Get our free book (in Spanish or English) on rainwater now - To Catch the Rain.

Appropedia:Bloodandmilk/content staging area

From Appropedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Content Staging Area

Open licensed content is converted to wiki markup and placed in a content staging area such as this page. Specific sections may then be selected, and moved elsewhere in the wiki.

If a section is definitely not useful for Appropedia, it can be deleted. If you're not sure, leave it. You might add a comment, if you want to confirm with other editors before deleting.

Images should usually be ignored. If the image is open licensed and it is valuable, it may be uploaded here, with attribution. (If the image is not open licensed, but valuable, it should simply be linked, with a description.)

Links: Check links before including them, and only include working links. Links from old blog posts are often broken.


How to attribute
Use {{attrib bloodandmilk}}, with the url of the post as a parameter. E.g.:

{{attrib bloodandmilk|url=http://bloodandmilk.org/?p=1406}}

Boilerplate[edit]

Place this at the bottom of each page and delete all but the suitable categories. Add one or more relevant pages to See also if you can, and add "== External links ==" section if relevant.


== See also == 

* [[]]


[[Category:Aid and development workers]]
[[Category:Principles]]
[[Category:Principles of development]]
[[Category:Principles of management]]
[[Category:Principles of emergency management]]
[[Category:Culture and development]]


Note: In the text below, attrib template is on top of each post; move it to the bottom (below the "External links" section) when posting.

Content[edit]

Examining international development


Unused[edit]

These mightn't be used, but they can stay here for now:



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[1]


a request for useful information, May 28th, 2009

empty jar

Some time ago, in a time and place I’m not going to specify, a middle-aged woman brought me a human uterus in a jar. She was a pathologist, and she’d stolen it from her place of work. It was a healthy uterus, she said, with a healthy fetus inside, that had been removed by a gynecologist under pressure from the government to keep birth rates down.

Needless to say, my project could do nothing to help her. We didn’t even know where to begin. We weren’t a human rights project, or even a reproductive health project. We didn’t have the contacts with the government to make them stop this kind of behavior. I thanked her for her honesty and passion, and gave her the contact information for Human Rights Watch.

Until today, that was the worst story anyone had ever trusted me with. I’d heard worse things in the media, of course. But that was the worst story some had asked me to help with.

What really got to me was that it wasn’t her uterus she was carrying around. (And, it turned out, she took it everywhere, for fear the government would steal it and she’d lose her evidence.) It belonged to a stranger. But this pathologist saw a systemic wrong, and she wanted to change that.

I don’t think anything has changed in that country. I think she is still carrying that uterus in her purse.

That woman is my hero. She’s more than a little bit nuts at this point. She sleeps with a human organ under her bed. She’s Don Quixote with a scalpel and a supply of formaldehyde. But she’s not complacent.

And that’s why I’d like to slap both Bill Easterly and Jeff Sachs upside the head. There are human lives at stake here. There are people suffering and dying and risking their lives to help others. And nothing the big guys are saying right now is useful to me.

I want to know how to do my work better. I want to know whether it’s useful to have the EU pull its funding from the country whose name I won’t mention or if it’s more effective to keep pushing small changes and hope they add up. I want to know if supporting democratic institutions actually leads to democracy.

The high level debates about theory and the middle-aged guys mud-wrestling about African aid do nothing for me. You are very, very smart. You know more about aid than just about anybody. Please, give me something useful.

photo credit: caro’s lines Chosen because the jar is somehow sad.

Tags: rants





Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[2]


Learning to be an expat, Part 2, August 26th, 2009

300px

Exhibit A:[edit]

2002. I’m in Turkmenistan, my first job that requires ongoing negotiation with government officials. I am in the anteroom at the Ministry of Health, for my introductory meeting. I am very, very nervous. Natasha, our project manager and my translator for this meeting watches me fidget. She tells me “I will translate what you say, and if I don’t understand something, I’ll just stop and ask you.” I calm down. She’s literally not going to let me say anything stupid.

Exhibit B:[edit]

Rural Turkmenistan, beginning a long gauntlet of meetings with doctors, hospital directors, and local health officials. They are good, friendly meetings that build our rapport and help our programs succeed, sometimes catch a small problem before it gets big, but they get tiring after a while. I sigh a little as I get out of the car. My colleague Zulfia hears me. “Alanna,” she says “just keep smiling that American smile.”



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[3]


Learning to be an expat, part one, August 21st, 2009

airport

I’d only been at my job for about two weeks, and Artur and I were sent off to look at some field sites. We were in Ferghana City in Uzbekistan, waiting on the tarmac to board our plane. It was very very cold, and the flight crew was only boarding transit passengers from a Russia flight. We stood there, shivering and waiting. They boarded all the Russia passengers and then they waited some more, I guess just in case more transit passengers showed up. My bones were starting to ache with the cold, and still we were waiting.

And then Artur got sick of it. He shoved me in the back and told me “You’re American. Just keep speaking English and get us on that plane.” So I did. I climbed the stairs as a woman yelled at me, and when she told me “transit only,” in Russian, I told her, loud and in English, that I had a ticket, I was tired of standing around in the cold, and I was going to get on the plane. I did this in my best haughty American voice, and when she argued in Russian, I just repeated myself louder in English. I spoke both Russian and Uzbek, but this was not the time for reasoned communication.

The woman cracked. She said something rude to me in Russian and let me by. I was followed by a joyous stampede of other passengers. When I got on the plane, there were lots of empty seats. Artur and I flew to Tashkent with an empty seat between us.

—————— Photo credit: yuriybrisk That’s not the Ferghana airport, but it looked just like this.



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[4]


Not everyone is a sociologist (July 2008), August 10th, 2009

Teddy Roosevelt in a pith helmet

Note: August is looking like a crazy and stressful month for me, with no time to blog here. To make sure no one gets bored and abandons me, I am going to re-run some of my favorite posts from the past.

You can’t just choose any random person to be your cultural guide. It makes me completely crazy when people say “My Luisitanian colleague says our poster and brochures are fine” and then assumes their messages are acceptable in Luisitania. One person cannot vouch for everyone in the country.

Most countries are multicultural, including different ethnic and linguistic groups. Not to mention differences between rich and poor, and city and country. It’s not easy to know the tastes and opinions of an entire nation. There’s also a training issue. Your average engineer or doctor from the capital city isn’t in the habit of thinking about the attitudes and mores of everyone around him. An accountant is not an anthropologist.

Most of us can only speak for a limited number of people like ourselves; coming from a developing country doesn’t give you any magic ability to speak for everyone who holds the same passport.

ETA: One great example. The Indian Vogue fashion spread discussed here was designed and shot by Indians.

——————– Photo credit: sakraft1 Chosen because to me, pith helmets reflect everything that is culturally clueless. For all I know, teddy Roosevelt was a very culturally sensitive man…



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[5]


Things I don’t believe in #10 - Donating stuff instead of money (June 2008), August 8th, 2009

Pile of used clothes

Note: August is looking like a crazy and stressful month for me, with no time to blog here. To make sure no one gets bored and abandons me, I am going to re-run some of my favorite posts from the past.

Give money. Don’t send food, bottled water, clothing or useful-seeming stuff. Give money.

Your old stuff costs money to ship. It is almost always cheaper to just buy it in country, and doing it that way benefits the local economy. It’s also more respectful to survivors of humanitarian emergencies, and allows relief agencies to procure exactly what is needed instead of struggling to find a use for randomly selected used junk. Disaster News Network talks about the used clothes problem in “The Trouble with Trousers.” which features a really depressing anecdote about Hurricane Hugo.

Your food costs money to ship, too. It is probably not food anyone in the recipient area would recognize. How exactly will the people of Burma know what to do with canned refried beans or artichoke hearts? Sending donated American food doesn’t drive income to local farmers or help local retailers start selling again. Buying in-country gets food people will actually understand how to cook and supports the local economy.

Here’s another example – some people wanted to send their old tents to China to house earthquake survivors. A sweet idea – provide quick, free housing. But every different kind of tent would have different set-up instructions, and how many people save their tent instructions once they’ve learned how to do it? It would take a huge time investment in figuring out each type of tent, and then training for the people in China who had to set up the tents. All of this time translates to a delay in providing housing, and it’s time used by paid staff, which means it is also squandered money.

Interaction, the coalition of disaster-relief NGOs, has a nice piece about why cash donations are most effective. They mention needs-based procurement, efficient delivery, lower costs, economic support, and cultural and environmental appropriateness as advantages of cash. World Volunteer Web has a good explanation too, breaking down the myths about post-disaster aid.

Usually people end these kinds of articles with links to the three or so places who will take your old clothes and possessions for international donation. I am not going to do it. Don’t waste everyone’s effort that way. Give your old stuff to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or St. Vincent de Paul; they’ll make the best use of it. They’ll sell yout things locally and use the money for their charitable purposes.

Giving stuff instead of money is easy for you, it’s cheaper for you, and it’s quick. It is not quick, easy, or affordable for the NGOs who are actually trying to help people.

If you want to help, give money.

[Picture of old clothes in Haiti from Flickr by Vanessa Bertozzi]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[6]


Things I don’t believe in #6 - All powerful expatriate leadership (June 2008), August 5th, 2009

rainbow jesus

Note: August is looking like a crazy and stressful month for me, with no time to blog here. To make sure no one gets bored and abandons me, I am going to re-run some of my favorite posts from the past.

This is the first thing – expats don’t stay forever. In two or three or four years, the expat will leave. If your whole program depends on her, or the staff believes that it does, things will go to pieces when she leaves. This is the second thing – it’s disempowering. You don’t want your staff, or your stakeholders, to believe change only comes from outsiders. You want people to find their own power and their own capacity to influence their lives and communities. You don’t want them to sit around waiting and starving for the Dutch to come back and rebuild the irrigation canals.

This is the third thing. You want your staff invested in the process. You want everyone involved to know your select your pilot schools because they meet the qualifications for your program. You don’t want them thinking the schools were selected because Mr. Thomas feels really bad for the villages, or worse yet, because he thought the teachers were pretty. You want people to know you’ve got a system and your apply it fairly.

This is the fourth thing. Country Directors who allow themselves to be seen as having and exerting that kind of power end up isolated. Staff members won’t be comfortable being part of a collaborative decision-making process. They won’t offer opinions on how to make things better, and they won’t go to the CD if they identify a problem.

Good programs come from good teams, not from little gods and their adoring worshippers.

—————– Photo credit: celinecelines Chosen for the shiny rainbow.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[7]


May 2008 - What’s the difference between relief and development?, August 4th, 2009

Palestinian Refugees

Note: August is looking like a crazy and stressful month for me, with no time to blog here. To make sure no one gets bored and abandons me, I am going to re-run some of my favorite posts from the past.

May 2008 - What’s the difference between relief and development?

The simplest breakdown goes like this:

Humanitarian relief programs are focused on rapid start-up, and rapid impact. Implementers of humanitarian programs need to gear up as fast as possible, and start providing necessary assistance as fast as possible. Their primary focus is not building local capacity, sustainability, or monitoring and evaluation. Their primary focus is getting help to people in need. They end when the emergency ends. Relief can come from the outside, and it is a response to some kind of breakdown or disaster.

Development programs are focused on achieving long-term change of some kind, with the intent of improving people’s lives and the lives of their descendants. They involve rigorous planning and ongoing operational research. They are rooted in local capacity building, because they are aimed at change which continues after the project ends. Even if it has outside support, development in the end has to come from inside.

In practice, however, it’s not that simple. (it never is, is it?) Sometimes the emergency doesn’t end. Situations that look like short-term humanitarian emergencies can go on for years, or even decades. Somalia, for example, Afghanistan, or Sudan. Programs designed to provide immediate assistance become a way of life for people in crisis. It would be nice if those programs could be converted into development programs, but it’s very hard to turn a relief program into a development program. The skill sets for the staff are different, for one thing. Building latrines and building community capacity can be a long, long way apart. You can hire new staff, though, or retrain your people. The other hurdle - usually the big one - is that relief programs and development programs have different donors.

Relief programs are generally funded by private donations and specific government donors. The US government, for example, funds emergency relief through the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Relief. Development programs are far less popular with private donors, and they’re funded by a different set of government agencies. If you want to change the focus of your program, you have to get different different donors. Which mostly you can’t do. Donors don’t like to take over each other’s programs, you won’t be familiar with the new donor’s procedures and evaluation requirements, and development donors plan their financial priorities a long time in advance. They often won’t have money to pick up your newly transformed relief project.

Everyone’s perfect ideal for relief is to give aid that empowers the communities who receive it. Immediate assistance that also builds skills and improves quality of life for the long term. You could, for example, truck in water to a community struck by drought. Then you could dig wells and turn the wells over to local management. You could train a local engineering association or the Ministry of Water on well-digging and irrigation management and safe drinking water. We just need a funding structure that makes it happen.

——— Photo Credit: Castielli Chosen because the Palestinian refugee camps are a classic example of emergency relief that has been going on far, far too long.


Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[8]


You Weren’t Meant to Have a Boss, April 4th, 2008

Paul Graham on large companies This is one of the best descriptions I’ve ever seen on why big organizations are so hellishly unwieldy. I wonder, though, if there are economies of scale that make up for the loss of individual freedom and productivity.

I also adore the ultra-minimal site design.

Lesson: A bigger project is not necessarily a better one.



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[9]


Local vs Imported Solutions, and Ashton Kutcher, April 21st, 2009

375px

I just out up three posts at the Global Health blog that Blood and Milk readers may be interested in. There is a two-part series on local and imported solutions to health problems, focused on plumpy’nut and ORS. I also posted a brief rant about Ashton Kutcher and bednets for malaria.

———

(photo credit: cliff1066)

Tags: global health


A semi-definitive guide -

Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[10]



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[11]


How to ride in a white SUV, April 15th, 2009

500px

1. Look sheepish, like you would never been in this huge vehicle if you weren’t forced into it by overprotective security officers.

2. Look ill. Maintain a greenish-grey visage that makes it clear that if you weren’t so terribly ill, you’d be on a local bus at this very moment.

3. Ride with someone older than you, and develop a facial expression that indicates you are just the gormless flunky riding involuntarily in the VIP car.

4. Fill your vehicle with boxes and bags, to make it clear that the SUV is hauling important equipment and you’re just along for the ride.

5. Wear your damn seatbelt. If you’re going to cruise around in a symbol of oblivious neo-imperialism you owe it to world to be safe.

————

(photo credit: hoyasmeg)

Tags: rants



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[12]


Looking backward, looking forward, January 1st, 2009

File:2222523978 8369a800aa.jpg?v=0

My favorite posts from 2008:[edit]

1) Why health matters. My best friends’ daughter died, and in the terrible misery that followed, I did my best to take a lesson from it. My grieving friends liked the post, and people are still linking to it, so maybe it’s a useful lesson. I hope I never have to write a post again informed by such personal pain.

2) Things I believe in: Oral Rehydration Salts. I love talking about ORS. I think everyone needs to know about them.

3) Development 2.0 – more than jargon? This post is still being tossed about on twitter. Thinking about Development 2.0, writing the post, and talking to others about the contents helped me to finally get a grip on the concept. It was a really valuable process for me; I hope the result is valuable to others.

4) When do non-profits do more harm than good? A reader favorite, this post got amazing comments that enlightened me.

5) Things that do damage. My screed against thoughtlessness and poor planning.

6) Why I hate the word sustainability. Another post that helped me think things through, this generated a whole dialogue that I was proud to be part of.

7) Keep your banana to yourself. I love that I finally wrote something with a snappy title, and I think I said something important about the difference between street-corner charity and development work. Also, it got the best comment ever “Good grief. Such control! That’s like potty-training your kids at gun point.”

8 ) Suffering does not make you special. Apparently I like to rant. This time, about how poverty doesn’t ennoble the human spirit, it grinds it down.

9) Ethics and International Development. Just a few more ways that doing good is very hard.

10) Humbling Hospitality Experiences. You can always find a way to give, if you want to.

Bonus Post: A semi-definite guide to my volunteer work and my consulting. I felt like a total jerk writing that post, but based on the feedback it has helped a lot of people set boundaries in their own lives. (And it got me a consulting gig. I’m listing it here just in case it gets me more.)



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[13]


A story I’m not proud of, January 16th, 2009

File:1597930298 510677c5ff.jpg?v=0

When I first started at IMC, I was senior desk officer for East Africa and the Middle East. I had a solid Middle East background, but I had to do a lot of reading on East Africa. I’d been there a few weeks and was starting to realize I’d somehow become an aid worker and I loved it.

I was reading an article about a young mother in Mogadishu. She had a baby and wouldn’t leave her house during the fighting. (this was the 2006 fighting, fyi) Finally she ran out of all food and had to leave the house. She took her 3-month old baby with her. She was killed in the cross-fire and NGO workers found her baby frantically trying to nuzzle at his mother’s dead breast.

My son was three months old when I read that. I was a breast-feeding mother. I sat at my desk and cried, for quite a while. And then I thought “If I had a picture of that, I could fundraise a million dollars, easy.”

Your work saves lives. You can’t do the work without money. It’s very, very hard to keep chasing the money you need to do good, and stay good yourself.

I don’t want to be Kevin Carter.

(image credit: Fiore S. Barbato) Chosen because I am still too human to be able to search flickr for dead children



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[14]


Ah, perspective, March 17th, 2009

333px

It's easier to be self-righteous when you're in DC. At headquarters, things seem clear. Good managers, bad managers, good programs and bad programs - you can tell what works and what doesn't. You can end programs that don't make sense, or don't seem to be doing what they're supposed to.

I was talking to the guys from GiveWell the other day, and one question that they asked was - why do some many international NGOs implement programs that have no evidence for their effectiveness? If you have no idea what impact a program has, why do it? At the time, I had trouble coming up with a clear answer. Put in those terms, it's pretty mysterious.

Now, though, I have an answer: in the field you see people's faces. Say you're running a multi-million dollar program that has only document twelve lives saved. That's pretty obviously a bad program. You could help a whole lot more people with that money. But, what if you've met all twelve people? It's pretty hard to say no one should have helped them.





Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[15]


How to cure your PTSD, March 11th, 2009

File:3074323608 819034b967.jpg?v=1228131773

The other day I was trying to work on a couple projects I really like, and I just couldn't focus. I just felt uncontrollably twitchy and weird. I also couldn't edit documents, reformat resumes or enjoy browsing the archives of xkcd. Not being able to read web comics is a red flag, and at that point I realized my heart rate was up, and every muscle in my body was tense, including my face and my toes.

After I started paying attention, I also realized there was a lot of traffic on the road outside. I was once again experiencing the world's mildest case of PTSD.

See, when I was in Baghdad, I noticed that the sound of distant explosions sounds just like a truck driving over a metal plate in the ground. (well, it does if you are me.) So since then, every time I hear a truck driving over such a plate, it scares me to a really disproportionate degree.

Especially here in Tajikistan, it doesn't happen a whole lot. Not a lot of plates or truck traffic. But that other day, for some reason, bang bang bang on the road by my office. Not exactly life-destroying, but upsetting.

Yesterday, at lunch with some embassy people, I found myself sitting next to a woman getting her PhD in psychology. And naturally I asked for free medical advice.

Here's what she told me: what I have is basically a strong bad association. What I need to do, is find a way to experience the same frightening sound in a situation where I feel safe and happy. I could record the sound and play it at home, for example.

I plan to take my son, who makes me happy all the time, to watch the construction site near my house. Trucks and banging galore, paired with happy, happy baby who loves trucks and construction. I'll let you know how it goes, but I really think it will work.

Normally, I try not to make this blog all personal, but I thought this might be a useful cognitive technique for other people.

—————–

(photo credit: Titanas)

Chosen because it's an appropriately discomfiting and scary truck.

Posted in Iraq], PTSD]

To be processed[edit]

And here is my thought for 2009:[edit]

We're all in this together. We're not in this line of work because we want to help far-away strangers. We're in it because, in the end, we're one big blob of people on one scarred messy planet, and no one is truly healthy when others are bleeding. We are connected; there's no way around it. It's time to make that connectedness a source of strength.

Happy New Year!

(photo credit: NASA/Goddard Space Center, via woodleywonderworks)]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[16]


Jargon of the Day: NGO, CBO, December 31st, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg

Jargon: NGO, CBO

Translation: NGO stands for non-governmental organization. CBO stands for community-based organization. The difference between them is that NGOs are generally formally structured organizations, registered with the government. Community based organization is a catch-all for any group of people working together toward a common goal.

Posted in jargon], jargon of the day]



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[17]


A semi-definitive guide, December 18th, 2008

File:228351817 b414d54dca.jpg?v=0 American culture is such that I don't even really like writing this post. But I am starting to get deluged with requests for assistance, and I just don't have the time to answer them. I have a mortgage to pay and a family to feed – however much I'd like to, I can't devote my whole life to pro bono work.

This, therefore, is my semi-definitive guide to what I will do as part of my commitment to service, and what falls into consulting work and thus requires pay. Please note that unpaid work depends on me having the time to do it, and therefore may take longer or be refused.

Career Coaching

Service

  • Answering any question general enough I can also post it to my blog.
  • One phone call on any topic
  • Any number of emails that are easy for me to answer from my own experience
  • Taking a look at a resume and indentifying obvious flaws

Consulting

  • Detailed resume review and commentary
  • Resume editing
  • Advice about what employers are good to work for and what aren't (because I will not do this in writing, I can't blog about it)
  • Practice interviews
  • More than one phone call

Social Media Advising

Service

  • Social media audit, including quick recommendations for what could be improved
  • Scan of organizational blog and suggestions for improvement
  • Guest posting to your blog

Consulting

  • Social media audit, with detailed analysis of strengths and weaknesses
  • Design of social media plan
  • Blog planning, writing, editing, or management
  • Social Media training

Technical Assistance on Health and Development

Service

  • Read proposal and provide general impression
  • Suggest resources for learning more about a topic
  • Any question I can answer on twitter
  • Helping individual moms with breastfeeding

Consulting

  • Technical input into proposal design or evaluation
  • Proposal writing or editing
  • Training of any kind (except as previously mentioned)

Other random things I think of as service

  • Board membership (though I am very picky about what boards I join)
  • Speeches
  • Providing references

In a nutshell – if you need specific, detailed guidance that takes time to produce, that is paid work. So would anything that requires me to be quoted on the record and/or shift from informal to formal, any communication which requires multiple phone calls, and questions that require research for me to answer or that I find boring.

(photo credit: Sokwanele - Zimbabwe) Chosen because writing about this makes me kind of uncomfortable, and somehow featuring Zimbawean currency made me feel better.

Posted in about Alanna]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[18]


Development 2.0 – More than jargon?, December 14th, 2008

File:3011344627 084eb6c2fe.jpg?v=0 There are a few possible interpretations of Development 2.0 that make it more than jargon. Two are simple (although not easy) and most likely inevitable. The last one is very, very hard. And, of course, it's the one that matters most. The first meaning of Development 2.0 would be using new technology and methods to share information and improve practice. Use new technology to improve the quality of the work we do. This includes both using new technology to solve development problems, and to share information across communities of practice. It could mean a better kind of water pump, it could mean Ushahidi, or it could mean posting your trip reports to YouTube. Other examples include Aidworkers Network, Appropedia, networklearning.org, and uncultured.com. Not to mention the growing community of international development blogs and twitter accounts.

I think this kind of Development 2.0 will occur naturally. Development organizations are full of people who care about their work and seek ways to do it better. Early adopters will grab useful new tech as it occurs, and sooner or later institutional resistance will be overcome.

Another form of Development 2.0 would be using the social web to crowd-source funding for development projects. We saw the Obama campaign route around traditional donor dominance by getting hundreds of thousands of small donations instead of relying on a few major funders. We could do the same thing in development. This would mean a greater diversity in what projects get funded, and fewer irrational restrictions on money. This would mean that no one had the power to impose a global gag rule, for example, or force a project to procure all their mobile phones from Finland.

The truest, most difficult form of Development 2.0, however, is more than improving our current work. Instead, it will mean going from a donor model to a partnership model. The web 2.0 revolution was when people went from being passive consumers of pre-packaged information and entertainment to creating their own content and sharing it with each other using new tools. It shattered traditional media structures in ways we are still trying to understand.

If we could do that in development, it would be genuinely earth-shaking. What if developing countries went from being passive recipients of aid packages to identifying their own needs and developing their own solutions, reaching out to donors to provide funding and targeted expertise as requested? What if they shared those solutions with other countries in the same situation? Countries who have seen success in bringing down HIV rates could offer technical expertise to those still struggling. New technologies make information sharing and analysis easier than ever. They are not the exclusive province of the developed world.

Web 2.0 still relies on traditional media to provide content to be discussed, contextualized, and remixed. Perhaps in Development 2.0 donors would do deep technical research to support good program design, and monitor and evaluate programs to support the best possible uses of donor money.

Thanks to JamesBT, Bjelkeman, carolARC, waugaman, stevebridger, and Will Schmitt for helping me refine my ideas on this.

(photocredit: Ed Yourdon) Chosen because I have a deep and abiding love for Al Gore.

Posted in Development 2.0]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[19]


Nothing, something, and more, December 11th, 2008

File:2702504642 baa9de9b03.jpg?v=0 Bad development work is based on the idea that poor people have nothing. Something is better than nothing, right? So anything you give these poor people will be better than what they had before. Even if it's your old clothes, technology they can't use, or a school building with no teacher.

But poor people don't have nothing. They have families, friends – social ties. They have responsibilities. They have possessions, however meager. They have lives, no matter what those lives look like to Westerners.

The "it's better than nothing" argument is meaningless. No one is starting from nothing. If you find yourself saying, "our program/charity/intervention is better than nothing" that's more than just damning faint praise, it's a sign that you have a problem.

Good development work is based on the idea of more. Identify what people have already, and what they value. Work with them to figure out how they can get more of that. More education, or more money, or more food. More control over their lives. Whatever it is, the focus should be on getting more of what they need - not some of whatever we can find.

(photo credit: Turkairo) Chosen because the look in this girl's eyes and her carefully tied scarf prove my point.

Posted in basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[20]


Giving thanks, November 28th, 2008

File:DSCF0006.JPG I am thankful for emigration.

My father was born in Calcutta in 1939. His family rode the death trains in 1946, after their apartment complex was firebombed. They ended up in Karachi, with the rest of the IDPs, who, of course, became refugees once the subcontinent split. In 1962 my dad went to Canada – to study at McGill – and never lived in Pakistan again.

I am a native speaker of the world's language of privilege. I have never gone truly hungry, I have two degrees, and I didn't give birth until the age of thirty. These things are true not because of any particular giftedness on my part. They are true solely because I was born in Syracuse, New York instead of Karachi, Pakistan.

This wouldn't be true if my father had left school when his parents wanted him to. If he'd decided to study in Islamabad instead of Montreal. If he'd married the girl arranged for him instead of choosing my mom and breaking with his family. If he'd married a woman who could go back to Pakistan with him.

One path un-followed, just one, and I would not be the aid worker blogging here about the need to treat your local partners well. Instead, I'd be that local partner fighting for respect. I'd have less money, more health risks, fewer choices in my life and a shorter life in which to make those choices. I'd have to struggle to make a good life instead of having it handed to me.

And so, every year on Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the hard choices my father made, for the life he won for his children. I am thankful for the freedom of movement that let his family flee for their lives, and let my father make himself a new life.

And I remember: I did nothing to earn this.

(photo credit: my mom) From left to right: My dad, myself, my brother. Maybe six years ago.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[21]


A manifesto of sorts, November 26th, 2008

Development work is designed to change people's lives. Its specific goal is impacting human beings and the way they live. Done badly, it does damage. This makes it inherently serious, as serious as practicing law or medicine and it should be treated that way. If you want to practice medicine, you don't start your own clinic. You go to medical school.

I am not telling you not to get involved. We need good people working in development. We need them desperately. But warm bodies and enthusiasm don't help people. Good programs help people. And it's very hard to create good programs if you are starting from scratch. There is an enormous body of knowledge, both academic and practical, on how to improve peoples' lives. Not taking advantage of that body of knowledge is unfair to everyone involved.

Posted in advice], rants]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[22]


Jargon of the Day: Modalities, November 25th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg

Jargon: Modalities

Translation: Patterns, or systems. Commenters feel free to chime in, but I think this is pretty much a nonsense world that people use to avoid saying "stuff."

Posted in jargon], jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[23]


What to read for insight, November 19th, 2008

File:3023143475 fa5c0cf70e.jpg?v=0 I've got a lot of blogs in my RSS reader. 166, to be precise. And I treat it like an email inbox, and I keep up with it. They're smart blogs, and I love the feeling of learning new stuff all the time. Sometimes, though, I want to step out of the familiar blog comfort zone. You need a little randomness to generate new ideas. You need synergy. This is what I read to find that:

Trackernews – It's still in beta, but I am already impressed. It is a human-curated news and information site specifically designed to help readers make new connections.

Silobreaker – Another aggregator site designed to inspire insight. It's intended to break down the walls between different disciplines and broaden your perspective. I really like the Network search function.

Worldchanging – Styled as an online magazine, it features articles and blog posts on a range of topics, withing a general theme of achieving positive change. It's a combination of aggregated content from other places and original writing.

ChangeThis – ChangeThis is made up of manifestos, mostly related to marketing and business. All original content.

Plusnews – HIV-related news from all over the world. Original content, written by journalists for PlusNews. HIV/AIDS is a multi-faceted problem, with a multitude of causes and responses. In many ways, it's a microcosm of most of the challenges facing the world. Think about HIV and you're thinking about everything.

Edited to add: Commenters Ryan and Peter have added some excellent sources. Take a look.

(photo credit: StrangrThanCandy) Chosen because I really had no idea what to illustrate this entry with, and it's a cool looking picture. I think it looks kind of like a world map.

Posted in information resources]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[24]


Jargon of the Day: Silo/siloing, November 15th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg

Jargon: Silo or siloing

Translation: Means exactly the same as stovepipe/stovepiping. Which I suppose is logical because both are long skinny things. I find myself enraged, though, that we went to the effort of developing and using two different jargony terms for the same pretty straightforward concept. It seems like a deliberate attempt to make discussions as difficult as possible for outsiders.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[25]


Reader Question - Can you share some of your experiences in which inexperienced nonprofits did more harm than good?, November 13th, 2008

File:IMG 1317.jpg Dear Alanna,

I too am starting up a very small nonprofit, and I admit that I am not comfortable with all of the issues you raised in your blog on November 8th.

Can you share some of your experiences in which inexperienced nonprofits did more harm than good?

DR

Dear DR,

Here are four ways that a small (or large) NGO can unintentionally do harm to the community it's trying to serve.

1) You can waste the time and effort of a community by initiating projects which have little chance of success. It's hard to identify a good project for a small community. Community buy-in is no guarantee of success; possessing deep local knowledge doesn't make a person omniscient. Projects that have little chance of success include vocational training in sewing and handicrafts, beekeeping, and raising chickens. If you waste a year of the community's time on a broiler chicken project that never makes a profit, that's a year of time and effort which could have gone to real income generation or looking after children.

2) You can leave communities convinced that they need outsiders to solve their problems. If you raise $3000 for a backhoe to clear irrigation ditches, then what happens next time the ditches silt up? The farmers' cooperative will never realize they could have cleared it with hand shovels, or raised the money by charging a membership fee.

3) You can damage beneficial community structures, or solidify harmful structures. Your choice of community intermediary elevates that person or group, by putting them in control (real or perceived control) of valuable assets. If you work with existing power structures, you can support and entrench inequalities, such as sexism or racism, which are already present. If you chose partners who are not part of the current elite, you can destabilize delicate community balances, and erode resilience.

4) You can construct a building and then not provide funds for maintenance or staffing. A school needs a teacher. A clinic needs a doctor or nurse. All buildings need upkeep – painting and repairs at the very least. A building with not funds for maintenance is a drain on community resources in perpetuity, or an eyesore.

I recommend reading Michael Maren's book The Road to Hell; it has its flaws but it is very sincere and brings up a lot to think about.

Best,

Alanna

Readers - if anyone has case studies or examples, please comment.

Edited to add - 1) Check out the fascinating examples in the comments and 2) Owen has two more ways an incompetent NGO can hurt the population it is trying to help.

(Photo Credit: Copyright Glenna Gordon) She gave it to me as an example of aid with unintended consequences.

Posted in advice], basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[26]


Jargon of the day: Stovepiping, November 13th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg

Jargon: Stovepiping

Translation: Dividing things into categories. It has a negative connotation, and implies keeping things so isolated in their own area that there is no chance for inspiration or exchange of ideas.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[27]


Four bosses I have known and loved, November 11th, 2008

File:17378095 aabf17244a.jpg?v=0

1) The one who spoke fluent Russian and, when we traveled for work, used to negotiate with waitresses extensively to make sure I got my eggs the way I liked them.

2) The one who cared so much about our programs that she'd start swearing and waving her arms in the middle of meetings.

3) The one who would yell at me when he got stressed, but always grinned if I yelled back.

4) The one who was technically my subordinate but acted like my boss because he ran a really important country program. Why was he loved, you ask? Because he ran his really important country program really really well.

(photo credit: Bright Tal) Chosen because four boxes sounds kind of like four bosses, and I loved the picture.

Posted in careers]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[28]


Jargon of the day: Health care provider, November 10th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg

Jargon: Health care provider

Translation: Anyone who takes care of patients. This includes physicians, nurses, physician's assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives. I'm guilty of using this term myself - it's an easy way to describe a big group. It's unclear to outsiders, though, and can be a barrier to understanding.

Posted in jargon], jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[29]


The story of FORGE, November 9th, 2008

File:Forge logo.gif About two weeks ago, something fascinating happened. Kjerstin Erickson, the director of FORGE, a small NGO that works with refugees in Zambia, posted on her blog at Social Edge. She said that FORGE was in major financial trouble and might have to shut down. The story has unfolded from there. A major philanthropy blogger wrote about FORGE on his blog, lauding their transparency. Consultants have been stepping up to help FORGE find a way to carry on. It's become an opportunity to have some fascinating conversations about transparency, accountability, and what makes an NGO "deserve" to exist.

For something of such interest, this is getting no attention on Twitter; there is also surprisingly little attention from the web at large. I think this is because FORGE's web presence is limited to the FORGE site and the Social Edge blog maintained by Kjerstin. Both of these are a good start but to create buzz you need to be all over the place. FORGE does not seem to have buzz.

FORGE needs a twitter account immediately, as well as a friend feed account, and a flickr pool. I know they have a very small staff, but they could work with a consultant to get the ball rolling (Yes, I have contacted Kjerstin and offered to donate my services on this), and even some of the ongoing stuff could be done by a committed and well-informed volunteer. Their fundraising model – many small donations – is well suited to microblogging. So is their commitment to transparency. I'd love to see Kjerstin with a twitter account, as well as someone in the field. Epic Change's use of social media would be a great model for FORGE.

Where is their board in all this? Sara Hall from New Philanthropy Advisors makes this point well. Why doesn't their board care enough to give? And if they cannot give, why are they not out foraging for donations? FORGE can't really overhaul their board now, but your board is not just a source of guidance or a required technicality. They should stand ready to open their pockets, call their friends, and do media on your behalf. The nonprofiteer has some great writing on what your board should be doing for your non-profit.

Another thing; I hate to say this, but I don't like the FORGE website. I think the writing is jargon-heavy, and obscures the power of their model and their message. I also think that the color and design is unwelcoming. In general, it feels very academic to me. It feels like something I am supposed to read about, not something I am supposed to be involved in.

Finally, I think FORGE is choosing the wrong selling points. Their main website page says "With FORGE, you can help end the cycle of war and poverty in Africa." That doesn't make them stand out from the scores of other organizations that work in Africa. They also emphasize that FORGE lets you choose how to support and change lives – again, that's not very different from what everyone else is saying right now, especially Kiva. It's all just more of the same. I also suspect that use of the catch-all "Africa," instead of naming countries, may be off-putting to some people.

What is exciting about FORGE is that it is refugee-driven. Refugees themselves identify their needs, request funding, and implement their projects. FORGE just provides money and gives them tools and support as needed.

FORGE has the community drive and focus of a local NGO, paired with the accountability and transparency of an international organization. That's exciting. That's where they should shine their spotlight.

Posted in advice]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[30]


Jargon of the day: Leakage, November 9th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg

Jargon: Leakage Translation: Corruption. Generally loss of goods or money due to bribery or theft. I think people use the term leakage because it feels better than saying "losses due to corruption."




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[31]


Jargon of the day: Delta, November 6th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: Delta

Translation: Change. People in the government and military seem to like this word a lot. I have no idea why they use it, since it seems to be a direct synonym for "change." Maybe using it makes them feel like insiders?

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[32]


Things I believe in #17 - recognizing and learning from failure, November 4th, 2008

File:204219705 526ac248a6.jpg?v=0 There are a whole lot of ways you can screw up a development program. I've talked about some of them in the past. You can make bad choices with the best of intentions, you can discover your every choice has unintended consequences, and you can just be flat out stupid. Luckily, we're not houseflies. We have the capacity for learning. And if we're willing to genuinely examine our failures, we can avoid making the same mistake twice. It's hard, but it's possible.

Determining what went wrong is actually the easy part. There are so many moving parts in any development project that many, or most of them will not turn out how you expected. Making a list of what could have gone better will be distressingly easy.

The hard part comes next. You have to sort through your list to figure out which factors were actually the deal-breakers, and which were annoyances. Then you identify what you can actually avoid or compensate for next time. You have to figure out the right lesson to learn.

For example, if your agriculture program failed because of insufficient rainfall, you need to design a program flexible enough to adapt to multiple weather projections. Knowing that you need rain is not a useful lesson to learn. Knowing you need to have different options for different weather conditions is a useful lesson. Vasco Pyjama has a great entry about learning from something her organization failed at.

Being able to recognize and accept our failures is what makes future success possible. To take this discussion from the theoretical to the concrete, here are two of my own programmatic failures, and what I learned from them:

1. Nutrition pamphlet for women in Turkmenistan. Literacy is high in Turkmenistan, and people seem to genuinely love brochures and pamphlets. When we focus-group tested health pamphlets, we got responses like "this should be longer." When a Peace Corps volunteer applied for a small grant to produce a brochure with nutrition information and healthy recipes, it seemed like a good fit.

This is what I learned: Turkmen women don't cook from recipes. They think the whole idea is weird. They feed their families by buying what's cheap and in season from the bazaar, and then cooking it using traditional techniques. The nutrition information was useful, but women had no way to act on it. Our next attempt at nutrition education focused on cooking methods to make Turkmen dishes higher in nutritional value. That one was much more successful.

2. Community website for Baghdad. This was a proposal I helped to design and write. We were going to set up a community website for Baghdad, kind of combination between Craig's list and Yelp. It would allow for violence mapping, to help people avoid dangerous areas, and offer ways to discuss things like whether a particular doctor or lawyer would take clients across sectarian lines. We were going to combine that with increased wifi access using repeaters, and providing cheap laptops to large households. In an environment too dangerous for community-building in person, it was meant to help give people a unified identity as Baghdadis once again. Just about everyone who heard about the idea loved it, but I never found a donor that would pay for it.

This is what I learned: no donor will fund a program that gives people to the chance to say anything they want. As one person told me "The first time the New York Times runs an article about Islamic militants posting to a US/UN/UK (insert donor here)-funded website, we're all screwed." I still love the idea of the Baghdad site, but it's going to take some very innovative funding to make it happen.

Failure feels really, really bad. It's a blow to your ego and you feel like you've let down the people who rely on your organization. If you can get past that, though, it's the best teacher you'll find.

(photo credit: Quod) Chosen because I think that tiny apple on the right represents hope.

Posted in things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[33]


Things that do damage, November 1st, 2008

File:399028290 9fb7ecd861.jpg?v=0 Badly planned, badly thought out NGO operations hurt the communities they attempt to serve. We're all aware of that in the big ways, like allowing food aid to be turned into a weapon by dictatorships, or sexually abusing aid recipients. Aside from the big blunders, though, we also undermine in smaller ways. Here are two:

1. Using highly visible security where it isn't called for. Seeing the foreigners ride around in armored cars or helmets is scary. It makes everything seem like a war zone.

In an actual war zone, people are in a war mindset. Using war zone precautions in other contexts generates fear. It actually makes people feel less safe in the place where they live. Maybe your expatriates are genuinely more at risk than local inhabitants (though Michael Kleinman has his doubts and honestly so do I) but how are people supposed to know that?

Security precautions should be appropriate to the level of risk, and as unobtrusive as possible. Considering how much of safety is about population support and acceptance of the work, this benefits NGO programs as well as the communities they work with.

2. Living visibly lavish lifestyles. There is research showing that inequality makes people unhappy. Poor people feel less happy with their lives when they've got rich people making them feel deprived. Don't be those rich people. In addition, no local community is going to feel like a partner if you roll around like wealthy big shots. They are going to feel like the recipient of charity, with nothing to do but wait and accept it.

Expatriate employees need to be fairly comfortable and fairly happy to function and do their best for the organization. I know that. But don't fly in their cheese or give them palaces to live in.

(photo credit: Cayusa) Chosen because it feels like the big white car is shoved right into your face.

Posted in basics], life in the field]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[34]


Jargon of the day: Cash for Work, October 31st, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg I have always thought the phrase "cash for work" was kind of crazy. Isn't cash for work called employment? In practice, however, cash for work is a specific kind of disaster relief where people affected by the emergency are paid to engage in reconstruction activities. That might include cleaning or rebuilding schools and hospitals, clearing roads, or digging latrines. If well-designed, cash for work programs support the rebuilding of a community and provide a much-needed cash infusion. If badly designed, they can disempower communities by not giving community residents a stake and a voice in how their own space is restored.

Posted in disaster response], jargon]



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[35]


Baghdad, October 25th, 2008

File:2054551009 19e434cbc6.jpg?v=0 Just to be absolutely clear, I was only in Baghdad for a week, more than a year ago. A cushy week, at that, where I stayed in our compound, ate freshly-baked pastries, and asked the Iraq team a lot of questions about their work. I left the compound once to go to the green zone. We went directly back afterward. I had no close calls, no kidnap attempts, and no experience with live fire of any kind. I saw Baghdad through the window of our battered Mercedes and briefly from the roof of our apartment building.

I know an awful lot of people who've been to Iraq. Just about everyone at IMC, for one thing. My friend Kerry, for another. A monitoring and evacuation specialist who got sent home because it was too dangerous for non-permanent staff. My cousin, a Kuwaiti, who translated for UPI. A contractor who carried a secret gun so that "he wouldn't end up in a video in CNN." I am not trying to say I have anything in common with them.

I've just got me, and my experience. I went to Baghdad, I ate a lot of carbs, I listened to a lot of music on my laptop to drown out the explosions I could always hear in the distance. I was there the week the surge started and the Iranian ambassador was taken. I heard two bazaar bombings. I discovered mortar fire sounds just exactly like it does on M*A*S*H (the mortar fire is much louder near the green zone).

I remember every tiny detail of that trip. What the detergent in the sheets smelled like. The flavor and texture of the little cookies the cook made. And the music I played. One song in particular, I listened to many, many times. Love is the Movement. I've got it on my iPod. I still love the song, but it gives me nightmares. I flinch when I see it on my playlist, and I always listen to it anyway.

Iraq was real. We were doing work that really, really mattered there, and it was some of the best work that can be done in Iraq. If we hadn't been doing it, no one else could have. (You don't, honestly, feel that way all that often. Usually you know that if you don't do it, World Vision or CARE probably will.) I talked to my colleagues in that office – who were, to a person, traumatized and shell-shocked – and they were utterly committed to what they did. They knew their work had damaged them and they thought it was worth the trade-off.

If I didn't have my son, I'd still be in that office today.

I heard Love is the Movement on my bus ride home. I donated some money to my former employer this evening, and I did the thing I hate and designated it for Iraq programs. I'm going to wake up crying tonight.

(image credit: James Gordon)

Posted in Iraq], life in the field], rants]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[36]


Dear everyone who's ever thought of starting an NGO, October 22nd, 2008

File:408807995 3664311b50.jpg?v=0 Don't do it. You're not going to think of a solution no one else has, your approach is not as innovative as you think it is, and raising money is going to be impossible. You will have no economy of scale, your overhead will be disproportionately high, and adding one more tiny NGO to the overburdened international system may well make things worse instead of better.

Now that you've ignored me, here's the rest of my advice:

1) Make your bones. Go work for an existing NGO that addresses the same problem, or one like it. Learn from the existing knowledge in the system so you don't waste time re-inventing the wheel. If you're not qualified to work for an existing organization, you're probably not qualified to run your own.

2) Identify a new funding source. If you're just going to compete for the same donor RFPs and RFAs that everyone else does, you're not bringing anything new to the world. If you didn't get that grant to reduce child mortality in Liberia, another organization would. The children of Liberia benefit equally either way. If you can bring new money in, then you're having a genuine additional impact.

3) Hire experienced people to work with you. There is a certain charm to a bunch of inexperienced people trying to change the world together, but a group that combines new ideas and actual experience can produce genuine innovation.

4) Your finances are probably the most important part of your NGO. Your donors will want to see your financials before they give. Your projects will require a steady stream of reliable funding to succeed. You can't do good if you can't pay your bills. [http://www.flickr.com/photos/jblndl/

(photo credit Mosieur J.)]

Posted in advice], basics], rants]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[37]


Five mistakes international organizations make when using Twitter, October 20th, 2008

File:Twitter logo s.gif 1. Using it just for press releases. People don't follow you on Twitter for generic organizational announcements. They follow because they want to feel a personal connection with what you do. They want to become friends and allies. Write your twitter updates in less formal language, and tweet little things, too. Not just press releases. Welcome new employees, for example, or tell them a little bit about one specific project.

2. Only asking for money. Constant calls for funds will bore people and cause them to unsubscribe from your twitter feed. Ask for money no more than once a week, and when you do, tie it to something you mentioned that week.

3. Not following back or replying to others. As an organization, you should automatically follow back anyone who follows you on twitter. People don't want to be broadcast to; they want to be part of a conversation. Following people is the first step; the second step is paying attention. Use twitter search to monitor mentions of your organization. Reply to those mentions. Periodically read the postings of people you follow. You don't have to read every post, but check in from time to time, and reply if you have something interesting to say.

4. Forgetting the global audience. Twitter has a worldwide user base. This includes people in the countries where you work. It may include potential donors and beneficiaries in other countries. It will definitely include your own staff. When you write about events in, say, Rwanda, assume Rwandans will be reading. Are you still comfortable with your post?

5. Not having a Twitter strategy. There are things to think about before you post your first tweet. Do you want to encourage all your staff to have organization-linked twitter accounts, or just a single account to represent the whole organization? What aspects of your organization do you want to highlight? What kind of expertise do you possess and can showcase? Who will update the twitter account, and will all postings need to be approved first? These are issues that can be resolved with some planning, and can go very wrong on you without some advance thought.

Posted in social media]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[38]


Links: jargon, politics, humanitarian relief, and a contest, October 17th, 2008

This glossary is a resource for deciphering development jargon.

The Huffington post asks if republicans are better at foreign assistance.

Statistics on humanitarian relief from the excellent new Change.org humanitarian relief blog. I have been very impressed by the blog so far; it's a great combination of information, editorial, and links to useful resources.

Lastly, I'll hop on the bandwagon and link to the USAID Development 2.0 Challenge. USAID will award a $10,000 prize for a high-impact use of mobile technology for development. I think this contest will be very interesting to watch - the small prize level should bring out fresh ideas and not just proposals from all the same USAID grantees.

Posted in Humanitarian response], USAID], disaster response], jargon]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[39]


Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty, October 15th, 2008

Everything that matters in international development comes back to poverty. Poverty saps your ability to affect the path of your life, stay (or start out) healthy, find a job, or invest in education or a small business.

Information on global poverty:

Dani Rodrik talks about international poverty.

A nice Foreign Affairs article on reducing global poverty.

The World Bank's most recent numbers on global poverty.

Oxfam's take on reducing global poverty.

You will notice that not all of the sources I have listed agree with each other. Poverty is a complex topic, and there are no obvious answers on what to do. If you want to get involved in fighting global poverty, I suggest the ONE campaign If you'd like to donate money to help alleviate global poverty, give to an NGO you already know and trust. Poverty is part of all our major problems, and fighting it is part of every solution. Donate to a food pantry in your home town, to Feeding America, International Medical Corps, or the Treatment Action Campaign or Oxfam. Every NGO trying to make the world a better place is fighting poverty one way or another; choose one that is credible and give what you can.

Blog Posts I've written that touch on poverty:

Briefing: Tuberculosis

Suffering does not make you special

[http://alannashaikh.blogspot.com/2008/09/your-money-does-not-make-you-special.html

Your money does not make you special ] [http://alannashaikh.blogspot.com/2008/07/keep-your-banana-to-yourself.html

Keep your banana to yourself]

Why health matters (if you only read one of my posts, read this one)

Posted in poverty]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[40]


Why I hate the word sustainability, October 10th, 2008

File:Streetsign.jpg What happens when your intervention is over? When you stop training the doctors, providing the bags of food, or advising the Ministry of Finance? Will anything remain? If something will remain, your project is sustainable. That quality – being designed to continue once the outsider effort ends - is sustainability.

I hate this word because the grammar makes no sense.

I also hate this word because it means so many things to so many different people. The definition I just gave you was the one that I learned from a former boss, the smartest woman in the world. (Seriously, she is. If you had ever met her, you'd agree with me). Sheila taught me that sustainability isn't about your project continuing, or even the institution you support or develop. Sustainability is about the change you help bring about being a lasting change. It doesn't matter if your child health center closes if children continue to get improved medical care.

Other people think other things. Some people think sustainability is about building organizations and institutions that last. A lot of projects think that sustainability is about having a steady supply of new donors; a project is sustainable if will be able to find a new donor once you stop funding it. MSF, of course, thinks sustainability is irrelevant.

So, I guess I hate the word sustainability because it has no agreed upon-meaning, and it's a prime example of the kind of jargon that keeps planners from thinking about the details of what they want to do.

Edited to add: Jeff Trexler reminds me that I left out an entire set of meanings for the word sustainable. One of its most common usages is as part of the phrase "sustainable development." Sustainable development refers to development which occurs without damage to the environment, culturally appropriate, and continues on its own once begun (according some combination of the criteria I defined above.)

Edited again: Owen Barder has his own take on what's wrong with sustainability.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[41]


Innovation Part II, October 8th, 2008

We need to get over our obsession with innovation. It's hurting our ability to do good development work. We get caught up in trendy new ideas – we fondle the hammer – and we exhaust out energies looking for the next big thing instead of supporting interventions which have been proven to work.

Innovation is not a quick fix. It is not a magic bullet that will solve all our problems. Social media is a genuine innovation (as Our Man in Cameroon points out), but it has rules and best practices. It takes time and skill to learn to use it well. Antibiotics were an innovation in their time, but they too had to be perfected and properly used before they could save lives.

When I lived in Cairo, people on the street used to talk about Japanese engineers. Everyone was sure that the Japanese government was about to build a new sewer system, repave the roads, or extend the subway. I lived in Egypt ten years ago. Cairenes are still waiting for their Japanese metro.

Chasing innovation too often leads us astray, when we could be plugging along at the things that have been proven to work. Those things do exist. Girls' education. Microfinance. Contraception. We need innovation; it's true. But it's not all we need.

Posted in innovation], rants]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[42]


Innovation, October 7th, 2008

Let's talk about innovation. Innovation ought to be a game-changer. It out to be the insight, the idea, the new way of doing things or the amazing new tech that inverts the way we approach a problem. Positive deviance was an innovation, and it leads to more innovation. Cell phones were an innovation. Vaccines were an innovation. Capitalism, way back way back when, was an innovation.

Doing the same thing in a slightly new way is not innovation. Nor is making up new words for existing techniques.

And it's okay if you're not innovative. Innovation is not the answer to all problems. Innovation, in fact, can go horribly wrong. (French revolution, anyone?) If you're doing things that are not innovative, there are other words you get to use. Research-based. Proven. Evidence-based. Play to your strengths; don't try to fake something else.

(topic suggested by James Bon Tempo)

Posted in basics], innovation], positive deviance], rants]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[43]


Briefing: Tuberculosis, October 6th, 2008

File:23244652 01b0d7b690.jpg?v=0 I recommend that before you read this entry, you go here. Right click, open it in an another window. Then come back here, and read.

Tuberculosis (TB) is mostly an illness of the poor. It is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It's hard to get Tuberculosis if you have a fully functioning immune system and a nutritious diet. It's easy to get Tuberculosis if you are sick, hungry, or have HIV. People who have HIV in developing countries are very likely to also get TB. There are three kinds of Tuberculosis. Are all equally infectious, but some are much more fatal once you are infected.

1. Regular, which can be cured with a standard regimen of drugs, most often the regimen recommended by the "directly observed therapy short-course", or DOTS. If your get proper treatment, it is pretty easy to survive regular tuberculosis. (And training doctors to use the DOTS drugs will ensure that the largest percentage of TB patients get better.) People in the developing world are often afraid to go for treatment, but Tuberculosis can be cured, and treatment is free in many countries.

2. Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR TB). This is a TB infection that cannot be cured with the usual drugs. Doctors must prescribe second-line drugs to cure this form of TB. There are two ways to get MDR TB. You can get regular TB, and be prescribed the wrong combination of drugs, or fail to take your drugs. This will mean that the weak bacteria in your body are killed by antibiotics, leaving the stronger ones to breed and take over. These survivor bacteria cannot be killed by the usual drugs. You may also get Tuberculosis from someone who has gone through this process and has MDR TB; your bacteria will therefore be the stronger, survivor bacteria even at the beginning of the infection.

CDC MDR TB fact sheet [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDR_TB

Wikipedia entry on MDR TB]

3. Extremely Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis. (XDR TB) This is the worst kind of TB to be infected with. It cannot be treated with the normal, first-line drugs, or the less common drugs used for MDR TB. It requires rare, third-line drugs to cure it. These drugs are more expensive, harder to store, and may have severe side effects. 50-80% of XDR TB can be treated or cured.

[http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/66187.php

Medical News Today on XDR TB] The WHO on XDR TB The Stop TB alliance on XDR TB

For a long time, drug companies didn't bother to research and develop new antibiotics. They were cheap and didn't make a huge profit margin, and so effective that new ones were not really necessary. When drug-resistant TB first showed up, there were no second and third-line drugs. Doctors used veterinary drugs never used for people, and old fashioned antibiotics that had been discontinued because of dangerous side-effects.

We can stop TB by improving the availability of good TB drugs, reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS, or making poverty less common. Your money is well spent on any of those things.

This entry was inspired by James Nachtwey , and his TED Prize wish.

(Photo Credit: Saad Akhtar)

Posted in HIV/AIDS], Tuberculosis], basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[44]


International development blogs, October 5th, 2008

My google alerts have been good to me. I have been heartened to discover more and more blogs which touch on international development in interesting ways. You may have seen my blog roll expanding; I'm trying to create something like a comprehensive list. Check it out and explore.

Here are a few highlights:

NGO blogs

Oxfam and Refugees International both have great organization blogs, which showcase deep topical knowledge and passionate writing. Medecins sans Frontieres has a whole compendium of personal account by aid workers. Project HOPE has a blog all about (and by) their field volunteers, which would be a great resource for someone who wanted the nitty-gritty about medical volunteering.

Individual blogs

Vasco Pyjama has amazing, amazing posts about life abroad doing international development work. She is the real thing; full of insight on the work she does and with a wry and engaging voice. Chris Blattman is a famous development economist (insofar as there is such a thing) and one of my personal heroes. The Road to the Horizon, by Peter Casier, is dense with interesting information, personal observations, and lovely storytelling.

Posted in basics], blogs]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[45]


Jargon of the day: FSN, October 3rd, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg

Jargon: FSN

Translation: This is a US embassy acronym that stands for "Foreign Service National." It's the term for someone from the host country who works for the US Government.

(Here is something to know. FSNs very often have serious authority. Not soft power, or unofficial power, or the ability to influence someone. Real job-based power to make major decisions about your project. If you are the kind of jerk who assumes that you should focus on the American and not the FSN, I guarantee you will regret it.)

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[46]


How to write like a person, October 2nd, 2008

File:147722422 4b36ce3c06.jpg?v=0 Writing a good report is an underappreciated art. You don't want to be dry and overly technical, but you don't want to sound like Sally Struthers asking for donations, either. You want to present your work in a way that makes your impact clear and also makes everyone want to keep reading. It requires a careful balance, but here are a few tricks that may help.

1) Don't ever use the word individual. It's not an individual, it's a person. More than one person is people. (not individuals)

Compare "Individuals who visited the clinic reported greater satisfaction with quality of care," to "People who visited the clinic…" People get your attention. Individuals are meaningless.

2) Keep your paragraphs short. Reports are so often big blocks of text that short paragraphs are refreshing to look at. It subtly makes your materials seem easier to read, which makes people more likely to read them. By the same logic, use bulleted lists whenever you can.

3) Use acronyms sparingly. Some acronyms are so common that they will read like words to most people; those are okay. Acronyms that are specific to your project or organization, however, will drive readers away. Avoid them. If you use a special kind of pit toilet designed by your own engineers, do not call it the Improved Insect-Negating Ground Facility (IIGF) and then go on to refer to the IIGF throughout your document. Just call it the new toilet design.

4) Change up your sentence length. Let some sentences be long; go ahead and use subordinate clauses. Others should be short. Varying the rhythm will keep people engaged.

5) Be careful with adjectives. Calling something terrible doesn't really make your point. Describing the terrible conditions does. Saying a school is in "a condition of despair" (yes, that's a quote from a report I read) is much less effective than saying that the school has leaky plumbing, no roof, and a rat infestation.

6) When you've finished your last draft, read it out loud as a final check. Any awkward phrasings will leap out at you in full awful glory. (thanks to Ryan Briggs for this tip)

(photo credit: genewolf)

Posted in basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[47]


Jargon of the day: CTO, October 1st, 2008

Jargon: CTO

Translation: This is a USAID term, as far as I know. CTO stands for cognizant technical officer. The cognizant technical officer is the representative of the contracting officer and responsible for the day to day management of a grant or contract. The CTO approves your workplan, approves your key personnel, and manages the various types of bureaucracy that affects your project. As a rule, you can assume your CTO is on your side and wants your project to succeed and look good doing it. Considering how much time and energy they will put into managing your project, he or she will be as emotionally invested in its success as you are. They will be your advocate with the other actors in the USAID bureaucracy.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[48]


Things I believe in #14 – writing all your documents in clear, simple language, September 30th, 2008

There are two big reasons that clear writing is important. First of all, it lets as many people as possible understand what you have to say. Secondly, writing clearly forces you to think clearly; it improves the quality of your ideas.

Using jargon-free writing appeals to the largest possible audience. Experts in your field can still comfortably read your reports, but non-experts can understand them, too. It takes a little more work to find understandable terminology for technical ideas, but doing your best is well worth it. Your donors, staff members, and the people you serve probably don't have the background to read a jargon-dense article, and these are your most important audiences. There may be a few highly-targeted documents that need to be heavy on technical terms, but even then you can still write well.

Using jargon-free writing also forces you to think about what you're saying. Jargon makes people's attention – even your own – slide away. If you write that you are going to "include stakeholders in decision-making," you don't have to stop and think about who, exactly, you will include or how you'll make them part of your decisions. Jargon is an obstacle to good planning. Clear, specific language, on the other hand, leads to clear, specific thinking and plans.

(Here's a tip: if you are so far into the belly of the beast that you can't tell what is jargon any more, read your writing out loud. Anything that stumbles off your tongue should be removed.)

Posted in things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[49]


Jargon of the day: Structural determinants, September 25th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: Structural determinants

Translation: The general, system things that affect a situation. This might include gender roles within a culture, climate, or the economic environment.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[50]


Ethics and International Development, September 25th, 2008

File:491318276 1efc48797e.jpg?v=0 On the surface, relief and development seems like the simplest, most ethical work in the world. Helping people in need looks easy. Like most work worth doing, though, it's extraordinarily complicated.

These are just a few, representative, ethical dilemmas:

1. Giving stuff instead of training and capacity building creates a culture of dependency. People rely on what you are giving them instead of finding a way to get it themselves. They get in the habit of looking outside their communities for positive change. And when you stop providing aid, they'll have lost the skill of providing for themselves. Providing training and technical assistance requires huge amounts of money to be paid to outside experts, while leaving immediate needs unmet.

2. Hiring your staff locally and paying them well distorts the local labor market and pulls local talent away from government, local NGOs, and other domestic institutions. Paying market average salaries makes it hard to recruit and retain staff. It leaves your staff struggling to survive, and guarantees resentment of expatriate employees. Programs based on expat labor don't help the local economy, and they cost a fortune.

3. Following host government policy will often require you to move so slowly that people suffer, waiting for your programs to get going. You may be forced to use outdated models for your programs. Ignoring host government policy erodes local capacity and weakens the government, which can lead to mass suffering if the government loses control of the country.

4. Paying bribes to get things done promotes a culture of corruption and is illegal under US law. Refusing to pay bribes will get you kicked out of the country, abandoning your partner communities.

5. Working with institutions such as orphanages and homes for the disabled provides help to the most vulnerable segments of the population. Orphanages and institutions, however, have been conclusively demonstrated to be the worst approach to care. Your assistance in improving these places may help to keep them in existence and encourage placing children in them.

I am not telling you to get depressed and give up. I'm really not; doing nothing also has terrible consequences. I am telling you to think about the choices you make and what those choices mean. Look for the unintended consequences of your programs. Do your homework. Red about similar efforts, what went right and what went wrong. Talk to your local staff and other NGOs.

You will have to make choices that cause damage. Make sure your positive impact is exponentially greater.

(photo credit: edmittance)

Posted in basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[51]


Jargon of the day: Women's time poverty, September 25th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: Women's time poverty

Translation: Women in the developing world tend to have substantially less time than men do, because of the burden of household chores and child care. This means that women have more difficult accessing medical care, for example, because they cannot spare the time to go to a clinic.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[52]


Jargon of the day: Women's time poverty, September 25th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: Women's time poverty

Translation: Women in the developing world tend to have substantially less time than men do, because of the burden of household chores and child care. This means that women have more difficult accessing medical care, for example, because they cannot spare the time to go to a clinic.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[53]


What we can learn from graffiti, September 24th, 2008

File:6494048 1a47c7c05d.jpg?v=0 Let's talk about graffiti. May Karp, a Toronto photographer, went around taking pictures of legally-produced murals and other outdoor graffiti art. Then she blew up the photos very large and displayed and sold them in a gallery show, without providing context or the names of the artists. To her shock and disappointment, the graffiti artists whose work she'd photographed were furious. They banded together and had her show shut down despite her protests that she just wanted to share their unique art with the world. The artists, it seemed, didn't want to share their talent with the world. They wanted credit and fair pay. (full story here)

The really fun part is that this has happened before. A New York dentist collected graffiti photos into a book called "Tattooed Walls," which also met with outrage from the artists. He also hadn't thought to credit the artists involved or compensate them.

This is the kind of thing that very easily happens in development work. It's the kind of blunder made by well-meaning Westerners, especially small NGOs and social entrepreneurs. It's easy to come in, see a "problem," and work to solve it instead of taking enough time to listen and learn the true situation. The thing is, though, you have to provide what people actually need. If Ms. Karp or Dr. Rosenstein had made contact with the graffiti artists and asked if they wanted to be part of their projects, they would never have run into trouble, because the artists would have told them no.

If you actually want to help, make it useful and don't assume you know what useful is. Ms. Karp and Dr. Rosenstein were either too intimidated by graffiti culture to reach out to artists, or too arrogant to even remember their existence. Neither of these are attitudes that lead to useful work.

(Side note: I suspect them of both. Dr. Rosenstein said "I wanted to bond with them and become friends with them," but claimed he couldn't locate the artists. Ms. Karp said she wanted to "preserve these amazing works from the outdoor elements, from the white-wash brigades, even from other artists who paint over them. It is now possible for artists who follow the principles of good art to come in from the outside and show their work on gallery walls." Since many graffiti artists are shown in galleries, this was breathtaking condescension.)

Finding out what people actually need is an art and a science. There's a huge body of research devoted to it, which I won't drag you back through. (Here are a few resources.)

It pretty much boils down to 1) asking people what they need and 2) getting real, quantitative and qualitative data about the situation. It takes some time and effort, but it's not difficult to do, and it makes the difference between a city full of angry tattoo artists and a treasured labor of love. Once someone tried to talk to them, it became clear that the helpless marginalized artists that Karp and Rosenstein wanted to help and support were neither helpless nor marginalized.

(Art Credit: Artwork by Reyes, Photo by funkandjazz)

Posted in basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[54]


The ferry from Nuweiba, September 22nd, 2008

File:81976712 b1b894f5c8.jpg?v=0 In spring 1998 I was sitting in a dusty Egyptian ferry terminal waiting to go to Aqaba. On the bench across from me, there sat a man, two women (his wife and her sister, I thought) and a small baby being passed between the women. Eventually, after a flurry of distressed-sounding Arabic, the two women decamped in the direction of the bathroom, leaving the baby with its father. The man held the baby for about a minute, propped in his lap, starting at it and looking discomfited. Then he stood up, looked sheepish, and handed the baby to me. He returned to his newspaper. I sat with the baby, more than a little confused.

I came to the conclusion, while holding that child, that in his own culture, the father had done nothing wrong. In his world, men were bad with babies, inherently. Women were good with babies, inherently. The safest, kindest thing he could do for his child was to hand it off to a woman until mommy returned. A little baby simply did not belong with a man. If he wanted his child to be happy, the best he could do was give it to a woman. I was pretty pleased with myself for figuring this out, and for not letting my American cultural biases blind me.

Then, the wife and sister came back, exclaimed with distress at the sight of a strange woman holding the baby, grabbed it from me (with, to be fair, apologetic looks) and spent the next 20 minutes berating the father for his idiocy.

Cultural differences are larger than you could ever imagine, and they matter tremendously. But it's not always a cultural thing. Sometimes people are just jerks.

[http://flickr.com/photos/18705609@N00/

(photo of the Aqaba-Nuweiba ferry by Ashraf Al-Mansur)]

Posted in basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[55]


Jargon of the day: BCL, September 19th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: BCL

Translation: BCL stands for Briefing Checklist. This is a government term, for a very specific kind of document that underlings write and give high-level officials to prepare them for a meeting. The term seems specific to USAID and the US State Department.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[56]


Why donor coordination is so difficult, September 15th, 2008

File:140331897 7b93d9ffb7.jpg?v=0 Donors don't fail to coordinate out of stupidity or greed. Donors fail to coordinate because coordination is really hard.

First of all, donors give for a lot of reasons. Certainly they want to support international development, but they have secondary needs. Domestic constituencies need to support foreign aid, or the money to support it vanishes. A nation may have strategic goals in a particular country or region, and it may have laws governing what kind of aid it can provide. All of these factors mean that nations end up making their foreign assistance plans alone.

When the time comes for donors to coordinate, they can't just make their plans together. Instead, they're forced to take existing plans and somehow make their plans fit together. There is very little room to modify or change what's been developed. More often than not, donors do one of two things. They claim regions of a country, one per donor, or they just make a big list of who's doing what and where, and call that list coordination.

Everyone involved is making a good faith effort to do foreign aid better, but the institutional roadblocks are hard to overcome.

A lot of people have asked me to write about Accra. I'm not going to – that kind of high-level stuff is not my specialty, and there is an awful lot of good writing out there already. (CGD, who you know I adore, has a good summary here.)

(photo credit Don Nunn)

Posted in CGD], donor coordination]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[57]


What should I study if I want a career in international development?, September 13th, 2008

File:1573805420 b69c8667ec.jpg?v=0 You can go two ways on this (at least) and it depends on your basic skills and aptitude.

The first option is acquiring some hard skills. Engineering, nursing, IT, and teaching or training are good examples. An appropriate terminal degree, combined with a minor in a foreign language (Not French or Spanish unless you can become fluent. Turkish and Urdu are good choices for poor language learners as they are a little easier to learn and yet are exotic enough that no one expects fluency. If you're good with languages, go with one of the major difficult ones – Russian, Arabic, or Mandarin Chinese) or international relations will open a lot of doors.

The second option is to study international development and/or its related disciplines. This will require a graduate degree and it covers a lot of different study options; I'd include international or public health, public policy, conflict studies, "development studies" and the big one, development economics. The trick to this path is that it can be very hard to go abroad with these kinds of degrees, because you're not really doing anything a development projects needs in the field. You run the risk of getting tracked into headquarters-based jobs – academia or think tank if you're lucky, program backstopping if you're not so lucky. The best way to mitigate that risk is to acquire whatever hard skills you can (grantwriting is a good one) while in school, and intern as much as humanly possible. Abroad if you can, of course.

Anyone want to talk about their own study and where it led them?

ETA: Ethan Zuckerman commented below and mentioned a big thing I left off - time overseas. If you want a job in the developing world, people will feel a whole lot better if they already know you can hack living there. I talk about this in my Damsels in Success post a bit. One useful thing to say here: STUDY ABROAD. It's the easiest way to fully immerse yourself in another culture. And choose somewhere tough. Auckland or Paris does not count. I did my own study abroad in Cairo, and I know that employers saw that as clear evidence that I could adapt easily in other places. (and they're right - if you can live in downtown Cairo, you can live almost anywhere)

(photo credit: clarkstown67)

Posted in basics], careers]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[58]


Important Ideas: Stakeholder and Capacity-Building, September 12th, 2008

File:2346107307 f430339cf5.jpg?v=0 Stakeholder - A stakeholder is anyone who cares about a particular project or institution. Stakeholders in a new housing development might include neighbors of the new development, local businesses, the company doing the developing, local and national housing authorities, people who want to live in the new development, and the owners of the land where the housing will be built. The world stakeholders is actually literal – everyone who has a stake in what's going on. It seems like jargon, but I am not sure it is.

Stakeholder is a word people love to hide behind. It's easy to say you'll involve stakeholders in your decision-making without seriously thinking about who those stakeholders are or how you'll involve them. You can claim you've met with "stakeholders'" and make it sound comprehensive, when you've only included a few of the people who care about your project (if you're being particularly transparent, you call them "key stakeholders" to justify your limited outreach)

Capacity-Building – This is another term which means something important and is often used as a shield. In its simplest form, capacity building is teaching; when you take it further, things get more complicated. (for one thing, you need to give people tools they can use to keep learning.) The idea of capacity building is that even with enough people and enough money, you may not be able to govern, solve problems, or function. One example would be FEMA in the Katrina response – they had money and staff but weren't able to actually provide rapid emergency help. They lacked the capacity to do hurricane response. If, say, Switzerland's national emergency operations center sent people to do a series of workshops for FEMA officials, monitored the agency, and took them through some disaster response exercises, that would be capacity building. And next time a hurricane hit hard, FEMA could use the resources it already has to help hurricane survivors in a timely way.

(this entry is dedicated to pragzz) (Photo credit: AlphachimpStudio)

Posted in basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[59]


Your money does not make you special, September 10th, 2008

File:61056391 31343afdc6.jpg?v=0 As long as I'm ranting, I'll tell you about the other kind of expat that bugs me. People who think their money makes them special. An American living in Turkmenistan once told me that she loved living there because it was like being a rock star. You know, I understand enjoying the ability to hire someone to clean your house and iron your clothes. (I haven't bought a single piece of all-cotton clothing since I moved back to the US; that's how much I hate ironing) It's very nice to be able to afford to live a comfortable life.

To actually revel in the inequality, though, makes me ill. Having more money than an Egyptian doesn't make you smarter, more skilled, or more knowledgeable than he is. It makes you born in the developed world; you won a geographic lottery. That's it. Feeling superior on that account is just pathetic.

Photo Credit: Tracy O

Posted in rants]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[60]


Away with you!, September 10th, 2008

Hi everyone. I have not actually migrated my blog over here yet - it's still at http://alannashaikh.blogspot.com. Check over there for updates since August 18. Feel free to keep an eye on this page, though, because sometime soon it will be my brand new blog home.

Alanna




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[61]


Suffering does not make you special, September 10th, 2008

File:310975207 108d06a74b.jpg?v=0 Some people – disaster response personnel and Peace Corps volunteers in particular – come home to the US and can't re-adjust. Fat, sedentary Americans and their trivial concerns strike them as ridiculous. Those people bug me. They bug me a lot. They stand around airports looking superior and worldly and they can't buy a damn sandwich without talking about the decadence of choosing between so many kinds of meat.

I understand how you can get that way. The contrast in lifestyle between the US and the developing world is heartbreaking and stunning. No thinking person can live through that contrast and emerge unscathed. It leaves a mark on you, and it should.

The thing is, though – pudgy happy Americans, drunken Brits, and overfed Germans are living the life that everyone on this planet wants. Those Darfurian refugees who shattered your heart would give both arms for the chance at a place to live, a gas hogging car, and as much McDonalds as they can eat. The actual purpose of development work is to help the whole world reach a point where they can live in blissful ignorance of poverty.

There is nothing noble about suffering. People don't do it on purpose, and a difficult life does not automatically make you stronger, wiser, or morally superior. Mostly, it makes you hungry and miserable. And having met and cared about people who do suffer does not require you to despise those who don't.

Photo Credit: Amapolas

Posted in rants]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[62]


Jargon of the Day: Food Aid, September 9th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: Food Aid

Translation: This isn't exactly jargon, because food aid is exactly what it sounds like. Food, given away to people who need it. It may be given in a food-for-work scheme, where the donor has people do work for the common good such as digging latrines or rebuilding schools in return for the food. It may just be distributed according to some criteria about who is sufficiently in need (very often female-headed households).

The thing about food aid, though, is it is almost never locally purchased. It is generally produced in the donor country, and purchased from those domestic farmers, then shipped abroad as food aid. This supports a domestic market and farmers in the donor country. If food is purchased in the recipient country from local markets, we usually don't call it food aid. We just call it hunger relief, or "an effort to improve food security."

Posted in food aid], food prices], jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[63]


Field and headquarters relationships, September 6th, 2008

File:1133303891 d64798013c.jpg?v=0 Your field offices always think that everyone in DC is out-of-touch, bureaucratic, and totally unaware of how things really work. Obsessively fixated on unimportant details, lazy, and overpaid. Evil parasitic weasels. Your HQ office always thinks that the field offices are reckless, single-minded, and don't understand the context of the work or the political realities of getting funding. Cowboys.

That's just how it is. But don't worry. Field and HQ instantly unite when faced with the dreaded donor.

Photo credit: foundphotos

Posted in basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[64]


How you can help - Gustav, September 4th, 2008

The Hauser Center has a great blog post on where to give to help victims of Gustav. It advocates for thoughtful giving to local groups, with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Posted in disaster response]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[65]


The rule of three, September 2nd, 2008

File:2341101371 9573e41f60.jpg?v=1205798813 I was talking to someone from USAID the other day, and he told me that in his opinion, there are only three kinds of development work, and a good project has to include all three. These are the three kinds of projects he described:

1. Projects that improve the government environment to make the sector as a whole work better.

2. Practitioner training. Projects that improve the skills of professionals so that they can do their jobs better.

3. Community mobilization. Efforts to teach people about the issue so they can make decisions to improve the situation.

For example, a project to reduce the infant mortality rate might work to encourage the government to place more doctors in underserved areas (policy), training pediatrician and obstetricians to provide better care (practitioner training) and educate parents on good childhood nutrition and the importance of vaccinations (community mobilization.) A project on improving elections might advocate changes in election law (policy), training local officials to better manage and monitor elections (practitioner training) and encourage people to get out and vote. (community mobilization)

I'm not sure I agree with this framework, but I might. What do you think?

Photo Credit: Zed.Cat

Posted in basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[66]


Things I believe in #33 - Skype, August 27th, 2008

I believe in Skype.

For those of you who don't know, Skype is a program that lets you make phone calls over the internet. Calls are free if you call someone else running Skype, and cheap to a standard phone line. Skype also works as an instant messaging program. It's secure, and it's instantaneous.

I love Skype. It lets your employees scattered around the world feel like a single team. It can erase the divide between field and headquarters by making communications less formal. Using skype phone, you've got time to chat a little before doing your business, because you're not costing money or burning cell phone minutes. Using it as an instant messenger, you can pop off a quick informal question whenever you need to know something.

Easy, informal communication builds relationships. It connects your people, and makes them feel like they're part of something. It makes your reports more useful, your programs better designed, and your grant proposals more accurate. It lets your respond more quickly in a crisis, and change your projects if they're not working.

A caveat - you need to be a well-managed and an utterly transparent organization to use skype well. Skype will reveal the fault lines of your organization very, very fast. When gossip can shoot across the globe in the blink of an eye, nothing stays secret for long. Unhappiness or fear will spread from person to person like a virus, and mistreatment of one employee will soon be known to all.

Posted in things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[67]


Jargon of the day: Burn Rate, August 26th, 2008

Jargon: Burn Rate

Meaning: How much a development project spends each month, or each year. You need to keep an eye on your burn rate to make sure that you're not going to be overspent by the end of your project or not spend all your money and have to give it back to the donor (and do less work than you could have.)

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[68]


Not everyone is a sociologist, August 20th, 2008

You can't just choose any random person to be your cultural guide. It makes me completely crazy when people say "My Luisitanian colleague says our poster and brochures are fine" and then assumes their messages are acceptable in Luisitania. One person cannot vouch for everyone in the country.

Most countries are multicultural, including different ethnic and linguistic groups. Not to mention differences between rich and poor, and city and country. It's not easy to know the tastes and opinions of an entire nation. There's also a training issue. Your average engineer or doctor from the capital city isn't in the habit of thinking about the attitudes and mores of everyone around him. An accountant is not an anthropologist.

Most of us can only speak for a limited number of people like ourselves; coming from a developing country doesn't give you any magic ability to speak for everyone who holds the same passport.

ETA: One great example. The Indian Vogue fashion spread discussed here was designed and shot by Indians.

Posted in Culture], rants]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[69]


Humbling Hospitality Experiences, August 19th, 2008

File:Two+sodas.JPG 1) I once did a focus group with women in rural Tajikistan, talking about increasing hunger and food insecurity. The women told terrible, desperate stories, of burning fruit trees for warmth and watching their kitchen gardens wash away in heavy spring rains. At the end of our discussion, three different women invited me to come home with them for a meal. They did realize the irony; one woman said, shyly, "I don't have any fruit or sweets, but I have bread and tea.

2) In 1997, I went to Jerusalem for Thanksgiving. My wallet was stolen. I told a Palestinian shopkeeper in the old city what had happened to me, and he took me into my shop and made me a cup of tea. Then he told the managers of the shops around me what had happened. Shop employees came, and brought me money. Small amounts – 5 or 6 shekels (about $2) each, but these were not people who had a lot of money. They brought me, a rich American by any standard, money, because I was alone in their country and needed help.

3) When my husband and I lived in Turkmenistan, we had a good friend, Katrina, who was a Peace Corps volunteer. Her host family treated her as a true daughter, and she reciprocated their affection. When the government marked their house for demolition, she helped them as they packed their things and got ready to move to the apartment they were being given in return. In the same period, I was re-posted to Tashkent. Katrina's host family was determined to have us over for a meal before we left, since we'd never eaten there. We would be leaving before they moved into their new place, so they had us over to their house.

They had us over for dinner as their house was being torn down. The house had been two stories, but was down to one. It was raining that night, and the roof in the living room leaked, since it wasn't really a roof; it was just the floor to the second story. Katrina's host mom moved us to the kitchen, and sat us at the kitchen table while she made lamb pilaf and salad for us. We ate, all together, in the corner of the warm damp kitchen.

You can always find a way to give, if you want to.

Photo Credit: Turkmen soda pop, taken by me

Posted in charity], favorite posts]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[70]


How to help in Georgia, August 17th, 2008

File:2762999416 b29aab2eda.jpg?v=0

How to help in Georgia[edit]

Georgia is a developing country, but not among the poorest of the poor. It's not Haiti or Bangladesh. Therefore, the displaced persons who fled probably have some level of savings, and left with some household items. They're not going to be at immediate risk for starvation, but things will get very tough for displaced persons in about a month. After that, the major risk is winter. Cold weather in the Caucasus is extremely cold, and displaced persons are likely to be in inadequate housing without the funds to pay for heating fuel or the clothes and blankets needed to keep warm.

If you want to provide help to displaced persons, I offer the same advice I always do. Find an NGO that already operates in the region. I suggest CARE, which has been in Georgia for about 15 years, and CHF, which also has an established presence. Give to the organization's general fund, so your funds will be used as effectively as possible.

You may also want to think about other victims of the crisis. Consider supporting groups who assist and protect ethnic Georgians in Russian, and ethnic Russians in Georgia. By all accounts, the nationalism is getting ugly on both sides, and resident minorities will be at risk. I suggest supporting the Open Society Institute's (OSI) Russia organization to help ethnic Georgians in Russia and OSI's Georgian arm for the inverse.

Lastly, I suggest supporting civil society, human rights, and independent media in both countries. Democracies don't go to war like this.

Photo: Joao Silva for The New York Times

Posted in Georgia]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[71]


Jargon of the day: Monetization, August 17th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon of the Day: Monetization

Meaning: Monetization means something slightly different in a humanitarian and development context than it does in social media. In this case, it means selling food aid commodities in order to take the money and fund non-food projects. Many, perhaps most, food aid projects are actually monetization projects. It's often the most useful thing to do with donated rice or flour.

I hate this word because it keeps you from thinking about what a convoluted process selling commodities actually is. It's a tidy, professional-sounding word that covers up the fact that we are taking American-grown commodities, selling them in foreign countries, and then using the money for projects. Perhaps we should just donate money in the first place?

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[72]


Five things everyone really ought to know about already, August 15th, 2008

Kiva.org was actually the inspiration for this list. I thought everyone in international development had heard of Kiva by now, but apparently that's not true. A former colleague of mine was wishing she could find a way to give to Tajikistan in a way that let her see impact. I suggested Kiva, and was met with total blankness, because she'd never even heard of it. That made me think of all the other stuff I thought was obvious. Therefore, I bring you:

Five things everyone really ought to know about already

1) Kiva.org

Kiva is an NGO that supports microlending. Individual entrepreneurs are listed on the site, with a description of how much money they need and the projects they want to invest in. You can then choose who to support and how much you want to lend. Kiva devotees are passionate and vocal, and the lending experience is an awful lot of fun. Kiva consistently has more people who want to loan than qualified borrowers.

I think this kind of personal choice and connection is going to be important in the future of global charity. Combining the personal link with micro-credit is sheer genius, and it's something we can all learn from.

2) Global Giving

Global Giving is an aggregator aimed at people who want to donate to global causes. You can search by location, topic, or though a nifty little donation wizard that helps finds projects to suit you (which introduced me to the concept of microhealth insurance). From a donor's perspective, I love the idea of finding causes to support in a logical way that lets you do research, instead of waiting for someone to come to you and solicit a donation.

From an NGO perspective, this is a great way to gain committed donors who have genuine passion for what you do. For a small NGO, this is an amazing opportunity to access funds without having to invest in a fundraising infrastructure. Global Giving and organizations like them are the wave of the future.

3) RSS Readers.

RSS is an acronym for a name that doesn't really matter. The important thing about RSS is that it brings the content of websites to one place so you can read them easily. I use Google Reader, because I'm lazy, but there are a lot of choices. Just search for RSS Reader, and see what you come up with. By bringing everything to one place, it makes it much easier to keep up with new web content, saving you time and effort. Most of the smarty-pants people you meet who seem up-to-date on everything use RSS readers to accumulate all that knowledge. It's hard to explain exactly why it's so much easier to use one reader instead of visiting each site individually, but trust me, it is. Give it a shot and see for yourself.

4) Google alerts

I love Google alerts, which are basically searches that Google saves and runs for you on some kind of regular schedule that you select. You are emailed the results. I put a Google alert on any topic that seems like it might interest me – my current list includes several countries, "public health," "Maternal health," and several other terms. If I'm not getting anything interesting, I dump the alert. I also have google alerts set up for colleagues, former colleagues, and anyone else I want to keep up with, as well as my current employer and former employers. My Google alerts are the long-term memory I wish I had, remembering to hunt down information on everything I'm interested in, and they're my antennae that sense information about what's new in the world.

5) Twitter

Twitter.com is a microblogging site, where you can set up an account and post updates of up to 140 characters. It is a little like facebook, because you sign up to "follow" people who interest you, and acquire followers of your own. I use twitter to give people a sense of me as a person, to highlight web links that don't quite fit in with my blog, and to flag things that I plan to expand into blog entries later.

The sense of community is powerful and addictive. I post the link when I write a new blog post, along with the topic, and a lot of people come over to check it out. People will often respond immediately and send me links they think I will like. I also use twitter for brainstorming – it gives me a chance to ask random questions and get immediate answers from a whole herd of interesting people.

Posted in basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[73]


Jargon of the day: NFIs, August 13th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: NFIs

Translation: NFIs stands for Non-Food Items. This is a package of household items such as blankets, utensils, and cooking pots given to refugees or internally displaced persons to help them survive in their new location. You can find the term in jargony, jargony action here. You can find a definition and discussion here.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[74]


Refugees International on aid workers and security, August 12th, 2008

Refugees International is always willing to make a controversial point, and I respect them for it. They've got a great blog called world:bridge (side note - it's an excellent example of an NGO using blogging to establish itself as an authority and engage people as partners and donors) which today features an insightful discussion of aid work in conflict areas. I don't agree with everything they have to say, but they've got some excellent points and are thinking at a level of complexity about this topic that most people don't bother with.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[75]


Heading Offline, August 1st, 2008

I am heading North this morning for a week of vacation and my baby brother's wedding. Wish me luck! Internet access is slow and hard to get at my destination, so it's unlikely I'll be updating until my return. If you need reading material in my absence, check out these bloggers:

Glenna Gordon, at Uganda's Scarlett Lion writes about Uganda, obviously, but also broader issues of Africa and development.

Rupert Simons, a Liberia fellow, writes Adventures in Development.

[My State Failure Blog] offers geopolitcal analysis.

White African writes about Africa and technology.

Should you find yourself pining for my unique perspective, here are some posts I have been especially pleased with (that aren't on the sidebar.):

The ongoing Things I Believe in Series.

April 13 -20 was a good week for me.

Bad Granting [http://alannashaikh.blogspot.com/search/label/Humanitarian%20response

Relief vs. Development]

See you all in ten days!

Posted in favorite posts]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[76]


Jargon of the day: incentivize, July 30th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: Incentivize

Translation: Give someone a reason to do something, or to make people believe that effort will lead to some form of success. I really hate this word. I find it exceptionally meaningless and redundant.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[77]


Reader Question - International Social Work, July 27th, 2008

Dear Alanna,

I have one main question: from your experience, what would you say the need for international social workers is in NGOs?

Background info: I have an MA in international and I work for a NGO in the US, in their Africa dept -as a program associate, so I don't go to Africa. I am going to go to (redacted) for a bit more than 3 months in September and will volunteer in a hospital that treats raped women. I know 3 months is not nearly enough to give me credibility, but that's all I can do.

Now I'm thinking about going back to school. I am leaning towards a MSW that would allow me to focus on mental health and trauma. Do you think this would be valued in the NGO world?

Sincerely,

Katherine

Dear Katherine,

International social workers in NGOs - it's a tricky question. There is a tremendous need for psychosocial help for survivors of disasters, and NGOs are paying more and more attention to those needs. International Medical Corps has some useful links: http://www.imcworldwide.org/content/media/detail/1379/. A social work background would fit in nicely and meet a need.

That being said, everyone I actually know with an MSW who works in international development is doing something unrelated. It ends up being treated as just another master's degree - a credential for a job that requires that level of education, but not a set of technical skills that are actually used in daily practice. Since you already have a master's degree, I am not sure what the value added would be for you.

Your best bet might be to spend a year or two doing other things to build your skills and background on trauma and mental health. Your volunteering is a great start. Maybe you could also volunteer with trauma victims when you come back to the US? I know the DC Rape Crisis Center will train people to be advocates and answer their hotline. There must be other opportunities as well. You can put that kind of thing as your resume and frame yourself as having the right background and then start applying for the jobs that you feel passionate about.

Here's an obvious thing, but just in case you have not thought of it - have you searched idealist.org or a similar site to see what jobs require an MSW, and if they interest you?

Best,

Alanna

Posted in mental health], reader question], social work]



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[78]


Jargon of the Day: Leverage, July 26th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: Leverage

Translation: Officially, it means to use on kind of funding as a way to inspire other donors. So you could leverage a $500 donation by getting a foundation to match it, and have $1000. In practice, though, it just means to used multiple funding streams to fund one project, whether or not the later funds were donated because of the first ones. NGOs claim all the time that they are leveraging your donation when what they really mean is "combining with other kinds of money."

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[79]


Book Giveaway #2 - The Baobab and the Mango Tree, July 23rd, 2008

According to its back cover, "The Baobab and the Mango Tree" is a thought-provoking and courageous book that brings the big questions about development to a wide audience of college students and interested readers.

Honestly, it's not a great book. I think the logic is weak and I don't really buy the conclusions. However, it's well written, a pretty quick read, and it touches on a lot of ideas that are frequently mentioned when discussing international development. It's worth the time it takes to read it, especially if you're new to this stuff.

If you'd like to be entered into the drawing, leave a comment on this post telling me what topics you'd like to see more of in this blog. I'll take comments until midnight on Friday the 25th, and draw a winner on Saturday. Good luck!

Posted in book giveaway]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[80]


Jargon of the day: Transshipment, July 23rd, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: Transshipment

Meaning: To ship to an intermediate point, and then on to a final destination. Always used when talking about smuggling.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[81]


Keep your banana to yourself, July 20th, 2008

File:166233512 796011a1a4.jpg?v=1150173532

I read a blog post tonight about giving to beggars in India. The writer said that if you give them food instead of money, they will sell it back to shopkeepers to money. If you give them a banana, you need to peel it or they'll sell it for the cash.

You know what? Once you're at a place where you want to help people, if they ask you for money, give them money. Don't give them the banana. Poor people are not stupid. They're just poor. They know what their needs are better than you do. Respect that.

I know there are reasons – drug addiction, cultural pressure, poor organizational skills - that people will act against their own self interest. None of that is easily analyzed in the time it takes to give to a beggar on the street. Most of the time, people know what they need. If you are engaged in an act of charity, give that to them, not what you think they ought to need.

Street corner giving is not about sustainability, development, or creating long-term change. Instead, it's a recognition of our common humanity, of the crap shoot that decides who gives and who receives. It's reaching out to those who ask because it's not our place to judge.

It's really pretty unlikely that you are a donor instead of a beggar because you're smarter, stronger, or wiser. Probably, you just got lucky and were born in the developed world, and the 20-year old in front of you knows more about street survival than you could ever imagine. Keep your banana to yourself, and hand over the cash.

Photo Credit: Isado

Posted in bananas], charity]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[82]


Jargon of the day: Ground-truth, July 19th, 2008

Jargon: Ground-truth

Meaning: What's really happening in-country. Often used as a verb "We need to ground-truth this before we move forward on it."

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[83]


Jargon of the day: Optic, July 19th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: Optic

Meaning: What it looks like. (I kid you not)

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[84]


Winner of Book Giveaway #1, July 19th, 2008

Congratulations Elia! Your comment was the winner of the Dani Rodrik book. Conveniently, I had six commenters, so I used the random.org die roller and it chose #3. Send me an email with your name and address, and I'll put the book in the mail.

Everyone else, stay tuned for my next giveaway, on Tuesday the 22nd.

Posted in book giveaway]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[85]


Quick Link - Burma, July 15th, 2008

The Toronto Star has a nice article about the complexities of aid to Burma.

Posted in Burma]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[86]


Great link on CARE's social network, July 15th, 2008

APP+FRICA has a great post up about CARE's new social network. This is exactly the kind of constructive criticism and innovative thinking that NGOs need.

Social media presents an amazing opportunity for international NGOs to tell their stories in a detailed, authentic way. But to use this opportunity well, they need to take social media seriously, and use it like the new form it us. They have to be brave.

Posted in CARE], social media]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[87]


Great link on CARE's social network, July 15th, 2008

APP+FRICA has a great post up about CARE's new social network. This is exactly the kind of constructive criticism and innovative thinking that NGOs need.

Social media presents an amazing opportunity for international NGOs to tell their stories in a detailed, authentic way. But to use this opportunity well, they need to take social media seriously, and use it like the new form it us. They have to be brave.

Posted in CARE], social media]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[88]


Great link on CARE's social network, July 15th, 2008

APP+FRICA has a great post up about CARE's new social network. This is exactly the kind of constructive criticism and innovative thinking that NGOs need.

Social media presents an amazing opportunity for international NGOs to tell their stories in a detailed, authentic way. But to use this opportunity well, they need to take social media seriously, and use it like the new form it us. They have to be brave.

Posted in CARE], social media]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[89]


Book Giveaway #1 - Dani Rodrik, July 15th, 2008

I'll be doing some book giveaways over the next few months, featuring books on various international development topics. Just comment and I'll enter you into the drawing. I'll use random.org to generate a number and pick the winner.

I'm kicking it off with a short book by Dani Rodrik, a hero of mine and an international economist, Harvard professor, and superhero. (It's possible I made up the superhero part). He's also an excellent writer with a gift for making difficult topics understandable.

I'll be giving away "Has Globalization Gone Too Far?" published by the Institute of International Economics. Leave a comment below to enter the drawing. I'll ship anywhere in the US and Canada, but we'll have to talk if you're on another continent.

ETA: It occurs to me I should have a closing date for this - I will close the comments on Friday the 18th and pick a winner then.

Posted in Dani Rodrik], book giveaway]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[90]


Jargon of the day: Desecularization, July 14th, 2008

File:Hellomynameisjargon.jpg Jargon: Desecularization

Translation: When a formerly non-religious society grows more religious.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[91]


jargon of the day: alternative conceptualization, July 11th, 2008

Today's Jargon: Alternative Conceptualization

Translation: Another way of thinking about things. Sometimes I understand why people use jargon - it seems more specific, or has special nuance. This one is just baffling.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[92]


Well played, International Water and Sanitation Centre, July 10th, 2008

I was recently led to the WASH news Africa site via a google alert. It turns out to be an aggregator of news articles on water and sanitation in Africa topics. It's a nice resource for people interested in the topic.

What's even more interesting is that the site, and a host of sister sites, was set up by the International Water and Sanitation Centre. It serves to collect articles for their use as well as inform others. It looks to me like they were already distributing a weekly digest of water and sanitation news, and set up these blogs as a way of sharing all the articles that don't make it into the digest. Based on my browsing of their site, I think the idea must have come from Cor Dietvorst, their information specialist.

I love it. It's such a beautiful example of sharing work they are already doing in a way that benefits others. I bet it was also quick to set up, and they are using free blog hosting. They include links back to their main site, since people at the WASH news Africa site are pretty much guaranteed to be interested in water issues, but they don't make a big showy deal about it. They just position them selves as a generous and knowledgeable partner.

I wish I had an award to give to sites like these.

Posted in social media], water], well played]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[93]


Responsible Marketing, July 10th, 2008

I've seen a lot of interesting discussion on blogs today about responsible marketing. Drew McLellan weighs in , talking about Barry Bonds, as does the responsible marketing blog. Both are discussing how easy it is to end up with a permanent asterisk next to your name. I discussed marketing and reputation in my American Apparel post; these guys take it farther and lay it out really well. Neither is talking about NGOs, but the lessons are the same.

Posted in marketing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[94]


What I learned from reality TV, July 10th, 2008

File:1544393823 3ed819f08f.jpg

I spent the 4th of July weekend watching television. The weather was muggy, we all had colds, my dad can't walk much, and my car is on summer vacation with my mom. That translated to a weekend spent sleeping and staring at the box. I didn't expect to get anything out of my three days off except eliminating a sleep deficit. It turns out, though, that you can find insight almost anywhere, even on "The Next Food Network Star." I did promise, after all, that I'd look everywhere I could for ways to do international development better.

This is what I learned: It's all about relationships. Even when people are competing head-to-head, they still want to like others and be liked in return. Everyone wants a human connection, even when that desire works against their immediate self interest. It's an obvious lesson, but one that's easy to forget or ignore.

What does this mean for development projects? Well, when you are working to improve health care, you'll see better outcomes if people have the same doctor every time. Teenagers are more likely to use drugs (or condoms – it goes both ways) if they believe their friends are doing so. People repay microfinance loans, and stand fast in the heat of battle, so they won't lose face in front of their peers.

Lesson: When you are designing programs, take relationships into account as a major motivator.

Photo Credit: Obo-bobolina

Posted in TV], lessons]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[95]


Jargon of the day: Domestic Disparity Indicator, July 9th, 2008

I was secretly excited when I ran into this phrase today, because it sounds so totally meaningless.

Phrase: Domestic Disparity Indicator

Translation: Any way you can find to measure the divide between rich and poor in a country. Domestic because you're measuring just one country, disparity because what you want to know is how rich are the rich and how poor are the poor, and indicator because you're looking for some kind of thing you can measure. The percentage of land belonging to the richest 10% of the population, for example, would be a domestic disparity indicator.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[96]


Jargon of the day 7/8/08, July 9th, 2008

This is a new daily feature: each day I'll give you a jargony word or phrase I heard that day, along with my unscientific translation.

So, today's jargon: Private sector distribution system

Translation: This was in the context of distributing food aid, so what it means is trucking companies. Businesses - not government or donor agencies - who can carry food around the country.

Posted in jargon of the day]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[97]


Things I believe in #44 – Camels, July 8th, 2008

File:Camels+grazing2.JPG Once upon a time, I was at a dinner in rural Turkmenistan. I'd been invited home by a local health official, after an award ceremony for the visiting health nurses in the district who did the best job of educating parents of young children about diarrhea. The meal was huge, and multi-course, in keeping with Turkmen tradition. Towards the end, as we were all starting to list a bit on our floor pillows, the official began to talk about camels.

You see them everywhere in Turkmenistan, camels. They're as common as cows in American farm country. You get used to them quickly. Once I'd gotten over the novelty, I hadn't thought twice about camels until that dinner. The official had grown up in the rural district which he now served as head doctor. As a young boy, he'd been in charge of his family's camels. They had 15, which he swore were easier to care for than just two cows. He spent a good 30 minutes telling us about the special and wonderful characteristics of camels.

Once I started learning about camels, though, I realized I should have been paying attention all along. Camels can handle changes in body temperature and levels of dehydration that would kill any other mammal. Camel milk has better nutritional value than cow's milk – more milk and more fat. It makes fabulous yogurt. Camel meat is flavorful and lean, if a bit tough.(1) Contrary to commonly-held beliefs, camels are patient, good-tempered, and placid by nature.(2) They're intelligent enough to be trained like horses, and can carry up to 990 pounds.

During the 1984-85 African drought, cows, sheep, and goats died but the camels made it through. Their owners, in turn, were more likely to live through the famine. Camels are good livestock. They're hardy, long-lived, cheap to feed and easy to care for. They are the kind of livestock that can lift a family out of poverty.

(1) I've never tried camel dairy, but I've eaten camel meat. It's chewy and spicy.

(2) Though I have been told they are puppy killers.

(no photo credit - I took this one with my own hands)

Posted in camels], things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[98]


Telling better stories, July 3rd, 2008

File:501932683 b52edaf0b0.jpg Once, at a restaurant, I ordered "Crispy potato wedges with sweet and sour dipping sauce" as an appetizer. What I got was French fries and ketchup. The description on the menu was true, but not honest. I didn't feel like I could complain to the manager, but it left me feeling disappointed and vaguely deceived.

Too much of our communication about international development is true but not honest. We boil complicated situations down into simple ideas. We pretend there are easy answers to problems so difficult there may be no answers at all. We use emotional impact and compelling photographs to avoid detailed discussion of the challenges of doing good development work.

And we need our stories, because our stories are what bring us funding. Whether it's a government agency, a foundation, a corporate partner, or a little old lady putting a five dollar bill in an envelope, the people who give us money respond to stories. The government calls it reporting, corporations ask for success stories, and regular people just want reasons to give their cash, but they are all asking for stories to explain what we do and why we deserve their money to do it.

For a long time, were stuck with our oversimplified, easily digested stories. Our true-but-not-real stories were all we could get out to the world. Three minute spots on the evening news and press releases don't leave much room for nuance. Even reporters from respected media outlets rarely have the time or expertise to research and relay a complicated article about the realities of international development.

The world has changed. We have now have a huge selection of social media tools we can use to shape our own messages and communicate directly. And - we can do more than just put a message out there in an electronic bottle and hope someone finds it. We can have conversations about what we do, how we do it, and how people can be part of that. We don't have to spoon feed people easy ideas because we've got the time and space to talk about the hard stuff.

This is my challenge to you:

Think seriously about what social media can do for you. Don't just use your Twitter account for mini-press releases; use it for genuinely new information as it happens. Imagine a country director in Darfur tweeting as he travels to a refugee camp. Imagine a collaborative blog by your HQ staff, talking about what backstopping actual entails. (People would be a lot more likely to pay overhead if they knew what overhead was) Imagine your Sri Lanka country team posting their photos to flickr and their videos to YouTube. Imagine your website as a portal to all of that, a place people go to get deep knowledge about what your organization does. Imagine turning all your donors into passionate advocates who encourage others to give too.

Better stories can do that for us, and we finally have a way to tell them.

Photo Credit: Miranda July at Modern Times, taken by Steve Rhodes.

Posted in WTEN], social media]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[99]


Link I like, July 2nd, 2008

I wanted to point out this great blog - Mostly Maurice. It's a caustic and realistic perspective on development in Africa. One of my favorite posts is this one on Donor Dumping.

Posted in blogs]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[100]


Expensive translation, cheap food: how a pro runs an international meeting, June 29th, 2008

File:2531110218 aea9bf836f.jpg?v=0 I've been to an awful lot of meetings that involve international participants. I've seen some go well, and some turn into complete disasters. I spent my last international meeting thinking about what makes some go well, and some go badly, and this is what I came up with:

1. Hire the best translator you can afford. I can't stress this enough. Do not, under any circumstances, hire language students as translators or expert participants to also translate for others. Your meeting will fail completely if no one is able to understand each other, and I mean that literally. To help the translator, speak in short, clear sentences. If you are using simultaneous translation, speak slowly so the translator doesn't fall behind. If the translator speaks after you, stop after every other sentence so she can translate. Avoid analogies and metaphors, especially sports metaphors. Anything that requires your translator to stop and figure it out will ruin the flow. Some phrases you may not think of as sports metaphors: gear up, take a shot at it, take a different tack.

2. Some cultures are very uncomfortable introducing themselves, and it can be hard for everyone involved to remember foreign names and faces. If you're at a table, use placards with names and titles for each person.

3. Have an agenda which explicitly describes each item to be discussed. Think about whether you want to assign a time frame to each item. Meetings intended to share information and form relationships may benefit from being able to take extra time on productive topics and race through dull ones. If decisions need to be made or specific topics covered in detail, a time bound agenda may be useful.

4. Don't make jokes. They never translate properly.

5. Don't serve food. Cultural belief on when it's appropriate to eat, or get up and collect food, differ widely and can lead to frustration or even resentment. Give every attendee a cup and a bottle (or pitcher) of water, and their own little plate of cookies or nuts, and stop there. If you absolutely must have a meal connected to you meeting, schedule it for before or after, and don't do business during it. Or have coffee breaks and serve snacks there.

6. Know which delegation is hosting, who is chairing the meeting, and who will take the lead on each agenda point. Your chair must be comfortable moving things along to stay with the agenda.

7. Be as candid and informal as your feel comfortable being. Americans are known all over the world for being blunt. You might as well use it to your advantage. Be extremely courteous, but say what you need to say. You don't have to fit perfectly into the other culture. Just make it very clear you are doing your best to be polite and respectful. Your translator is your ally here; he can make sure your good intentions come through. This is why you paid for the best one you could find.

Photo from John Connell.

Posted in basics], meetings]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[101]


Thinking about reconstruction, June 24th, 2008

File:360371585 d295e945a0.jpg?v=0 I heard a speech the other day on post-conflict reconstruction and state building by an analyst from a prominent NGO, and it made me do a lot of thinking about the best ways to provide assistance during a crisis and afterward. I'm not sure it was on the record, so I can't give you details, but I'll pull out some of the salient points:

1. Contemporary conflicts cross borders. It's almost their defining characteristic. We cannot afford to ignore small, obscure conflicts because they do not stay small or obscure for long.

2. The development of a competent, professional police force is key to rebuilding a post-conflict state. It is a strong police force, more than a strong military, that supports peace in a country.

3. If you build up the presidency and the military as the only strong and credible national institutions, you are pretty much just asking for a coup to take place.

4. The responsibility to protect is intended to prevent state failure, not trigger or respond to it.

5. Rwanda and Congo (Zaire) are examples of the devastating consequences of allowing state failure.

6. East Timor is a prime example of the challenges of state-building. It's a small, ethnically homogeneous state, but is still constantly on the verge of failure.

7. Regime collapse and state failure are not the same thing. Regime collapse can actually prevent state failure by allowing for change.

What does this mean to us with regard to international development?

I think the big thing is that we have to think very carefully about the impact of any aid we give. Are we supporting a healthy government, or encouraging NGOs to take over government functions?

Photo by Yewenyi

Posted in reconstruction], state failure]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[102]


Things I don't believe in #10 - Donating stuff instead of money, June 18th, 2008

File:162575714 af76b5e49a.jpg?v=0 Give money. Don't send food, bottled water, clothing or useful-seeming stuff. Give money.

Your old stuff costs money to ship. It is almost always cheaper to just buy it in country, and doing it that way benefits the local economy. It's also more respectful to survivors of humanitarian emergencies, and allows relief agencies to procure exactly what is needed instead of struggling to find a use for randomly selected used junk. Disaster News Network talks about the used clothes problem in "The Trouble with Trousers." which features a really depressing anecdote about Hurricane Hugo.

Your food costs money to ship, too. It is probably not food anyone in the recipient area would recognize. How exactly will the people of Burma know what to do with canned refried beans or artichoke hearts? Sending donated American food doesn't drive income to local farmers or help local retailers start selling again. Buying in-country gets food people will actually understand how to cook and supports the local economy.

Here's another example – some people wanted to send their old tents to China to house earthquake survivors. A sweet idea – provide quick, free housing. But every different kind of tent would have different set-up instructions, and how many people save their tent instructions once they've learned how to do it? It would take a huge time investment in figuring out each type of tent, and then training for the people in China who had to set up the tents. All of this time translates to a delay in providing housing, and it's time used by paid staff, which means it is also squandered money.

Interaction, the coalition of disaster-relief NGOs, has a nice piece about why cash donations are most effective. They mention needs-based procurement, efficient delivery, lower costs, economic support, and cultural and environmental appropriateness as advantages of cash. World Volunteer Web has a good explanation too, breaking down the myths about post-disaster aid.

Usually people end these kinds of articles with links to the three or so places who will take your old clothes and possessions for international donation. I am not going to do it. Don't waste everyone's effort that way. Give your old stuff to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or St. Vincent de Paul; they'll make the best use of it. They'll sell yout things locally and use the money for their charitable purposes.

Giving stuff instead of money is easy for you, it's cheaper for you, and it's quick. It is not quick, easy, or affordable for the NGOs who are actually trying to help people.

If you want to help, give money.

[Picture of old clothes in Haiti from Flickr by Vanessa Bertozzi

Posted in things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[103]


Things I don't believe in #10 - Donating stuff instead of money, June 18th, 2008

File:162575714 af76b5e49a.jpg?v=0 Give money. Don't send food, bottled water, clothing or useful-seeming stuff. Give money.

Your old stuff costs money to ship. It is almost always cheaper to just buy it in country, and doing it that way benefits the local economy. It's also more respectful to survivors of humanitarian emergencies, and allows relief agencies to procure exactly what is needed instead of struggling to find a use for randomly selected used junk. Disaster News Network talks about the used clothes problem in "The Trouble with Trousers." which features a really depressing anecdote about Hurricane Hugo.

Your food costs money to ship, too. It is probably not food anyone in the recipient area would recognize. How exactly will the people of Burma know what to do with canned refried beans or artichoke hearts? Sending donated American food doesn't drive income to local farmers or help local retailers start selling again. Buying in-country gets food people will actually understand how to cook and supports the local economy.

Here's another example – some people wanted to send their old tents to China to house earthquake survivors. A sweet idea – provide quick, free housing. But every different kind of tent would have different set-up instructions, and how many people save their tent instructions once they've learned how to do it? It would take a huge time investment in figuring out each type of tent, and then training for the people in China who had to set up the tents. All of this time translates to a delay in providing housing, and it's time used by paid staff, which means it is also squandered money.

Interaction, the coalition of disaster-relief NGOs, has a nice piece about why cash donations are most effective. They mention needs-based procurement, efficient delivery, lower costs, economic support, and cultural and environmental appropriateness as advantages of cash. World Volunteer Web has a good explanation too, breaking down the myths about post-disaster aid.

Usually people end these kinds of articles with links to the three or so places who will take your old clothes and possessions for international donation. I am not going to do it. Don't waste everyone's effort that way. Give your old stuff to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or St. Vincent de Paul; they'll make the best use of it. They'll sell yout things locally and use the money for their charitable purposes.

Giving stuff instead of money is easy for you, it's cheaper for you, and it's quick. It is not quick, easy, or affordable for the NGOs who are actually trying to help people.

If you want to help, give money.

[Picture of old clothes in Haiti from Flickr by Vanessa Bertozzi

Posted in things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[104]


Things I believe #40 - Oral Rehydration Salts, June 15th, 2008

Eight ounces of clean water. One pinch of salt. One teaspoon of sugar. Mix well. Give it to your child who has diarrhea. Save her life. It doesn't cure diarrhea, but it'll prevent fatal dehydration until the illness passes.

It's not a perfect solution. Not everyone has access to clean water. You need to have a clean container, too, and you need to be able to measure. And it's not the best possible fluid for rehydration; it's merely very good.

But it's cheap and finding the water, the container, the sugar, and the salt is something almost everyone can do. It is something a mother or a father can do at home to heal their child. You don't need a doctor, a hospital, an expert of any kind. Oral rehydration salts will not hurt a healthy child, and they won't make a sick child sicker, even if they don't heal. No one goes broke providing them, or ends up dependent on an expensive foreign-made drug.

To the parents of a sick child oral rehydration salts are nothing short of miraculous.

Put the water in the glass first. Add the salt. Stir well. It should be no saltier than tears. Add the sugar. At least a teaspoon; more is okay. Help your little girl drink it.

There. You just performed a miracle, yourself.

Posted in ORS], diarrhea], things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[105]


Things I don't believe in #6 - All powerful expatriate leadership, June 13th, 2008

This is the first thing – expats don't stay forever. In two or three or four years, the expat will leave. If your whole program depends on her, or the staff believes that it does, things will go to pieces when she leaves. This is the second thing – it's disempowering. You don't want your staff, or your stakeholders, to believe change only comes from outsiders. You want people to find their own power and their own capacity to influence their lives and communities. You don't want them to sit around waiting and starving for the Dutch to come back and rebuild the irrigation canals.

This is the third thing. You want your staff invested in the process. You want everyone involved to know your select your pilot schools because they meet the qualifications for your program. You don't want them thinking the schools were selected because Mr. Thomas feels really bad for the villages, or worse yet, because he thought the teachers were pretty. You want people to know you've got a system and your apply it fairly.

This is the fourth thing. Country Directors who allow themselves to be seen as having and exerting that kind of power end up isolated. Staff members won't be comfortable being part of a collaborative decision-making process. They won't offer opinions on how to make things better, and they won't go to the CD if they identify a problem.

Good programs come from good teams, not from little gods and their adoring worshippers.

Posted in things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[106]


Things I don't believe in #6 - All powerful expatriate leadership, June 13th, 2008

This is the first thing – expats don't stay forever. In two or three or four years, the expat will leave. If your whole program depends on her, or the staff believes that it does, things will go to pieces when she leaves. This is the second thing – it's disempowering. You don't want your staff, or your stakeholders, to believe change only comes from outsiders. You want people to find their own power and their own capacity to influence their lives and communities. You don't want them to sit around waiting and starving for the Dutch to come back and rebuild the irrigation canals.

This is the third thing. You want your staff invested in the process. You want everyone involved to know your select your pilot schools because they meet the qualifications for your program. You don't want them thinking the schools were selected because Mr. Thomas feels really bad for the villages, or worse yet, because he thought the teachers were pretty. You want people to know you've got a system and your apply it fairly.

This is the fourth thing. Country Directors who allow themselves to be seen as having and exerting that kind of power end up isolated. Staff members won't be comfortable being part of a collaborative decision-making process. They won't offer opinions on how to make things better, and they won't go to the CD if they identify a problem.

Good programs come from good teams, not from little gods and their adoring worshippers.

Posted in things I believe in]

[



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[107]


Things I believe in #13: Giving your team hats and t-shirts, June 10th, 2008

When I sat down to expand on this, I realized what I really meant was – make your staff into a team. Treat them as competent professionals working together for a common goal. Giving them swag is one way to do that; putting everyone in the same t-shirt makes them look physically like equals. It makes them feel commonality with headquarters, and with the other offices in the country and around the world.

Every single paid staff member and volunteer should know where your organization is based, who funds it, and the general outline of its national programs. Paid staff members should know more. They should know the basic details of all your country projects, not just the ones they work for. If you have behavior change messages, every single employee should know them. This includes your drivers, your cleaners, your gardeners, and your tea lady (and if your behavior change messages are too complex for the tea lady, you've got problems).

Your people should know what it means to work for you, and they should be proud of it. They should know your general country budget, and your global budget. They should know where the money comes from – DFID, USAID, private donors, or whoever. They should know your organization's global mission.

Now you're wondering, why bother with this level of staff integration? Because everybody wins when you make your staff into a team. A high-functioning team generates a synergy of local and expat knowledge that takes your projects to a new level. Your organization benefits by running more effective, more efficient programs. Your host country benefits because the quality of your work is better.

It takes more than a weekly staff meeting to make this kind of team effort happen. Personally, I like posters and diagrams in common areas explaining program components. I like using your whole team as your first focus group for behavior change materials. I like having your country director give periodic updates on budgets and progress toward program goals. I like giving your team free lunches and doing presentations on different program components. I like having people from different teams share drivers and office space.

Posted in about Alanna], things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[108]


Things I don't believe in #18 – Bringing people to the US for medical treatment, June 3rd, 2008

I know it's heartbreaking when you see children on the news with cancer or serious injuries that can't be treated at home. I have a two-year-old and if, god forbid, he ever got seriously ill, I guarantee I would take him anywhere it took to save him. I have profound empathy with the families of sick kids. But sending one child to the US for care uses resources that could help an awful lot of kids in-country. It is the job of a parent to care for their own child first and foremost. It is the job of donors, governments, and NGOs to care for as many children as possible with the funding available. In my opinion, it is not an ethical use of limited resources to transport one child for health care.

When you bring a child to the US, you need to bring at least one relative as well, to look after the child in a strange place. If the relative is a parent, siblings at home will probably suffer emotionally and economically in their absence. If the relative is not a parent, they may have trouble making difficult decision about the child's care. Assuming your medical care is donated, you still need to pay for their plane flights, housing, and food. For a long period, since they will need to stay in the US for all necessary follow-up appointments. The child and relative will need translators so they can talk to doctors. They'll need a lot of help with informed consent to risky procedures. Often, at the end of it all, neither the child nor the relative want to go home. There is generally no way for them to stay.

Assume the medical treatment is successful, assume everyone goes home happy. What happens to the next kid with the same problem? If she's lucky, the same effort that was generated for the last child. Expensive transport, a long time away from home and family, frightening and unfamiliar doctors who don't speak her language. If she's not so lucky, nothing. The next child with the same problem probably won't get as much media attention because it's not a novelty. There will be donor fatigue – finding donated care will be harder. Probably she is stuck in her home country with medical care she may or may not survive.

How do we do it better? It's not very realistic to argue that you should just ignore seriously ill children and spend the money on public health interventions. No human can do that. On a practical basis, you probably have people willing to donate money for that one compelling child. You can't just take that cash and save fifty children from malaria or helminthes. But you can fly in a team of specialists or oncologists. You can most likely talk them into donating their time for the chance to help someone in a faraway location.

Team up your foreign doctors with local specialists. They can train the local physicians in how to treat the illness or perform the necessary surgery. They can train local doctors in how to provide the follow-up care. You may have to bring the sick child to the capital where facilities are available, but he is still in his own culture, speaking his own language. His relatives can alternate who stays with him so his siblings are not neglected. You'll need translators for the foreign doctors, food and housing, but that's still a lot less than sending people the other way. Yes, there are lots of complications; you may need to purchase, or find donated equipment and drugs.

But now consider the next kid. She's received a scary and terrible diagnosis, which requires sophisticated treatment. She travels no further than her own capital for care. She is treated by doctors who've been trained by American specialists, and her doctors can contact those American colleagues if they have questions. She can go home right after her treatment, and come back as needed for follow-up visits.

Posted in medical care], things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[109]


Things I don't believe in #18 – Bringing people to the US for medical treatment, June 3rd, 2008

I know it's heartbreaking when you see children on the news with cancer or serious injuries that can't be treated at home. I have a two-year-old and if, god forbid, he ever got seriously ill, I guarantee I would take him anywhere it took to save him. I have profound empathy with the families of sick kids. But sending one child to the US for care uses resources that could help an awful lot of kids in-country. It is the job of a parent to care for their own child first and foremost. It is the job of donors, governments, and NGOs to care for as many children as possible with the funding available. In my opinion, it is not an ethical use of limited resources to transport one child for health care.

When you bring a child to the US, you need to bring at least one relative as well, to look after the child in a strange place. If the relative is a parent, siblings at home will probably suffer emotionally and economically in their absence. If the relative is not a parent, they may have trouble making difficult decision about the child's care. Assuming your medical care is donated, you still need to pay for their plane flights, housing, and food. For a long period, since they will need to stay in the US for all necessary follow-up appointments. The child and relative will need translators so they can talk to doctors. They'll need a lot of help with informed consent to risky procedures. Often, at the end of it all, neither the child nor the relative want to go home. There is generally no way for them to stay.

Assume the medical treatment is successful, assume everyone goes home happy. What happens to the next kid with the same problem? If she's lucky, the same effort that was generated for the last child. Expensive transport, a long time away from home and family, frightening and unfamiliar doctors who don't speak her language. If she's not so lucky, nothing. The next child with the same problem probably won't get as much media attention because it's not a novelty. There will be donor fatigue – finding donated care will be harder. Probably she is stuck in her home country with medical care she may or may not survive.

How do we do it better? It's not very realistic to argue that you should just ignore seriously ill children and spend the money on public health interventions. No human can do that. On a practical basis, you probably have people willing to donate money for that one compelling child. You can't just take that cash and save fifty children from malaria or helminthes. But you can fly in a team of specialists or oncologists. You can most likely talk them into donating their time for the chance to help someone in a faraway location.

Team up your foreign doctors with local specialists. They can train the local physicians in how to treat the illness or perform the necessary surgery. They can train local doctors in how to provide the follow-up care. You may have to bring the sick child to the capital where facilities are available, but he is still in his own culture, speaking his own language. His relatives can alternate who stays with him so his siblings are not neglected. You'll need translators for the foreign doctors, food and housing, but that's still a lot less than sending people the other way. Yes, there are lots of complications; you may need to purchase, or find donated equipment and drugs.

But now consider the next kid. She's received a scary and terrible diagnosis, which requires sophisticated treatment. She travels no further than her own capital for care. She is treated by doctors who've been trained by American specialists, and her doctors can contact those American colleagues if they have questions. She can go home right after her treatment, and come back as needed for follow-up visits.

Posted in medical care], things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[110]


Things I don't believe in #18 – Bringing people to the US for medical treatment, June 3rd, 2008

I know it's heartbreaking when you see children on the news with cancer or serious injuries that can't be treated at home. I have a two-year-old and if, god forbid, he ever got seriously ill, I guarantee I would take him anywhere it took to save him. I have profound empathy with the families of sick kids. But sending one child to the US for care uses resources that could help an awful lot of kids in-country. It is the job of a parent to care for their own child first and foremost. It is the job of donors, governments, and NGOs to care for as many children as possible with the funding available. In my opinion, it is not an ethical use of limited resources to transport one child for health care.

When you bring a child to the US, you need to bring at least one relative as well, to look after the child in a strange place. If the relative is a parent, siblings at home will probably suffer emotionally and economically in their absence. If the relative is not a parent, they may have trouble making difficult decision about the child's care. Assuming your medical care is donated, you still need to pay for their plane flights, housing, and food. For a long period, since they will need to stay in the US for all necessary follow-up appointments. The child and relative will need translators so they can talk to doctors. They'll need a lot of help with informed consent to risky procedures. Often, at the end of it all, neither the child nor the relative want to go home. There is generally no way for them to stay.

Assume the medical treatment is successful, assume everyone goes home happy. What happens to the next kid with the same problem? If she's lucky, the same effort that was generated for the last child. Expensive transport, a long time away from home and family, frightening and unfamiliar doctors who don't speak her language. If she's not so lucky, nothing. The next child with the same problem probably won't get as much media attention because it's not a novelty. There will be donor fatigue – finding donated care will be harder. Probably she is stuck in her home country with medical care she may or may not survive.

How do we do it better? It's not very realistic to argue that you should just ignore seriously ill children and spend the money on public health interventions. No human can do that. On a practical basis, you probably have people willing to donate money for that one compelling child. You can't just take that cash and save fifty children from malaria or helminthes. But you can fly in a team of specialists or oncologists. You can most likely talk them into donating their time for the chance to help someone in a faraway location.

Team up your foreign doctors with local specialists. They can train the local physicians in how to treat the illness or perform the necessary surgery. They can train local doctors in how to provide the follow-up care. You may have to bring the sick child to the capital where facilities are available, but he is still in his own culture, speaking his own language. His relatives can alternate who stays with him so his siblings are not neglected. You'll need translators for the foreign doctors, food and housing, but that's still a lot less than sending people the other way. Yes, there are lots of complications; you may need to purchase, or find donated equipment and drugs.

But now consider the next kid. She's received a scary and terrible diagnosis, which requires sophisticated treatment. She travels no further than her own capital for care. She is treated by doctors who've been trained by American specialists, and her doctors can contact those American colleagues if they have questions. She can go home right after her treatment, and come back as needed for follow-up visits.

Posted in medical care], things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[111]


Choosing between China and Burma, May 25th, 2008

A reader asks "How do I choose between China and Burma for my donation?"

Answer: For once, this one is easy. Don't choose. Give to the organization's general emergency fund. They are professionals. They're not going to spend your donation on Tequila and Beer-Nuts. In fact, legally they can't. So let them choose where the need is greatest and the resources most scarce.

Admin note: I am off on vacation until June 1st, so this is the last post I'll be putting up for a while. Check out my sidebars if you need something to read, and stay tuned for a June 1st posting on thing I don't believe in #18. (In response to Tworque)

Posted in reader question]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[112]


Things I believe in #1 - Positive Deviance, May 22nd, 2008

In every village, there is at least one woman (usually a few) whose children are healthier than the rest. For whatever reason, that woman is better at navigating the complexities of village life and child nutrition. That woman has knowledge and skills which can be taught. You find her, you learn from her, you support her to teach her peers. That is positive deviance. Find the people who deviate from the norm by being more successful. Learn from them.

The original positive deviance programs were nutrition programs, with a specific structure and methodology. These are some nice examples. Positive Deviance remains one of the most powerful tools we have for improving nutrition in the developing world. You can also, however, use the ideas behind positive deviance for more than just nutrition.

Every systems has its positive deviants. People who are better at surviving within it. You don't need a bunch of outsiders to or foreign experts to find ways to improve your system. Most of the knowledge you need is already there. It's a profound and powerful idea. It means you improve education by learning from the teachers and principals of high-performing schools. It means you make childbirth safer by talking to maternity nurses and ob/gyns. It means you value the knowledge and experience of the people in the developing world.

When you want to make things better, look inside first. Learn from the people who know it best. After that, bring in your outside experts. See of they have anything add. But most of what you need to know is already there.

Posted in about Alanna], positive deviance], things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[113]


Blog Round-up, May 18th, 2008

Real life has interfered with my ability to write long pieces, so I'll post some interesting links:

The Global Integrity Commons links to a depressing account of Nigerian lawmakers gaming the system to conceal gains from corruption.

Kevin points out that invading Burma won't help anybody access aid. I didn't even realize people were calling for invasion.

The Overseas Development Institute explains the five things we have to do to address the food crisis.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[114]


Things I believe in, May 14th, 2008

Here's what I think actually works in relief and development:

1. Positive Deviance 2. Training of Trainers 3. Primary education 4. Microfinance 5. Most Significant change evaluation 6. Government partnerships 7. Rigorous financial controls 8. Respecting your community partners 9. Evidence-based programs 10. Operational research 11. hiring good consultants to review your plans and programs 12. local volunteers 13. giving your in-country staff hats and t-shirts 14. writing all of your documents in clear, simple language 15. understanding the power of the individual 16. pregnancy transport cooperatives 17. recognizing and learning from failure 18. kitchen gardens 19. conserving water 20. solar cookers 21. giving everyone on earth the ability to choose their own family size 22. literacy 23. numeracy 24. combining local and expat knowledge to create something new 25. posting your policies and organizational mission in a public place 26. bicycles 27. paying your local staff well 28. social marketing 29. educational soap operas 30. the power of angry grandmothers 31. heirloom seeds 32. working with existing institutions 33. skype 34. context-context-context 35. setting up your systems to they default to success 36. text messaging 37. social media 38. breastfeeding 39. citizen journalism 40. oral rehydration salts 41. a moral obligation to help others 42. railways 43. independent media 44. camels 45. mangrove trees

And here is what I don't believe in:

1. Programs based on broad development theory or any other ideology 2. most volunteer doctors 3. most kinds of evaluation 4. excessive branding 5. grateful beneficiaries 6. all-powerful expatriate leadership 7. overly lavish offices 8. white SUVs 9. neutrality 10. donating your old stuff instead of money 11. living on compound when it's not required for security reasons 12. conferences 13. conference calls 14. handover ceremonies 15. participatory rapid assessment as it is generally done 16. meetings without agendas 17. hiring your staff for zeal instead of competence 18. bringing people to the US for medical treatment 19. cancer hospitals 20. Paying your people like you think they are working for love and not money 21. technological quick fixes 22. expecting innovation to solve everything 23. computers to automatically improve education 24. having a consultant design your programs 25. jargon 26. valuing hierarchy over initiative 27. calling your field visits "missions" 28. bottled water 29. aggressive promotion of microcredit 30. writing new curricula instead of adapting existing ones 31. single-passenger vehicles 32. goats 33. processed food 34. meetings of over an hour 35. most exchange programs

Over time I will be expanding this list into a series of posts; for now you just get the list. I change my mind frequently as I learn new things, so you may well see things move from one list to the other over time.

Posted in about Alanna], basics], things I believe in]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[115]


Relief and Development, Part Two, May 13th, 2008

Adrienne had some great questions in the comments on my last post; I thought they deserved a longer response than another comment would permit.

1) What happens when a relief agency realizes that the emergency isn't over, but leaves anyway? (and a sub-question - why do they do this? is it only about the funding?)

It's almost always about the funding. NGOs that response to emergency needs, and dependent on individual donations and government funding. They do not tend to have endowments or any other financial capacity to fund long-running programs without outside support. Therefore, when UNHCR or OFDA decides to stop supporting their programs in Kashmir or Lira, if they can't fundraise to keep those programs going, they have no choice but to close up shop and depart. And fundraising for long-running humanitarian emergencies is very difficult – these situations are no longer in the news and they trigger donor fatigue because they begin to seem hopeless.

There are also a few NGOs, such as Doctors without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres), who have very strict criteria for what constitutes an emergency. They may leave very quickly, because they see their role in the response as over.

I can tell you from the inside that having to close an office where you know there is need is horrible. It's heartbreaking, and makes you feel like you have failed everyone who depends on you. Closing an office feels like death, and not unreasonably so.

2) How many organizations claim to be in development, but are really just providing relief? (This one in particular bothers me.)

This is a tricky question. Development and relief are not a binary system, or even a continuum. They're…more of a pie chart. And how much capacity building do you have to do before it counts as development? Also, when you say "Claim to be in development" – do you mean in an analysis of their overall portfolio of programs or the makeup of each individual program? I don't think anyone is setting out to deceive, but every program is heavily dependent on donor intent.

There are some capacity-building things that every relief program should do. Hire your staff from your target population. Contract out everything locally that you can. Never provide direct services if you can train or support someone in-country to do so instead. Give the communities you partner with a voice in your programs – ask them to evaluate if you are succeeding. Professional organizations do these things, so nearly all provide some level of development assistance.

3) How can relief truly help? If, like you say, relief should "give aid that empowers the communities who receive it", then shouldn't relief be kind of like mini-development?

The problem with doing relief as proto-development is the timeframe. In Burma, for example, people need clean drinking water, anti-cholera drugs, emergency food relief, and places to live. We can truck in water, hand out drugs to clinics, and distribute rice and tents very fast (or, we could if there was access) and the faster we do it, the more lives we save. If we train people to build sturdy, sustainable houses and then sell them at an affordable price to people whose houses were destroyed, a lot of people are going to suffer, or die, while they wait for those houses to be built.

In my opinion, there are two powerful cases for pure relief activities, when they truly help. The first is in situations where functional, prosperous communities are damaged by unexpected events. Relief can then sustain life and restore livelihoods so that communities can return to their pre-disaster quality of life. The second is to keep everyone fed, clothed, and housed until the development projects can begin.

Posted in Burma], Humanitarian response], basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[116]


What's the difference between relief and development programs?, May 12th, 2008

The simplest breakdown goes like this:

Humanitarian relief programs are focused on rapid start-up, and rapid impact. Implementers of humanitarian programs need to gear up as fast as possible, and start providing necessary assistance as fast as possible.

Their primary focus is not building local capacity, sustainability, or monitoring and evaluation. Their primary focus is getting help to people in need. The end when the emergency ends. Relief can come from the outside, and it is a response to some kind of breakdown or disaster.

Development programs are focused on achieving long-term change of some kind, with the intent of improving people's lives and the lives of their descendants. They involve rigorous planning and ongoing operational research. They are rooted in local capacity building, because they are aimed at change which continues after the project ends. Even if it has outside support, development in the end has to come from inside.

In practice, however, it's not that simple. (it never is, is it?) Sometimes the emergency doesn't end. Situations that look like short-term humanitarian emergencies can go on for years, or even decades. Somalia, for example, Afghanistan, or Sudan. Programs designed to provide immediate assistance become a way of life for people in crisis. It would be nice if those programs could be converted into development programs, but it's very hard to turn a relief program into a development program. The skill sets for the staff are different, for one thing. Building latrines and building community capacity can be a long, long way apart. You can hire new staff, though, or retrain your people. The other hurdle - usually the big one - is that relief programs and development programs have different donors.

Relief programs are generally funded by private donations and specific government donors. The US government, for example, funds emergency relief through the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Relief. Development programs are far less popular with private donors, and they're funded by a different set of government agencies. If you want to change the focus of your program, you have to get different different donors. Which mostly you can't do. Donors don't like to take over each others programs, you won't be familiar with the new donor's procedures and evaluation requirements, and development donors plan their financial priorities a long time in advance. They often won't have money to pick up your newly transformed relief project.

Everyone's perfect ideal for relief is to give aid that empowers the communities who receive it. Immediate assistance that also builds skills and improves quality of life for the long term. You could, for example, truck in water to a community struck by drought. Then you could dig wells and turn the wells over to local management. You could train a local engineering association or the Ministry of Water on well-digging and irrigation management and safe drinking water. We just need a funding structure that makes it happen.

Posted in Humanitarian response], basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[117]


What's the difference between relief and development programs?, May 12th, 2008

The simplest breakdown goes like this:

Humanitarian relief programs are focused on rapid start-up, and rapid impact. Implementers of humanitarian programs need to gear up as fast as possible, and start providing necessary assistance as fast as possible.

Their primary focus is not building local capacity, sustainability, or monitoring and evaluation. Their primary focus is getting help to people in need. The end when the emergency ends. Relief can come from the outside, and it is a response to some kind of breakdown or disaster.

Development programs are focused on achieving long-term change of some kind, with the intent of improving people's lives and the lives of their descendants. They involve rigorous planning and ongoing operational research. They are rooted in local capacity building, because they are aimed at change which continues after the project ends. Even if it has outside support, development in the end has to come from inside.

In practice, however, it's not that simple. (it never is, is it?) Sometimes the emergency doesn't end. Situations that look like short-term humanitarian emergencies can go on for years, or even decades. Somalia, for example, Afghanistan, or Sudan. Programs designed to provide immediate assistance become a way of life for people in crisis. It would be nice if those programs could be converted into development programs, but it's very hard to turn a relief program into a development program. The skill sets for the staff are different, for one thing. Building latrines and building community capacity can be a long, long way apart. You can hire new staff, though, or retrain your people. The other hurdle - usually the big one - is that relief programs and development programs have different donors.

Relief programs are generally funded by private donations and specific government donors. The US government, for example, funds emergency relief through the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Relief. Development programs are far less popular with private donors, and they're funded by a different set of government agencies. If you want to change the focus of your program, you have to get different different donors. Which mostly you can't do. Donors don't like to take over each others programs, you won't be familiar with the new donor's procedures and evaluation requirements, and development donors plan their financial priorities a long time in advance. They often won't have money to pick up your newly transformed relief project.

Everyone's perfect ideal for relief is to give aid that empowers the communities who receive it. Immediate assistance that also builds skills and improves quality of life for the long term. You could, for example, truck in water to a community struck by drought. Then you could dig wells and turn the wells over to local management. You could train a local engineering association or the Ministry of Water on well-digging and irrigation management and safe drinking water. We just need a funding structure that makes it happen.

Posted in Humanitarian response], basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[118]


What's the difference between relief and development programs?, May 12th, 2008

The simplest breakdown goes like this:

Humanitarian relief programs are focused on rapid start-up, and rapid impact. Implementers of humanitarian programs need to gear up as fast as possible, and start providing necessary assistance as fast as possible. Their primary focus is not building local capacity, sustainability, or monitoring and evaluation. Their primary focus is getting help to people in need. The end when the emergency ends. Relief can come from the outside, and it is a response to some kind of breakdown or disaster.

Development programs are focused on achieving long-term change of some kind, with the intent of improving people's lives and the lives of their descendants. They involve rigorous planning and ongoing operational research. They are rooted in local capacity building, because they are aimed at change which continues after the project ends. Even if it has outside support, development in the end has to come from inside.

In practice, however, it's not that simple. (it never is, is it?) Sometimes the emergency doesn't end. Situations that look like short-term humanitarian emergencies can go on for years, or even decades. Somalia, for example, Afghanistan, or Sudan. Programs designed to provide immediate assistance become a way of life for people in crisis. It would be nice if those programs could be converted into development programs, but it's very hard to turn a relief program into a development program. The skill sets for the staff are different, for one thing. Building latrines and building community capacity can be a long, long way apart. You can hire new staff, though, or retrain your people. The other hurdle - usually the big one - is that relief programs and development programs have different donors.

Relief programs are generally funded by private donations and specific government donors. The US government, for example, funds emergency relief through the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Relief. Development programs are far less popular with private donors, and they're funded by a different set of government agencies. If you want to change the focus of your program, you have to get different different donors. Which mostly you can't do. Donors don't like to take over each other's programs, you won't be familiar with the new donor's procedures and evaluation requirements, and development donors plan their financial priorities a long time in advance. They often won't have money to pick up your newly transformed relief project.

Everyone's perfect ideal for relief is to give aid that empowers the communities who receive it. Immediate assistance that also builds skills and improves quality of life for the long term. You could, for example, truck in water to a community struck by drought. Then you could dig wells and turn the wells over to local management. You could train a local engineering association or the Ministry of Water on well-digging and irrigation management and safe drinking water. We just need a funding structure that makes it happen.

Posted in Humanitarian response], basics]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[119]


Burma information, May 11th, 2008

Pistachio Consulting has an excellent list of resources on Burma.

Posted in Burma], Myanmar]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[120]


tiny Burma update, May 9th, 2008Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF) Switzerland is distributing World Food Programme aid in Burma. More information (in French) here:. There is also a donate page here. Your donation goes to all MSF Switzerland activity, not just Burma, but as I mentioned in my previous entry, that is a good thing.

Posted in Burma], Myanmar]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[121]


How to give to Burma, May 8th, 2008

100,000 people may have died in Burma. The survivors need our help.

After the attention engendered by my last post, I did some googling for options on how best to give to victims of Cyclone Nargis in Burma. Here are the three organizations I recommend:

1) The International Burmese Monks Organization. The were founded in October 2007 by Burmese monks in exile. It's a new group, but deeply rooted in Burma. They may not be able to do fascinating and innovative aid programs, but they will be able to move money and food to people who need it. You can donate at Avaaz.

2) Save the Children. They have been in country for more than a decade, and they are a deeply experienced relief and development agency. They are very professional, and they are good at linking their relief work to long-term development needs. Donate here.

3) World Vision. Another very professional organization, who have been in Burma since 1958. They are deeply Christian. This does not affect who they provide services to, but it does affect their hiring. If you are uncomfortable with that, give to Save the Children instead. Donate to World Vision here.

When you donate, please consider giving to the organization's general fund instead of limiting your donation to Burma. Relief agencies are already responding to the cyclone, and they are doing that using their own general funds; nobody has enough Burma-specific donations yet. Without unrestricted donations, they would not be able to buy supplies and hire their response staff.

If you give to the unrestricted fund, you'll help Burma now and help prepare for other emergencies in the future.

Posted in Burma], Myanmar]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[122]


Why I am not giving to Myanmar yet (and some thoughts on social media), May 7th, 2008

Beth Kanter is one of my heroes and she's one of the reasons I am on Twitter. Today she asked me to blog or tweet about the BlogHer Myanmar giving effort. And I didn't. And I felt like a total jerk because, dude, it's BETH KANTER. And she's amazing.

But it's too soon for me to give any money, or ask others to do so. Global Giving has not chosen a recipient yet for Myanmar funds. If you look at their Myanmar page, there is no recipient listed. I confirmed by calling them. Eventually they'll pick out a recipient organization who'll provide aid to Myanmar, but there is no chosen organization yet. If I give now, my money will just sit with Global Giving. I might as well have it sit with me while I review NGOs and not pay the 10% fee to Global Giving.

There is another reason not to give money too soon. Some disaster relief NGOs will collect money for an emergency in a location where they have no established presence and if they receive enough, they will start an operation there. If they don't receive enough money, they'll just donate the money to another NGO. (Usually after taking their own overhead). It's a pretty standard practice. If you go to the list of NGOs accepting donations for Myanmar, you'll see that many of them have no current presence n the ground.

So, by donating now I am at risk for moving it through two pass-throughs - Global Giving and a second NGO before it goes to a group which is operational in Myanmar. (to be fair, I don't know what Global Giving's rules are - they may not allow a non-operational organization to receive money. Their website doesn't make it clear.) [Edited to add: The COO of Global Giving commented on this post, and linked to their due diligence policy, which explains their criteria for selecting organizational partners. ]

The best way to give, in my opinion, is to check out NGO websites until you find one that already has a presence in Myanmar, and give to them. I suggest World Vision. Yes, they are faith-based to a somewhat creepy degree, but they have been in Burma since 1958. I've worked with them in several locations, and they are very professional and run excellent programs.

(Oh, and here's my social media thought: turning down a request like Beth's from someone you respect is nearly impossible. I have work to do tonight, but I had to put this blog post up first, just to live with myself.)

Posted in Myanmar], marketing], social media]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[123]


How to wreck your image in one easy step, May 6th, 2008

Jennifer Baumgardner, a feminist artist and documentarian, produced a t-shirt which says "I was raped." It is intended to raise awareness help women end the shame they feel when raped. It's a delicate topic, so I'll send you to Scarleteen for background information.

The t-shirts are controversial, and they've led to a lot of discussion. I noticed an interesting theme in the comments at Jezebel. The very first commenter says "If these are printed on American Apparel tees, I will shoot myself in the head."

American Apparel has gone from being viewed as an important, ethical company to a sleazy demeaner of women. In about four years. Because of the advertising and marketing choices the comopany has made. (yes, the CEO is also controversial, but I bet no one would notice if it wasn't for the racy ads) They've lost a ton of respect from the kind of ethical consumers who they need the most.

I wonder how many NGOs undermine themselves the same way, obscuring their good work with poverty-porn pictures that demean the communities where they work.

Lesson: Your marketing should be worthy of your programs.

Posted in marketing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[124]


Sunday night blog round-up, May 5th, 2008

The Thirsty Palmetto is pondering why she chose the life she did. A very candid look at what motivates aid workers - beyond idealism.

There is a whole bunch of fascinating new content up at Tworque. I particularly liked the post on TechShop.

Kevin has a bitter point about what's happening to the developing world's money.

And Chris Blattman is thinking about Peace Corps. (aside: note the many lame and self-aggrandizing comments on the blog post)

Posted in Peace Corps], aid work], links]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[125]


What is social media, anyway?, May 4th, 2008

A nice white paper on social media. From smashLAB, this paper starts with the very basics, like defining content communities, blogs, and virtual worlds. It then goes all the way into some basic case studies and a discussion of how companies can use social media. It's a good introduction for anyone new to the concept of social media, and the ideas apply equally well to nonprofits.

Posted in basics], social media]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[126]


Pascal Marlinge, May 3rd, 2008

Gunmen kill French aid worker in eastern Chad. Save the Children staff member Pascal Marlinge was killed on Thursday. If there is a heaven, people who lose their lives helping others go there. [http://africa.reuters.com/top/news/usnBAN230886.html

]

Posted in aid work], memorials]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[127]


NGOs, health and social media, May 3rd, 2008

I ran into this grant opportunity on twitter tonight:

Rising Voices, the outreach arm of Global Voices, in collaboration with the Open Society Institute Public Health Program's Health Media Initiative, is now accepting project proposals for the third round of microgrant funding of up to $5,000 for new media outreach projects focused especially on public health issues involving marginalized population.

I'd be surprised if a lot of NGOs have the capacity for innovative social media work and also are small enough to apply for a 5K grant. With any luck I am wrong - I'd love to see more social media used on public health. I also suspect you could do some really great stuff in the developing world with text messaging. The list of possible project types in the grant description is interesting stuff.

This one seems useful:

Distribute mp3 recorders to a local NGO working on palliative care issues, and help them produce monthly audio testimonials and/or interviews featuring stories and experiences of participants, for uploading to the NGO's website.

This one not so much:

Organizing a regular workshop on blogging and photography at a legal aid center representing the rights of people living with mental disabilities. Part of the budget could be used to purchase affordable digital video cameras and internet café costs, so that participants can describe their challenges and life experiences to a global audience.

I don't think getting to describe yourself to a global audience automatically useful; it's not an end in itself. It has to have a purpose. (Someday I'll talk about refugee kids and cameras)

Posted in grants], health], social media]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[128]


Oprah's Big Give, and what's wrong with it, April 28th, 2008

This is a remarkably good post about what's wrong with Oprah's Big Give. The comments, however, are some of the lamest I have ever seen. They run the gamut, from a classic Sernovitz, to just plain missing the point, to my favorite "Why would you ever criticize someone who is trying to do good?"

I find the tone-deaf comments extremely frustrating. They demonstrate to me that no one is taking charitable giving seriously; that somehow people believe all projects are equally valuable and effective. Give a car to a restaurant manager or an impoverished veteran. It's all the same. It's charity! And charity is good!

Some projects are better than others.

It's not just that different nonprofits do different things. Some charities are better at stretching their budget. Some have better methods. Some are led by better people. It's not all the same, and it's not all equally important. Money spent on bad charity is at best wasted and at worst damaging.

I've mentioned this before: good intentions are not enough.

ETA: Mike makes an excellent point in the comments - the author can't seem to decide if he hates the rules of the show, or the contestants. It seems to me that he was trying to say that the show is rigged to fail, and fail it did, but that point doesn't really come across clearly.

Posted in TV], argh], incompetence]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[129]


Oprah's Big Give, and what's wrong with it, April 28th, 2008

This is a remarkably good post about what's wrong with Oprah's Big Give. The comments, however, are some of the lamest I have ever seen. They run the gamut, from a classic Sernovitz, to just plain missing the point, to my favorite "Why would you ever criticize someone who is trying to do good?"

I find the tone-deaf comments extremely frustrating. They demonstrate to me that no one is taking charitable giving seriously; that somehow people believe all projects are equally valuable and effective. Give a car to a restaurant manager or an impoverished veteran. It's all the same. It's charity! And charity is good!

Some projects are better than others.

It's not just that different nonprofits do different things. Some charities are better at stretching their budget. Some have better methods. Some are led by better people. It's not all the same, and it's not all equally important. Money spent on bad charity is at best wasted and at worst damaging.

I've mentioned this before: good intentions are not enough.

ETA: Mike makes an excellent point in the comments - the author can't seem to decide if he hates the rules of the show, or the contestants. It seems to me that he was trying to say that the show is rigged to fail, and fail it did, but that point doesn't really come across clearly.

Posted in TV], argh], incompetence]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[130]


Oprah's Big Give, and what's wrong with it, April 28th, 2008

This is a remarkably good post about what's wrong with Oprah's Big Give. The comments, however, are some of the lamest I have ever seen. They run the gamut, from a classic Sernovitz, to just plain missing the point, to my favorite "Why would you ever criticize someone who is trying to do good?"

I find the tone-deaf comments extremely frustrating. They demonstrate to me that no one is taking charitable giving seriously; that somehow people believe all projects are equally valuable and effective. Give a car to a restaurant manager or an impoverished veteran. It's all the same. It's charity! And charity is good!

Some projects are better than others.

It's not just that different nonprofits do different things. Some charities are better at stretching their budget. Some have better methods. Some are led by better people. It's not all the same, and it's not all equally important. Money spent on bad charity is at best wasted and at worst damaging.

I've mentioned this before: good intentions are not enough.

ETA: Mike makes an excellent point in the comments - the author can't seem to decide if he hates the rules of the show, or the contestants. It seems to me that he was trying to say that the show is rigged to fail, and fail it did, but that point doesn't really come across clearly.

Posted in TV], argh], incompetence]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[131]


Getting the most out of field visits, April 27th, 2008

I've mentioned in a previous entry that doing the occasional visit to your field programs does not count as in-country experience. If you're HQ-based, though, or managing several countries, you can't just move to be close to your sites. Field visits are all you have to get the inside story on your programs and the communities they partner with.

Done right, field visits are a useful tool. They are not as good as living and working in-country, but they're a lot better than nothing. Here's how to get the most out of your field visits:

1) Don't call them missions. That's just offensive. It's a field visit, a site visit, or a trip out to see your programs. Unless you are trying to convert people to the one true faith of your choice, it's not a mission. Calling it one implies that you're heading out there to teach the locals what's what. You are heading out there so the locals can teach you. Don't forget it.

2) Always keep this in mind: your two primary goals in any trip are to learn more about your programs, and more about the context they operate in. You may have specific tasks to achieve on your trip, but if you fail at those your trip still has value as long as you learn.

3) Listen. Talk to people. Talk to your staff. Talk to your beneficiaries. Talk to government officials and community leaders, and taxi drivers. It doesn't take probing questions, or special insight on your part, just a willingness to sit down and hear what people have to say. Pack your schedule with as many meetings as you can humanly stand. By listening, you learn how your project and organization is perceived, what your community thinks of you, and what your own staff is thinking. You can unearth technical problems and discover what you're doing well. You also learn about the culture you're in.

A health educator once told me that they were showing slow behavior change rates in one region because "the women just weren't very smart there." That was a major clue that we had a problem in how we thought about education. A doctor my program had trained told me that the most useful thing about our trainings was the chance to talk to other physicians and swap for clinic supplies; we built an extra session into our trainings just for trading. A community leader told me she was sorry our children's program was closing down in August, which made it clear that the concept of local handover was not being understood.

4) Look. Pay attention, all the time. In Tashkent, the mulberry trees drop their berries to the ground where they rot and make a sticky mess. In Cairo, children climb the trees and pick the berries. Very few fall to the ground. What does it mean? Maybe Egyptian children are hungrier. Maybe Uzbek children are afraid of heights. But it means something, and something you notice now and something you notice later may fit together into information you can use.

Do the traffic police seem to know and like your office driver? An intern once pointed out to me that our information sessions consisted of a male educator standing up while women sat on the ground all around him – what message was that sending? Do your cars have no guns stickers and do your drivers actually follow that rule? How do men and women relate to each other in your host country? How do people treat racial and linguistic minorities?

Much like listening, watching takes no more than your undivided attention. Provide it, and create as many opportunities to look around you as you can. Drive to further-out sites instead of flying, if it's feasible. Get out of your hotel and take a walk. If you are not a visually observant person, train yourself to become one.

5) Focus your attention on people, not things. If your project repairs water towers, don't drive out to look at a tower. Instead, talk to your water and sanitation engineers about the rehabilitation process, and talk to the project manager. Talk to people who get their water from the tower. Talk to the mayor of the village the tower is in.

6) Don't forget women. Don't forget either gender, but women are far more often overlooked. If none of your meetings are with women, schedule some. Your government officials may be disproportionately male, but your beneficiaries should not be. If no one in your project can suggest women for you to meet with, something is very, very wrong.

Edited to add: I thought of this in a meeting today - take notes at all your meetings, in a notebook, unless it makes the other person uncomfortable. At the end of every day, transcribe your meeting notes and add anything you noticed during the day. This will help you remember and process what you learned and provide a great basis for your trip report.

Posted in advice]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[132]


on research and donor funding, April 27th, 2008

This nice summary of BDI logic models does two things. It 1) gives you an overview of a model for behavior change that actually takes into account the complexity of human decision-making and 2) tells you how to market it to potential donors. It's very savvy, and it makes me kind of sad. I see useful public health research go unused all the time because it's too complicated for non-experts, and donors are rarely experts.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[133]


Bad granting can hurt communities, April 26th, 2008

I have mentioned before that bad donor projects will hurt they communities they are in. This article demonstrates that a bad grantmaking process will also hurt communities. Which makes sense when you think about it, but how many people think about it?

In the case of the Northwest Area Foundation, I think they went off the rails as soon as they decided that a new organization had to be created for implementation. It's always tempting to make something new and better but too often it's just new, inexperienced, and not up to the demands being made. It's my opinion that you always work with existing groups if you can.

I saw a lot of small developing world NGOs formed around a single issue go through endless rounds of training so they could apply for different donors' grants. It did often make me wonder how much work they could get done in the time it took to be trained.

Posted in argh], grants], incompetence]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[134]


Amy Sample Ward's Blog, April 26th, 2008

Amy Sample Ward's Version of NPTech Amy Sample Ward's blog is a really exceptional resource on nonprofit technology, particularly fundraising and the web. I'm sending a link to a couple old employers who could use the info.

In general, I find blogs like this really energizing because they are about what works to motivate people and bring them together, which can lead to insight on a lot more than fundraising and advocacy.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[135]


Reader Question #2, April 25th, 2008

So, my reader questions are nothing like I expected them to be. Which probably makes them more fun to answer. This question has to do with sexual identity, so skip it if it's not something you are comfortable reading about.

Q: Why did we begin using the term MSM? I thought it was because not all men who have sex with men consider themselves to be homosexual or bisexual. I thought there was a trend of allowing individuals to determine his/her own sexual identity.

I have had an argument with 3 friends, 2 liberal, about this exact conversation. In my head, a man having sex with men does not make him homosexual or bisexual. In the head of my friends, it does. Am I crazy? Am I being overly sensitive and picky about the wording that we use? Is this not a personal descriptor that can only be determined by the individual? Does it actual "make" someone gay? Is this just something that I should get over because it is never going to change? I am not ready to say I am wrong. One friend threw wikipedia and the oxford dictionary out.

A: I think you are exactly right. There are a whole host of emotional and cultural reasons a man might have sex with another man and yet not be homosexual or bisexual. I think we use the term MSM because sexual identity is so fluid and complex that it's a lot more useful to just describe the situation than to try to apply a label that serves no diagnostic or risk-management purpose. As health professionals, it is useful to know if a man has sex with other men; his reasons for doing so are a lot less important in any immediate calculation.

There are plenty of reasons a man himself might want a more specific label for his sexuality, but that's not our business. We just want to provide the best services possible.

Posted in MSM], Q and A]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[136]


Links worth looking at, April 23rd, 2008

I am traveling, and I'm not sure what kind of internet access I will have to update. I'm offering up a bunch of interesting links to keep everyone busy in my (possible) absence.

1) The Children of War Rescue Project actually has a dayblog listing day-to-day activities. It is an amazing exercise in transparency, and also a great way for outsiders to learn more about what NGOs do. If you are thinking you'd like to work for an international NGO, just following along the posts is like a mini-internship.

The marketer in me thinks that they could be using this dayblog more for promotional purposes. Right now it doesn't even have a link to their main project website. They should also explicitly describe it as an exercise in transparency, and have donors look at it to see what they do.

2) Paul Graham on the overlap between nonprofits and companies. I am consistently impressed by his ideas, and this is a great think piece on what makes a company and what makes an nonprofit. I have long held that the major difference between an international NGO and a company is tax status and no more. It is interesting to see someone else's similar take.

3) Soap operas changing family size in Brazil. This article makes me twitch in different directions. On the one hand, it justifies the educational soap operas I used to help produce. On the other hand, what kind of unintended effects is TV having on our society? Since almost none of it is designed to do anything good. In fact it seems to me designed to make us meet more junk food and buy stuff…maybe I don't have to just wonder what effect it is having.


[



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[137]


Answering my first reader question, April 21st, 2008

I've got my first question to answer (and it's not what i would have expected):

Q: I am moving to [redacted] in about a month, to work as a coordinator for a large NGO on a refugee project. It's a one-year contract. This is my first field posting, and I really have no idea what to pack. I have no shipping allowance, just what I can carry in my checked luggage. I know what to do about clothing and toiletries and whatever. My question is – what about books? How many books should I pack? I don't want run out of stuff to read but I do need some space for clothes.

A: Bring about a week's worth of books, whatever that is for you. Chose things you can re-read, but you won't mind giving away. You're going to a major city. You'll be able to get internet access, and probably satellite TV. You won't die of boredom if you run out of books, and sharing and discussing English language books is a great way to make friends with other expats. (and if you want to stay sane in a new culture, you'll need a couple expat friends)

Posted in Q and A], life in the field]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[138]


Friday night blog round-up, April 19th, 2008

Technology and social enterprise is reviewing the Playpump, a merry-go-round that harnesses childrens' play to pump water from village wells.

Peter Casier is wondering if anything has gotten better in Sudan.

Shanta Devarajan has a post up about export controls on food as a response to the food price increases. Even while fearing a world food crisis, I am amused that India specifically delineates non-basmati rice.

Lastly, Chris Blattman's got some great charts about economic recovery.

Posted in round-up]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[139]


Discovering the Digital Divide, April 18th, 2008

Jaclyn Schiff, a blogger at the Brazen Careerist, has done some thinking about internet access, leading to this entry: How The New Colonialism is Distorting Your View of the World. I don't mean to be snarky. It's really pretty awesome that she cares enough to figure this out. I am amazed, though, that someone could independently discover the digital divide.

Posted in digital divide]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[140]


The Thirsty Palmetto, April 18th, 2008

A moving blog entry about life for returning refugees in South Sudan The Thirsty Palmetto is a new blog, but it the entries which have been written really pack a punch. It's a perfect slice-of-life, of an aid worker in South Sudan. If you've ever wondered what the work is like, or how it feels, follow this blog.

Posted in blogs]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[141]


Doing US assistance better, April 16th, 2008

The Center for Global Development has a new (well, almost a month old now) report out on improving foreign assistance. I am really glad to see so much attention being paid to how to do this kind of assistance. As I may have expressed by now, international development is too important not to think deeply about.

Edited to fix the typos - no more posting after midnight.

Posted in CGD], fangirl]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[142]


on hallways, April 15th, 2008

I am too cheap and too carbon-conscious to pay for bottled water. Instead, I walk to the water fountain every day with a quart-size glass bottle and fill it up. I keep a cup at my desk. I like it; it feels very civilized. It's much nicer to drink from a cup than a bottle.

But, every day as I walk to and from the water fountain, I think about throwing the bottle down the hall. I consider the arc it would make through the air, the sound of impact, and the way glass would spray out and hit the walls. I try to calculate how hard I'd have to throw it, and how far it would travel down the hall, allowing for the weight difference between a full bottle and an empty bottle. I wonder if I could convince people it was an accident and just slipped out of my hands.

All of this makes it sound like I am fantasizing about acting out because I hate my job or some such. And here's the thing. I love my job. It's difficult, it's engaging, and the work I do matters. I look forward to coming to work. I'm not daydreaming about throwing things because of suppressed hostility.

I finally realized - I walk down a long white hallway to go to the water fountain. I turn down another long white hallway. They have no artwork, no decor, and no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever. I dream of smashing things on their floors because I am bored. I crave stimulation.

Lesson: Change keeps us engaged. We can use change in our programs to hold the interest of the communities we partner with.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[143]


the Hanes ads, April 14th, 2008

I did some googling about the Hanes ads that I find so reprehensible.

The ad types don't seem to find them hateful. The comments on this post talk about the quality of the art and such, and generally come down in favor of the ads as important and edgy. It is in fact a real campaign from a real ad agency.

My gut feeling about this is that you do not use ideas and concepts this painful in order to sell products. It is morally wrong to do so. If you are an agency, though, I suppose you see ads as little artworks and don't think there is anything wrong with putting together an ad with "impact".

Before I went and became a world-saver, my first career plan was advertising. I think I am glad I went the way I did.

Posted in marketing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[144]


Blog round-up, April 13th, 2008

Ethan Zuckerman is talking about Carl Bernstein and the "The best obtainable version of the truth."

Kevin's got some links to the international food aid conference coming up.

Leo Africanus would like to point out that the Masai do not belong in zoos.

And Naamen Gobert Tilahum posted about some Hanes underwear ads that are just so breathtakingly mean that I can't even find words for them.

Posted in food aid], marketing], round-up]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[145]


Ten Thousand Girls, April 13th, 2008

This is a genuinely heartwarming article about a girls school in Senegal. It makes me want to send them a big wad of money right this second. I bet, though, that the big wad of cash would do more harm than good. The resource constraint keeps them growing at a rate where they can maintain the same high quality. A big expansion all at once would require management and training in a whole new way from the education cottage-industry structure they have now.

The cynic in me is looking for the flaw in this school. Where's the dark side? How can it be this simple? I want it to be true, though.

Further googling reassures me. It's really not simple at all, which makes it better and more likely to be real and replicable. Viola Vaughn has a PhD, and 10,000 girls has been fundraising in the US for quite some time. She was nominated for the CNN Heroes Award by Amy Meyer, a consultant to nonprofits. She is not just a grandmother who started teaching girls; she is the executive director of a nonprofit, the Women's Health Education and Prevention Strategic Alliance (WHEPSA), which is a 501c3 nonprofit. 10,000 Girls is one of its projects. They don't have their financials on the web, but their list of donors and volunteers makes them look pretty small-scale.

Edited to Add: Further consideration has led me to conclude that first paragraph was overtaken by events. If 10,000 Girls is a project implemented by WHEPSA, then they probably have a scalable plan ready to go once they receive funding. Dr. Vaughn has been traveling heavily in the US to raise those funds. So go ahead and send a big wad of cash. Just do some research first.

Posted in Senegal], education]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[146]


Food prices in Haiti, April 12th, 2008

Impact of rising food prices on Haiti, here. This just keeps getting scarier.

Posted in food prices]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[147]


Dual Economies, April 12th, 2008

Expats clearly distort the market in the countries they inhabit. The labor market for example, and the fancy restaurants. Distressingly often, the commercial sex workers. Chris Blattman has a nice post up on the phenomenon. He also links to a UNreport on the macroeconomic consequences of peacekeeping missions. I haven't read the report yet, but I plan to.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[148]


Global food prices, this time in detail, April 11th, 2008

Registan, one of my favorite blogs, has a nice post up on what the rising cost of food will mean in practice.

Lesson: We're still all connected.

Posted in Registan], food prices]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[149]


Aid worker kidnappings in Afghanistan, April 11th, 2008

Two Afghan aid workers just went missing north of Kabul. It is assumed they were kidnapped. Afghanistan's really bad territory for aid workers, we all knew that. But it hits home every time I read something like this.

Posted in Afghanistan]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[150]


The Business of Development, April 11th, 2008

This blog, Development Industry, is

about Development business, its uses and abuses; the distortions that it can cause and the occasional impact that it may bring about.



The Development Industry is big and powerful; and is well intentioned. But it is not without its failings nor devoid of hypocris….

It's a lot of links and not too much original content, but they are interesting links and I like the bitter and questioning perspective. I think I'll put it on my blog round-up.

Posted in reading]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[151]


Food is getting expensive, and that's dangerous, April 10th, 2008

THAILAND: Rising rice prices fuel fears of food shortages and starvation I think just about everyone is worried about rising food costs, all over the world.

Lesson: We're all connected.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[152]


Food is getting expensive, and that's dangerous, April 10th, 2008

THAILAND: Rising rice prices fuel fears of food shortages and starvation I think just about everyone is worried about rising food costs, all over the world.

Lesson: We're all connected.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[153]


Food is getting expensive, and that's dangerous, April 10th, 2008

THAILAND: Rising rice prices fuel fears of food shortages and starvation I think just about everyone is worried about rising food costs, all over the world.

Lesson: We're all connected.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[154]


How not to help a malaria infected girl in Mali when you live in Connecticut, April 10th, 2008

Uganda's Scarlett Lion: How not to help a malaria infected girl in Mali when you live in Connecticut Go, read the post. It's a nice little capsule on the challenges of person-to-person charity.

Lesson: The obvious solution is rarely the right one.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[155]


Obama talks about congressional delegations, April 9th, 2008

Obama: No Need For Foreign Policy Help Why yes, Senator Obama, that does sound like every congressional delegation I have ever helped organize. I always really appreciated the interest being shown by the senators or congresspeople in question, but a visit like that is in no way equivalent to serious time in country.

Lesson: Showing up from HQ and spending three days on site visits does not mean you understand your field programs.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[156]


The Art of the Layoff, April 8th, 2008

Guy Kawasaki on the art of the layoff Layoffs are a part of life when you work for a donor-funded project. Funding typically tapers up and then tapers back down and staffing shifts accordingly. It hurts to work the end of a project, and watch all your colleagues leave. It's lonely, and especially lonely if you're the boss doing the layoffs.

Guy Kawasaki offers some great advice here on how to do layoffs well. He's though this through in excellent detail, and I recommend the article to anyone who has to do staff cuts. Point #6, share the pain, is especially impressive to me. I had a boss refuse his annual raise because staff were being laid off, and it really made a difference to how people felt.

I do agree with his sole commenter, though. If it is a not-for-cause layoff, let people have a day or two more at work to say goodbye to their colleagues. I was fired once and the hardest part for the colleagues I left behind was having no idea what happened to me or why I was let go. One of them found my home number (this was back before cellphones) and tracked me down, just for closure. An NGO is unlikely to have much proprietary data to be stolen, and some staff members may want to do some handover.

Posted in management]

[



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[157]


Not talking about abortion, April 7th, 2008

Outcry Over Search Word Ban on Health Site Johns Hopkins recently made it impossible to search for the word "abortion" on their health information site, and then reversed the decision. Although I certainly agree that people need to be able to find information about abortion on a health website, I also feel bad for Johns Hopkins. They really can lose their USG funding for this.

The controls what you can say about abortion and family planning if you take their money. Agree or disagree with it, but that's the way it is. The government's policies put Hopkins in a terrible position. They have to choose what is "right" over what gets them money. That sounds like an easy decision. But it isn't as if they were spending their government grants on strippers and hot air balloon rides. Their government funding goes towards vital research that benefits at least as many people as the information on abortion would. I wouldn't want to have to make that decision.

Lesson: Diversify your donor base.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[158]


Gone Kurtz on the Burma border, April 6th, 2008

A piece on foreign mercenaries in Burma. I don't even know what to say about this, except - read it, it's important. Everyone who thinks they are doing good in a foreign country should read it.

Excerpts:

He is caught up in the fact that he was taken to the top echelons of the local KNLA unit. But, all foreign visitors are received by the highest ranking people. This is normal. He was allegedly awarded a political position. Once again, these are handed out like candy. He believes he was asked to be the US representative. The rebels are nice people and it is against their culture to disagree with anyone. If you asked, "Can I represent you in American?" they would definitely say "yes." This would either be because they desperately need representation or because they don't want to refuse a friend. But again, this great "honor" is bestowed on everyone.

and

One aid worker, who requested that he remain anonymous, said: "Oh man, that Bleming guy is a real piece of work. He's walking around, giving out his business cards which he autographs for you, talking loudly in all the wrong places about going to Burma, blah blah. The Karen have issued all sorts of statements saying this guy is his own work, denying almost everything he says, etc. The KNLA and KNU have worked for years at cultivating a good public relations, this guy goes and sets that back decades. America just took ex KNLA combatants off the Homeland security terrorist risk list for refugee resettlement, and this guy goes and makes them look like a bunch of well armed terrorists again."




It is easy to point a finger at Thomas Bleming, or any of the foreigners showing up on the border to fight, and label them thrill seekers or, at the very least, slightly disturbed. But in the modern world of confused sides, things are never that simple.

Sympathetic article about Bleming in a Wyoming newspaper here.

Black Flag Cafe discussion of Bleming, including the great term "professional war tourist."

Lesson: Question what you think you know, and then question it some more.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[159]


Physician training has very little impact, April 5th, 2008

Jishnu Das writes about research on physician training in low-resource countries. His disheartening conclusion is that the training has very little impact on improving quality of care.

The research was as follows:

Our approach has been to try and decompose the quality of medical advice into two components—what doctors know and what doctors do. What doctors know—measured by testing doctors—represents the maximum care that a doctor could provide. What doctors do—measured by watching doctors—represents the care they actually provide to real patients. We call the first "competence" and the second "practice quality".

And the depressing conclusion:

In Tanzania we find that two additional years of school and three additional years of medical school buys an increase of only 1 point in the percentage of essential tasks completed. Results are similar for other countries.

Training doctors has been a standard way to improve the quality of health care for years. It's a major shock to discover this minimal impact. I wonder if the quality of training make a difference? Perhaps competency based training would make a difference.

While this is depressing research, it's not necessarily telling us things we didn't already know. If you want to change a physician's behavior, you don't just give her someone training. You change the system she is part of. Good projects health projects recognize that, and so do American HMOs.

Lesson: Don't try to change individuals, try to change the system they are part of.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[160]


Looking for a few good questions, April 4th, 2008Based on a couple of emails I've received recently, I want to start a Q & A feature on this blog. I'll answer readers' questions about international development, both theory and practice. If you've ever wondered exactly what IMCI stands for, or why it's a good strategy, now is your chance to ask. What's the difference between a PSC and a PCV? What is "do no harm"? I'm at your disposal. If I can't answer your question, I'll find someone who can and make them write a guest post.Just post in the comments on this entry or drop me an email at alanna.shaikhNOSPAM@gmail.com. (for the uninitiated - take that NOSPAM out of the address)







Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[161]


Two aid workers kidnapped in Somalia, April 3rd, 2008

Two UN contract workers kidnapped in Somalia. Murray Watson and Patrick Amukhuma were kidnapped in Somalia yesterday. Patrick is Kenyan, and Murray is British. Murray Watson is an ecologist with a long history of work in Africa. I am praying for a quick release, like last time an expat was kidnapped in Somalia.

One thing I find interesting about the media coverage on this is how few outlets have gotten their jobs right. They were contractors for an India company which held a subcontract with FAO to do aerial survey work. Not all that unusual if you're used to how the system works, but hard for an unfamiliar reporter to grasp.

Posted in the missing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[162]


Holy evaluation, April 2nd, 2008

Chris Blattman's Blog: Holy evaluation "You know experimental program evaluation has become a craze when even the Imams want it."

Lesson: Monitoring and evaluation isn't just something your donor makes you do.

Posted in monitoring and evaluation]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[163]


Target audiences, April 1st, 2008

My mother received the email posted below this morning. She's good with computers - she shops online, keeps in touch with her friends via email, and uses google to look for medical information. She's comfortable, in short, with the internet.

When she got this email, she was outraged. She thought it was an attempt to prey on the poor and uneducated, and that citing medical authorities must be some kind of unethical.

I thought it was hysterical, and asked her to forward it to me so I could read it and snicker.

To be fair to my mom, neither of us remembered it was April first. She might have had more of a sense of humor if she'd remembered. I'm not sure, though. I think this email was a misjudgment of their audience. Allegro medical sells home medical supplies like walkers, heating pads, and adaptive technology. Most of their target market is either old or sick. How many of them have the kind of lives that remember and enjoy April Fool's day?

Lesson: Know your audience very, very well before you send your message.

——————-

From: Craig Hood

Date: 01 Apr 2008 00:17:25 -0700 Subject: Breakthrough Study Reveals Important Link To: xxxx.shaikh@gmail.com

Hello Marylin,

The New England Medical Center in conjunction with the Harvard Journal of Medicine published a document today noting that people who shop at AllegroMedical.com tend to be smarter and better looking than most. The control group of non-Allegro shoppers were also found to exhibit poor hygiene skills in addition to lower cognitive abilities. "More studies are required as we can't yet pinpoint whether smart, good looking people simply choose to shop at Allegro Medical or people who shop at Allegro Medical somehow become smarter and better looking," says researchers conducting the study.

Upon learning of this groundbreaking study, the team at Allegro Medical is here to celebrate your "smarterness" by offering all smart Allegro Shoppers $10 off their next purchase of over $100. It's no joke, Just use the code "Smart10″ today through Tuesday, April 8, 2008.

Good hygiene, like smart shopping is a learned skill. So if you know anyone suffering from poor shopping practices, help'm out by forwarding this limited time deal on to friends or family in need.

Sincerely,

Craig Hood President/Founder Allegro Medical 800-861-3211 ext 121

Hopefully this is the most interesting email you have ever received. However, if you would rather not receive future e-mails or advertisements from me or the crew, please visit the opt-out link here: click here. Allegro Medical, 1833 W Main St, #131, Mesa, AZ, 85201 Please note that this message was sent to the following email address: xxxxx.shaikh@gmail.com

Posted in marketing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[164]


The War Against Fertility?, April 1st, 2008This Wall Street Journal Book review (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120700566688178565.html?mod=googlenews_wsj) is so severely flawed and biased that I wonder if it is an April Fool's joke. It reviews Fatal Misconception, by Matthew Connelly. The book is an attack on the population control movement, and chronicles its rise and fall. While I think everyone agree that the focus on population growth rates over individual reproductive choices was tragically misguided, the WSJ review takes everything in Fatal Misconception at face value. It does not even consider that there may be other ways of viewing the events in question, and treats the book as an unbioased history narrative and not an expression of a one point of view. I have no problem with passionate books attacking important subjects, but I do have a problem with lazy, lazy journalism in the Wall Street Journal.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[165]


Monday blog round-up, April 1st, 2008

Jeff Trexler is talking about design dilution, intellectual property rights, and dancing condoms.

Ethan Zuckerman is worrying about the Zimbabwe elections and the future of journalism.

The Discomfort Zone has some great stuff up about Kosovo, Cuba, and India.

Finally, Dave Hunsicker is writing about secular fundamentalism in Turkey.

Posted in round-up]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[166]


The Power of Community, March 30th, 2008

Going to the Company Elders for Help Retired HP employees work as volunteer salespeople. That's community. How could we leverage that to change the world?




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[167]


Health care quality is extremely difficult to teach and maintain, March 29th, 2008

Nearly 40,000 Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada Patients Asked Hepatitis C Testing What struck me about this story is how much it sounds like something you'd expect in the developing world. The clinic in question was reusing single-use medical supplies. In the developing world, of course, the reason is usually resource scarcity and not pure greed.

Either way, the fact that this happened in Nevada is reminded that even sophisticated licensing systems have flaws and fail sometimes. Medical care needs to have a constant focus on making quality better or it actually gets worse.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[168]


On the importance of good visuals, March 29th, 2008

Top Medical Discovery of 2007 Explained via Cartoon Found via Women's Bioethics Blog, this blog entry is a nice example of the importance of communicating information in an understandable way.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[169]


Beyond Charity Navigator - How to pick a good NGO partner, March 27th, 2008

Those of us who work in international development inevitably work with NGOs. You may be employed by them, donate to them, volunteer with them, join a coalition, or contract them to do something. When you enter into that relationship, you need to know as much about your new partner as possible. Unfortunately, sites such as charity navigator are essentially irrelevant. All they can tell you is that the NGO is not actually fraudulent. That's a good start, but it doesn't take you far.

I recommend you go deeper. You can get information from the organization's website, publicity documents, and annual report, supplemented by some time on google, and any 501c3 nonprofit will have a tax filing available publicly. Some things to look at:

1. What kinds of projects do they do?

Yes, it's obvious, but a good place to begin. Does the organization have a specific area of specialty they stick to, or do they anything they can find funding for? What parts of the world do they work in? Do they do research? Do they do advocacy? This can't really tell you if the organization is competent, but it can give you a gut feeling about whether you like what they do. You won't want to start a relationship if you don't like their work.

2. The Board of Directors

Who's on the board? What is the expertise of the board members? This can give you a good idea of the NGO's approach to its work. For example, take a look at Project HOPE's board. It's pretty much all pharmaceutical company executives. That says to me that HOPE is going to be focused on bringing donated drugs to the developing world. Donations are a short-term approach to solving health problems, and don't address structural obstacles to good health care. However, Project HOPE probably never runs short of drugs or supplies, which would be great in an emergency. Or look at the board of the National Democratic Institute (NDI). It includes Madeleine Albright and Tom Daschle. NDI is likely to be in tune with mainstream ideas and well-connected politically; if they issue a report, it will get attention. They'll probably stick to the middle of the road. They are not about to start advocating for radical social justice. Most NGOs will have a list of board members on their website; if they don't, you should wonder why.

3. Size

What is the organization's annual revenue? How many people work at headquarters? How many are in field offices? I think that a good international organization is skewed toward field staff, but that's my own rule of thumb. You should be able to find this information in their annual report, or by poking around a website. Size is not an indicator of quality, but it does tell you a lot about organizational culture and capacity.

4. Where do they get their money?

Some NGOs are essentially government contractors, and receive almost all their funding from USAID or the US State Department. They may be reluctant to do advocacy work as a result, and they may have to frequently close and open offices based on where they can get funding to work.

Other NGOs have a lot of private support, which can provide more leeway about what work they do, and allow for advocacy efforts. The type of private contributor also makes a difference - private contributors can be individuals, foundations, or corporations. NGOs that get a lot of small individual donations have to make sure that their name and logo stay in the news or their money stops coming. Foundations generally fund specific projects, and may not provide any support for overhead, which leaves NGOs in danger of exhausting their own resources to meet donor priorities.

It's also useful to know how they do their fundraising. Do they use a dedicated fundraising company? Direct mail? Celebrity spokespeople? I think celebrity spokespeople are creepy if they are paid, and even when unpaid they may reflect more about the NGOs' ability to tell a story than their ability to do good work. How much does the board give and fundraise? If the board is not giving to the NGO, something is wrong. The board should believe in their work, and show that belief with cash. Charity Navigator can actually be helpful here, because it will tell you how much the NGO spends on fundraising. The NGO website is probably your best guide, however, as well as a google alert for the organization's name.

A note about money and overhead cost rates. Organizations who move a lot of donated goods count the value of their goods among their program costs. That program cost is the basis for calculating the NGO's indirect cost rate (ICR). Therefore, NGOs who distribute donated goods look efficient on paper, but may have higher actual indirect costs. This is one reason that I don't take ICRs seriously as a way of evaluating NGOs.

5. Salary and background of the president of the organization.

Is the president a doctor? An academic? Did they have a lot of experience in the organization's area of work before taking over as president, or are they mainly a fundraiser without the skills to be a technical leader? And how much does the president make? The president should definitely not make more than a CEO of a company of a similar size. Some people argue the president should make less than that. Charity Navigator will show the president's salary in their review of the organization.

6. Hiring practices

If your NGO is hiring lots of development staff and no program staff, that's bad. If they've had senior management positions open for a long time, that's bad. If they seem to be turning over their senior management quickly, that's very bad. You want to see an NGO hiring slowly, with a high ratio of field to US-based staff.

Edited to add one more thing: Dweep makes the great point in the comments that you should look at an NGO's existing partners. A solid established NGO will generally already have reputable partners.

Posted in charity], favorite posts], marketing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[170]


Jeff Trexler's Blog, March 27th, 2008

I love this blog, Uncivil Society, a lot. Jeff Trexler is a professor of social entrepreneurship at Pace University, and his blog brings together an amazing number of different, fascinating ideas. This post on a recent New York Times article is a nice example.

Also, he likes Soviet deconstructionist art. As do I.

Posted in blogs]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[171]


Jeff Trexler's Blog, March 27th, 2008

I love this blog, Uncivil Society, a lot. Jeff Trexler is a professor of social entrepreneurship at Pace University, and his blog brings together an amazing number of different, fascinating ideas. This post on a recent New York Times article is a nice example.

Also, he likes Soviet deconstructionist art. As do I.

Posted in blogs]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[172]


Jeff Trexler's Blog, March 27th, 2008

I love this blog, Uncivil Society, a lot. Jeff Trexler is a professor of social entrepreneurship at Pace University, and his blog brings together an amazing number of different, fascinating ideas. This post on a recent New York Times article is a nice example.

Also, he likes Soviet deconstructionist art. As do I.





Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[173]


AFP: Fate of US aid worker a mystery two months on, say officials, March 27th, 2008

AFP: Fate of US aid worker a mystery two months on, say officials My news about Cyd Mizell may have been premature. We can hope, at least.

Relevant article: BBC list of foreigner kidnappings in Afghanistan.

Posted in Afghanistan], Cyd Mizell]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[174]


Two on Tuesday - Tuberculosis, March 26th, 2008

Yesterday was world TB Day. In honor, I'll offer two resources about multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis. MDR TB is very very scary. It also shows the challenges of any kind of health treatment program. It's hard to keep patients in engaged in a long course of treatment and it is highly infectious.

This article talks about MDR TB in the Kyrgyz Republic. As an added bonus, using an x-ray to diagnose TB, as described in the article, is not all that accurate. You can't identify specific strains. You really need sputum smear microscopy to make it work.

For more information on MDR TB, you can check the WHO MDR TB report. I attended the presentation of the report in DC and it's both seriously researched and as frightening as one would expect.

An addendum: Another interesting TB document: notes on communicating with the media about TB. The WHO did a brilliant job of this, as their fairly dry report on a technical medical topic got all kinds of news coverage, including the New York Times.

Posted in Tuberculosis]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[175]


VOA News - US Radio Talk Show Personalities to Sudan With ‘Sacks of Hope', March 25th, 2008

US Radio Talk Show Personalities to Sudan With Sacks of Hope I've been trying to write an entry about this for more than I week now. I give up. Read it and arrive at you own conclusions.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[176]


VOA News - US Radio Talk Show Personalities to Sudan With ‘Sacks of Hope', March 25th, 2008

US Radio Talk Show Personalities to Sudan With Sacks of Hope I've been trying to write an entry about this for more than I week now. I give up. Read it and arrive at you own conclusions.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[177]


VOA News - US Radio Talk Show Personalities to Sudan With ‘Sacks of Hope', March 25th, 2008

US Radio Talk Show Personalities to Sudan With Sacks of Hope I've been trying to write an entry about this for more than I week now. I give up. Read it and arrive at you own conclusions.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[178]


Trauma, kidnap and death (Iraq), March 22nd, 2008

Trauma, kidnap and death: all in a day's work for journalists in Iraq I spent a week in Baghdad last year. It was minor, really - from the airport to our compound, from our compound to the green zone, from our compound to the airport again and put. I ate amazing meals prepared by the live-in cook (an IDP) and talked to the Iraq country team. It was the scariest thing I ever did, and it was nothing - absolutely nothing - compared to what the US military and the Iraqi people go through.

This article really resonated with me; the author struggled with the same feelings I did. Like you're not allowed to be traumatized because your risk was so minor. Which it was. But…

I would, I think, have stayed in Iraq if I wasn't a mother. We were doing good relief work there, and there was a vivid and immediate sense of why the work mattered. Time magazine has a nice article about the need for more humanitarian work in Iraq. Agron Ferati, who is quoted, is brave and brilliant and I worry about him all the time.

Posted in Iraq]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[179]


The Cute Cat Theory of technology, March 22nd, 2008

The Cute Cat Theory Talk at ETech Wow, do I love Ethan Zuckerman's blog. His approach to blogging is similar to mine, in that he tries to bring together a lot of ideas to improve development practice in the field. He does it a lot better, though, and writes meaty posts full of interesting analysis.

This post, on the use of new technologies, is one of the most insightful things I've read in a long, long time.

Posted in activism], technology]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[180]


How I got fired, March 15th, 2008

I've got a new post up at Damsels in Success, about getting fired from my first job. It has nothing to do with international development, but I'm pleased with it nonetheless.

I've had an odd career trajectory, but it's one I am generally very pleased with. I think that having had many jobs, and many different kinds of jobs, lets me bring a perspective to international development that someone on a less circuitous path might not have.

Posted in Damsels in Success], about Alanna], careers]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[181]


Project HOPE's blog, March 13th, 2008

Project HOPE In the Field is Project HOPE's blog. It's a nice effort on their part, in terms of what's on there. Appealing first-person content, with plenty of action photos. It's not sanctimonious or stuffy and not gratuitous with beneficiary pictures. It has a donate link after every entry to let you support the exact work you are reading about.

But here's the thing - it's hosted on blogger, of all places, using an only slightly modified template. You'd think it was just one volunteer's effort if not for the official links and pictures. It looks amateurish.

If they are going to the effort of having an official blog, why not incorporate the blog into their main site? It would give people a reason to keep coming back to the site, and I would bet that every visit increases the chance that someone will donate. They must have a web designer; it wouldn't be that hard to have them build in a blog and appropriate functionality.

It's a very strange choice. Old-fashioned, and out of touch with how people actually use the web.

Posted in Project HOPE], social media]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[182]


Project HOPE's blog, March 13th, 2008

Project HOPE In the Field is Project HOPE's blog. It's a nice effort on their part, in terms of what's on there. Appealing first-person content, with plenty of action photos. It's not sanctimonious or stuffy and not gratuitous with beneficiary pictures. It has a donate link after every entry to let you support the exact work you are reading about.

But here's the thing - it's hosted on blogger, of all places, using an only slightly modified template. You'd think it was just one volunteer's effort if not for the official links and pictures. It looks amateurish.

If they are going to the effort of having an official blog, why not incorporate the blog into their main site? It would give people a reason to keep coming back to the site, and I would bet that every visit increases the chance that someone will donate. They must have a web designer; it wouldn't be that hard to have them build in a blog and appropriate functionality.

It's a very strange choice. Old-fashioned, and out of touch with how people actually use the web.

Posted in Project HOPE], social media]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[183]


Project HOPE's blog, March 13th, 2008

Project HOPE In the Field is Project HOPE's blog. It's a nice effort on their part, in terms of what's on there. Appealing first-person content, with plenty of action photos. It's not sanctimonious or stuffy and not gratuitous with beneficiary pictures. It has a donate link after every entry to let you support the exact work you are reading about.

But here's the thing - it's hosted on blogger, of all places, using an only slightly modified template. You'd think it was just one volunteer's effort if not for the official links and pictures. It looks amateurish.

If they are going to the effort of having an official blog, why not incorporate the blog into their main site? It would give people a reason to keep coming back to the site, and I would bet that every visit increases the chance that someone will donate. They must have a web designer; it wouldn't be that hard to have them build in a blog and appropriate functionality.

It's a very strange choice. Old-fashioned, and out of touch with how people actually use the web.

Posted in Project HOPE]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[184]


Mental health in the rest of the world, March 12th, 2008

Psychotherapy for All: An Experiment - New York Times The NYT looks at an Indian experiment in providing mental health treatment at Indian clinics. A lot of people believe that illnesses such as depression and anxiety are first-world luxuries. Anyone who's spent time abroad can tell you that's not the case.

This is interesting to me because while donors and NGOs are starting to pay some attention to mental health in emergency situations, it's still very rare to look at mental health in ordinary life. Like dental care, it tends to be low priority. This Indian intervention may mean that is changing.

Posted in mental health]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[185]


Business Life - Kabul's war for talent, March 9th, 2008

The Financial Times discusses recruiting for Kabul. FT often has excellent coverage on the nitty-gritty of relief and development work. This articles talks about the challenges of recruiting:

"Humanitarian-type people are attracted to the disaster circus, but we are beyond that here. It's not a chronic crisis, but it's not post-conflict either."

I am not surprised by the staffing shortage. The world is full of altruistic adrenaline junkies who'll go to a war zone if they can save people's lives. It's also full of warm fuzzy world savers who'll spend 30 years teaching a village to grow their prickly pears more efficiently. What it's not full of are people who want to do slow-speed capacity-building development work while also dodging bullets and kidnap attempts. The 50 people who do fit that profile probably all have jobs in Sri Lanka already.

I don't really know what can be done to improve the staffing for development work in Afghanistan. Pay better, I suppose, but then you run afoul of donors and create an image of a bunch of mercenaries.

It could also point to a issue about the fit between the work being done and the context. Maybe we should move beyond the stereotypes, and trust in community knowledge. Maybe, if no one will go there, we're doing something wrong and we need to re-think the kind of aid that's being given.

Posted in Afghanistan]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[186]


Ten reasons Central African Republic should be on your radar, March 8th, 2008

Ten reasons Central African Republic should be on your radar Just something to think about on Friday night. The AlertNet blogs in general are a great source of interesting analysis and real-time experience in relief work. You can easily lose an hour or two in there, and be a better-informed person for it.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[187]


"For God's sake, please stop the aid!", March 7th, 2008

A Kenyan economist opposes foreign aid in Spiegel James Shikwati is interviewed in Spiegel, and is firmly opposed to aid for Africa. He argues that it causes corruption, creates huge bureaucracies, and teaches Africans to be beggars.

On one hand, he makes some accurate points. Badly designed aid packages will indeed create a culture of dependency. It's not just likely but certain that there will be some private sector leakage because of corruption, and foreign governments and NGOs do put distorting pressures on the English-speaking labor market. And he might be right that without food aid, African countries would develop trade relationships to compensate for shortages.

He's also got some great quotes here:

"Currently, Africa is like a child that immediately cries for its babysitter when something goes wrong."

"Unfortunately, the Europeans' devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason."

However, I think his overall conclusion is weak and off-base. He blames the used-clothes markets in Africa on charity donations of old clothes, when in actually they are generally bought by the pound in the US from thrift store and resold to African wholesalers. This is a pretty elementary mistake for an economist to make, and it implies he has a an ax to grind and won't let the facts get in his way. He also seems to think that aid goes directly to governments, when most goes through international NGOs with extensive networks of locally-hired staff. He also downplays the impact of HIV to an unreasonable degree.

It's an article well worth reading for its contrarian view, but it's not likely to change your perspective on the world.

Posted in Africa], Kenya], opposing viewpoint]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[188]


"For God's sake, please stop the aid!", March 7th, 2008

A Kenyan economist opposes foreign aid in Spiegel James Shikwati is interviewed in Spiegel, and is firmly opposed to aid for Africa. He argues that it causes corruption, creates huge bureaucracies, and teaches Africans to be beggars.

On one hand, he makes some accurate points. Badly designed aid packages will indeed create a culture of dependency. It's not just likely but certain that there will be some private sector leakage because of corruption, and foreign governments and NGOs do put distorting pressures on the English-speaking labor market. And he might be right that without food aid, African countries would develop trade relationships to compensate for shortages.

He's also got some great quotes here:

"Currently, Africa is like a child that immediately cries for its babysitter when something goes wrong."

"Unfortunately, the Europeans' devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason."

However, I think his overall conclusion is weak and off-base. He blames the used-clothes markets in Africa on charity donations of old clothes, when in actually they are generally bought by the pound in the US from thrift store and resold to African wholesalers. This is a pretty elementary mistake for an economist to make, and it implies he has a an ax to grind and won't let the facts get in his way. He also seems to think that aid goes directly to governments, when most goes through international NGOs with extensive networks of locally-hired staff. He also downplays the impact of HIV to an unreasonable degree.

It's an article well worth reading for its contrarian view, but it's not likely to change your perspective on the world.

Posted in Africa], Kenya], opposing viewpoint]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[189]


"For God's sake, please stop the aid!", March 7th, 2008

A Kenyan economist opposes foreign aid in Spiegel James Shikwati is interviewed in Spiegel, and is firmly opposed to aid for Africa. He argues that it causes corruption, creates huge bureaucracies, and teaches Africans to be beggars.

On one hand, he makes some accurate points. Badly designed aid packages will indeed create a culture of dependency. It's not just likely but certain that there will be some private sector leakage because of corruption, and foreign governments and NGOs do put distorting pressures on the English-speaking labor market. And he might be right that without food aid, African countries would develop trade relationships to compensate for shortages.

He's also got some great quotes here:

"Currently, Africa is like a child that immediately cries for its babysitter when something goes wrong."

"Unfortunately, the Europeans' devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason."

However, I think his overall conclusion is weak and off-base. He blames the used-clothes markets in Africa on charity donations of old clothes, when in actually they are generally bought by the pound in the US from thrift store and resold to African wholesalers. This is a pretty elementary mistake for an economist to make, and it implies he has a an ax to grind and won't let the facts get in his way. He also seems to think that aid goes directly to governments, when most goes through international NGOs with extensive networks of locally-hired staff. He also downplays the impact of HIV to an unreasonable degree.

It's an article well worth reading for its contrarian view, but it's not likely to change your perspective on the world.

Posted in Africa], Kenya], opposing viewpoint]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[190]


unltdworld.com, March 6th, 2008

Kevin Dean (full disclosure: he's my husband) reviews a new social networking site at the Foreign Policy Association Philanthropy blog:

"For everyone who has ever struggled to find the entertainment in sending their friends imaginary cupcakes, there is now Unltdworld.com, a social networking website that aims to bring together socially conscious people and help them benefit their own communities."

I agree with Kevin that I just don't get the point of most social networking sites. There's no there there. I don't understand what I am supposed to be doing. A site like Unltdworld.com might be able to get beyond that by offering a social object. Something to talk about, at least.

I clicked through the Unltdworld tour, and it seems like your standard-issue social networking deal. I may join, but I am not sure. If I do join, it will be because I am intrigued by the Research Lab feature:

The UnLtdWorld Research Lab is the world's first dynamic mapping and graphing of social entrepreneurship, and of social and environmental issues. The Research Lab will also operate as an open platform allowing any individual or organisation to access and use the metadata for external projects, and for partners to inform targeted applications that interact with relevant segments of the network, both on UnLtdWorld and beyond.

Posted in community], social networking]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[191]


Information for Advocacy, March 5th, 2008

Communicating complicated concepts in an accessible way is one of the most important things a project can do, and one of the hardest. It's very easy to get seduced by a pretty graph and fail to realize that it doesn't convey your information in a useful way.

Sometimes we are just too deep inside our topics to be as clear and succinct as we need to be with donors, stakeholders, host governments, or other people who need to understand out work. The Stanford Social Innovation Review refers to the problem in their blog.

This handbook - Visualizing Information for Advocacy: An Introduction to Information Design is a great guide to presenting data in an effective way. The tactical tech website in general is a gold mine of useful advice. I also really like Security for Human Rights Defenders.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[192]


Two on Tuesday, 3/4/2008, March 4th, 2008

Two on Tuesday: Two blogs I've been reading lately

1) Technology, Health & Development I always love to find blogs which cover a wide range of development topics in the hands-on way I enjoy, and this one is great. The current posting is about a health insurance scheme for Indian farmers that seems almost too good to be true. The THD sidebar is a treasure trove of interesting links.

2) Jeremiah Owyang's web strategy blog. I am in love with this post, called "Stop fondling the hammer." It's about not confusing your web strategy tools with your web strategy. I think it points to a larger problem that afflicts many otherwise competent organizations; a new technique can be so exciting you want it to do everything.

Posted in India], Two on Tuesday]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[193]


Why health matters, February 29th, 2008

Health is sometimes downplayed as a development priority. Governments and donors often prioritize economic growth and education, on the assumption that better health will automatically follow. The most compelling arguments that we health types make in response are as follows:

1) ill health is a drag on the economy by reducing worker productivity

2) when a family member is sick, families will bankrupt themselves in getting care for that individual

Point two is really about love. When a loved one is ill, you do your best to save them, even if you have to sell your assets, exhaust your savings, or move from the country to the city. You most certainly do not continue your education, start a microenterprise, or try to increase the productivity of your farm. This is especially true when your loved one in question is a child.

I always knew that had to be true, but I know it painfully in my heart now. My best friends just lost their baby daughter. She had Rubenstein-Taybi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that includes physical and developmental disabilities. Her illness meant that her family couldn't get medical clearance, so her dad had to leave his job working abroad and they dipped into their savings to survive. He looked for a new job in the US, but it was hard to schedule around the time spent talking to doctors and looking after his baby.

No one questioned the family's decision to focus on their daughter. If asked, I would have dipped into my own savings, unquestioning. When a family member is sick, you do what you have to do. Here in the US, the family had health insurance that covered most of their costs. In the developing world, the expense would probably have pushed an entire extended family into poverty.

You can't improve the world around you if your baby is sick. You can only try to save your baby. Which is why the rest of us need to make a world where babies grow up strong and healthy and no one has to make terrible choices.

Sakina Nurulimon Hunsicker had a sweet smile, an infectious little giggle, and propensity for cuddling. She was almost eleven months old when she died suddenly from complications of pneumonia and dehydration caused by diarrhea. She leaves behind her parents, a devoted older brother, and a large extended family. She touched the lives of many, many people, and we miss her.

Posted in love]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[194]


U.S. Aid Worker Killed in Afghanistan - World - CBN News, February 27th, 2008

U.S. Aid Worker Killed in Afghanistan I'm sorry. It looks like Cyd Mizell and Muhammad Hadi were killed. There is a statement on the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation website.

Posted in Cyd Mizell]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[195]


Sarah Chayes on Bill Moyers, February 23rd, 2008

Sarah Chayes on Bill Moyers

"I don't think hope is relevant." Sarah Chayes was a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor in Afghanistan. She stayed in Afghanistan and is now running a soap co-op which markets its products in the US. This interview with her about Afghanistan sums up most aid workers' approach to the countries they are in. Bitterness about the government and a focus on getting their own work done.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[196]


Friday Fear - 22 February 2008, February 23rd, 2008

"There is no mechanical linkage from the cockpit of a Boeing 777 to the engines. If the software fails, the engines cannot be controlled." Think about that. The same high quality software that can't keep your laptop starting up consistently is controlling airliners.

I guess it wasn't a very scary week - that's all I've got.

Posted in Friday fear]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[197]


Finding meaning in events, February 23rd, 2008

I've written before about people wanting narratives to make sense of the world. I think that the rumor mill in Afghanistan, described in this compelling blog post from IWPR is a classic example. People with limited information access, living terribly difficult lives, trying to make sense of the world around them.

Posted in Afghanistan], finding narrative]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[198]


How to read this blog, February 22nd, 2008

You should read it every day. No, seriously. Every day. I point the way to a lot of interesting things, some of which have obvious connections to international development and some of which don't. If you read this blog long enough, it should, I hope, give you by reading (and more importantly me by writing) a better understanding of the issues that impact international aid and development, and ways to make development programming work better.

Posted in about this blog]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[199]


The Road to the Horizon, February 22nd, 2008

The Road to the Horizon This is an interesting website - it's meant to be a "dynamic e-book" with multiple contributors. I haven't had time to explore much yet, but I can recommend the excellent piece on "So you want to be an aid worker."




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[200]


NGOs and Uncooperative Host Countries, February 22nd, 2008

Choking on Bureaucracy: State Curbs on Independent Civil Society Activism Human rights Watch has released a report on Russia, alleging that the Russian government is stifling civil society by placing unreasonable limits on NGO activity. Burma is doing something similar.

Relationships with the host government are always a tricky thing. NGOs as a general rule are there to support the country's development, but what if the NGO feels that the best interest of the government is different than the best interest of the people.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[201]


Ideas 4 development, February 18th, 2008

Ideas 4 development Despite the questionable name, this site is a source of information and opinion on international development topics. It's not really for beginners, but doesn't require an advanced degree, either. I'll come back to it often to get up to speed on new thinking.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[202]


Biofuels - bad for everyone, February 14th, 2008

This is too depressing to save for Friday fear. It looks like biofuels aren't going to do a thing to prevent global warming.

Posted in biofuels], global warming]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[203]


Kidnapped German aid worker freed in Somalia, February 13th, 2008

Kidnapped German aid worker freed in Somalia - I wonder if kidnapping him was an error?

Please let us see the same result for Cyd Mizell.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[204]


People are quitting facebook, February 13th, 2008

According to Business Week, people are getting fed up with MySpace and Facebook. Business Week blames the increasing intrusiveness of the ads. I think they're just bored, because there is no social object for these networks.

Posted in social networking]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[205]


German aid worker kidnapped in Somalia, February 13th, 2008

Somalia is bad ugly territory for aid workers. Today, a German aid worker was taken. No name has been released, but he was an experienced guy who'd been in Afghanistan. He was working for Welthungerhilfe, also known as German Agro Action. Welthungerhilfe is active in Somaliland, which is actually one of the safer parts of the country to work in. There is always terrible risk to working in Somalia, but the need is so great that you can't really ignore the ethical imperative.

Posted in Somalia], Welthungerhilfe], the missing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[206]


Chinese Aid in Africa, February 13th, 2008

According to Newsweek, Chinese projects in Africa are not as successful as one might think. The winning quote for me is this:

"They're gone," says a scrawny guard at the entrance to Catumbela's paper mill, as he stares disconsolately at the tracks. "I don't know when they're coming back—they ate their dogs and left."

Posted in Africa], China]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[207]


Two on Tuesday - Meaty arguments, February 13th, 2008

Two on Tuesday is a new feature where I find a couple examples of a phenomenon or issue that I find interesting, and try to learn something useful from them.

What I've found for you today is two blog postings that were hotly contested by their commenters. In other words, two interesting arguments. The real-time community knowledge aspect of blogs is one of my favorite things about this form, and a blog with passionate commenters is its epitome. There aren't just two sides two every story, there are more like nine, and commentary from intelligent, passionate people is a great way to sort it out.

I therefore bring you:

1) Joshua Foust and Ann Marlowe continuing their ongoing feud on Registan.

2) Abu Aardvark and a bunch of commenters on the Anbar Awakening in Iraq.

A nice pair of postings that cast some light on the two major wars our country is fighting. (some commenters are more worht reading than others, I admit)

Posted in Abu Aardvark], Afghanistan], Iraq], Registan]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[208]


Girls in the developing world are in trouble, February 12th, 2008

The Center for Global Development (which I worship like an obsessed fangirl, really all I need at this point is to be scribbling "Mrs. Alanna CGD" on my notebooks) has a new publication on girls in the developing world.

From the publication's description page:

"…girls in developing countries are in trouble. They face systematic disadvantages over a wide range of welfare indicators, including health, education, nutrition, labor force participation, and the burden of household tasks. Because of deprivation and discriminatory cultural norms, many poor girls are forced to marry at very young ages and are extraordinarily vulnerable to HIV, sexual violence, and physical exploitation. Lacking a full range of economic opportunities and devalued because of gender bias, many girls are seen as unworthy of investment or protection by their families."

Posted in CGD], fangirl], girls]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[209]


DARA, February 10th, 2008

I am a bit obsessed with evidence. Specifically, with making sure that the work we do is evidence- based. If you're not sure it works, then why are you doing it? There are plenty of development interventions that have been proven to actually work. We should spend our money on those. There is no excuse whatsoever for funding and implementing large-scale projects that are based purely on theory or deduction. It's unethical.

There is a role for experimental work and for pilot projects. I'm not saying there isn't. But they should be small, rigorously evaluated, and designed with the idea of collecting quality data as well as having an impact. In a world of limited resources, you don't go big with an experimental program. Yo go big when you've got enough data that you've got solid odds of your program succeeding.

My evidence obsession means that I like DARA. Their tagline says it all "We improve the quality of humanitarian aid and development through evaluation." Their website features the Humanitarian Response Index, which looks at the effectiveness of aid in emergencies.

Posted in DARA], Humanitarian response], information resources]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[210]


The Nonprofiteer, February 10th, 2008

I love the nonprofiteer. She is full of useful advice on running a non-profit organization. At lot of her ideas apply as much to a major NGO doing international development work as they do to the kind of domestic nonprofits she focuses. I especially love her advice column, and they way her answers are detailed plans you could act on. This post, on finding board members, is especially helpful.

Posted in fangirl], nonprofiteer]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[211]


Friday Fear - 8 February 2008, February 9th, 2008

1) Carcinogenic chicken feed additives

2) A global display of terrorism and other suspicious events

3) Indian kidney transplant racket

4) Global recession risk

Posted in Friday fear]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[212]


New Damsels in Success Post, February 8th, 2008

I've got a new post up at Damsels in Success, on international volunteering and job hunting. I am feeling quite proud of it - it has everything I wish I had known when I started my career. I was just plain lucky, but everyone can't count on that.

Posted in Damsels in Success], careers]



Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[213]


Millennium Challenge Corporation, February 8th, 2008

A nicearticle on the MCC. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was established by the Bush administration in order to reward countries that made good policy choices. Think of it as merit-based instead of need based financial aid. This blog post, on state failure, makes a nice companion piece to the article. What exactly do you do when the need for aid occurs because of incompetent governance? In the case of African famines, we generally give aid anyway. Is that the right choice?

Posted in MCC]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[214]


Jargon – Emergency acronyms, February 7th, 2008

ECHO – ECHO is an acronym that doesn't seem to stand for anything. It's the European Union humanitarian aid department. ECHO actually gives grants to NGOs for humanitarian response, but everyone hates taking their money because they only provide 7% overhead. http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm

GBV – Gender based violence, which means exactly what you think it does. Also referred to as SGBV, sex or gender based violence. A major problem in emergency situations, and may be perpetrated by the aid workers who are there to help.

HDR – Humanitarian daily ration. Produced (or purchased, anyway) by the military, each HDR will feed one person or one day. They are designed to feed large populations such as refugees or displaced people. http://www.dscp.dla.mil/subs/rations/programs/hdr/hdrabt.asp

MUAC – Mid Upper Arm Circumference. A measure which can indicate malnutrition. Very frequently used by aid agencies to determine eligibility for feeding programs. http://www.unsystem.org/SCN/archives/adults/ch06.htm

NEHK – New Emergency Health Kit. The old name for the Interagency Emergency Health Kit. Assembled by Mission pharma and sold to NGOs and other emergency responders, the NEHK has all the medicines necessary to care for 5000 people in an emergency situation. The drugs contained are all far from their expiration dates and the cartons are clearly marked, which makes them very efficient for emergency use. WHO often provides NEHKs to governments and NGOs during emergency situations. http://www.missionpharma.com/content/us/about_us/news/news_archive/nehk_under_revision_198-05

OCHA – United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. OCHA is supposed to coordinate all donors in emergency situations. Since they don't have any enforcement power, that rarely actually happens, even though everyone agrees that donor coordination is a good thing. OCHA's annual budget for 2007 was $159,079,639. http://ochaonline.un.org/AboutOCHA/tabid/1076/Default.aspx

OFDA - Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. An office within USAID that functions essentially autonomously. It is responsible for US government-funded emergency response overseas, including war, natural disasters, and other emergencies. Most emergency-response NGOs based in the United States receive all or some of their funding for their work from OFDA. OFDA is known for its ability to quickly identify an emergency and make funding available. OFDA support is especially valued because it has 100% line-item flexibility – organizations can make changes to their budgets as needed in rapidly changing emergency situations, as long as they stick to the correct total amount. OFDA focuses on immediate disaster response; therefore sustainability is not a priority and money comes from OFDA in a 6 or 12-month funding cycle. http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/disaster_assistance/

Posted in jargon]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[215]


Wednesdays are for Jargon – Emergency acronyms, February 7th, 2008

Wednesdays are for jargon is a new weekly feature where I define and discuss the vocabulary of the international development field.

ECHO – ECHO is an acronym that doesn't seem to stand for anything. It's the European Union humanitarian aid department. ECHO actually gives grants to NGOs for humanitarian response, but everyone hates taking their money because they only provide 7% overhead. http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm

GBV – Gender based violence, which means exactly what you think it does. Also referred to as SGBV, sex or gender based violence. A major problem in emergency situations, and may be perpetrated by the aid workers who are there to help.

HDR – Humanitarian daily ration. Produced (or purchased, anyway) by the military, each HDR will feed one person or one day. They are designed to feed large populations such as refugees or displaced people. http://www.dscp.dla.mil/subs/rations/programs/hdr/hdrabt.asp

MUAC – Mid Upper Arm Circumference. A measure which can indicate malnutrition. Very frequently used by aid agencies to determine eligibility for feeding programs. http://www.unsystem.org/SCN/archives/adults/ch06.htm

NEHK – New Emergency Health Kit. The old name for the Interagency Emergency Health Kit. Assembled by Mission pharma and sold to NGOs and other emergency responders, the NEHK has all the medicines necessary to care for 5000 people in an emergency situation. The drugs contained are all far from their expiration dates and the cartons are clearly marked, which makes them very efficient for emergency use. WHO often provides NEHKs to governments and NGOs during emergency situations. http://www.missionpharma.com/content/us/about_us/news/news_archive/nehk_under_revision_198-05

OCHA – United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. OCHA is supposed to coordinate all donors in emergency situations. Since they don't have any enforcement power, that rarely actually happens, even though everyone agrees that donor coordination is a good thing. OCHA's annual budget for 2007 was $159,079,639. http://ochaonline.un.org/AboutOCHA/tabid/1076/Default.aspx

OFDA - Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. An office within USAID that functions essentially autonomously. It is responsible for US government-funded emergency response overseas, including war, natural disasters, and other emergencies. Most emergency-response NGOs based in the United States receive all or some of their funding for their work from OFDA. OFDA is known for its ability to quickly identify an emergency and make funding available. OFDA support is especially valued because it has 100% line-item flexibility – organizations can make changes to their budgets as needed in rapidly changing emergency situations, as long as they stick to the correct total amount. OFDA focuses on immediate disaster response; therefore sustainability is not a priority and money comes from OFDA in a 6 or 12-month funding cycle. http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/disaster_assistance/

Posted in Wednesdays are for jargon]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[216]


Depo Provera is not infected with HIV, February 7th, 2008

The poor public affairs officer must be really frustrated to give interviews on a subject this ridiculous. There's a rumor spreading in Zambia that the USAID-distributed Depo-Provera (injectable contraceptive) is infected with the HIV virus. A rumor being promulgated by the Minister of Health, Brian Chituwo. There is a BBC article from 2006 that says he's been moved into the Ministry of Education, but apparently he wasn't.

I am not really sure what lesson to learn from this. Well, one maybe. In a well-educated society with access to information, these kinds of rumors are not able to take flight.

Posted in HIV/AIDS], Zambia]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[217]


Two on Tuesday - Systems Failure, February 6th, 2008

Two on Tuesday is a new feature where I find a couple examples of a phenomenon or issue that I find interesting, and try to learn something useful from them.

I recently ran into two examples of systems failure, both of which offer useful lessons in organizational function.

Example #1 - New Orleans. A community program to identify and report blighted houses gets canceled. Why? Because they never connected the web-based reporting system to the team which investigated. It would have been very simple to synchronize blight investigations with the complaints logged on the web, but it simply never happened. My guess is that the web site was designed by an IT department who had little or no contact with the people who actually did investigations.

Lesson learned: Don't create a communications interface if you have no way of using the information you get from it.

Example #2 - the FAA. Safety investigator Mark Lund discovered that Northwest airlines mechanics were so incompetent they couldn't close a cabin door or test an engine. When he tries to ground the planes, the FAA retaliates against him, not the airline. Why? Because the FAA was invested in its role as an agency that keeps American aviation flying, more its role as safety watchdog.

Lesson learned: You can't be all things to all people. Give your investigators the independence they need to do their jobs right.

I spend a lot of time thinking about systems, and setting them up for success. Nearly as much as time as I spend thinking about behavior change. It's easy to blame individual people when things go wrong, but we should design important process to help people make the right choices, and to catch errors. No system should ever depend on everybody doing their job right, because human beings just aren't consistent enough.

Posted in Two on Tuesday], systems]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[218]


Is the tipping point dead?, February 5th, 2008 Is the idea of the tipping point dead? In this article, Fast Company explores the research of Duncan Watts. Watts, using social modeling, looked at the tipping point theory. and came to the conclusion that it just doesn't work.

The Tipping Point has been marketing gospel for years now; expounded in a book by Malcolm Gladwell, it argues, in short, that "The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social skills." (Summary here ) Tipping Point theory has been very influential in viral marketing, particularly Gladwell's "Law of the Few," meaning that rare, highly connected people shape the world.

Watts disagrees. I if you want the details, read the article. It's a well-written summary of the research, and the people who disagree with the research.


I think the article should be required reading for anyone interested in behavior change or social marketing. It's got some really great stuff on how trends are born. Considering how much of the work we do in development relates to getting people to adopt something new, it's extremely relevant. The comments on the article are really useful, too - they are a nice microcosm of the current debate on marketing and influence.

Posted in behavior change], marketing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[219]


Lolita beds?, February 5th, 2008

Any time I hear about the importance of making sure everything you do is culturally sensitive, I think of problems like this. We can't even manage to be sensititve to our own culture, more often than not. (For those who read the article - I shall refrain at this point from discussing the British educational system)

Posted in Culture], incompetence]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[220]


Turkmen gas, February 5th, 2008

I would like to start off by saying that I really think Tariq Saeedi is a crackpot and I don't trust a word he says. That being stated, this is the most detailed discussion of the Turkmen/Iran gas situation I have seen to date,

Posted in Iran], Turkmenistan], gas]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[221]


Work, for love and for money, February 5th, 2008

A blog posting about nonprofit staff members. Far too often, nonprofits pay badly and expect their staff to expect it, because you do nonprofit work for love. It seems to me, though, that you're stuck with a much smaller pool of candidates if you are only looking for people who'll do the work for love. Better to pay enough you can pull from all quality candidates.

Posted in careers], nonprofiteer], salaries]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[222]


Premature babies at risk, February 5th, 2008

Very premature babies aren't getting the follow-up care that they need. Premature babies are very often born to women who have risk factors, including low-income and drug use. This means that medically fragile, high needs babies are going home to women who may not have the resources to care for them or even get appropriate medical care.

The best answer would be an integrated medical system, where hospital care is automatically connected to social services and outpatient care. Right now, parents have to find follow-up services themselves in most places, assisted perhaps by a booklet or a list of phone numbers.

Posted in babies], health system], systems]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[223]


Innovation, February 5th, 2008

I adore #14 from this list: "Don't even look at your own industry for ideas - look everywhere else. If you take it from your own industry, you're a copycat. If you go to a different industry, they'll tell you how they did it - and you're the innovator in your industry." I try to do that all the time - look from place to place for ideas that can be applied in a new way. It's what this blog is about.

Posted in about this blog], innovation]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[224]


Creating community - Kimkins.com, February 4th, 2008

I've been keeping tabs on a lot of interesting efforts to create community, both in real life and online. I think that creating community is key to behavior change, and behavior change, as I have said before, is key to just about everything.

One thing which has interested me is the Kimkins scandal. Kimkins is a very low-calorie diet plan promulgated primarily through a website, Kimkins.com. When looked at objectively, the Kimkins plan is completely nuts. It's low calorie enough to wreck your metabolism, and makes no nutritional sense. The people doing the diet, though, are committed to the community of which they are part.

It has turned out that the woman who created the diet has no nutritional background, and did not in fact lose all the weight she claimed to have lost. There are pro-Kimkins sites to be found, such as this one , and a plethora of anti - Kimkins websites. On both sides, what everyone is most intense about is the Kimkins community. Was it betrayed? Is it in denial and needs to be saved?

The community in question is a web-forum, but it has created a passion, and an impact on human behavior that is more than many geographical places could. Wouldn't it be amazing to harness community power like that to create positive change?

Posted in Kimkins], behavior change], community], internet phenomena]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[225]


Statement from Cyd Mizzel's father, February 4th, 2008

Cyd Mizzel's father has released a statement. She's still being held, and as far as I know, no one has claimed responsibility for her kidnapping.

Posted in Afghanistan], Cyd Mizell], the missing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[226]


Statement from Cyd Mizzel's father, February 4th, 2008

Cyd Mizzel's father has released a statement. She's still being held, and as far as I know, no one has claimed responsibility for her kidnapping.

Posted in Afghanistan], Cyd Mizell], the missing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[227]


Statement from Cyd Mizzel's father, February 4th, 2008

Cyd Mizzel's father has released a statement. She's still being held, and as far as I know, no one has claimed responsibility for her kidnapping.

Posted in Afghanistan], Cyd Mizell], the missing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[228]


If this is true, it's stunning, February 2nd, 2008

Accusations that the US embassy in Baghdad was built with slave labor. The State Department has had trouble with contractor management, we know that.

Another view of Iraq programs can be found here. I will not comment.

Posted in Iraq], Project HOPE], State Department], contracting]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[229]


If this is true, it's stunning, February 2nd, 2008

Accusations that the US embassy in Baghdad was built with slave labor. The State Department has had trouble with contractor management, we know that.

Another view of Iraq programs can be found here. I will not comment.

Posted in Iraq], Project HOPE], State Department], contracting]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[230]


If this is true, it's stunning, February 2nd, 2008

Accusations that the US embassy in Baghdad was built with slave labor. The State Department has had trouble with contractor management, we know that.

Another view of Iraq programs can be found here. I will not comment.

Posted in Iraq], Project HOPE], State Department], contracting]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[231]


Folic acid - not so great after all?, February 2nd, 2008

This is a great example of the kind of trade-offs you find in public health decision-making. Folic acid prevents birth defects, but it may be causing bowel cancer. In an ideal world, you use data to decide what to do - look at the frequency and severity of birth defects in a world with no folic acid fortification, and compare that to the extra cancers resulting from the fortification. The you choose the option that leads to less disease.

In the world we live, there probably isn't enough data to make an informed decision, and there will be political pressure involved in the decision as well.

Posted in decision-making], folic acid]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[232]


Ethnic Turkmen unrest in Iran and Iraq, February 1st, 2008

I thought I was on to something - You almost never hear about ethnic Turkmens anywhere, but we're heard about them twice in the last couple of weeks. First, Ethnic Turkmen Revolt in Baluchistan and Kurdistan in Iran. And now Iraqi Turkmens are asking for protection. I thought something was up.

However, my friend David Hunsicker, who knows everything there is to know about the Muslim world, tells me that Iranian Turkmens and Iraqi Turkmens are not actually the same ethnic group, and therefore the two news reports are most likely not related.

Posted in Iran], Iraq], Middle East], ethnic Turkmens]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[233]


Friday Fear - 1 February 2008, February 1st, 2008Friday Fear:

Friday fear is a new weekly feature which offers you a list of five or six things to be very, very, afraid of.

1. Internet outage in the Middle East Aside from losing access to your gmail, can you picture what would happen to the US economy if we lost internet access completely? Also – could terrorists do this on purpose?

2. Double dipping your chips really does spread bacteria. Perhaps someone at the party with you has XDR TB ? 3. You can't trust your doctor. Or the FDA. Or the coroner. 4. Bats and bees are dying. 

5. And, finally: Weaponizing the Climate.

Posted in Friday fear]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[234]


The Manley Report, February 1st, 2008

A report just came out on the Canadian commitment to Afghanistan. It's getting stomped on by the Canadian NGO community. I have not read it yet, but you can download it here. There's a commentary on it here: and here. There is also a Catholic News Service article.

Posted in Afghanistan]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[235]


Scientific Commons, February 1st, 2008

"ScientificCommons.org aims to provide the most comprehensive and freely available access to scientific knowledge on the internet. The major aim of the project is to develop the world?s largest communication medium for scientific knowledge products which is freely accessible to the public."

Lack of access to knowledge is a huge problem in the developing world. Projects like this can help to make a difference.

Posted in information resources]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[236]


Why NGOs need overhead, February 1st, 2008

http://www.charitygovernance.com/charity_governance/2008/01/an-alternative.html - This is a really nice explanation of why NGOs and charities need their overhead costs and why donors should donate to cover them.

Posted in charity], donations]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[237]


Behavior Change, February 1st, 2008

A neat little post on behavior change http://www.portigal.com/blog/this-is-what-happens-in-user-research/. It's my belief that almost all programs are behavior change programs, in the end.[http://www.portigal.com/blog/this-is-what-happens-in-user-research/

]

Posted in Steve Portigal], behavior change]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[238]


Cydney Mizell, January 31st, 2008

Wow. This is really amazing. I don't think I had ever heard of that before - an Afghan protest - a women's protest - in support of a kidnapped American. Cyd Mizell worked with the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, and she clearly meant an awful lot to the community she worked with.

The Asian Rural Life Development Foundation web page is here: http://www.arldf.net/index.html - and I really like the fact that they feature Mizell and her driver, Muhammad Hadi, with equal prominence on the front page. ARLDF is based in the Philippines, and it looks like their Afghan programs are pretty new. They do the kind of person-to-person community work that costs a fortune unless you have amazing volunteers, which they apparently do. Their work in agriculture seems very good. They are incorporated as a 501c3 through the National Heritage Foundation.*

It sounds like Cyd Mizell is a compassionate, idealistic woman with good common sense. She knew the risk she was taking in going to Afghanistan and she did it anyway. She will be in my thoughts. One person's personal account of Syd is here: http://globalpolitician.com/24050-afghanistan

  • National Heritage Foundation turns out to be a pretty interesting concept. Basically, they serve as an umbrella 501c3 to help small charities become tax-exempt. Their list of services is here:

http://www.charityadmininc.com/CAI_Info/List_of_Services.pdf. I can see how a small group would rather just pay a monthly fee for someone else to do their admin compliance and then get on with their good works.

Posted in Afghanistan], Cyd Mizell], the missing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[239]


Mideast fertility rates plunge, January 30th, 2008

EDITORIAL: Mideast fertility rates plunge - METimes.com

So, lower fertility rates in the Middle East are a good thing. I think. This is embarrassing for a public health person to admit, but I've never really understood optimal fertility rates. It seems very strange to me that human society is a giant pyramid scheme, dependent on constant expansion, but that's what most demographers seem to be implying when they talk about Russia or Japan. It seems to me that this Middle East decrease is a good thing, that it will help scarce resources go farther, but what do I know?

Posted in Japan], Middle East], Russia], fertility]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[240]


Taxis and word of mouth, January 29th, 2008

This article about using taxi drivers as brand ambassadors says nothing about taxi drivers disclosing that they are paid to talk about this website. I suspect this will end very badly. Ethical nuances tend to come on the heels of, not right along with, new business models, but in the case of word of mouth advertising, it's been pretty clearly established that you need to disclose you're being paid. This kind of thing is cutting edge only to people who haven't been paying attention.

Using cab drivers as information sources is old news. Every journalist in the world has used his airport cabbie as a source if he can't find another one, and the development world has been working with cab drivers to spread health information. There's a nice example from PSI here.

Posted in HIV], PSI], behavior change], marketing], taxis]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[241]


"They are kept by very poor people, and they don't want to stay poor", January 29th, 2008

I have thought for a long time that one major reason for globalization is that everyone in the world wants the same things. Most regional diversity results from scarcity, not preference. McDonalds, for example, takes over because fast, greasy food is what most people actually want. Seen that way, global homogenization is fulfillment, not loss. That doesn't keep it from being very depressing.

This New York Times article on African Akyole cattle does a really nice job of explaining the trade-offs of modernizing agriculture, and, in my opinion, the dangers of public-private partnerships. Excerpts (emphasis mine):

"For countries on the equator, I think in almost all cases the Holstein is very poorly suited — maybe the least-suited breed," says Dr. Les Hansen, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a leading expert in cattle genetics. Often farmers are making decisions that are informed not by science, he said, but by sales pitches devised by multinational breeding concerns. "As I travel the world," Hansen adds, "my biggest challenge is countering all of the misleading marketing propaganda."



and



Many tropical breeds may possess unique adaptive traits. The problem is, we don't know what is being lost. Earlier this year, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization released its first-ever global assessment of biodiversity in livestock. While data on many breeds are scant, the report found that over the last six years, an average of one breed a month has gone extinct. "The threat is imminent," says Danielle Nierenberg, senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental group. "Just getting milk and meat into people's mouths is not the answer.

Posted in agriculture], behavior change], globalization], marketing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[242]


"They are kept by very poor people, and they don't want to stay poor", January 29th, 2008

I have thought for a long time that one major reason for globalization is that everyone in the world wants the same things. Most regional diversity results from scarcity, not preference. McDonalds, for example, takes over because fast, greasy food is what most people actually want. Seen that way, global homogenization is fulfillment, not loss. That doesn't keep it from being very depressing.

This New York Times article on African Akyole cattle does a really nice job of explaining the trade-offs of modernizing agriculture, and, in my opinion, the dangers of public-private partnerships. Excerpts (emphasis mine):

"For countries on the equator, I think in almost all cases the Holstein is very poorly suited — maybe the least-suited breed," says Dr. Les Hansen, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a leading expert in cattle genetics. Often farmers are making decisions that are informed not by science, he said, but by sales pitches devised by multinational breeding concerns. "As I travel the world," Hansen adds, "my biggest challenge is countering all of the misleading marketing propaganda."



and



Many tropical breeds may possess unique adaptive traits. The problem is, we don't know what is being lost. Earlier this year, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization released its first-ever global assessment of biodiversity in livestock. While data on many breeds are scant, the report found that over the last six years, an average of one breed a month has gone extinct. "The threat is imminent," says Danielle Nierenberg, senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental group. "Just getting milk and meat into people's mouths is not the answer.

Posted in agriculture], behavior change], globalization], marketing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[243]


"They are kept by very poor people, and they don't want to stay poor", January 29th, 2008

I have thought for a long time that one major reason for globalization is that everyone in the world wants the same things. Most regional diversity results from scarcity, not preference. McDonalds, for example, takes over because fast, greasy food is what most people actually want. Seen that way, global homogenization is fulfillment, not loss. That doesn't keep it from being very depressing.

This New York Times article on African Akyole cattle does a really nice job of explaining the trade-offs of modernizing agriculture, and, in my opinion, the dangers of public-private partnerships. Excerpts (emphasis mine):

"For countries on the equator, I think in almost all cases the Holstein is very poorly suited — maybe the least-suited breed," says Dr. Les Hansen, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a leading expert in cattle genetics. Often farmers are making decisions that are informed not by science, he said, but by sales pitches devised by multinational breeding concerns. "As I travel the world," Hansen adds, "my biggest challenge is countering all of the misleading marketing propaganda."



and



Many tropical breeds may possess unique adaptive traits. The problem is, we don't know what is being lost. Earlier this year, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization released its first-ever global assessment of biodiversity in livestock. While data on many breeds are scant, the report found that over the last six years, an average of one breed a month has gone extinct. "The threat is imminent," says Danielle Nierenberg, senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental group. "Just getting milk and meat into people's mouths is not the answer.

Posted in agriculture], behavior change], globalization], marketing]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[244]


The Serena, January 27th, 2008

This is a firsthand account from someone at the Serena hotel during the bombing. Make sure to read the comments; there are interesting points in there. Let me say here and now though that the expats who implement international aid are fully aware of the ugly contradictions between our lives and the lives of the people we serve.

Posted in Serena Hotel], terrorism] January 26th, 2008

Good grief. Does no one understand the internet at all?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/15/us/15givewell.html

Posted in incompetence], marketing] January 26th, 2008

Good grief. Does no one understand the internet at all?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/15/us/15givewell.html

Posted in Givewell], incompetence], marketing] January 26th, 2008

Good grief. Does no one understand the internet at all?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/15/us/15givewell.html

Posted in Givewell], incompetence], marketing] January 25th, 2008

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article3356190.ece - I was afraid this article would take the mocking approach that ruined so much reporting on Turkmenistan in the days of Turkmenbashi - the wackiness overshadowing serious human rights issues. Instead, the article takes a nice, reasoned approach to Tajikistan's new laws.

Posted in Turkmenistan] January 25th, 2008

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article3356190.ece - I was afraid this article would take the mocking approach that ruined so much reporting on Turkmenistan in the days of Turkmenbashi - the wackiness overshadowing serious human rights issues. Instead, the article takes a nice, reasoned approach to Tajikistan's new laws.

Posted in Turkmenistan] January 25th, 2008

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article3356190.ece - I was afraid this article would take the mocking approach that ruined so much reporting on Turkmenistan in the days of Turkmenbashi - the wackiness overshadowing serious human rights issues. Instead, the article takes a nice, reasoned approach to Tajikistan's new laws.

Posted in Turkmenistan] January 25th, 2008

I really can't tie this to international development (anyone want to try in the comments?) but I thought these words should be shared:

I‘ve been listening to Martin Luther King's speeches today, and lamenting that the times of great oration have passed for our country. Words are cheaper now, as are most of the men who utter them. Ideas have been displaced by soundbytes. It's safer to speak that way, I suppose, and the overriding goal of the politician is to win, not to lead. I think people hated King because he spoke unsafely. He illuminated what Solzhenitsyn called the line dividing good and evil, the line that runs through every human heart. That is surely dangerous business.

I wonder where the prophets of this generation are. Where are the ones who will illuminate that line in every heart? It is so much easier to draw lines between people, between a virtuous Us and a nefarious Them, than to say: This is the evil we do, the evil I do. I wonder if no modern-day Martin Luther Kings rise up because our civilization is no longer capable of producing them, or because we no longer deserve them. Or perhaps they are there, crying out in the wilderness, and we all of us — myself included — have our televisions and ipods and internal self-focused monologues turned up too loudly to hear them.

http://www.tonywoodlief.com/archives/001315.html#001315

January 25th, 2008

I really can't tie this to international development (anyone want to try in the comments?) but I thought these words should be shared:

I‘ve been listening to Martin Luther King's speeches today, and lamenting that the times of great oration have passed for our country. Words are cheaper now, as are most of the men who utter them. Ideas have been displaced by soundbytes. It's safer to speak that way, I suppose, and the overriding goal of the politician is to win, not to lead. I think people hated King because he spoke unsafely. He illuminated what Solzhenitsyn called the line dividing good and evil, the line that runs through every human heart. That is surely dangerous business.

I wonder where the prophets of this generation are. Where are the ones who will illuminate that line in every heart? It is so much easier to draw lines between people, between a virtuous Us and a nefarious Them, than to say: This is the evil we do, the evil I do. I wonder if no modern-day Martin Luther Kings rise up because our civilization is no longer capable of producing them, or because we no longer deserve them. Or perhaps they are there, crying out in the wilderness, and we all of us — myself included — have our televisions and ipods and internal self-focused monologues turned up too loudly to hear them.

http://www.tonywoodlief.com/archives/001315.html#001315




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[245]


Ten ways to make development work better, June 11th, 2009 after updating from site, --> making development work better

skeleton

This is the heart of whatever it is I am writing - my ten core principles for improving the provision of international aid and the implmnetation of development projects. I have decided to just keep writing while I figure out what form this document takes - white paper, article, book. For now, I offer you the skeleton. I'll expand on each of these ten in future posts.

I realize there isn't a whole lot to comment on, or for that matter, read, here, but I'd love any comments you have on my basics here.

1. Evidence-based development 2. Fund people, not concepts 3. More, smaller programs, more flexibility to change. 4. Longer funding cycles. 5. Focus on self-interest in international development. 6. Get real about donor coordination; it occurs primarily through individual relationships. 7. Recognize not all governments have the best interests of their populations at heart. You can't have general policies for host country collaboration. 8. Tags, not categories. 9. Forget the private sector; learn from missionaries. Cultivate regional and technical expertise. 10. Kill off the development studies programs.

photo credit: perpetualplum Chosen because it was going to have to be either a skeleton or a big 10.

Technorati Profile



January 25th, 2008

I really can't tie this to international development (anyone want to try in the comments?) but I thought these words should be shared:

I‘ve been listening to Martin Luther King's speeches today, and lamenting that the times of great oration have passed for our country. Words are cheaper now, as are most of the men who utter them. Ideas have been displaced by soundbytes. It's safer to speak that way, I suppose, and the overriding goal of the politician is to win, not to lead. I think people hated King because he spoke unsafely. He illuminated what Solzhenitsyn called the line dividing good and evil, the line that runs through every human heart. That is surely dangerous business.

I wonder where the prophets of this generation are. Where are the ones who will illuminate that line in every heart? It is so much easier to draw lines between people, between a virtuous Us and a nefarious Them, than to say: This is the evil we do, the evil I do. I wonder if no modern-day Martin Luther Kings rise up because our civilization is no longer capable of producing them, or because we no longer deserve them. Or perhaps they are there, crying out in the wilderness, and we all of us — myself included — have our televisions and ipods and internal self-focused monologues turned up too loudly to hear them.

http://www.tonywoodlief.com/archives/001315.html#001315

January 23rd, 2008

‘Exclusive breast-feeding will reduce infant mortality' - Newindpress.com This really should not be news. Everyone in the entire world should know it by now. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to die. In its own way, though, it is good news that the media is willing to keep on writing the same story.

Posted in breastfeeding], health] January 23rd, 2008

‘Exclusive breast-feeding will reduce infant mortality' - Newindpress.com This really should not be news. Everyone in the entire world should know it by now. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to die. In its own way, though, it is good news that the media is willing to keep on writing the same story.

Posted in breastfeeding], health] January 23rd, 2008

‘Exclusive breast-feeding will reduce infant mortality' - Newindpress.com This really should not be news. Everyone in the entire world should know it by now. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to die. In its own way, though, it is good news that the media is willing to keep on writing the same story.

Posted in breastfeeding] January 20th, 2008

According to its "About" page, "AiDA is the largest online directory of official development aid activities. It offers a quick overview of who is doing what in international development, where they are doing it, and with what funds." In a sad, sad commentary on the tremendous difficulty of donor cooperation, it's already out of date.

January 20th, 2008

According to its "About" page, "AiDA is the largest online directory of official development aid activities. It offers a quick overview of who is doing what in international development, where they are doing it, and with what funds." In a sad, sad commentary on the tremendous difficulty of donor cooperation, it's already out of date.

January 20th, 2008

According to its "About" page, "AiDA is the largest online directory of official development aid activities. It offers a quick overview of who is doing what in international development, where they are doing it, and with what funds." In a sad, sad commentary on the tremendous difficulty of donor cooperation, it's already out of date.

January 18th, 2008

A love letter to my last job[edit]

(you don't have to be crazy to work there but it helps)

I love that we are first in and last out, that we're boots on the ground when the bullets are still in the air and we stay until we're genuinely no longer needed. I love our unruly and brilliant country directors. I love that this is the smartest group of people with whom I have ever had the pleasure of working. I love always having someone to talk to on skype. I love that everyone here has field experience and is mysteriously lacking in any sense of self-preservation.

I love being part of a team, a team that does something that matters and does it well. I love the way this job combines competition and idealism, that we set out to help people and we set out to win. I love winning. I love that my job is difficult but I can do it anyway. I love that most of us would be completely helpless when trying to do our work if it wasn't for all the other people who fill in the gaps. I love the way everyone here has a useful background, be it child survival, sociology, engineering, or the marine corps. I love working in an office that is highly tolerant of eccentricity. I love being judged on results and not how well I know my place in the hierarchy. I love having keys to the office.

I love the way people's eyes light up when I tell them what I do for a living, once they finally understand. I love that the list of the places we work sounds like a travel guide from hell. I love hearing the taser crackle in the middle of slow afternoons, and that one day we had to send Amy up to the roof because of the tear gas. I love watching Al-Jazeera (and occasionally the world cup) scroll across the TV, and the PR guy sprint down the hall for some urgent media reason.

I love that even though we need the money to do what we do, it's not actually about the money. I love having MSF hand over their hospitals to us because they leave at arbitrary points and we struggle and suffer and scream to stay, as long as there is need. I love that everyone I've met is still an idealist at heart. I love the thousand layers of bitter cynicism that covers the idealism. I love watching the news and knowing that I can do something about it, even if it is only a tiny bit.

I love sitting at my desk at seven pm and knowing I am not the only one there. I love writing a good proposal. I love seeing our logo on the news. I love how completely surreal our field problems tend to be, I love that we put our field programs first, and I love that our field programs are good.

Posted in about Alanna], careers] January 18th, 2008

A love letter to my last job[edit]

(you don't have to be crazy to work there but it helps)

I love that we are first in and last out, that we're boots on the ground when the bullets are still in the air and we stay until we're genuinely no longer needed. I love our unruly and brilliant country directors. I love that this is the smartest group of people with whom I have ever had the pleasure of working. I love always having someone to talk to on skype. I love that everyone here has field experience and is mysteriously lacking in any sense of self-preservation.

I love being part of a team, a team that does something that matters and does it well. I love the way this job combines competition and idealism, that we set out to help people and we set out to win. I love winning. I love that my job is difficult but I can do it anyway. I love that most of us would be completely helpless when trying to do our work if it wasn't for all the other people who fill in the gaps. I love the way everyone here has a useful background, be it child survival, sociology, engineering, or the marine corps. I love working in an office that is highly tolerant of eccentricity. I love being judged on results and not how well I know my place in the hierarchy. I love having keys to the office.

I love the way people's eyes light up when I tell them what I do for a living, once they finally understand. I love that the list of the places we work sounds like a travel guide from hell. I love hearing the taser crackle in the middle of slow afternoons, and that one day we had to send Amy up to the roof because of the tear gas. I love watching Al-Jazeera (and occasionally the world cup) scroll across the TV, and the PR guy sprint down the hall for some urgent media reason.

I love that even though we need the money to do what we do, it's not actually about the money. I love having MSF hand over their hospitals to us because they leave at arbitrary points and we struggle and suffer and scream to stay, as long as there is need. I love that everyone I've met is still an idealist at heart. I love the thousand layers of bitter cynicism that covers the idealism. I love watching the news and knowing that I can do something about it, even if it is only a tiny bit.

I love sitting at my desk at seven pm and knowing I am not the only one there. I love writing a good proposal. I love seeing our logo on the news. I love how completely surreal our field problems tend to be, I love that we put our field programs first, and I love that our field programs are good.

Posted in about Alanna], careers] January 18th, 2008

A love letter to my last job[edit]

(you don't have to be crazy to work there but it helps)

I love that we are first in and last out, that we're boots on the ground when the bullets are still in the air and we stay until we're genuinely no longer needed. I love our unruly and brilliant country directors. I love that this is the smartest group of people with whom I have ever had the pleasure of working. I love always having someone to talk to on skype. I love that everyone here has field experience and is mysteriously lacking in any sense of self-preservation.

I love being part of a team, a team that does something that matters and does it well. I love the way this job combines competition and idealism, that we set out to help people and we set out to win. I love winning. I love that my job is difficult but I can do it anyway. I love that most of us would be completely helpless when trying to do our work if it wasn't for all the other people who fill in the gaps. I love the way everyone here has a useful background, be it child survival, sociology, engineering, or the marine corps. I love working in an office that is highly tolerant of eccentricity. I love being judged on results and not how well I know my place in the hierarchy. I love having keys to the office.

I love the way people's eyes light up when I tell them what I do for a living, once they finally understand. I love that the list of the places we work sounds like a travel guide from hell. I love hearing the taser crackle in the middle of slow afternoons, and that one day we had to send Amy up to the roof because of the tear gas. I love watching Al-Jazeera (and occasionally the world cup) scroll across the TV, and the PR guy sprint down the hall for some urgent media reason.

I love that even though we need the money to do what we do, it's not actually about the money. I love having MSF hand over their hospitals to us because they leave at arbitrary points and we struggle and suffer and scream to stay, as long as there is need. I love that everyone I've met is still an idealist at heart. I love the thousand layers of bitter cynicism that covers the idealism. I love watching the news and knowing that I can do something about it, even if it is only a tiny bit.

I love sitting at my desk at seven pm and knowing I am not the only one there. I love writing a good proposal. I love seeing our logo on the news. I love how completely surreal our field problems tend to be, I love that we put our field programs first, and I love that our field programs are good.

Posted in IMC], about Alanna]

January 16th, 2008Just to help this blog earn the title of eclectic, an incredibly depressing story about polar bears in zoos.

[246]

Aside from being really depressing, I think this article points to a larger issue of the way that the emotional impact of a compelling narrative can overwhelm good programming. For example, in Community Therapeutic Feeding Programs - they found that inpatient care will inevitably draw resources away from more effective outpatient care, because malnourished children are so compelling that human beings will always commit their energy to the child in front of them.  

That's as it should be. None of us wants to be someone who could ignore a starving child (or starving polar bear cub). But we also need to go beyond gut instinct if we want to get the best result for our efforts.

Posted in blogs], nutrition], polar bears] January 16th, 2008Just to help this blog earn the title of eclectic, an incredibly depressing story about polar bears in zoos.

[247]

Aside from being really depressing, I think this article points to a larger issue of the way that the emotional impact of a compelling narrative can overwhelm good programming. For example, in Community Therapeutic Feeding Programs - they found that inpatient care will inevitably draw resources away from more effective outpatient care, because malnourished children are so compelling that human beings will always commit their energy to the child in front of them.  

That's as it should be. None of us wants to be someone who could ignore a starving child (or starving polar bear cub). But we also need to go beyond gut instinct if we want to get the best result for our efforts.

Posted in blogs], nutrition], polar bears] January 16th, 2008Just to help this blog earn the title of eclectic, an incredibly depressing story about polar bears in zoos.

[248]

Aside from being really depressing, I think this article points to a larger issue of the way that the emotional impact of a compelling narrative can overwhelm good programming. For example, in Community Therapeutic Feeding Programs - they found that inpatient care will inevitably draw resources away from more effective outpatient care, because malnourished children are so compelling that human beings will always commit their energy to the child in front of them.  

That's as it should be. None of us wants to be someone who could ignore a starving child (or starving polar bear cub). But we also need to go beyond gut instinct if we want to get the best result for our efforts.

Posted in CTC], feeding], plumpy'nut], polar bears] January 15th, 2008

The LA Times is on a roll lately with the excellent global health reporting. This piece is about dengue fever. It posits, and I agree, that we're going to see more and more "foreign" diseases on American soil. This is a result of climate change, and of increased international travel. We are also, of course, woefully unprepared to cope with the impact of these illnesses. Plenty of knowledgeable people agree.

The influenza blogs make it very, very clear that bird flu is on the rise and getting very little media attention. I make a point of staying on top of global health news and I had no idea we'd seen so many cases of avian influenza in Asia.

Posted in Dengue], LA Times] January 15th, 2008

The LA Times is on a roll lately with the excellent global health reporting. This piece is about dengue fever. It posits, and I agree, that we're going to see more and more "foreign" diseases on American soil. This is a result of climate change, and of increased international travel. We are also, of course, woefully unprepared to cope with the impact of these illnesses. Plenty of knowledgeable people agree.

The influenza blogs make it very, very clear that bird flu is on the rise and getting very little media attention. I make a point of staying on top of global health news and I had no idea we'd seen so many cases of avian influenza in Asia.

Posted in Dengue], LA Times] January 15th, 2008

The LA Times is on a roll lately with the excellent global health reporting. This piece is about dengue fever. It posits, and I agree, that we're going to see more and more "foreign" diseases on American soil. This is a result of climate change, and of increased international travel. We are also, of course, woefully unprepared to cope with the impact of these illnesses. Plenty of knowledgeable people agree.

The influenza blogs make it very, very clear that bird flu is on the rise and getting very little media attention. I make a point of staying on top of global health news and I had no idea we'd seen so many cases of avian influenza in Asia.

Posted in Dengue], LA Times] January 13th, 2008

Another depressing but accurate report on US health care: http://www.healthbeatblog.org/2008/01/the-newest-last.html.

Posted in US] January 13th, 2008

Another depressing but accurate report on US health care: http://www.healthbeatblog.org/2008/01/the-newest-last.html.

Posted in US] January 13th, 2008

Another depressing but accurate report on US health care: http://www.healthbeatblog.org/2008/01/the-newest-last.html.

Posted in US]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[249]


Link I like, January 13th, 2008

A truly amazing blog on global health: http://blogs.cgdev.org/globalhealth. It's a group blog, with many contributors, and they are able to really get into the details on global health topics without being so obscure that only a health professional can understand. I learn something every time I read. At present they've got a nice post leading on using checklists to improve the quality of health care.

Posted in CGD], fangirl]

January 10th, 2008

A nice analysis of the recent CIGNA liver transplant case: http://www.healthbeatblog.org/2008/01/bad-cases-make.html.

January 10th, 2008

A nice analysis of the recent CIGNA liver transplant case: http://www.healthbeatblog.org/2008/01/bad-cases-make.html.

January 10th, 2008

A nice analysis of the recent CIGNA liver transplant case: http://www.healthbeatblog.org/2008/01/bad-cases-make.html.

January 10th, 2008

I love this idea about mission statements.

January 10th, 2008

I love this idea about mission statements.

January 10th, 2008

I love this idea about mission statements.

January 10th, 2008

Social Objects - a nice introduction. Basically, a social object is the thing that brings people together to socialize - whatever it is you talk about with your friends and acquaintances when you talk. Most social networks form around a social object. I am trying to figure out how to link this idea to counterpublics. Do counterpublics also form around a social object?

January 10th, 2008

Social Objects - a nice introduction. Basically, a social object is the thing that brings people together to socialize - whatever it is you talk about with your friends and acquaintances when you talk. Most social networks form around a social object. I am trying to figure out how to link this idea to counterpublics. Do counterpublics also form around a social object?

January 10th, 2008

Social Objects - a nice introduction. Basically, a social object is the thing that brings people together to socialize - whatever it is you talk about with your friends and acquaintances when you talk. Most social networks form around a social object. I am trying to figure out how to link this idea to counterpublics. Do counterpublics also form around a social object?[250]

January 10th, 2008

A former country director trashes the Peace Corps in the NYT.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[251]


Making sense of suffering, January 8th, 2008

Suffering people want narratives that make sense of their suffering as much as they want "solutions." - This is said here in the context of politics but I think it is also extremely true in the developing world. If you want to create and support positive change, you need to change the narratives people believe in.

Posted in finding narrative] January 8th, 2008

Givewell was an organization which attempted to promote transparency in charity and giving, started by two college kids with a hedge fund background. Like Charity Navigator, but different. Somehow using business practices to evaluate NGOs. I didn't really try to research all the details, but it sounds like more of the same to me.

The interesting part is, the organization's founder, Holden Karnofsky, just ran into trouble for praising Givewell all over the internet without stating that he was the founder.

So much of what I write here is P2V (person-to-void), I can understand the temptation to fake up some discussion about a venture that seems important. However, I have never faked comments because that would be unspeakably lame. From an organization that supports transparency, it's just ludicrous.

The one thing I have to say is this: if they were applying business knowledge to the nonprofit world, why had Holden never heard of John Mackey?

The internet makes some people stupid.

January 8th, 2008

Givewell was an organization which attempted to promote transparency in charity and giving, started by two college kids with a hedge fund background. Like Charity Navigator, but different. Somehow using business practices to evaluate NGOs. I didn't really try to research all the details, but it sounds like more of the same to me.

The interesting part is, the organization's founder, Holden Karnofsky, just ran into trouble for praising Givewell all over the internet without stating that he was the founder.

So much of what I write here is P2V (person-to-void), I can understand the temptation to fake up some discussion about a venture that seems important. However, I have never faked comments because that would be unspeakably lame. From an organization that supports transparency, it's just ludicrous.

The one thing I have to say is this: if they were applying business knowledge to the nonprofit world, why had Holden never heard of John Mackey?

The internet makes some people stupid.

January 8th, 2008

Givewell was an organization which attempted to promote transparency in charity and giving, started by two college kids with a hedge fund background. Like Charity Navigator, but different. Somehow using business practices to evaluate NGOs. I didn't really try to research all the details, but it sounds like more of the same to me.

The interesting part is, the organization's founder, Holden Karnofsky, just ran into trouble for praising Givewell all over the internet without stating that he was the founder.

So much of what I write here is P2V (person-to-void), I can understand the temptation to fake up some discussion about a venture that seems important. However, I have never faked comments because that would be unspeakably lame. From an organization that supports transparency, it's just ludicrous.

The one thing I have to say is this: if they were applying business knowledge to the nonprofit world, why had Holden never heard of John Mackey?

The internet makes some people stupid.

January 5th, 2008

Score one for IMCI! BU study touts home treatment for pneumonia.

January 5th, 2008

Score one for IMCI! BU study touts home treatment for pneumonia.

January 5th, 2008

Score one for IMCI! BU study touts home treatment for pneumonia.

January 5th, 2008

This just makes me tired in so any ways. I am not a big Daniel Pipes fan. The whole thing about names with the letters H-S-N is, well, lame. An attempt to make a little bit of knowledge seem like more. On the other hand, he is right that many Muslims would consider Obama an apostate.


January 3rd, 2008

Xigi.net I don't really understand what this is, but I suspect it'll be important. I always think it's a bad sign, though, when a site has to tell you how to pronounce its name.

January 3rd, 2008

I never realized that Kazakhs suffered too during the Soviet collectivization famines.

A few more links: [http://www.cyberussr.com/rus/ye-dzh7d.html

Dzhambul's ode to People's Commissar Yezhov, Dec 1937] The Harvest of Sorrow A brief history of Kazakhstan


December 20th, 2007

Best-Kept Secret For HIV-Free Africa Well, a reduction of pediatric AIDS, anyway.


December 20th, 2007

Unintended victims of the Gates Foundation. A truly stunning article from the LA Times on the Gates Foundation and negative consequences of its vertical approaches. People have been worried about this with Gates pretty much since its inception. It is a shame to see the fears coming true.


My life as a lap dancer Craig Murray's girlfriend has a play now. My husband met Craig Murray in Tashkent, and was in the audience for the speech on human rights which was the beginning of the end of his diplomatic career. He was part of the group that went drinking with Amb Murray afterward in honor of his birthday. (what a birthday, right?) I think Craig Murray is brave, and I think he's kind of nuts, and I think that having a national foreign policy in support of human rights is better than going vigilante. And I think his girlfriend is pretty impressive.

December 15th, 2007

News of the Tajik efforts to combat quack medical practitioners keeps popping up on news of the weird type sites. It's unfortunate that the word "witchcraft" has come into the discussion - this seems like a reasonable attempt to stop rural people from being ripped off by unscrupulous snake oil salesmen.


December 15th, 2007

The UAE is helping out some lost and scammed Kyrgyz pilgrims.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[252]


N.J. Quakers help save lives a world away | Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/08/2007, December 13th, 2007

Something like a credo N.J. Quakers help save lives a world away I am a firm believer in one thing: if you find a problem you can solve by throwing money at it, throw as much money as humanly possible.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[253]


A Journey Through The World of Pandemic Influenza, December 13th, 2007

A Journey Through The World of Pandemic Influenza I haven't had the chance to explore this yet, but it looks like a pleasing dense and informative blog on pandemic flu.

It's a beautiful example of the original content blog, which is different from this blog, where I just send you off to other places.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[254]


Reality Check, December 6th, 2007

Reality Check The newsletter of the Reality of Aid project. The whole website looks like a valuable information source.

December 5th, 2007

A very gloomy article considering the evidence that global aids infections have now peaked. This piece, on the other hand, is legitimately gloomy.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[255]


Newropeans Magazine - The Unenviable Paradoxes of Iraq!, December 4th, 2007

Newropeans Magazine - The Unenviable Paradoxes of Iraq! I used to work with Agron Ferati, who is extraordinarily brilliant. He's recently begun doing more press, in a risky and desperate attempt to get more aid into Iraq. I thought his use of the term "humanitarian surge" was an evocative and pithy description of what we'll need to do there. Agron is also from Kosovo, so he knows his way around sectarian violence.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[256]


Let CeaseFire fight — chicagotribune.com, December 4th, 2007

Let CeaseFire fight The argument made here, that the valuable Ceasefire program was not sustainable because it received only government funding, speaks to a larger issue - what is the responsibility of the government in our society, and what is the responsibility of charities? It's something I think about often in the context of civil society development abroad.

I read an interesting article five years ago about the 1995 Chicago heatwave deaths as the result of a government which did not believe it was responsible for the lives of its frailest citizens, but I can't seem to google it up.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[257]


News | Africa - Reuters.com, December 4th, 2007

News | Africa - Reuters.com How very very Bridget Jones.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[258]


Abu Aardvark: Heydemann: Upgrading Arab Authoritarianism, November 29th, 2007

Abu Aardvark: Heydemann: Upgrading Arab Authoritarianism Regimes learn from one another, often through explicit sharing of experiences. I would also argue that regimes learn from the US. They use our words and our domestic policy as models for their own, and for rhetorical cover.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[259]


Next Stop: Turkmenistan, November 28th, 2007

Next Stop: Turkmenistan Turkmenistan being mentioned as an investment option (admittedly a high-risk option) for the average investor. Turkmenbashi's death is opening a lot of doors.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[260]


The Monkey Cage, November 27th, 2007

The Monkey Cage Looks like fun - a whole miscellany of entries and links on various political topics.

November 23rd, 2007

It's possible that my stint at IMC has turned me into a relief worker and not just a development beaucrat. I don't have to pay attention to the war zones for work any more, but I find I do anyway. This guy seems to have been in every conflict zone worth mentioning, and he somehow remains simultaneously genuinely concerned and flippant. I am addicted to the archives already.

November 23rd, 2007

It's possible that my stint at IMC has turned me into a relief worker and not just a development beaucrat. I don't have to pay attention to the war zones for work any more, but I find I do anyway. This guy seems to have been in every conflict zone worth mentioning, and he somehow remains simultaneously genuinely concerned and flippant. I am addicted to the archives already.

November 23rd, 2007

It's possible that my stint at IMC has turned me into a relief worker and not just a development beaucrat. I don't have to pay attention to the war zones for work any more, but I find I do anyway. This guy seems to have been in every conflict zone worth mentioning, and he somehow remains simultaneously genuinely concerned and flippant. I am addicted to the archives already.


[261]


November 23rd, 2007 

http://web.archive.org/web/20060808222704/bostonreview.net/ndf.html

Go read this entire set of pieces on better data use in anti-poverty work. It's one of those wonderful resources you could only find on the web. An initial article, the responses, and the author's reply. It's also full of useful thinking on how we choose what interventions to fund.

November 23rd, 2007

http://web.archive.org/web/20060808222704/bostonreview.net/ndf.html

Go read this entire set of pieces on better data use in anti-poverty work. It's one of those wonderful resources you could only find on the web. An initial article, the responses, and the author's reply. It's also full of useful thinking on how we choose what interventions to fund.

November 23rd, 2007

http://web.archive.org/web/20060808222704/bostonreview.net/ndf.html

Go read this entire set of pieces on better data use in anti-poverty work. It's one of those wonderful resources you could only find on the web. An initial article, the responses, and the author's reply. It's also full of useful thinking on how we choose what interventions to fund.

November 23rd, 2007

Ideas I am grateful for: 1. Positive Deviance 2. CQI 3. Integrated Management of Childhood Illness 4. Immunization 5. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

People I am grateful for: 1. Mohammed Younus 2. Norman Borlaug 3. Madres of the Plaza de Mayo 4. Henry Dunant 5. Mary Anderson

November 23rd, 2007

Ideas I am grateful for: 1. Positive Deviance 2. CQI 3. Integrated Management of Childhood Illness 4. Immunization 5. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

People I am grateful for: 1. Mohammed Younus 2. Norman Borlaug 3. Madres of the Plaza de Mayo 4. Henry Dunant 5. Mary Anderson

November 23rd, 2007

Ideas I am grateful for: 1. Positive Deviance 2. CQI 3. Integrated Management of Childhood Illness 4. Immunization 5. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

People I am grateful for: 1. Mohammed Younus 2. Norman Borlaug 3. Madres of the Plaza de Mayo 4. Henry Dunant 5. Mary Anderson




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[262]


Central Asia Counterterrorism Project - Publications, November 21st, 2007

Central Asia Counterterrorism Project - Publications I haven't had the chance to look at this yet. It seems very focused on Kyrgyzstan.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[263]


vintage_ads: MORE!, November 19th, 2007

vintage_ads: MORE! A ad from 1933 suggesting that women douche with Lysol, and the explanation that unpacks its meaning.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[264]


Sex- and age-based differences in the delivery and outcomes of critical care — Fowler et al., 10.1503/cmaj.071112 — Canadian Medical Association Journal, November 18th, 2007

Found via Salon.com's Broadsheet blog = Sex- and age-based differences in the delivery and outcomes of critical care an extremely discouraging study on gender disparity in medical care.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[265]


Islamic Group Quietly Builds Support in Kyrgyzstan, November 18th, 2007

Islamic Group Quietly Builds Support in Kyrgyzstan "The police wouldn't let the tightrope perform do their act, and made us cook the pilaf at home and bring it to the square." I really miss living in Central Asia sometimes.


[266]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[267]


My State Failure Blog: Terrorism hits Baghlan: Update IV., November 10th, 2007

My State Failure Blog: Terrorism hits Baghlan: Update IV. This blog looks potentially interesting, but I haven't had time yet to really look through it.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[268]


The History and Science of the Code and Learning to Read and Comprehend it., November 7th, 2007

The History and Science of the Code and Learning to Read and Comprehend it. Despite the freaky name, this is a fascinating site on language processing and learning to read.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[269]


Justin Hudnall: Giver's Greed: Charity's Worst Enemy - Living Now on The Huffington Post, November 3rd, 2007

Justin Hudnall: Giver's Greed: Charity's Worst Enemy A nice article on why people do their charitable giving so badly. I think it connects directly to monkeysphere[270]ideas.

Posted in charity], marketing], social networking]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[271]


Justin Hudnall: Giver's Greed: Charity's Worst Enemy - Living Now on The Huffington Post, November 3rd, 2007

Justin Hudnall: Giver's Greed: Charity's Worst Enemy A nice article on why people do their charitable giving so badly. I think it connects directly to monkeysphere[272]ideas.

Posted in charity], marketing], social networking]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[273]


Justin Hudnall: Giver's Greed: Charity's Worst Enemy - Living Now on The Huffington Post, November 3rd, 2007

Justin Hudnall: Giver's Greed: Charity's Worst Enemy A nice article on why people do their charitable giving so badly. I think it connects directly to monkeysphere[274]ideas.

Posted in charity], marketing], social networking]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[275]


In China, Brain Surgery Is Pushed on the Mentally Ill - WSJ.com, November 3rd, 2007

In China, Brain Surgery Is Pushed on the Mentally Ill Wow. This is…unspeakable.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[276]


Feel-good diplomacy — baltimoresun.com, October 31st, 2007

Feel-good diplomacy This article is interesting for two reasons. First, the premise "officials in the Pentagon have come to believe that humanitarian aid might be more effective at deterring radical extremism than the threat of arms." Secondly, it totally trashes the USS Comfort Hospital ship's efforts to provide medical.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[277]


A Single Person Brought AIDS to America | Wired Science from Wired.com, October 31st, 2007

A Single Person Brought AIDS to America Huh. Wow. Doesn't this seem like it ought to be larger news that a blog post?




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[278]


A Single Person Brought AIDS to America | Wired Science from Wired.com, October 31st, 2007

A Single Person Brought AIDS to America Huh. Wow. Doesn't this seem like it ought to be larger news that a blog post?




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[279]


The Oil and the Glory by Steve LeVine - ABOUT THE BOOK: About The Oil and the Glory, October 24th, 2007

The Oil and the Glory by Steve LeVine This is a genuinely fascinating blog.


[280]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[281]


Critics blast ‘namby-pamby' obesity ads - CNN.com, October 24th, 2007

Critics blast ‘namby-pamby' obesity ads Apparently this blog has a theme, and that theme is "Threat messages don't work!" Maybe I should change the name. Anyway, here's a bunch of people who know nothing about behavior change complaining about ads that are probably pretty good. Modeling positive behavior generally works better than a fear message. Of course, I bet none of the ads are focused group tested so we have no way to really know.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[282]


Critics blast ‘namby-pamby' obesity ads - CNN.com, October 24th, 2007

Critics blast ‘namby-pamby' obesity ads Apparently this blog has a theme, and that theme is "Threat messages don't work!" Maybe I should change the name. Anyway, here's a bunch of people who know nothing about behavior change complaining about ads that are probably pretty good. Modeling positive behavior generally works better than a fear message. Of course, I bet none of the ads are focused group tested so we have no way to really know.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[283]


Critics blast ‘namby-pamby' obesity ads - CNN.com, October 24th, 2007

Critics blast ‘namby-pamby' obesity ads Apparently this blog has a theme, and that theme is "Threat messages don't work!" Maybe I should change the name. Anyway, here's a bunch of people who know nothing about behavior change complaining about ads that are probably pretty good. Modeling positive behavior generally works better than a fear message. Of course, I bet none of the ads are focused group tested so we have no way to really know.

October 23rd, 2007

Food For Thought I really thought Plumpy'nut was developed by Nutriset. I've had meetings with Nutriset about it. For the record, I've tried Plumpy'nut, and it's really quite tasty.

October 23rd, 2007

Food For Thought I really thought Plumpy'nut was developed by Nutriset. I've had meetings with Nutriset about it. For the record, I've tried Plumpy'nut, and it's really quite tasty.

October 23rd, 2007

Food For Thought I really thought Plumpy'nut was developed by Nutriset. I've had meetings with Nutriset about it. For the record, I've tried Plumpy'nut, and it's really quite tasty.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[284]


Malaria vaccine shows promise - Los Angeles Times, October 22nd, 2007

Malaria vaccine shows promise - Los Angeles Times This will be great news if it works out.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[285]


Shirky: A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy, October 21st, 2007

Shirky: A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[286]


U.S. officials court president of Turkmenistan - International Herald Tribune, October 2nd, 2007

U.S. officials court president of Turkmenistan - International Herald Tribune




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[287]


NY rejects federal funding for abstinence-only sex education — Newsday.com, September 22nd, 2007

NY rejects federal funding for abstinence-only sex education


September 20th, 2007

Reuters AlertNet - VIEWPOINT: Tackling mental health problems in a crisis Nice to see the importance of mental health getting the attention it deserves. IMC was a player in developing these guidelines.

September 20th, 2007

Reuters AlertNet - VIEWPOINT: Tackling mental health problems in a crisis Nice to see the importance of mental health getting the attention it deserves. IMC was a player in developing these guidelines.

September 20th, 2007

Reuters AlertNet - VIEWPOINT: Tackling mental health problems in a crisis Nice to see the importance of mental health getting the attention it deserves. IMC was a player in developing these guidelines.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[288]


A Soviet Poster A Day, September 19th, 2007

A Soviet Poster A Day I love this site.

September 19th, 2007

Map of Values A very interesting way of quantifying cultural values

September 19th, 2007

Map of Values A very interesting way of quantifying cultural values

September 19th, 2007

Map of Values A very interesting way of quantifying cultural values

September 18th, 2007

allAfrica.com: Angola: Creation of Mutual Help Group for HIV Positive Defended Sometimes you read a news article and wonder what the story behind it is that you are missing.

September 18th, 2007

allAfrica.com: Angola: Creation of Mutual Help Group for HIV Positive Defended Sometimes you read a news article and wonder what the story behind it is that you are missing.

September 18th, 2007

allAfrica.com: Angola: Creation of Mutual Help Group for HIV Positive Defended Sometimes you read a news article and wonder what the story behind it is that you are missing.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[289]


‘Pink' products make her see red - - Topix, September 14th, 2007

‘Pink' products make her see red I found myself agreeing with the author as I read this, and I was genuinely shocked by the negative comments she got.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[290]


‘Pink' products make her see red - - Topix, September 14th, 2007

‘Pink' products make her see red I found myself agreeing with the author as I read this, and I was genuinely shocked by the negative comments she got.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[291]


‘Pink' products make her see red - - Topix, September 14th, 2007

‘Pink' products make her see red I found myself agreeing with the author as I read this, and I was genuinely shocked by the negative comments she got.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[292]


Adrants » Montana Meth Campaign Instills Anger, Despair, Retribution, September 13th, 2007

Adrants » Montana Meth Campaign Instills Anger, Despair, Retribution And Adrants agrees with me.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[293]


Arizona Meth Project, September 13th, 2007

Arizona Meth Project I still don't think we have much evidence that fear campaigns work.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[294]


Open Source Solutions Home Page, September 13th, 2007

Open Source Solutions Home Page Interesting. Yeah, I say that a lot. But open source intelligence is important and this is a good way to get up to speed on the topic without a lot of condescending intro pieces.

September 13th, 2007

YouTube - Emergency in Darfur Interesting topic. I do wonder about the value of a 45 minute video on YouTube. They should post a 45-second summary version.

ETA: Taking a look at the comments, it is exactly what I feared. Not the response you want.

September 13th, 2007

YouTube - Emergency in Darfur Interesting topic. I do wonder about the value of a 45 minute video on YouTube. They should post a 45-second summary version.

ETA: Taking a look at the comments, it is exactly what I feared. Not the response you want.

September 13th, 2007

YouTube - Emergency in Darfur Interesting topic. I do wonder about the value of a 45 minute video on YouTube. They should post a 45-second summary version.

ETA: Taking a look at the comments, it is exactly what I feared. Not the response you want.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[295]


Ramadan Activities for Healthy Fasting by The Public Health and Primary Health Care Sector, September 6th, 2007

Ramadan Activities for Healthy Fasting by The Public Health and Primary Health Care Sector




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[296]


Reuters AlertNet - FEATURE-Abortion in the Philippines: a national secret, September 5th, 2007

Abortion in the Philippines: a national secret




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[297]


411th Civil Affairs Rescuer recounts U.N. diplomat Sergio Viera de Mello's dying words, September 4th, 2007

411th Civil Affairs Rescuer recounts U.N. diplomat Sergio Viera de Mello's dying words Not exactly the kind of thing I normally blog. My husband was given a de Mello fellowship to support an internship in Lebanon, and he is writing a thank you note to the sponsor. I did some research on de Mello to help him with it, and the more I googled the clearer it became that Sergio de Mello was the real deal. The kind of true diplomat the UN produces once a generation. It was this article that clinched it. He's buried under rubble, bleeding out, and he worries they will pull out the UN mission. That's a hero.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[298]


411th Civil Affairs Rescuer recounts U.N. diplomat Sergio Viera de Mello's dying words, September 4th, 2007

411th Civil Affairs Rescuer recounts U.N. diplomat Sergio Viera de Mello's dying words Not exactly the kind of thing I normally blog. My husband was given a de Mello fellowship to support an internship in Lebanon, and he is writing a thank you note to the sponsor. I did some research on de Mello to help him with it, and the more I googled the clearer it became that Sergio de Mello was the real deal. The kind of true diplomat the UN produces once a generation. It was this article that clinched it. He's buried under rubble, bleeding out, and he worries they will pull out the UN mission. That's a hero.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[299]


411th Civil Affairs Rescuer recounts U.N. diplomat Sergio Viera de Mello's dying words, September 4th, 2007

411th Civil Affairs Rescuer recounts U.N. diplomat Sergio Viera de Mello's dying words Not exactly the kind of thing I normally blog. My husband was given a de Mello fellowship to support an internship in Lebanon, and he is writing a thank you note to the sponsor. I did some research on de Mello to help him with it, and the more I googled the clearer it became that Sergio de Mello was the real deal. The kind of true diplomat the UN produces once a generation. It was this article that clinched it. He's buried under rubble, bleeding out, and he worries they will pull out the UN mission. That's a hero.

August 31st, 2007

The Iraqi refugees in Beirut who don't officially exist Iraqi refugees are having a hard time everywhere. Meeting their needs is going to be a challenge for a long, long time.

August 31st, 2007

The Iraqi refugees in Beirut who don't officially exist Iraqi refugees are having a hard time everywhere. Meeting their needs is going to be a challenge for a long, long time.

August 31st, 2007

The Iraqi refugees in Beirut who don't officially exist Iraqi refugees are having a hard time everywhere. Meeting their needs is going to be a challenge for a long, long time.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[300]


ICT for peace foundation - Mission, August 30th, 2007

ICT for peace foundation




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[301]


Reuters AlertNet - The story behind Mexico's official hurricane success, August 29th, 2007

The story behind Mexico's official hurricane success




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[302]


Reuters AlertNet - The story behind Mexico's official hurricane success, August 29th, 2007

The story behind Mexico's official hurricane success




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[303]


Reuters AlertNet - The story behind Mexico's official hurricane success, August 29th, 2007

The story behind Mexico's official hurricane success




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[304]


Camp Okutta Splash Page, August 22nd, 2007

Camp Okutta Huh. Wow.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[305]


JS Online: Playing health care odds can be a bit of a gamble, August 20th, 2007

JS Online: Playing health care odds can be a bit of a gamble An interesting article on health communication.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[306]


Global Voices Online ? Beyond Borders: Bloggers Face off over Jordanian Treatment of Iraqi Travellers, August 16th, 2007

Global Voices Online ? Beyond Borders: Bloggers Face off over Jordanian Treatment of Iraqi Travellers




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[307]


Global Voices Online ? Beyond Borders: Bloggers Face off over Jordanian Treatment of Iraqi Travellers, August 16th, 2007

Global Voices Online ? Beyond Borders: Bloggers Face off over Jordanian Treatment of Iraqi Travellers




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[308]


Global Voices Online ? Beyond Borders: Bloggers Face off over Jordanian Treatment of Iraqi Travellers, August 16th, 2007

Global Voices Online ? Beyond Borders: Bloggers Face off over Jordanian Treatment of Iraqi Travellers




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[309]


Young People Need Help in Preventing Pregnancy and HIV; How Will the World Respond?, August 15th, 2007

Young People Need Help in Preventing Pregnancy and HIV; How Will the World Respond?




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[310]


Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting: The Latest Formula Ban, August 11th, 2007

Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting: The Latest Formula Ban The problem with arguments like this, in my mind, is that feeding a combination of formula and breastmilk is nearly impossible. When you don't exclusively breastfeed, your milk supply goes down, and that is kind of all there is too it. Supplementing with formula, in almost all cases, leads to earlier weaning. And having formula around the house leads to supplementation.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[311]


Economist.com, August 10th, 2007

Economist.com




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[312]


Inside Bay Area - Study: Early life exposures impact breast cancer risk decades later, August 2nd, 2007

Inside Bay Area - Study: Early life exposures impact breast cancer risk decades later Early DDT exposure is tied to breast cancer later in life. I wonder who this impacts the WHO's recommendation of DDT IRS against malaria? I guess you weigh the risks of malaria now against future cancer.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[313]


Baghdad Diary, July 27th, 2007

Baghdad Diary




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[314]


Blog: Checkpoint Jerusalem, July 27th, 2007

Blog: Checkpoint Jerusalem




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[315]


Uzodinma Iweala - Stop Trying To ‘Save' Africa - washingtonpost.com, July 26th, 2007

Uzodinma Iweala - Stop Trying To ‘Save' Africa - washingtonpost.com Nothing new, really, in this op-ed, but a good reminder. Well, one new thing - I had no idea Dikembe Mutumbo did work in Africa.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[316]


Uzodinma Iweala - Stop Trying To ‘Save' Africa - washingtonpost.com, July 26th, 2007

Uzodinma Iweala - Stop Trying To ‘Save' Africa - washingtonpost.com Nothing new, really, in this op-ed, but a good reminder. Well, one new thing - I had no idea Dikembe Mutumbo did work in Africa.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[317]


Uzodinma Iweala - Stop Trying To ‘Save' Africa - washingtonpost.com, July 26th, 2007

Uzodinma Iweala - Stop Trying To ‘Save' Africa - washingtonpost.com Nothing new, really, in this op-ed, but a good reminder. Well, one new thing - I had no idea Dikembe Mutumbo did work in Africa.

July 23rd, 2007

OLPC Bestows Porn onto Guileless Third World Masses - MarketingVOX I always wondered how they were going to handle kids and web access, The One Laptop Per Child Organization gets mixed reviews. Some people think that computers like this will be essential to ending the digital divide. Others think that schools need high-quality teaching and decent plumbing before you get to a point that computers matter.

I myself think that there is not a lot of solid evidence showing that computers improve the quality of education in schools, especially at the primary level. I also think, that like all equipment, handing it out is useless if you don't do the training to go with it.

Finally, looking deeper at their website, I think that the OLPC model of only distributing through Ministries of Education is going to be extremely inefficient.

July 23rd, 2007

OLPC Bestows Porn onto Guileless Third World Masses - MarketingVOX I always wondered how they were going to handle kids and web access, The One Laptop Per Child Organization gets mixed reviews. Some people think that computers like this will be essential to ending the digital divide. Others think that schools need high-quality teaching and decent plumbing before you get to a point that computers matter.

I myself think that there is not a lot of solid evidence showing that computers improve the quality of education in schools, especially at the primary level. I also think, that like all equipment, handing it out is useless if you don't do the training to go with it.

Finally, looking deeper at their website, I think that the OLPC model of only distributing through Ministries of Education is going to be extremely inefficient.

July 23rd, 2007

OLPC Bestows Porn onto Guileless Third World Masses - MarketingVOX I always wondered how they were going to handle kids and web access, The One Laptop Per Child Organization gets mixed reviews. Some people think that computers like this will be essential to ending the digital divide. Others think that schools need high-quality teaching and decent plumbing before you get to a point that computers matter.

I myself think that there is not a lot of solid evidence showing that computers improve the quality of education in schools, especially at the primary level. I also think, that like all equipment, handing it out is useless if you don't do the training to go with it.

Finally, looking deeper at their website, I think that the OLPC model of only distributing through Ministries of Education is going to be extremely inefficient.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[318]


AfriGadget, July 23rd, 2007

AfriGadget A very interesting blog on African innovation. Another form of positive deviance, when you think about it. I am starting to think that the answer to almost everything is positive deviance/CQI.

The knowledge on how to improve the system is already in the system.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[319]


Breast-feeding: A Philippine battleground - International Herald Tribune, July 18th, 2007

Breast-feeding: A Philippine battleground - International Herald Tribune




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[320]


turkmenistan.neweurasia.net » Believe me, freedom does exist in Turkmenistan!, July 17th, 2007

Believe me, freedom does exist in Turkmenistan! A blog post by a bitter Turkmen citizen.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[321]


TED: Ideas worth spreading, July 16th, 2007

TED: Ideas worth spreading After listening to that one talk, I am now completely and utterly in love with this site.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[322]


TED | Talks | Emily Oster: What do we really know about the spread of AIDS? (video), July 16th, 2007

Emily Oster: What do we really know about the spread of AIDS? Everything we know about the epidemiology of HIV is wrong.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[323]


TED | Talks | Emily Oster: What do we really know about the spread of AIDS? (video), July 16th, 2007

Emily Oster: What do we really know about the spread of AIDS? Everything we know about the epidemiology of HIV is wrong.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[324]


Essays: ‘Dangerous pity' by David Rieff | Prospect Magazine July 2005 issue 112, July 11th, 2007

An essay about the original Live Aid concert that brings up a lot of valuable questions.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[325]


Essays: ‘Dangerous pity' by David Rieff | Prospect Magazine July 2005 issue 112, July 11th, 2007

An essay about the original Live Aid concert that brings up a lot of valuable questions.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[326]


Essays: ‘Dangerous pity' by David Rieff | Prospect Magazine July 2005 issue 112, July 11th, 2007

An essay about the original Live Aid concert that brings up a lot of valuable questions.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[327]


Mobile Phones in Fundraising Campaigns | NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, July 3rd, 2007

Mobile Phones in Fundraising Campaigns




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[328]


Mobile Phones in Fundraising Campaigns | NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, July 3rd, 2007

Mobile Phones in Fundraising Campaigns




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[329]


GrantCraft - GRANTCRAFT HOME PAGE, July 3rd, 2007

GrantCraft - Practical Wisdom for Grantmakers




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[330]


Deborah's Proposal Writing Blog, June 29th, 2007

Deborah's Proposal Writing Blog




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[331]


Constrained Contraceptive Choice: IUD Prevalence in Uzbekistan, June 28th, 2007

Constrained Contraceptive Choice: IUD Prevalence in Uzbekistan




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[332]


Breast-milk battle reaches Philippine high court - Women's Health - MSNBC.com, June 26th, 2007

Breast-milk battle reaches Philippine high court




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[333]


Chapter 8, June 21st, 2007

Rethinking orphanages I found this while trying to locate an orphanage assessment tool. Expect more orphan links shortly.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[334]


Reactee - - Cause a Reaction (shirts that text back), June 13th, 2007

Reactee - - Cause a Reaction (shirts that text back) There has got to be a way that NGOs could harness this for fundraising.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[335]


BBC NEWS | Africa | HIV affecting African democracy, June 13th, 2007

HIV affecting African democracy

Posted in | Comments Off




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[336]


BBC NEWS | Africa | HIV affecting African democracy, June 13th, 2007

HIV affecting African democracy




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[337]


Electronic Lebanon: Invisible lives: Iraqis in Lebanon, June 13th, 2007

Electronic Lebanon: Invisible lives: Iraqis in Lebanon It's deep in the middle of the article, but - THAT'S WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER GIVE OUT FREE FORMULA. Because then the mother's breastmilk dries out and when the formula runs out the baby is in big trouble.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[338]


Family Planning for Postpartum Women: Seizing a Missed Opportunity, June 13th, 2007

Family Planning for Postpartum Women: Seizing a Missed Opportunity The postpartum period is a great time to intitiate family planning, since women almost never want anotehr child right away.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[339]


ETonline.com: Fall Out Boy to Go to Uganda for Humanitarian Trip, June 13th, 2007

ETonline.com: Fall Out Boy to Go to Uganda for Humanitarian Trip There we go. Some more information.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[340]


Invisible Children - Invisible Children, June 13th, 2007

Invisible Children This group works for the Children of Uganda. Apparently Fall Out Boy is going to Uganda to raise money for them. Or awareness. Something like that. Anyway, I have not dug into the site yet, so I can't talk about their work, but the graphics on it are gorgeous.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[341]


Global Voices Online, June 13th, 2007

Global Voices Online An aggregation of blogs from around the world. I believe strongly that blogs and user generated media are one of the best ways to know the pulse of a place, and this is a nice assortment to choose from.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[342]


turning bad ideas into good ideas, June 8th, 2007

turning bad ideas into good ideas An interesting post on brainstorming and ideas.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[343]


New Roads Act as a Highway for Diarrhea: Scientific American, June 6th, 2007

New Roads Act as a Highway for Diarrhea: Scientific American




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[344]


Global Voices Online, June 6th, 2007

Global Voices Online "Global Voices aggregates, curates, and amplifies the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore." I found this site through Christine Gorman's. It looks really interesting.

June 6th, 2007

Global Health Report: Christine Gorman's Global Health Talk I was at GHC, but I did not attend her talk. I wish I had, now. She touches on some really interesting topics, and says some things that people are reluctant to say. I was also interested in her mention of web 2.0 and rss feeds as new health media.


June 6th, 2007

Global Health Report: Christine Gorman's Global Health Talk I was at GHC, but I did not attend her talk. I wish I had, now. She touches on some really interesting topics, and says some things that people are reluctant to say. I was also interested in her mention of web 2.0 and rss feeds as new health media.

June 6th, 2007

Global Health Report: Christine Gorman's Global Health Talk I was at GHC, but I did not attend her talk. I wish I had, now. She touches on some really interesting topics, and says some things that people are reluctant to say. I was also interested in her mention of web 2.0 and rss feeds as new health media.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[345]


Reuters AlertNet - Aid groups in Sri Lanka tackle Â?fat catÂ? image, May 30th, 2007

Aid groups in Sri Lanka tackle fat cat image We all need to do a better job of reporting to our beneficiaries, both for accountability and for community acceptance.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[346]


Reuters AlertNet - Aid groups in Sri Lanka tackle Â?fat catÂ? image, May 30th, 2007

Aid groups in Sri Lanka tackle fat cat image We all need to do a better job of reporting to our beneficiaries, both for accountability and for community acceptance.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[347]


Reuters AlertNet - Aid groups in Sri Lanka tackle Â?fat catÂ? image, May 30th, 2007

Aid groups in Sri Lanka tackle fat cat image We all need to do a better job of reporting to our beneficiaries, both for accountability and for community acceptance.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[348]


Aid Management Platform - Improving aid tracking and reporting, May 29th, 2007

Aid Management Platform - Improving aid tracking and reporting Could be a useful tool.

May 29th, 2007

Combining MSC techniques with video

May 29th, 2007

Most Significant Change guide

May 29th, 2007

Combining MSC techniques with video

May 29th, 2007

Most Significant Change guide


May 29th, 2007

Combining MSC techniques with video

May 29th, 2007

Most Significant Change guide




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[349]


Participatory video for monitoring and evaluation / Tools and Methods / Journal / Home - Capacity.org, May 29th, 2007

Participatory video for monitoring and evaluation I think video for M & E is going to see an increase in popularity. I am interested in seeing how it combines with Most Significant Change reporting.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[350]


rhizomatic, May 14th, 2007

rhizomatic I suspect this is going to be important.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[351]


Reuters AlertNet - White Toyota, white aid, April 10th, 2007

White Toyota, white aid




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[352]


Stars Above Africa, April 6th, 2007

Stars Above Africa




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[353]


Online Exchange : The frustrations of CERF. Toby Porter on how predictable financing has turned into less predictable funds for agencies on the ground, March 22nd, 2007

Online Exchange : The frustrations of CERF. Toby Porter on how predictable financing has turned into less predictable funds for agencies on the ground.: "One could make a list of a hundred different things to admire about almost any UN agency, but surely nobody would include efficient and quick internal administration among them. "

Posted in CERF], Humanitarian response], UN]




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[354]


A passage buoyed by hope alone - Los Angeles Times, March 21st, 2007

A passage buoyed by hope alone - Los Angeles Times This article about economic migration in Senegal is interesting, but it rubs me the wrong waysomehow. It feels condesscending.




Attribution: This page includes content from the Blood and Milk blog by Alanna Shaikh, posted under the CC-BY-SA license.[355]


PCR Blog » Shun The Spotlight On US Aid, March 19th, 2007

PCR Blog » Shun The Spotlight On US Aid

February 19th, 2007

NextBillion.net - Development Through Enterprise | Eradicating Poverty through Profit Interesting BOP blog. BOP stands for Base of Pyramid, a concept of how to eliminate poverty through social ventures.


[http://bloodandmilk.org/?p=1169#comments

]

October 24th, 2006 

Diary of a Mad Kenyan Woman "You want to help African kids? Then make sure that their families are healthy, and whole and have access to social services and to medicine, and that there are schools and jobs awaiting them. It doesn't help us if you take one of us away at a time—what are we going to do: form a line a billion people long hoping that one of us will be amongst the select? I hear they do this outside really cool nightclubs, but to extend the logic to issues of life and death for Africans is one of the symptoms of the entertainment industry gone berserk…"



WHO gives indoor use of DDT a clean bill of health for controlling malaria Indoor residual sparying is probably the best way to maximize human benefit and minimize environmental effects…


February 16th, 2006

KYRGYZSTAN: More than 60 trafficked women detained This is interesting. Some of them had no idea they were going for sex work, some did. But, in my experience, even the women who know they're traveling for sex work expect to be prostitutes, not slaves.

Many Uzbeks, even sophisticated people from Tashkent, have no idea just how bad the world can be. It's a good thing, I suppose, that life here is safe enough that people don't need to know. A friend of a friend went to Germany to marry a man she'd met in Tashkent and known for three days. Her friends were worried about her, but they were worried he'd refuse to marry her, or turn out to be a bad husband. I was worried he'd chain her to the wall in his basement and rent her out to his friends.


[http://bloodandmilk.org/?p=1119#respond

]

 January 20th, 2006 

Philadelphias's Nurse-Family Partnership This is interesting to me because it 1) looks very effective and 2) is such a developing world thing to need. In cultures where you still have an extended family, you've got aunts and sisters and your mom and mother-in-law to provide advice and social support. A nurse visiting to offer friendship and support would be redundant. Of course, it would still be useful where dangerous cultural practices are in place.

The website for the project itself


[http://bloodandmilk.org/?p=325#respond

]

January 3rd, 2006 

Coaching Women During Childbirth Has Little Impact The reporting on this study makes me crazy. If you look at the actual research and findings, what they found was that telling women when to push in the second stage of labor had no effect. It did not look at the value of having a support person present through the labor, which is what most people would think of as coaching.


December 30th, 2005

Turkish men fight trafficking of women This is fascinating - Turkish men who visit prostitutes are now calling an IOM hotline when they discover trafficked women instead of women doing sex work by choice.


October 3rd, 2003

The WHO has finally recognized the need for TB and HIV/AIDS programs to work together. About time, I say. They tend to overlap in patients – TB is the leading cause of death among people with AIDS, and they both require long courses of treatment under medical supervision.

The failure of the Central Asia countries to control tuberculosis also odes ill for their future with HIV/AIDS. Their cure rate for Tuberculosis is abysmal – around 20% when the drugs, used right, can cure in 95% of cases. If they can't get patients to take their meds for a curable infection, what's going to happen with AIDS?

Speaking of AIDS, the World Bank just issued an report saying that AIDS is bad and the former soviet union is in big trouble. Well, duh. We all knew that. In Central Asia, anyway, very little is being done about AIDS (although ZdravPlus and PSI are doing their best.) even as the number of cases skyrockets. The FSU and Eastern Europe region as a whole has the fast growing rate of new infections in the world. The consequences are likely to be nothing short of apocalyptic.


August 21st, 2003

A new study says that provision of medical abortion by family physicians is safe, effective, and feasible. This seems obvious to me – an abortion is a minor medical procedure that is well within the skills of a general practitioner. It also seems to me that doctor who is familiar with a patient's who life and medical history is better quipped for pre-abortion counseling than a specialist meeting a woman for the first time. Separating out abortion services comes from political pressure and American over-reliance on specialists.

Whatever one might feel about abortion, it's hard to argue that women shouldn't receive the safest health care possible. Two sites with information on medical abortion: The Center for Reproductive Health Policy and Research and The Access Project.

In some situations, stopping HIV medications can be beneficial.


July 18th, 2003 

An article in the Guardian about the impact of AIDS on Malawi. The personal accounts are heart wrenching, and it's a good overview of what AIDS can do to a society. Central Asia could be this bad someday, if governments in the region don't take the steps they need. Although maybe not. I suspect that if(when) the HIV/AIDS explosion comes to the former Soviet Union, the international community will have realized that ARV treatment is necessary to keep societies from collapsing and serve as an incentive to get tested. (Right now, it's very hard to encourage people to get tested – what do you say, "get tested, so you'll know you have a terminal illness with no available treatment"? Social responsibility is the only motivator.) Also, there are enough health care providers and health care infrastructure to ensure that the drugs can be distributed. Though I guess tuberculosis is a similar model of an illness that requires a supervised treatment regimen, and the treatment and cure rates are abysmal.

Wow. Better handwashing could save a million lives a year. You don't mess around with diarrheal diseases.


July 4th, 2003

A couple of interesting summaries from id21: young people and sexual health in Nicaragua and community participation and sexual health in South Africa. The first article has no real surprises in it – just a nice overview of some classic adolescent health issues. The second has an unexpected finding – people participating in voluntary saving and social clubs were more likely to have casual, unsafe sex, to consume alcohol and to be HIV positive.

Medecins Sans Frontieres continues to impress me, this time by participating in the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative.

July 3rd, 2003

Patients don't stick with long-term treatments. So says a new WHO report entitled "Adherence To Long-Term Therapies: Evidence For Action". Unlike many WHO reports, this one seems pretty free of political influences, probably because it's a fairly uncontroversial subject. Everyone would be better off if people took their meds consistently.

On July 2, President Bush named Randall Tobias, former chairman of a major pharmaceutical company, as the coordinator for international HIV/AIDS assistance at the Department of State. I strongly believe that all organizations can benefit from better business practices, including public health work. I do not necessarily believe that running a pharmaceutical company prepares you for spearheading an important global health initiative. And we're not even going to get into the generic drug issue. Some articles about it:

Chicago Sun-Times

The Washington Post

PlanetOut


June 19th, 2003

The post has nothing to do with Turkmenistan. Are women and providers satisfied with antenatal care? Views on a standard and a simplified, evidence-based model of care in four developing countries New WHO guidelines call for only four pre-natal visits in a normal pregnancy rather than the old model of about ten. The question is, will women and providers accept that? In Argentina, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Thailand they apparently will. The Soviet system called for billons of prenatal visits, so Central Asia will find the transition especially challenging. This study provides some hope that having longer visits and addressing mothers' concerns helps to make up for dissatisfaction with fewer visits. It also points out what I suspect is the real obstacle everywhere - providers don't quite trust the fewer visits regimen yet.


June 19th, 2003

Development of a clockwork light source to enable cervical inspection by village health workers This is either brilliant or idiotic. I'm still deciding. Developing the light source was well and cleverly done, but in countries where village health workers are still using candles, do they have the resources for cervial cancer treatment?


[356]


May 23rd, 2003 

A quick brief on diffusion of innovations. Among other things, this reports that innovation moves best from person to person, and that often the necessary innovation already exists within a given society - it does not need to be developed by an outside expert. This ties in with the idea of positive deviance. Positive deviance posits that solutions to problems already exist within the societies having those problems - you just have to locate them. For example, even in a desperately poor village, there are always one or two families somehow doing better on the same amount of money. Their kids are less malnourished, they are sick less often. The key is to find out what people are already doing to survive better and share that knowledge.

I love the idea because it means you don't need expensive experts to solve problems - you can go to the people themselves for solutions. It makes sense - people already living with a problem know a lot more about it than some PhD who has never had to face it in day to day life.

Posted in positive deviance]

May 21st, 2003

An AIDS turning point in Uganda An example of abstinence promotion that works. The ABC approach, "abstain, be faithful, use a condom" does tend to be useful.


May 19th, 2003

World Bank Research WB Research - Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy Sections This is a really interesting (and long) report about the impact of civil conflict on health and economies. If you don't have time for the whole thing, just read the overview. One interesting fact - the mortality rate for children as well as adults goes way up during conflict, even when children are not combatants.


May 17th, 2003

pump•mate™ advocate program Pump mate is a system whereby breast milk is pumped right into sterile bags that can be used in baby bottles. Seems like a good idea, but it's not, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, sucking on a bottle and suckling at a breast are two very different mouth movements. A baby who gets both is likely to get tired of the breast. So pumping breast milk to be fed by a bottle is not likely to achieve the desired result of improving breast milk intake. (supplements to breast milk should be given in a cup.) For another thing, there is the mildly unsavory advocate program.


May 17th, 2003

Thinking about DOTS some more…I realized that it doesn't have to be better than current gold standard tuberculosis treatments, it merely has to be as good, which is what the Cochrane review said. The systems that DOTS is replacing in the developing world are nowhere near gold standard, so DOTS is clearly an improvement.

May 14th, 2003

Poor countries have controbuted more to the fight against AIDS that rich ones. Embarassing, at best. Salon.com News | Report: Global HIV prevention falls short


May 13th, 2003

Looking into DOTS a bit more. Information on Russia is always useful, because the health system structure is so similar to Central Asia. A paper on the costs of TB control in Russia


May 13th, 2003

I have always had my doubts about the superiority of DOTS (directly observed treatment short course for tuberculosis), but this article agrees with me. DOTS is being implmented in Central Asia by both Medecins sans Frontieres and Project Hope. It is also the strategy recommended by the World Health Organization. Odds are that the WHO is right and I'm wrong, but I worry that money is not being spent in the best way possible.


May 12th, 2003

Personally, I think anyone who doesn't realize that a Crispy Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad has lots of calories is a lost cause. WSJ.com - Experts Differ on Healthiness Of Fast-Food Salad Offerings. Unless they're Uzbek. Most of my Uzbek friends had very little idea of nutrtion or calorie content. One friend worried tea would make her fat, but ate plenty of ice cream and Pringles.


May 11th, 2003

To expand on that last post - abstinence is the thing that will protect you 100% from all STIs. Teaching that fact is useful. However, teaching abstinence as the only method of protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections is not useful at all. Not everyone is going to choose abstinence, and people need to know all their options to choose the best way to protect themselves.

May 10th, 2003

An important article, and the title pretty much says it all. Condoms work, and only junk science says otherwise.Public Health Advocates Say Campaign to Disparage Condoms Threatens STD Prevention Efforts


May 10th, 2003

Improving science education in Pacific Islands. You will be seeing more about education in this blog, because I am now working on an education project as well as health. This article argues that "neither the model of adopting external curricula from western countries nor the internal development of national science teaching programmes are likely to succeed." It believes that developing a regional curiculum and then adapting it to local circumstances in each country is the best approach. That's something that could be done in Central Asia - educational systems and curricula are similar enough to make that work.

Interestingly, the article also states both that teachers lack the skills to develop lesson plans from outline, and that teachers tend not to take ownership of lesson plans created by outsiders. The trick, I suppose, is to work with teachers to find out what kind of lesson plans they want, and then train them on the plans once they are created. ZdravPlus has been doing that with reproductive health lessons for schoolchildren in Uzbekistan, and it does work.

May 10th, 2003

Research that implies that economic sanctions on countries that use child labor may make the situation worse. It's just the old sanctions dilemma, in a new form. Sanctions wreck economies, something that will always hurt the poor more than the elites who run the country. In this case, since child labor is the resource of last resort, increased rice prices that come from international trade let families end child labor. Food for thought, but nothing we didn't already know.

This is especially unrelated to Central Asia, I admit, because the only real use of child labor here is for harvesting cotton, which is seasonal and requires everyone, not just children.


May 9th, 2003

Big food, specifically the US Sugar Association, was ready to attack the World Health Organization with all guns blazing because of the WHO's new nutrition report, which recommends that people get no more than ten percent of their calories from sugar. The sugar industry, and companies like Coca-cola, are arguing for a 25% guideline, based on bad science. It looks like everyone involved may be ready to deal.


May 9th, 2003

I think this article comes to a weird conclusion. The survey results show that mothers of overweight children are more likely to notice their daughters are overweight than their sons. The articles makes it seem like girls are healthier because of it - getting useful parental guidance on eating habits and such. It seems to me, though, that this result is just part of a larger social pressure on girls to be thin.

I'd love to see how many mothers of normal weight children perceive their kids as overweight. I bet they still perceive daughters as overweight more often than sons. The net result of this perception issue for girls is negative I think, not positive like this article seems to claim.

May 9th, 2003

Proof that you do need to take a hard look at research methodology before you get all excited about the published results. A lesson that public health has to keep firmly in mind.

Please add this page to one or more categories. See Appropedia:Categorization for more information on categories.