Tag Archives: stuff expat aid workers like

AidSource

I’m super excited to let you know about a new project I’m part of…

AidSource: The Humanitarian Social Network.

AidSource is something that I’ve been working on with Tales From the Hood and Alanna Shaikh. The idea stemmed somewhat from the fantastic community that appeared via Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like. There are a lot of really smart, thoughtful, witty and dedicated people working in aid and development, and not a lot of unofficial and focused space to talk about the industry and to each other about our work, and how our work impacts on a variety of spheres (from personal to global), and what we’d like to see changing and moving ahead.

We have been beta-testing AidSource for about the past two months, but as of today it is open to the public. To join, just go to AidSource and follow the prompts. It’ll only take you about five minutes to set up a profile and join.

Once inside you’ll be able to join working groups and discussions related to international relief and development, see what events are coming up in the aid world, blog, or just hang out with folks in the aid and development industry from around the world (and of course much, much more!). There is a special section for students and educators, too, so be sure to check that out. We’re hoping that local aid workers will find the space useful too.

You’ll find a fair amount of cross-platform functionality present in AidSource. Members who want to can set up their accounts so that once they’re members, they can log in using Google, Yahoo!, Facebook or Twitter credentials. You can also tweet and update your Facebook status from inside AidSource, ‘friend’ other members, upload photographs or documents, and ‘like’ things.

You can also ‘like’ AidSource on Facebook, follow @AidSource1, and read the AidSource blog, AidSpeak.

We think this is not just a very cool idea and site, but also something that (with time) has the potential to drive significant positive change in the aid industry. We hope you’ll take the time to check out AidSource: The Humanitarian Social Network.

Advertisements

Call for guest posts on aid worker identity

This is a call for guest posts on the topic of aid worker identity. I’d like to pull in some links to existing posts or invite you (readers) to submit guest posts around your experiences as an aid or development worker in terms of identity while living and working ‘in the field’, particularly in relation to gender, ethnicity, sexuality, class or anything else that strikes you as important.

So, as an aid or development worker….

  • How do you conceive of, negotiate and construct your identity when living and working in a community that is not your own?
  • How do you make sense of your identity when facing the disparity in resources between you and the communities you’re living in?
  • How are aspects of your identity as an aid worker viewed by the local community as compared to your home community, for example how are aspects of gender, sexuality, class and ethnicity identities viewed ‘here’ as opposed to ‘there?”

Selected blog or opinion pieces submitted will be posted here on Shotgun Shack as a series of guest posts. You are free to post using a pseudonym/ anonymously or using your real name. If you’d like to share your experiences but not post them publicly that is also fine – you can send me a private email with your experiences and indicate that you do not wish to go public on the blog.

These submissions would be used as part of research for a PhD that Kaisa Wilson is working on at Edinburgh University. Kaisa contacted me via Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like and said some of the SEAWL posts are quite helpful in pulling in more nuanced and qualitative aspects of aid worker identity. She asked if I could invite some posts on the above topic for my blog via the network of folks that read SEAWL.

In terms of Kaisa’s research, any submissions would be used for the PhD research and /or any articles or conferences that might come out of that. Kaisa would not include any details that could potentially identify those who are submitting and anonymity will be preserved. Submissions (either by blog post or if you decide to send something by email and don’t wish for it to be published) would be added to interviews that Kaisa is conducting to form part of the body of research.

If you would like to participate, please cut and paste the following paragraph on to the bottom of your blog post to indicate that you consent to Kaisa using it for her PhD:

By pasting this paragraph below my posting I am indicating that (1) I agree to my posting being used for the purposes of this PhD; (2) questions about my participation in this study have been answered satisfactorily; (3) I am willing to take part in this study.

If you have any questions or want to send in a submission for this little project, please email me at shotgunshackblog[at]gmail.com Alternately, you can contact Kaisa directly at kaisawilson[at]gmail.com. If you would like a copy of the final research results, Kaisa will make them available to you.

Thanks and hope to see a few submissions or links to existing post on aid worker identity! I think this is a super interesting topic and one that can generate some good discussion and thinking.


Aid: love it or leave it?

Aid - love it or leave it? (Photo taken from gnwp.ru - use of photo is not an endorsement of the band/message/song)

Last week, Tom Paulson guest posted for Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like (SEAWL). He didn’t realize he was guest posting, because he wrote the post for Humanosphere, but his post could easily be re-written as SEAWL “#75: Self-Loathing”.

In his post, Paulson identifies ‘A serious problem of self-loathing within the aid and development community’ along with ‘pathological self-deprecation’ and a tendency towards ‘nose-cutting and face-spiting’ (not necessarily in that order).

He uses 2 posts to illustrate his point.

1) Aid Cannot and Will Not Fix Anything by Tales from the Hood, and

2) It’s a Better Life Without Oxfam: the video, which Duncan Green (Oxfam GB’s head of research) blogged about and View from the Cave re-blogged.

Paulson writes that ‘Given the level of ignorance and even hostility that exists in this country toward spending much on foreign aid and development, I think the main challenge for this [the aid] community is make the case for the value of aid and international development. Saying “aid cannot and will not fix anything” is a dangerous soundbite in this political and cultural environment, I think.’

I kind of see his point, and I like Paulson’s writing in general, but this question reminds me a bit of the old “USA Love It or Leave It” mantra.

Most anyone who works in the aid sector knows that aid has serious problems. Some say it’s irreparably broken and move on to a different career or start their own initiative that they think will get beyond the problems of ‘aid’. The general public knows that there are problems in the aid sector as well. It’s a bit hard to hide. And anyway, part of the problem with aid is that for years, its marketers and promoters have been promising something that aid can’t deliver and creating a skewed vision of the world.

I suspect that those who stick around in the aid sector 1) believe aid does some good and that it can be fixed (see many of Owen Barder’s posts), 2) labor on seeing the small bits of good that they or their team or their project or program can accomplish within a system they know is broken (see Spitting into the Wind), 3) are motivated by their paycheck (see Hardship Living) or other perks (like feeling hardcore) or 4) some combination of the above.

Aid is no different from any other large system or industry. It shouldn’t be held as sacred and beyond critique, including by those who know it well and can identify the fine points and details of what is wrong, and perhaps especially by them.

Would Paulson say that we shouldn’t criticize our political or religious systems because it might put people off? Or that we are self-loathing if we talk about what ails those systems and needs to be fixed?