Anti-poverty programs can’t solve poverty.”
2. Speaking truth to power in energy for all | Sasanka Thilakasiri – The Politics of Poverty
“Energy distribution is important, not just energy generation”
“The discussion around how to meet the needs of the energy-poor households is being dominated by a focus on scaling-up centralized, large scale generation capacity.  The latter is more helpful for industrial and commercial needs rather than for households and schools, primary health clinics, and small businesses. These needs are probably better served through decentralized off-grid, clean energy sources.”
Tackling three big myths in the public perception of development work:
1. “Communities must be so GRATEFUL to you!”
2. “So you build toilets, then?”
3. “Hearing about our silly ‘first-world problems’ must drive you crazy!”
“Development workers aren’t really saintly individuals who want to be placed on a pedestal–we just want to do something mildly useful for humanity without losing our minds in the process.”

Saturday Morning Reading #41

Time for #41.

Here’s your Saturday morning reading, in which we learn how we can challenge the power of the few, make realistic promises, have nuanced stories that put the poor as the protagonists, make grand ethical theories about the shamefulness of barriers to migration and then get screwed over by Katie Hopkins.

1. How can we take on the power of the few? Three lessons from Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement in advancing a society that works for all | Ben Phillips – Global Dashboard

“Development is about power, and the biggest threat to development today is the excessive power of the few. But what can we do to take on this power? Perhaps we can learn three lessons from Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. First, we need to help make visible the hyper-concentration of power in the hands of a few, how this is impacting all that we all value in on our world, and how it doesn’t need to be this way. Second, we need the courage to set out a policy platform that really addresses the inequality of power and wealth. Third, we need an approach to how change happens that is commensurate with the scale of transformation required. 

The challenge of shifting wealth and power from the few to the many can seem so overwhelming that we can wonder if it can ever be won. But we’ve learnt from Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement that transformative campaigns can prevail, and it seems they’ve even set out for us three steps that we can take to help bring forward the time when we shall overcome.” 

P.S. It’s a mark of good writing when I can copy and paste the first line of each paragraph and it makes a coherent narrative!

2. Elephants aren’t the only ones who never forget broken promises | Maria May – 59 Minutes


(Real) honesty about what you know you can deliver can be less compelling at first, but pays dividends if you over-deliver later on.
“The leaders from Miruku told us that when they first approached communities and explained what they could offer, the farmers said that they weren’t interested in market information and cooperatives; they only wanted to do it if they would get cash or other benefits. Miruku refused, and the farmers were lukewarm during the early activities. But just a few years later, the farmers are telling us that Miruku is the best organization they work with! 

3. Protagonists and power: why the aid organization shouldn’t be at the center of the story | Stephanie Buck – Until the Lions


“Think about word choice, perspective, and the voices of the people you work with. Think about framing. Small changes can make a big difference.”
“If we see people as protagonists, we’ll include them from the beginning. And rather than trying to tack on ‘local ownership’ as an objective at the end, they’ll own the process as equal partners from the beginning. Because protagonists own their stories.”
Also from Stephanie Buck – some tools to help you tell stories that are respect integrity, retain nuance and avoid jargon.

4. Walling Ourselves Off | Jay-Ulfelder Dart-Throwing Chimp


On building walls (or keeping the sea dangerous) to keep out outsiders:
Physical or legal, these walls implicitly assign different values to the lives of the people on either side of them. According to liberalism—and to many other moral philosophies—this gradation of human life is wrong. We should not confuse the accident of our birth on the richer or safer side of those walls with a moral right to exclusively enjoy that relative wealth or safety. The intended and unintended consequences of policy change need to be considered alongside the desired end state, but they should at least be considered. The status quo is shameful.

 5. Why Katie Hopkins is so dangerous for development (journalism) | Tobias Denskus –  Aidnography

“We are stemming against a tide of opinions like Katie Hopkins’- just deny climate change, arms trade, bad corporate engagement in developing countries or continue with silly stereotypes about ‘Africa’ and post your ‘opinion’ about them. Forget about international law and the little bit of international governance that the UN system for example provides. And worst of all: Forget about empathy.
Katie Hopkins painfully reminded me of my own filter bubble – and how powerless we are when you are on a destructive mission and simply deny education, public debates, arguments and ‘evidence-based’ something with your opinion. You can find that in many other debates, but the development and humanitarian field is already quite small and under pressure to lose even the last rougher edges of civil society global social change engagement.
She has made the lives and work of development journalists, teachers, researchers and everybody who is interested in a civilized debate so much more difficult-right in time for the upcoming British general election and probably more debates about the ‘usefulness’ of development in its aftermath.” 

Saturday Morning Reading #39

Here’s your Saturday morning reading in which we learn from religion, work with politicians, save the world with businesses, ask big questions about big data, not the absence of migration in the SDGs and defend the proposed development goals.
What the climate movement must learn from religion | George Marshall | Comment is free | The Guardian
11 ways NGOs can work with politicians | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian
Letters | The Economist

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 #17

Here’s your Saturday morning reading…

1. Where everyone in the world is migrating—in one gorgeous chart | Quartz – Nick Stockton
Because charts are cool.

Global migration in one chart
Global migration in one chart

“A few other noteworthy results:
1) The largest regional migration is from Southeast Asia to the Middle East. This is largely driven by the huge, oil-driven, construction booms happening on the Arabian Peninsula.
2) The biggest flow between individual countries is the steady stream from Mexico to the US. (In fact, the US is the largest single migrant destination)
3) There’s a huge circulation of migrants among sub-Saharan African countries. This migration dwarfs the number leaving Africa, but the media pay more attention the latter because of the austerity-driven immigration debates in Europe.”

2. 5 Reasons Poverty Porn Empowers the Wrong Person | Emily from Charm City – Emily Roenigk
“As we often do with the objectification of women, we need to pause and ask ourselves whether it is ethical to depict the graphic qualities of a human being to Western audiences for the sole purpose of eliciting an emotional experience and ultimately, money.”
“1. Poverty porn misrepresents poverty
2. Poverty porn leads to charity, not activism.
3. Poverty porn misrepresents the poor
4. Poverty porn deceives the helper and the helped
5. Poverty porn works.”

3. 23 things they don’t tell you about Ha-Joon Chang | Emergent Economics – Dan Gay
A good balanced critique of an influential development thinker.
“I love it when an author reveals conventional wisdom as groupthink.”
“I’ve always thought of Chang as brilliant but blinkered by the success of his native South Korea.”
“Dozens of countries will never industrialise. They’re too small, too far away from big markets and global trade in physical products has become so liberal that these least developed countries stand no chance of getting on the ladder, never mind it being kicked away.”

4. The World Bank tackles Mind and Culture: heads up on the next World Development Report | From Poverty to Power – Duncan Green
“The central argument of the Report is that policy design that takes into account psychological and cultural factors will achieve development goals faster.  The main tools — affecting prices through taxes, subsidies, and investments; regulating and legislating; and providing information — all remain relevant. But once considered from the perspectives of bounded rationality, social norms, and cultural categories, each tool becomes more complex and more nuanced.”
Duncan explores whether this potentially exciting report will be a game changer or be diluted to the extent it loses its core message.

This is also posted on the London International Development Network where we’ve just welcomed our 1500th member.