30 September 2010

Ecudorian Coup and CNN Fails Coverage

UPDATE 23:23 EST: BBC reports that: "Soldiers in Ecuador have rescued President Rafael Correa from a police hospital, appearing to end a day of violent unrest across the country."
Follow Susana Morán, a journalist in Ecuador is live tweeting (in Spanish) from Quito. And follow this piece for updates.

As of 5:00PM EST, the front-page of CNN looks like this:
cnn thurs
If you look really closely, you will see that the second story on the left hand side under “Latest News” says, “Ecuador emergency amid ‘coup attempts’”

It will link you to this story with the following video:

SPAM Error

For some reason, this comment went to spam, which I did not know was possible, for my Smile Train Post. I just discovered this today and want to give JR, a fair shake to have his comments read. So please take a minute to read his comments and you can go to the original post to continue the discussion.
I am surprised to read all of these comments talking about how horrible these photos are of these children. When you say I am sure this child laughs and plays like other kids, there may be some truth to that, but just as often these children are hidden away in back rooms and even abandoned as they are viewed as cursed. This is a classic case of thinking the entire world thinks like the Western world, which could not be further from the truth. Smile Train is in incredible organization that provides free surgery for kids born with cleft lip/palate in other countries.

28 September 2010

Comments to @Uncultured

I began by writing a comment to this post from Shawn of the Uncultured Project, but realized that it would be rude to take up so much space for a comment.  So, I am writing it here.
To get you up to speed, Shawn says:
Many of the aid bloggers who have commented on my previous post (where I talk about charity overhead) insist that aid recipients don’t care whether overhead is covered by donations or through separate and distinct funding. This couldn’t be further from my experience.
When local villagers learn of the approach I’m doing they love it. Not only do they love it but they also compare it to more traditional forms of giving outside of the NGO-system. I wish I got a dime every time some villager, off-camera and just barely in earshot, would be talking to another saying (in Bengali) “for the first time, donations have been spent wisely”.
At the same time, I don’t deny that all the studies on aid recipient satisfaction may have no data on attitudes towards overhead (and whether or not overhead should be collected and raised separately). What I can say, as a sociologist, is that studies can overlook things. This is especially true depending on who’s counting.
My comments to Shawn:

24 September 2010

A Summary of the Week

From Oxfam:
The summit has been a mirage. The promises look good from a distance, but the details are hard to see, and when the world’s poorest people most need help, pledges could still vanish into thin air.
They are dead on with their assessment.
But this had to be the best moment of the week.  It comes from Director of Greenpeace International Dr. Kumi Nadoo who opens with the following statement:


After hearing former Senator Tim Wirth and USAID director Dr. Raj Shah speak at the UN Week Digital Media Lounge, Alanna Shaikh illustrated the new three Ds by listing them in a vertical manner.  The illustration was apt as it worked up from the base of defense, to the smaller diplomacy, with the tiny piece of development on top.
Watch live streaming video from mashable at livestream.com

Could Be a Great Film

If done well, this could be a wonderful film.  The story of Mzee Joseph Maruge going to school at the age of 84 after Kenya began free primary education is compelling and inspiring.  The trailer looks good, but you know what they say about books and covers.

23 September 2010

I Have Erred

It appears that ONE makes it very clear on their website what they do.  I still believe that they can be a bit misleading in their television ads, but they always direct people to their site and there is presently zero uncertainty as to what they intend to do once you visit the site.  So, even if they are ambiguous with there commercials, the intent is to get people to their website and ultimately see what I have placed below from the ONE ‘About’ page.

A special thanks to David Week for challenging me and pointing out where I was wrong.

Obama’s Remarks From Yesterday At MDG Conference

What are your thoughts on his speech?

22 September 2010

Confuse Advocacy with Action…

*Update: I have written a follow up post correcting my errors thanks to the comments from David Week. Please refer to it here: http://www.aviewfromthecave.com/2010/09/i-have-erred.html
and you will eventually get burned.
The Metro (UK) reports that Bono is ‘under fire’ for the allocation of funds by One.
The non-profit One campaign received almost £9.6million in donations in 2008 but handed over only £118,000 to good causes.
Figures show that the group also spent more than £5.1million on executive and staff salaries.
One responded to the criticism by pointing out that they are an advocacy organization, not an aid organization.  This is entirely true, and the money donated is going to be used for things like lobbying and require more (dare I say?) overhead costs.  The problem is that they advertise themselves as an aid organization.

UN Week Digital Media Lounge: What Can We Learn From Girls? (Rapid Post)

Talk Title: What Girls Can Teach the World
Goal: Addressing MDG Number 3

Kimberly Perry, Director, Girl Up
  • Position young girls to raise funds, awareness and advocate for global issues
  • Want to invite more Americans into the conversation – decided to focus on young girls
  • Study they did found that girls do in fact give (clothes and their own money)
  • Girls said that they did not have a direct invitation to participate in global issues
  • Use social networks to share facts
Nancy Lublin, CEO, DoSomething
  • Most American teens dont want to stand out – safer

UN Week Digital Media Lounge: Using Film to Change Lives

Can film be used to change the lives of the underserved?  Caroline Baron of FilmAid and Lisa Russell of MDGFive made the case for yes at their UN Week Digital Media Lounge session yesterday titled, “Reel Impact: The Power of Film to Change Lives.”  While Baron spoke of her work bringing film to the developing world, it was Russell who asked the most interesting questions.
Who is entitled to tell someone's story?  Am I qualified enough, do I know the nuances of a culture?  Am I more qualified than an Ethiopian to discuss abortion in Ethiopia because if my reach?
Great questions that should be addressed. 

As Russell struggled with the answer to her own questions, Baron affirmed her work by saying that asking those questions was what qualified her for the work.  I tend to agree with Baron, but was disappointed that the discussions about the questions posed by Russell were not pursued.  It is vital to the work of documentarians to know, understand and answer questions that are around the idea of if and how a story should be presented.  It is easy to show something that leaves you feeling guilty:

Photo Ethics

Last night, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of the people that I often cite here.  However, it is a conversation that I had with Lina Srivastava that has caused me to think more about the ethics of sharing photos.  In discussing my exchange and post with Smile Train, Lina told me a story of how a professional photo was published and she was disappointed in the choice made.  She connected it to the people featured in advertisements who do not even get to see the final image and how it is used.

As I chewed further on her ideas, I began to think of how much control we have over our own images.  Take Facebook for example.  If someone posts a photo, you can untag yourself if you do not want it to be linked to your profile.  If you dislike the photo enough you can request that the person take it down and there is even recourse to file a request for the removal of the photo on Facebook.  You may also, something I personally do, choose to not have your profile like to photos that have been tagged of you.

We will look at pictures immediately after they are taken to see if we look good and decide if it should be retaken, deleted, saved, posted to Facebook and so on.  There are a lot of controls that we can exert over this process.  If we feel that we have been misrepresented, we can add a comment. So, what about the people who do not see how their images are used?  What about the family who has a slew of pictures taken with them going about their daily lives and the images chosen to be shared by a photographer or organization or editor are ones of the family looking sad and depressed.  Where is there ability to untag the picture?  Who can they notify when they are unhappy with how they are being represented?

21 September 2010

UN Week Digital Media Lounge: Sanitation and Health Panel

Instant notes of the remarks for the panel that just concluded.
Steve Cockburn – International Campaign Coordinator, End World Poverty
Current trends mean that we will not halve the proportion of ppl with access to sanitation will not be met in Sub-Saharan Africa till 23rd Century.
Need to do what works to meet MGDs not what is popular (ironic?)
Look to how the money will actually be put to use tomorrow when all the big announcements are made.

UN Week DML: Panel on TB

  • Craig David – Musician
  • Lucy Chesire – TB/HIV patient and activist from Eldoret, Kenya
  • Lee Reichman – Academic authority on TB
Much of the discussion involved two points.  First, lack of access to adequate drugs and second, stigmas that exist in communities in regards to TB.  The lack of access point, unpacked, hit on a lot of causes.  Reichman noted that TB is an “un-sexy” disease.  While HIV/AIDS and malaria get all of the attention,

UN Week DML Opens

I will try to keep this as updated as possible. You can follow people tweeting the event with the #UNWeekDML tag.  Also, you can watch live by going to: http://www.livestream.com/mashable.

20 September 2010

UN Digital Media Lounge

I will be hanging out at the DML for a few days this week and making frequent (i hope) posts that will be very quick and sometimes without a lot of time to process/think.  So, please forgive me if I am all over the pace, but follow along as I will post and tweet what is being said and presented around UN week.

You can learn more about the Digital Medial Lounge and the agenda here.

15 September 2010

More Thoughts on Transparency

 The Bottom Up Thinking blog has added the following thoughts to the discussion on transparency:
I kinda agree with both sides, but ultimately think Scott Gilmore is closer to the truth. Budgets (and actual expenditure) are pretty fundamental to evaluating any project. They indicate the allocation of resources and give a clue to value-for-money. I get frustrated any time I am presented with project information without the finances. It suggests people have something to hide. So notwithstanding the fact that it was USAID who appear to have redacted the project budgets, I sympathise with Till Bruckner.
Read the rest of the post here.

Since I was so kindly linked by the author, I want to be able to make sure that this gets as much exposure as possible since it provides a good analysis of the issue and adds to the debate featured here.

13 September 2010

Smile Train’s Marketing Decisions

After seeing the same image on ads throughout my browser from Smile Train, I decided to quickly write the following email on September 9 assuming that they would not respond:
Smile Train,
You do great work, but please consider the removal of this picture:
Give A Child With A Cleft A Second Chance At Life

11 September 2010

Will Enough Do More Harm Than Help?

I am a bit confused here. The Enough Project says that conflict minerals are bad.  They then tell consumers to only purchase products that are committed to providing conflict mineral free devices.  They even want legislation to help make this happen.  They tell people who visit their site Raise Hope for Congo:
Given the lack of a transparent minerals supply chain, American consumers have no way to ensure that their purchases are not financing armed groups that regularly commit atrocities, including mass rape.
My first thought is to question how this will not have a negative impact on the miners livelihoods.  While the videos that Enough shows for this campaign do not address this issue at all, they do have a special page for answering questions that can be found after a little looking around (it is not on their separate site for the Congo campaign, but on the regular Enough site; tricky tricky.)

Their answer is:

10 September 2010

Bono's Been Bad

Yes, I had to go there (honestly, how could I not?).  Because it is the best song by U2, the one that made them huge when performed at Live Aid (above), and an apt word/song for Bono and his wife’s failure.  The Wall Street Journal reports today:

Five years ago, U2 front man Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, founded fashion brand Edun with the lofty mission of revitalizing apparel manufacturing in sub-Saharan Africa.

But when Edun designer Sharon Wauchob unveils her new vision for the label Saturday, most of the clothes on the runway—some featuring African touches like beads from Kenya—will be produced in China.

What is worse is the fact that Saundra predicted this a year ago:

While making and selling handicrafts overseas seems like a great way to bring livelihoods to rural areas, it is fraught with problems. Having seen many handicraft projects developed after the tsunami, and having been asked to advise on a handicraft cooperative trying to sell to both tourists and abroad, I’m wary of this type of project because of the numerous problems that have to be overcome for it to be successful and sustainable.

And to sum it up, she puts it best by saying today:

Bono’s failure highlights the fact that good intentions, money, and fame are all not enough to ensure a successful development project.

Bono, you did a bad job.  It is not easy work.  Sorry to use your best tune against you, but I had to. 

In order to make things a bit better, enjoy the song and jump to 7:30 for the iconic dance.

09 September 2010

Does Transparency Matter?

The transparency discussion that I compiled started as one that focused on the lack of transparency but evolved into including a second string of thought. When Scott Gilmore entered the discussion, he argued that Till’s focus on transparency was misplaced. Till defended his stance and the exchange went back and forth a little more.

What interested me was that the back and forth was not really connecting, but I think that it is something which needs to be teased out a bit more. I would like to present what I have gathered to be the two competing ideas of Transparency. Show what they say is the strength of their camp and add what the other perceives to be a weakness. From there, I hope for comments and ideas to fill in where I might have missed something and, more importantly, begin to weigh in on how they see the two competing ideas.

07 September 2010

Vision of Soros

I read this:

George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist, plans to announce on Tuesday that he is giving $100 million to Human Rights Watch to expand the organization’s work globally.

And thought of this:


The image of Soros in the RSA animated talk “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce” by Slavoj Zizek destroying with one hand and building with the other.

01 September 2010

Transpacencygate! Updates

The following updates have taken place since the original post:

Aug 26 - Lova Rakotomalala post
Aug 27 - Counterpart Int'l response
Aug 28 - TI Georgia supports Bruckner
Aug 28 - TI comments
Sept 1 - CARE comments

I feel the need to post these updates for two reasons.  First, when I post this it will be automatically sent out and I feel that I should draw attention to the fact that this is an ever evolving discussion.  Second, I am super busy and want to have a new post of sorts when I am unable to be producing anything significant this week.

I am planning on a follow up to this discussion that tries to root out how people see transparency.  It appears that differing opinions on definition, use, what is appropriate and other things are at the core of this discussion.  I want to try to define arguments from both sides and then open it up to the opinion of others.