Good Ness Communications

By the banks of the Ness, trying to pin down communication that helps impoverished and marginalised people

Not so much a blog post as note to self… several notes to self

Posted on | May 14, 2010 | No Comments

Here’s my list of things I want to find out about and write about but am making slow progress with due to feeling temporarily derailed by UK election result:

This has turned out much longer than expected so here’s a contents list
1. Supporters’ blog and user feedback on comms
2. Post-brand communications
3. Hash tags to catch up with #sense10 and #GV2010
4. Race doesn’t replace class
5. Poverty professionals – a different perspective
6. Is our new technology cutting us off from things we learned before it arrived?
7. Are we inadvertently re-writing history?
8. Edward Norton and Crowdrise
9. Sean Penn and Haiti
10. Mark Watson and ActionAid

1.

Supporters’ blog and user feedback on comms

ActionAid’s supporter’s blog and War on Want inviting user feedback on their communications. Sounds encouraging – I want to know more

2.

Post-brand communications

Post-brand communications – I thought it was a term I’d pulled out of the air as Twitter-friendly shorthand but @AlineReed seems to know about it already

3.

Hash tags to catch up with

Lots of goodies on the hash tags #sense10 and #GV2010

4.

Race doesn’t replace class

When and why did we lose the idea that the poor in one country will have more in common with the poor of another country than either will have in common with the middle classes of their own countries? Was it when Communism collapsed in Europe; surely it can’t have been when Tony Blair said “we’re all middle class now”; I blame many things on Margaret Thatcher’s decision to start selling off council houses but I’m not sure I can pin this on her or indeed anything exclusively British or European. Has that idea been replaced with something better? It’s something I’ve had in the back of my mind for years but the Aid Watch post Before I was white brought it back to the fore. Bill Easterly says “Good cautionary tale for being careful and modest when we attempt to talk about ethnicity and development today.” Indeed it is and I feel it’s an issue that needs more addressing. The idea that having someone from a majority world country on your board or among your directors means that the poor are represented in your governing structures is bobbins. If you come from a majority world country and have done well enough for yourself in a minority world country to get that high in an organisation, you have had access to way more financial and social capital and plain old luck than the poor of anywhere. I suspect many of the people in these positions argue that no one person can be representative of millions and indeed to imagine they might is just another form of racism while on the other hand arguing with themselves that they can do more to challenge such assumptions while in those positions than if they declined them. Colonial oppression might have been about race and the current new forms of attempted colonialism might be too but I think we have enough evidence of the colonising countries behaving badly towards the impoverished and marginalised in their own countries, to cast huge doubt on that. Academic study of ‘development’ doesn’t seem to cover white on white oppression or white poverty; I’ve mentioned briefly here before that I’ve been told by high ranking development professionals from Asian and African countries that poverty doesn’t exist in the West; organisations like Oxfam, Save the Children and Comic Relief support projects in the rich and poor countries but I wonder how much cross-fertilisation of ideas and experiences there are between their rich country and poor country teams. Much as we have to be aware of racism, within development organisations as much as within societies in many parts of the world, if we assume that the elite of a country know as much about the lives and concerns of the poor of that country, then we run the risk of once more excluding and ignoring the poor. …Anyway, I need to do much more research before I can back all that up with references and links to stuff that adds up to more than my opinion

5.

Poverty professionals – a different perspective

Chris Blattman did a great blog post called Poverty professionals and poverty, which appeared to touch on many of the points raised in the discussion of Aid Watch’s post a couple of months ago, called Do any of these toffs work in develoment? However, Chris’s post links to a paper by Ravi Kanbur, which draws on Robert Chambers’, Ela Bhatt’s and Karl Osner’s ideas on development professionals’ exposure to and immersion in the lives of the poor. I want to follow up on the links to the Cornell-SEWA-WIEGO Dialogue process and also get a copy of Dasgupta and Kanbur’s paper ‘Does Philanthropy Reduce Inequality’ in a forthcoming issue of Journal of Economic Inequality. Meanwhile, the comment I want to add to Chris’s blog, if I could just get over the spectre of imminent and massive public sector cuts in my own country for long enough to write it, argues that rather than, or maybe as well as focusing on the high wages at the top of the development industry and how to give the folks in those pay brackets a more informed perspective, what about increasing pay for entry level positions so that you don’t have to be relatively affluent to get into the industry in the first place. It seems ironic, if not downright problematic that – according to the tv anyway – some financial institutions have recruitment programmes designed to get more people from low income families into their industry, but in development, if you don’t have a good degree, preferably post-grad, from a good university and at least a year or so spent living and working in a majority world country, plus maybe an internship somewhere cool, then forget it. And if you do get hired to an office-based position, the offices are in some of the most expensive cities in the world so your tiny entry-level NGO wage is not going to go very far and the hours will be so long that you probably won’t be able to squeeze in a second job. I have met people from the lower echelons of society working in NGO offices in rich and poor countries but they have always been in support functions, never policy roles. Is everyone from a poor background better at addressing poverty? No. Being born into any group doesn’t make you an informed and committed advocate for the rights of that group, but there’s something very wrong about organisations that advocate for a group, being inaccessible to members of that group.

…I’ve just noticed that Owen Barder discusses the same paper on his blog, with lots of comments

Update May 17th: Jim Cashel has picked up on Owen’s post about the paper and asked visitors to www.goodideas.org to vote on whether Development Workers Should Live in a Hut Every Year, with explanation and link to Owen’s post

6.

Is our new technology cutting us off from things we learned before it arrived?

I found Chris Blattman’s post while I was wondering about the work of Chambers and other people who haven’t joined the online, blogging, tweeting world, being lost to the digitized generation. There are so many things I want to post links to that are not available full text online. So much of the work of the new philanthropists and social entrepreneurs looks as if the whole participatory movement never happened. Waisbord states: “my firsthand observations made me increasingly sceptical about Rogers’ conclusion about ‘the passing of the dominant paradigm’ given that diffusionist premises typically underpinned global health programs” (full text for £16, detailed summary for free). Much brighter people than me must’ve long ago speculated whether this moment of hyperlinking is similar to the period in time when the printing press imperilled all the information passed on by word of mouth

7.

Are we inadvertently re-writing history?

Heston Blumenthal’s 80s feast (fancy food playing on themes of the gadgetry and City-based affluence of the time) had me wondering about how we might be re-writing history from the winners’ perspective here and now, and we includes the losers – and if that had any impact on the election. I remember the 1980s, heyday of the last Conservative government, as being about one in eight people being unemployed and my mum was one of them, about bitter strikes for jobs and better wages and conditions, about writing a report for school based on I think a John Pilger article I read (online Daily Mirror archives don’t include 1980-1998 – see 6 above) on a new law that meant if you were young, unemployed and homeless, you had to move town every six or so weeks to be able to keep receiving any money from the state; about being a kid expecting annihilation at any moment as a result of a cold war between people with nuclear weapons (I could go on but James Brown, ex of Loaded magazine, wrote something really good about it… if only I could find the link). Yet now, so often the 1980s are portrayed as a time of cheery pop music and affluent extravagance. As a kid I didn’t understand why my mum’s account of the 1960s bore no relation to the televised accounts (a point touched upon in John O’Farrell’s An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain: or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always), now I see that it’s probably because my mum was busy holding down two jobs and running a house while the people who wrote about the 1960s, necessarily had a bit more time on their hands. It’s an issue I’m very aware of with all this fun publish yourself technology: it lends itself to a relatively narrow range of lifestyles

8.

Edward Norton and Crowdrise

A new social media website called Crowdrise from Edward Norton, with thanks to @CauseGlobal for the link

9.

Sean Penn and Haiti

Sean Penn’s activities in Haiti have drawn heat from Tales From the Hood in We Cannot Abandon Haiti to Celebrities and Amateurs and a good, lengthy and wide range of comments

10.

Mark Watson and ActionAid

Mark Watson tweeted today that he’s off to Senegal with ActionAid, giving a little bit of background on his blog. This is the guy whose interest in the environment led to him writing a book called Crap At The Environment (disclosure: I live with the proud owner of a signed copy – we are fans and have seen several of his shows) and going to train under Al Gore as a climate change lecturer, leading to his show Mark Watson’s Earth Summit. I’m therefore much more interested in this than usual tweets about celebrity field trips because ActionAid has hooked up with a guy that does ruthless and prolific self-awareness, which might just shine a little new light on the area of entertainers and their work with charities.

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