Monday, November 28, 2011

Inside the Everyday Lives of Development Workers

Below, author Anne-Meike Fechter speaks about her new title, Inside the Everyday Lives of Development Workers:

When I began research among international aid workers in Cambodia in 2007, I hadn’t quite realized what a diverse and complicated, transient and highly mobile world it was. Among the people I spoke with were high-school leavers who had their first experience of riding on the back of a pick-up truck through the Cambodian countryside wedged in between piles of agricultural produce (strictly forbidden by their organization), who were trying to figure out if they could imagine a life in development. There were those who had only planned to come for a year to support a local NGO, and who had found themselves extending their contracts, extending them again, and then applying for a follow-on job in Lao PDR. Some people that I encountered early on had left by the time I returned half a year later – they were fed up with their organization and infuriated by what they saw as mind-boggling aid bureaucracy and incompetence. Their departure was sometimes commented on: ‘well if you can’t deal with that, you won’t last...’. Others yet had begun working in the refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian borders in the late 1970s and were still here, thirty years later.

What they had in common, despite their utter diversity in many ways, were their full-time jobs as aid workers. As my research progressed, it became clear that there were a wealth of issues that they were contending with: work and personal life were closely intertwined; development practice harbored, perhaps unsurprisingly, many frustrations, as well as unexpected social and emotional rewards. Yet, the rich and complex lives of these people who were so central to delivering aid, seemed comparatively invisible in existing literature on development: official reports, the bulk of development studies are focused on ‘the world’s poor’, the recipients of aid, leaving out those without whom things would not happen. In order to help putting aid workers themselves onto the agenda - of researchers, policy makers and practitioners - my co-editor, Heather Hindman and I collected studies on national and international aid workers from across the world, which make up our edited volume, ‘Inside the everyday lives of development workers: the challenges and futures of Aidland’, which came out in paperback earlier this year.
We thought it was time that development workers were given the attention they deserve, rather than being treated as mere ‘implementers’ or ‘brokers’ for overseas aid programs. It is evident that they themselves are keen to tell their stories: the numbers of aid blogs, practitioners’ network forums, and even aid memoirs is forever increasing. But how does this matter for development studies, and for aid practice? As the different case examples in this collection show, neglecting the professional and social beliefs and practices surrounding aid work may be detrimental to the overall project of development. As becomes clear from the chapters, it is useful to know who joins the aid sector, the values and attitudes they hold - and what makes people leave their jobs. Rather than portraying them in a permanent present, our aim is to capture them as people with a past- and a future, for which they are constantly trying to align their personal and professional aspirations. Issues such as maintaining personal relationships, constant mobility, increased outsourcing practices, and safety and security issues are important for many - yet these concerns, and their consequences, have not yet received the wide recognition in the development literature or in policy and practice that they deserve.

The reasons for this relative invisibility are manifold, and likely deep-rooted: if development is thought of as a ‘helping’ profession, then it would appear unseemly to spend too much time navel-gazing and pondering the fate of the helpers, since the needs of aid recipients are clearly paramount and more urgent. And yet, such considerations have not hindered the establishment of a solid body of research for example in nursing and social work on practitioners beliefs and motivations, and their working experiences, knowledge which feeds directly into training initiatives and better recruitment and retention policy and practices. At the same time, one could argue that excluding aid workers from analytical view may hide a multitude of sins, such as the considerable salary differentials in the sector between national and international staff and the detrimental effects this might have for aid delivery, or the daily tensions and frustrations which are inherent in aid work, but which aid workers are usually expected to ‘get on with’, without particular support from their employer. We thus hope that looking at aid workers’ everyday lives can be a first step to raise awareness of these issues, including the flaws and ambitions that characterize them as human beings, the challenges they face, and what this means for everyone else engaged in their shared project of overseas aid.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thank You for Supporting KP at ASA & ARNOVA

Despite a lower attendance rate for both conferences, Kumarian Press received great attention; and we would like to take a moment to thank attendees for coming out to support our endeavors.

We met a variety of individuals at ASA, ranging from your everyday professors to historians, researchers and development workers. We appreciate book ideas, and are working hard to implement these ideas for our readers.

I would also like to thank Lou Picard, author of KP's African Security and the African Command and A Fragile Balance. For two days, he welcomed our guests and signed copies of his two books.
Our trip to ARNOVA was also a hit, where our authors were found meeting and greeting our readers and attendees. Chris Corbett, author of Advancing Nonprofit Stewardship Through Self-Regulation, spoke at the conference, while Susan Ross, Shae Garwood and Jennifer Brinkerhoff promoted their new and upcoming titles.

We are thankful for our readers and their continuing support; and we look forward to seeing them next year at ARNOVA and ASA 2012.

NOTE: ASA and ARNOVA attendees - Do not forget about your post conference discounts. Source code is located on the top right corner of the order form. Valid for one month.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lessons to be Learned From Joe Paterno

Even if you aren't a football fan, you probably heard the news about Joe Paterno. But, for those living under a rock, I will put you up to speed on who Joe Paterno is. Joe Paterno, 84 years of age, was Penn State's head coach for almost half a century (up until last week), and has the most wins in Division 1 college football (second is Bobby Bowden - FSU's past coach, (around the same age) who retired two seasons ago.

Joe Paterno was fired this past week because he did not report the sighting of former assistant Jerry Sandusky raping a child in a shower. He should have reported what he thought he saw. Maybe he would have kept his job and this disgusting individual would be in jail. But unfortunately, child abuse happens in all communities in all parts of the world, and many do not report such sightings. Fear perhaps?

Since the allegations, Paterno himself has been called a child abuser, and has left Penn State. He now deals with a tarnished reputation along with constant humiliation- and people could care less about his coaching abilities.

Because of the recent Penn State Scandal that has rocked the mindsets of football fans nationwide, multiple advocacy leaders from all over the nation have come out against Paterno, and have voiced their opinions on the subject. Advocates wish that children would be left as children, and not violated or forced to work in child labor or harmful environments. (To learn more about child labor rights, read Shae Garwood's Advocacy Across Borders.)

What has the world come to when children are used as sex slaves, tormented and abused? (Reluctant Bedfellows discusses this issue in finer detail.) And, why aren't adults holding their responsibility to report these sightings to authorities? Both sides seem to need a lesson in social justice and advocacy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

KP Preps for Two Conferences Next Week

November 17 - 19, 2011 has brought along a whole new meaning to Kumarian Press, who is gearing up for not one, but two conferences to showcase newly released titles.

We will be attending ARNOVA in Toronto and the ASA Conferernce in DC, both starting and ending on the same date.

We will be at ARNOVA highlighting our NGO/nonprofit and government titles. This conference is a must for us, as many of our authors will be in attendance including Christopher Corbett (who will be speaking at the event), Shae Garwood, Jennifer Brinkerhoff and new KP author, Susan Ross. These authors can be found at Author's Corner where they will have a booth available with flyers and copies of their publications. If you are attending, be sure to stop by and meet our authors.

KP is excited to attend the ASA Conference, as well where we will showcase our African Studies titles. We will have plenty of books to show along with brochures. We are pleased to have Lou Picard, author of the recently released KP publication African Security and the African Command join us at our booth for a book signing and podcast segment. For those of you who miss our interview, we will post it.

We are very excited to be a part of these events and look forward to meeting our readers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Development Titles Desired At APHA Medical Conference

I just attended the four-day long APHA Conference, held October 29 - November 2, 2011 in Washington, DC. I met a variety of individuals of all ages and skills ranging from academic professors, physicians, students and dentists. Not only was the conference hall packed with these exceptional folks, but our medical titles were a huge success.

But, out of all of the people I had met, I was surprised to speak with a few development workers who wanted to learn about the advancement of medicine in different countries (mainly Third World). This turn-out was a pleasant surprise, as I never would have expected them to show up at a medical convention.

What surprised me even more was their interest in our own KP title, Anticorruption in the Health Sector. One medical professor I met, even said he used the book in his law class!

This conference was worthy of our time, not just for our own titles. It shows that our titles do not only appeal to one group of readers, but to workers in the field of International Development (for example), as well as in classes such as nursing, medicine, law and ethics.