28 November 2010

Buying Life? Heaven? A T-Shirt?

Alicia KeysWednesday, December 1 is World AIDS Day and Alisha Keys, Usher, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Seacrest and Kim Kardashian will all die…..or so they are saying for the Keep a Child Alive campaign. 

By death, they mean that they will all bless us by refraining from using social media until they have been brought back to life by a donation of $1 million from their fans.  So, they will be sending out their farewell videos this week and remaining silent until the goal is met.
This has been picked up by the New York Times today as it discusses the effort saying:
It’s all part of the latest gambit by the singer-songwriterAlicia Keys to raise money for her charity, Keep a Child Alive (KCA), which finances medical care and support services for children and families affected by H.I.V. and AIDS in Africa and India.

22 November 2010

Call for Nominations: 2010 Aid Blog Awards

I thought of coming up with a clever name, but felt that it would be too trite to have some small name, so I am just going to call them my 1st Annual Aid Blog Awards.  What I want to do is to recognize some of the great work that aid bloggers have done this year.  I do not see it as a contest as much as it is a way to recognize this community.  I am taking open nominations first and then will produce a listing where people can vote in a few weeks.  From there I will announce the winners and provide the results from the voting (gotta be transparent right?).

Please take a few moments to go to a short Survey Monkey I have set up to make your nominations.  I will accept nominations until Friday December 3rd and then post the finalists on the following Monday.  Nominate away!

Development Economics 101

Dani Rodrik, Rafiq Hariri Professor of IPE at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard and super blogger gave the talk "Diagnostics before Prescription" at the 50th anniversary of the Center for Development Economics at Williams College.  

Basically, it is a great introduction to development economics.  

Take a look, it is well worth the hour.

20 November 2010

A Chat With ViewChange

I had the opportunity to speak with people from ViewChange on Friday morning.  I will be posting on the discussion as well as some thoughts on the initiative.  In the mean time, check out the video below which was selected as their contest winner at their launch Thursday night.

Also, go to the site, click around and share your thoughts on it here.  I am interested in know what you think about the new space for development videos.  Also, take a look at this critical post from Future:Media:Change as it points out some shortcomings and some possible benifits of ViewChange (HT Lina).

17 November 2010

Volunteering Elitism

When you are a long term volunteer (one year) and have hung out with former and/or current long term volunteers, conversations will often devolve into two arms.  One conversation is about the materialism of everyone else and how people fall into the run-around life of chasing the American Dream and the next expensive car/house/country club/knife set/etc. which will lead to an emptiness in life, lesser meaning and it cycles ‘round and ‘round.  The second conversation is really just a bitching session about how hard it is/was to ‘live like the poor.’ It has a follow up that leads to comparing who had it harder and scoffing at those who chose to apply for food stamps or had a phone in Darfur.

Not every conversation follows the two directions, but they occur at a high rate (in my experience).  What strikes me about these conversations is that they become a sort of competition as to who is the bigger martyr.  In doing so, the members of the conversation do not realize that their attempts to ‘relate’ to the poor place them on a self constructed pedestal.  Yes, there is a level of elitism amongst volunteers and it is not a good thing.

15 November 2010

The First E-Reader?

cyber reader

I might be one of only a few people who loved the Upright Citizens Brigade when it first aired, but they seemed to have been on top of “cyber readers” well before Amazon.  Season 2 aired in 1999, just a few years before the Kindle release in November of 2007. 

What is next? Ass pennies?

NBC Is Killing it! (in a good way)

Elmira Bayrasli*, super author and Wonderment Woman, just pointed out a clip from this weekend's SNL that tackles idealism. She says:
This clip from last night’s Saturday Night Live captures what’s wrong with the rampant idealism put forward in D.I.Y. foreign aid. 
I’m all for idealism, within reason. Can we make the world a better place? Absolutely. But only when we start recognizing realities. One reality is that aid and development are more than one person’s good intentions or just positive thinking.
It can be summed up by the exchange at the end:
“What do you think on Mr. Conkland’s lecture: ‘The Sky’s The Limit?’”
“I thought it was reckless. Yea, reckless and irresponsible.”

* I don’t think I have mentioned Elmira here before, but definitely check her out.  She is in the process of writing a book on based on her vast knowledge of international development and aid. So, keep an eye out for it.

11 November 2010

Quote of the Day

Tom (Aziz Ansari), giving Mark advice on what to get Ann for Christmas in Parks and Recreation last year:

“Women love diamonds, even the super left-wing chicks who saw Blood Diamond and cried. When they get one, they’re like ‘Yea! Give me more blood diamonds. Make them extra bloody.”

Countries Resized According to GDP

"What the world would look like if countries’ geographic size corresponded to their economic size (GDP)"

"The True Size of Africa"

HT Nancy Birdsall at The Center for Global Development

10 November 2010

Green Books Campaign: Inside, Outside, Morningside

Today, November 10, at 1 p.m., 200 bloggers will simultaneously publish reviews of 200 books printed on environmentally-friendly paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using greener methods, Eco-Libris aims to raise consumer awareness about considering the environment when making book purchases.

The 200 books to be reviewed are in a variety of subjects including cooking, poetry, travel, green living, and history, and come from 56 publishers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. that are participating in the Green Books Campaign.

Full list of participating books and bloggers - be sure to check out this review by Penelope of Sunray – The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard.

iomfrontsmI am reviewing Inside, Outside, Morningside by Alaskan poet Majorie Kowalski Cole.  Published posthumously after he untimely death this past December, the collection is divided into three sections: ‘Desire’, ‘Travel’ and ‘The Work of Our Hands.’

This was my first time hearing of Cole and reading her work, so I can only fairly discuss what I read here.  I want to re-emphasize that this was published after her death.  I want to do so because, while an overall good collection of poems, there were a few curious editing decisions that I feel should be forgiven being that Cole was unable to work through the final edits.  For example, in ‘Fire Filled Summer’ the poem begins: “Ignited by thousands of lightning strikes / fires roared to life in the black of spruce.”  To me, this is a significant error by omitting the comma after the word ‘strikes.’  While the hope is that the reader will see the separation between the two lines, the lack of punctuation asks for the sentence to be read straight through.  This causes a clunky turn. 

09 November 2010

Lesson Learned About International Volunteering from The Office

The most recent episode of The Office features a group of young people going to build a school in a Mexican village.  While probably not the intent of the writers, the parody of international volunteering provides some useful tips for those who are considering going on similar trips and development in general.

Though highly snarky, it is a win when a show like The Office can provide some lessons about aid, development and voluntourism. You can go to this post to watch the episode for yourself, I highly suggest it. The lessons:

Lesson 1: Life is far more complex than a single story.
Girl Leader: “Right now, Jessica’s children have to walk 12 miles to a school with dirt floors”
Michael: “Nooooo”
Girl Leader: “It’s gonna be three months of hard work.  And when we’re done we will practically be Kimishtanos”

Lesson 2: Simple morality is not sufficient.
Girl Leader: “My parents explained it to me this way: You wouldn’t hesitate to save a baby from a burning building, but what if the earth was your burning building and all the people on it were your family?”
Andy: “What if the moon was your car and Jupiter was your hairbrush?”

08 November 2010

The Office Does Aid

Ever clever, NBC’s The Office starts off as an episode about the christening of Pam and Jim's daughter but ends up with Michael and Andy going on a mission trip to Mexico. There are some great lines/digs that Aid and Development people will find to be pretty accurate.

Favorite Line:

Andy: "We'll probably screw up everything anyway."
Michael: "Would you want that for little Jessica?"

This one I have been told will work internationally. The embedded version is hit or miss. If all else fails, you can go here:

07 November 2010

A Voice of the Voiceless – Villages in Action

September in New York saw all the pomp and circumstance befitting of a meeting of the world’s leaders.  The irony was that the week of TED, UN, Clinton (x2), Obama, Gates and co. was set aside to discuss the poor.  More specifically, the Millennium Development Goals were to be discussed and money promised to support them.

The missing population (aka the poor, or the underdeveloped, or the needy, or the people everyone was talking about) was not missed by some.  Teddy Ruge of Project Diaspora was one such person and tweeted:

in response to the reflection by Professor Laura Seay that noted:
While there is a lot of discussion of the need to capture human capital in developing countries, we didn’t hear from anyone who had actually lived the experience of escaping poverty. We didn’t learn how families survive on $1 a day from people who have no choice but to make it work.
So, Teddy has followed through and come up with Villages in Action sponsored by BusinessFightsPoverty.org.  Please read his announcement below, go to the website and learn more about what I believe to be an important beginning to bring the voice of the voiceless into the conversation.
We are excited to announce that on November 27, 2010, the first Villages in Action (VIA) conference will be held in Kikuube in Uganda; a small village with just over 260 homesteads and a population just over 1000. My mother, one of our speakers, serves as the local chairperson, as well as pastor. I was surprised that she— a village leader—had never heard of the MDGs. She is, however, very excited that she will have a turn at the microphone to represent her village.   
We are humbled by the interest for this conference we have received and by the organizations that have already offered to help. We have just 23 days left, and every little bit counts. If you would like to help in or outside Uganda, please get in touch with us. Everyone is welcome at no charge, but if you would like to offer financial support just click here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010 from 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Kikuube Village
Masindi, UGANDA

View Larger Map

03 November 2010

Digital Media Lounge 2010: Blogs and Video

The collection of media from UN Week has been amassed.  Scroll through and see what was written. 
A Thirst For Clean Water, October 12, 2010.  http://blog.globalfundforchildren.org/index.php?option=com_mojo&p=602

Who’s Digital Power is it? September 30, 2010 http://blog.globalfundforchildren.org/index.php?option=com_mojo&p=599

Film for Social Good, Sep 29, 2010 by RealLifeArtist http://reallifeartist.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/film‐for‐social‐good/

02 November 2010

What Can Development Learn From The Election?

Election day will bring the United States a certain change to the House of Representatives and Senate.  The House will seemingly tip to the Republicans and I believe that the Democrats will hold onto the Senate with 51 or 52 senators.  The cause of this change is most evident in the growth of the Tea Party.  Conservatism was announced dead the day after President Obama was elected; two years later they are poised to take back control of the house.  The underlying cause for this shift is one which I believe speaks directly to the way that development is viewed in America and gives me worry for what might be slashed in the next budget.