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.”

Saturday Morning Reading #37

Here’s your Saturday morning reading featuring sustainable development goals, volunteering, South Sudan, thinking about development as a process not a project, and farming in Uganda…

1. Sustainable Development Goals

a) The 169 commandments | The Economist

“Developing countries seem to think that the more goals there are, the more aid money they will receive. They are wrong. The SDGs are unfeasibly expensive. Meeting them would cost $2 trillion-3 trillion a year of public and private money over 15 years. That is roughly 15% of annual global savings, or 4% of world GDP. At the moment, Western governments promise to provide 0.7% of GDP in aid, and in fact stump up only about a third of that. Planning to spend many times the amount that countries fail to give today is pure fantasy.”

b) SDG Targets: Here’s How to Make Them Stronger | Charles Kenny – Center For Global Development

CGD suggest many tweaks to the SDGs draft – increasing the poverty line, lowering the required rate of economic growth and more useful indicators.

More on poverty lines and health.

2. The professionalization of development volunteering – towards a new global precariat? | Tobias Denskus – Aidnography

Great to see a political economy angle on the volunteering debate.
“An ‘experience industry’ is now linked to the regular development industry that demands more qualifications and skills while at the same time contributing to precarious quasi-employment that often masks the challenges of over-supply of young professionals and shifting dynamics in global development engagement away from the traditional ‘North-South’ flow.

I will arrange my reflections around two key points: First, the paradox that rightly demands better educated aid professionals, but not necessarily links them to equally professional work and salaries.

And second, a growing ‘volunteering industry’ that usually brings together state, civil society and academia, but that is more likely to contribute to a depoliticized ‘employability’ discourse than meaningful political engagement over development policy and practice.”

“Well-meaning teachers, academics, policy-makers and NGO staff need to critically engage beyond the ‘any money for development is better than nothing ’ argument .”

3. South Sudan: war without end | Richard Dowden – African Arguments

Depressing. It’s difficult to see the way out.

“What, I kept thinking, have the Southern Sudanese learnt from the rest of Africa’s post-independence mistakes over the last 50 years? How could South Sudan avoid the coups and bitter personal enmities that rivals tribalised to make war on each other? Who was able to stop the gross theft of state funds? Why did so many African rulers live in paranoid secrecy and total security? Above all why did those rulers lack any interest in development for their own people? I had seen it in Idi Amin’s Uganda, in Moi’s Kenya, in Mobutu’s Congo, in Abacha’s Nigeria, in Houphouet-Boigny’s Cote d’Ivoire. And here, now, in 2015, in Africa’s newest country all those criminals are being mimicked by this scarcely literate clown in a black cowboy hat.”

4. Why it’s time to stop thinking of development as a project | Stephanie Buck – Until the Lions

“Projects have a start and a finish. They have goals and objectives to meet. There should be some sort of visible result at the end. They are designed in advance, often from a distance. Their design usually struggles to adapt to different or changing realities on the ground.
Processes are fluid. They adapt to their environments. They are not seen as ends in themselves. They adjust as needed and are part of long-term, systemic change.

We know that development is hard. We know it takes time. We know that it means something different in each context and culture.

Yet international development activities continue to be funded as isolated projects. If we’re lucky, it will be a series of projects meant to build on each other. But even these often don’t get to the root challenges. The lack of coordination, and lack of focus on processes and institutions remains troubling.”

5. #FreeTheSeed and the Romanticization of Uganda’s Hunger | Francisco Toro – Campaign for Boring Development

“The prevalence of undernourishment has actually risen in Uganda, from 27.1% of the population in 1991 to 30.1% in 2013.

Nobody who has actually sat down to look at the realities of farming and food security in Uganda in detail can miss the fact that without much better farming technology able to substantially increase yields, these trends are going to continue. Techniques like shifting cultivation that made some sense two generations ago are not viable in the vastly changed social circumstances of 2015.

Improved Seed – no need for scare-quotes here guys, they really are better – when used alongside better agronomic techniques and reasonable amounts of fertilizers, have been shown to multiply smallholder yields up to sevenfold within a single season.”

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 #35

Here’s your Saturday morning reading, featuring a bit of everything – volunteering attacked and defended, reflective answers from J., a handbook for revolutionaries (NOT by Russell Brand), girls’ empowerment and mobiles, mental health and how China’s rise is making it harder for others.

“By effectively requiring new humanitarian workers to have worked as volunteers, we are instilling the idea that aid is just volunteerism plus money and better technology.  These new aid workers often come from an environment where they were never asked to think about whether they could do harm, and where it was inherently assumed that they were doing good just from being there.  The attitudes which are instilled at these early stages of a career are apparent throughout the aid sector.  If we want to professionalise the sector, we could start off by professionalising our volunteers.”

“The increase in travel, connectedness through digital technology and popularity of helping others isn’t a trend. People are involved in the development sector whether we want them or not.
So, we have two choices: not help them and then complain they’re doing it wrong, or help them do it right.”

2. Why We Dev with J. | WhyDev
Which is the best INGO? Which skills are most vital in development? Which tech will save the world?
I’d recommend reading all three parts of this interview with J. with questions submitted by readers (including some of you very probably).

Tips for protest groups:
Branding matters, dream big, use food as an entry point, practice laughtivism, be cool, stick to non-violence because it works, make them oppress you, invest n building and maintaining unity and know how to win.
“His twin sources of inspiration are Tolkien – ‘If I had to choose one book to call my scripture, it would be Lord of the Rings’ (activists are hobbits, ordinary folk allying with a motley collection of unusual suspects – dwarves, elves etc – to take down the Dark Lord) and Monty Python (dictators can’t handle humour, and it makes being an activist fun).”

4. 10 myths about girls’ empowerment and mobile learning | Linda Raftree – Wait… What?
Mobiles are not a standalone solution, girls are not all tech-savvy and mobiles can both put girls more at risk and make them feel safer in different circumstances.

Old school attitudes, reliance on stress management and self-care rather than dealing with root causes and a lack of soft skills and sustainability all get in the way of better staff care.

Asia’s dominance in manufacturing makes it hard for others to follow their their footsteps.
“China and its neighbours may have been the last countries to be able to climb up the ladder of development simply by recruiting lots of unskilled people to make things cheaply. Exports still remain the surest path to success for emerging markets. Competing in global markets is the best way to boost productivity. But governments outside the gates of Factory Asia will have to rely on several engines of development—not just manufacturing, but agriculture and services, too. India’s IT-services sector shows what can be achieved, but it is high-skilled and barely taps into the country’s ocean of labour.”

Saturday Morning Reading #23

Here’s your Saturday morning reading…

1. Devsplaining | Wait… What?
This happens far too much.
“Devsplaining – when a development worker, academic, or someone who generally has more power within the ‘development industry’ speaks condescendingly to someone with less power. The devsplainer assumes that he/she knows more and has more right to an opinion because of his/her position and power within the industry. Devsplaining is rooted in the assumption that, in general, development workers are likely to be more knowledgeable about the lives and situations of the people who participate in their programs/research than the people themselves are.”

2. Shouldn’t Humanitarian Aid Come First? | Campaign for Boring Development
Maybe it’s time to ask this question. Current trends in demand for humanitarian aid demand that we have a damn good answer.
“Last year, the world spent $135 billion on International Development Aid. It also spent $22 billion on Humanitarian Aid. […] The EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid tells us we should “get used to it” when it comes to not enough resources for Emergency Response. People starving inside UN facilities is, we’re told, “the new normal.” […] This situation strikes me as perverse. The rich countries spend plenty in the developing world, it’s just that 6 out of 7 aid dollars are directed to programs where it’s hard to tell if they’re doing any good.”

3. What can Islam teach secular NGOs about conflict resolution? (and human development, climate change, gender rights…) | From Poverty to Power
Some food for thought…
“On obligation to take action on injustice (and not just speak or think about it): According to a well-known Hadith (saying or tradition of the Prophet): “Whosoever of you sees an injustice, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of faith.” And I don’t think ‘with his hand’ includes clicktivism…”
“Lucy’s advice to secular NGOs wishing to work with faith groups was a) don’t start pretending you’re a theologian; engage with faith leaders instead and b) treat them as ‘architects’ not just ‘gatekeepers’”

4. Episode 43: Complexity | Development Drums
I have a lot of nerdy excitement about this…
“In the podcast, I ask Ben to pin down what we’re talking about when we talk about complexity and complex systems, and ask Stefan whether any of this is actually new to development economics research or policy, which has long incorporated elements of complexity thinking. We debate whether systems thinking gives donors and governments new and useful tools, including for humanitarian intervention.”

5. 15 ways to make your mark as a volunteer | Global Development Professionals Network
Ask questions, talk to the volunteer there before you, set clear goals, be useful, respect the local culture and learn from your mistakes. It’s all common sense but a useful reminder and can be applied beyond volunteering.


There will be another hiatus next weekend due to being somewhere in the Serengeti (hoping I won’t be blessing the rains) but I’m hoping to be providing a more regular service from then until Christmas. I also have a lot of blog ideas up my sleeve that may see the light of day at some point.

Mega Sunday Morning Reading

This is a bumper late edition of Saturday Morning Reading because I was lucky enough to be away the last couple of weekends in Rwanda and Uganda. Normal service will resume next week (then be cut off again when parents come to town the next week!)

1. Working In Aid Without Volunteering | Development Intern
On alternative routes into a career in the development sector:
“One colleague of mine began his aid career working on the factory floor of car company. Another started as a corporate lawyer, another was a journalist, and another was a policy analyst for a US congressman”

2. I’m getting tired of ‘corporatization’ claims regarding the development industry | Aidnography
“Did you read the news recently? It is full of the same old stories: How MSF struck at huge tax evasion deal with British authorities, how PLAN is essentially a foundation based in Liechtenstein, how Save The Children is stashing away hundreds of millions of dollars of their donations in Caribbean bank accounts and how the WFP is basically a one-person entity with headquarters in Guernsey.
Obviously none of these are true stories. They cannot be true, because no humanitarian or development charity, foundation or NGO works like a corporate entity”

3. Sanitation in India: The final frontier | The Economist
“Evidence is growing that India must urgently correct its cultural practices, though it is sensitive to say so. Studies of India’s population show how since at least the 1960s child mortality rates have consistently been higher in Hindu families than Muslim ones—though Muslims typically are poorer, less educated and have less access to clean water. Today, out of every 100 children, 1.7 more Muslim than Hindu ones survive to five years, a big gap.”

4. South Sudan: An Elite Pact’s Baptism of Blood | Campaign for Boring Development
“States usually end up being formed by coalitions of their most dangerous and most violent people. Each player would prefer to take over the whole area for himself – and sometimes that’s possible. But in many cases, it’s not possible, and the “violence specialists” fight one another to exhaustion. Eventually, though, a moment comes when they’re all fought out and they’ve given up the dream of killing all their most dangerous opponents. Only then can the process of elite-bargaining that gives rise to a political settlement arise.”

5. A book that help change the way I think about politics in developing countries | Chris Blattman
Museveni’s Uganda: Paradoxes of Power in a Hybrid Regime, by Aili Mari Tripp – an “essential book on Ugandan politics and development”
“It’s a mistake to think of regimes in most underdeveloped counties as coherent governments. Rather, most are delicate and shifting alliances of influential groups and elites. The strongman who sits atop this look and act like Presidents (and many have a tremendous amount of power) but their first priority is to manage this shifting network of alliances. This overrides everything else.”

6. Why ‘political economy analysis’ has lost the plot, and we need to get back to power and politics | From Poverty to Power
“Structures and institutions provide opportunities and resources that agents can use – and hence also provide room for manoeuvre. The point is that structures and institutions of power not only constrain political actors, but can also provide the resources which they, as agents, can find and use to initiate or bring about change.
Political analysis does not ignore interests, incentives or institutions, but goes further and deeper. It differentiates and disaggregates interests, ideas, incentives and institutions, and also has the analysis of power (and the sources and forms of power) at its core.”

7. Top-down versus bottom-up development: where does evidence fit in? | kirstyevidence
“For me, evidence-informed policy making is not about pushing out more and more research-based solutions. It is about supporting the appropriate decision-makers to consider the appropriate evidence as they are struggling to come up with solutions which are appropriate for them.
In other words, I place myself, and my concept of eipm, firmly on the left-hand column. I recognise the need for struggles, learning, adaptation as local people deal with local problems. I would simply argue that one of the sources of information which can be immensely useful in informing this process is research evidence.”

8. Juma on Piketty’s Capital: can Africa avoid the trap of unequal growth? | Global Development Professionals Network – Calestous Juma
“There are at least two important implications of Piketty’s work for Africa. First, the continent does not have the kinds of social institutions that can help to reduce the social, economic and political impacts of widening inequalities. European nations experimented with a wide range of social programmes aimed at addressing the challenge.”

9. Building a Think-and-Do Tank | Stanford Social Innovation Review
Lawrence MacDonald and Todd Moss write about how the Center for Global Development has achieved success in influencing policy with tips including:
“Start fresh to stay fresh”, “Give great people plenty of freedom and responsibility”, “Share ideas early and often” and “Partner with people not individuals”

10. Development and entrepreneurship: Business formal | The Economist
“Messrs La Porta and Shleifer argue that “informal economies are so large in poor countries because their entrepreneurs are so unproductive”. They warn that taxing or regulating informal firms in an attempt to bring them into the formal economy may drive them out of business, causing even greater poverty and underdevelopment.”

Saturday Morning Reading #19

I’ve had a lot of busy weekends recently getting up to all sorts. However, last week while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro I promised myself I’d get going again. So, without further ado, here’s your Saturday morning reading…

1. Volunteering: The paradox at the beginning of an aid career | Development Intern – Jennifer Ambrose
“You can’t get a “professional” job until you’ve gained experience by doing something the industry considers ineffective and antithetical to its actual goals. It’s a classic case of “you need experience to get experience,” and volunteer opportunities allow people to fill in that gap.”
I’ve thought about this a lot. We all have to start somewhere. That why I like the approach of Learning Service and admitting that we’re volunteering to learn as much as serve.

2. 9 networking tips for field-based global development professionals | Development Crossroads – Shana Montesol Johnson
A useful reminder (for me at least) that not all networking happens in London!
E.g. Reframe how you define networking, don’t underestimate the power of Skype, make the most of home leave

3. Nine Tips For Using Twitter To Tap Into The #Globadev Community | Development Intern – @Gemmcneil
A second post from the excellent Development Intern. Nine seems to be the magic list number this week! Twitter has been a really helpful tool for me to chat to some really great people. It’s quite satisfying when your favourite bloggers recognise you in real life due to Twitter. It’s a great leveller and gets you in the conversation.
So… Get your profile right, don’t just retweet, live tweet and don’t be afraid to engage.

4. Putting Politics Back Into Development | Stanford Social Innovation Review – Michael Bear Kleinman
“Understanding that systemic change flows from political change means accepting that we must be, at times, peripheral players. It also means accepting that technical expertise is necessary but never sufficient; it only truly succeeds when the political stars align. Long-lasting change happens only with the support of those in power, and no amount of technical advice will change their basic political calculations.”

5. Are we doomed to repeat every North-South development mistake globally like #SWEDOW? | Aidnography
“The small story from Malaysia or the recent NGO industry mockumentary from Kenya are probably signs of a bigger trend: Are we doomed to repeat development’s mistakes in a changing global landscape of development, charity or professionalism?”
“But will capitalism be the only and dominant driving force for ‘development’? In the medium term the answer is very likely ‘yes’ and that probably means that we will see quite a few repetitions of mistakes ranging from mega-projects, to rent-seeking natural resources states and short-sighted governance.”