Corporate Social Responsibility

If the business of business is business, why should corporations be involved with development?

Creative Commons: Oxfam

Creative Commons: Oxfam

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is defined differently by different development analysts. In this post I will explore some different ideas and some of the criticism.

Hopkins (2007) says CSR is about the way that profit is made. He says that if a corporation is only concerned with making a profit it will not realise its potential. Successful business reduces unemployment. It can do all kinds of good for society from ensuring there is primary and secondary education available for all and helping to offer resources to tackle the major diseases in the world.

With CSR a company can enhance its reputation, attract and motivate employees, reduce risks in developing countries (where it may have suppliers) and ensure the sustainability of its own operations. If consumers earn decent wages, they can purchase what they produce. The private sector can assist governments in improving well-being.

Rajak (2011) calls CSR compassionate capitalism and defines it as “a movement promising to harness the global reach and resources of transnational corporations in the service of local development and social improvement”. She says business leaders now consider themselves “guardians of the social order”. Commerce is now tied to community, enterprise linked with the social. But Rajak says its important to look back at what as come before. Is CSR new?

Case Study: Founder of the De Beers diamond empire, Cecil Rhodes

In under 10 years Cecil Rhodes either invaded or brought British imperial authority to bear over a region over 3 times the size of France. He was born in 1853 and moved to South Africa from England to recover from an illness when he was a teenager. In the 1870s he founded a diamond business and found time to get a degree from Oxford University by travelling back and forth. He managed to get control of a region covering modern day Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. By 1888, he controlled the entire South African diamond industry, which meant 90% of world production, through De Beers. He was one of the world richest men and entered politics.

At first Rhodes would share meals with the African workers and stay with them in their huts, but as he increased in power and racist attitudes became dominant in England, he became more of a dictator. He dreamed of a white controlled Africa and enforced segregation. He bought the most popular newspaper to make sure his views were heard. Before long he had adopted the racist policies of the Afrikaners in their most extreme form.

Although he is perhaps the largest figure in British colonial history, Rhodes has received surprisingly little dramatic attention. The scriptwriter of the BBC’s ‘Rhodes’, Anthony Thomas, offers a possible explanation:

“We turn our backs on him historically because he is too embarrassing to deal with. Hitler described him as the only Englishman who truly understood Anglo- Saxon ideals and destiny. It is too chilling to think of how Hitler empathised with him.”

By failing to comprehend the perspective of indigenous people a violent rebellion took place in 1896-7. It became clear how important it is for big businesses, that were changing towns and thousands of lives, to have a much better understanding of local concerns and beliefs.

Corporate led expansion is still thought to be brutal with ruthless crushing of indigenous cultures by many in the global south. In order to be able to go into a place and extract its recources, you need to become popular. This can be done by building schools and forming relationships with people in the area. In this light, CSR is about security and bribery. (Litvin, 2003, Empires of Profit)

This raises the question, for what and for whom does business exist?

Blowfield (2005) says CSR has not only influenced businesses, it has also influenced development itself. “Business thinking has dominated the way we think about the world and has become the norm against which everything else is tested for true and false value”.

CSR spreads the values of capitalism:

  • the right to make a profit
  • the supremacy of private property
  • the commoditisation of things
  • the superiority of markets in determining price and value

Areas and communities that previously held different values are now persuaded that these principles are logical and the right way to live. Land that is considered sacred by a community is to be viewed as a ‘untapped resource’. Capitalist logic says all land should be used to maximise profits.

Keeping these views in mind, it becomes clear that corporations are economic, political and social actors.

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Rural livelihoods in the Global South

How do families in rural areas attempt to improve their living standards? What strategies do they use to make sure they’re safe, and most importantly to survive?

Creative Commons. AUS Aid

Creative Commons. AUS Aid

People in rural households in developing countries tend to take-up jobs in different fields, at different times and also construct social initiatives. This is known as diversification and Ellis (1998) argues that breaking barriers to, and encouraging expansion of capabilities for diversification are two very desirable policy objectives in international development. Although it seems like a general “one-size-fits-all” policy, it can and should be adapted for the circumstances of the particular area.

It’s widely accepted that within an economy there are sectors and efficient economies require specialisation and division eg. urban, rural, agriculture, industry. However, diversification challenges this.

Studying livelihoods means looking more than incomes, it also includes: payments in-kind, exchanges, property rights, social institutions (kinships, families, compounds and villages) gender balances and access to benefits from public services such as healthcare, education, water supplies etc. Livelihood diversification is quite different to income diversification.

There seems to be an informed consensus that diversity has been increasing in recent history, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, however there is not a great amount of evidence proving this.

Case Study: Western Ghana: making a living in the cocoa frontier

In the 1970s cocoa production started to boom in the Juaboso District. A high influx of migrant farmers came from previous cocoa growing areas that had been burned due to bushfires. Many new settlements had to be established in the area. Migrants tended to settle with other migrants with all indigenous in separate settlements. The area has seen remarkable population growth from this influx but also there has been an increase in birth rates and a decrease in mortality rates.

The Ghanaian state has maintained state regulation of the cocoa sector, despite pressure from Washington D.C institutions, and this keeps its cocoa farming popular. The state has been able to maintain the pricing system and a uniform price per kilo is given to each farmer, irrespective of their location. They’re also ensured a market which, together with fair pricing and the State protecting them from world market price fluctuations, gives them security.

Not everything is perfect though, from a survey of 245 households, Knudsen concludes there is lack of land in the cocoa frontier and most families don’t have the capital to buy land anyway. Rather than leaving farming entirely, families also become involved in non-farming activities. They do this to supplement their income. In the 2007 survey, almost half the people in the district earned their primary income from non-farming (eg. trading or skilled work). Those involved in the non-farming sector only were more likely to be migrants and they were still reliant on the farming sector because it was the farmers who were buying their products.

(Knudsen 2007)

When they receive income from a variety of sources, rural households see an improvement in living standards and are safer. They are less vulnerable to shocks and therefore diversification is understood to be an effective survival strategy. Ellis recommends that macro-level policies should be linked to micro-level interventions. This can be done by policy makers understanding diversification in rural households better. Household monitoring informs both researchers and policy advisers.

Some of the literature argues incomes come from three broad categories: farm, off-farm and non-farm.

  • “Farm income includes livestock as well as crop income and comprises both consumption-in-kind of own farm output and cash income from output sold.”
  • “Off-farm income typically refers to wage or exchange labour on other farms (i.e. within agriculture). It also includes labour payments in kind, such as the harvest share systems and other non-wage labour contracts that remain prevalent in many parts of the developing world.
  • “Non-farm income refers to non-agricultural income sources”.

(Ellis 1998:5)

However there are different ways of compartmentalising. Work can be full-time, part-time, seasonal, temporary or casual and often, within one household there are a variety of circumstances.

“Many researchers recognise that the study of livelihood diversification requires a more spatially extended understanding of the household than the conventional definition.

The role of non-resident family members in contributing to the well-being of the resident group requires explicit recognition.

Households with members working away in urban centres or abroad are often referred to as ‘split families’, and their livelihood strategies are described as ‘straddling’ the rural and urban sectors.

Urban migrants are commonly observed to continue to maintain strong rural family connections, even after several generations of urban residence.

Circular migration, in which family members work for periods in the urban economy then return to their family farms, is noted in several studies.

Seasonal migration related to cyclical work opportunities in different locations is also common.”

There are many different motivations and pressures for diversification. Resources, skills, assets, and incomes are all economic constraints on diversification but also the social context has a large impact. Families, belief systems, ethnic groups and so on, all influence a person’s decision making. The main motivations are:

  • seasonality (meaning uneven income flows)
  • differentiated labour markets,
  • risk strategies,
  • coping behaviour (using up food stocks, selling livestock, asking for gifts from relatives)
  • credit market imperfections (difficult to borrow),
  • and intertemporal savings and investment strategies.

Like migration’s push and pull factors, “often a cumulative combination of factors will represent variable pressures and opportunities for different individuals and households within the community”.

Some recommendations from Ellis:

Non-farm income sources should be taken into account when describing the living standards of farm households in developing countries.

In sub-Saharan Africa it would appear that 30-50 per cent reliance on non-farm incomes is commonplace, and in some instances the average proportion is much greater.

Data collection on income sources needs to converge towards an accepted set of categories and definitions.

In 1998 (when this paper was written) it was not possible to infer trends in income diversification from the available household-level evidence; at least not for sub-Saharan Africa, with rare exceptions.

Celebrities: bridging the gap?

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I spent 12 weeks working as media and communications assistant at Sightsavers, an non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Haywards Heath, Sussex. The communication-team held the view that the majority of people living in the UK don’t identify with politicians or show interest in international development. The majority of the staff at Sightsavers want to change this and believe celebrities aid the process. Many of the staff, who work to influence change in governmental decisions on foreign aid, told me that they think it is vital that the public begin to understand the causes of global poverty.

Sightsavers’ press team believe that the most effective way of attracting the attention of the UK public is to supply national media outlets with content that includes a person in the public eye (who is well-liked) showing an interest in tackling global poverty. It is thought that this will encourage the public to do the same and begin to engage with the politics of international development. The main objective for using celebrities is to make international stories compelling and accessible in the hope of attracting new audiences. It is also thought that support from high profile people raises Sightsavers reputation as a credible organisation. The team expects celebrities to raise funds, but only as temporary one off donations.

“A much-loved and respected celebrity has the ability to influence not only his or her own fans but also opinion formers – the politicians and policy makers who we are trying to make sit up and take notice. 

Of course, choosing the right star name can be a bit of a minefield; we need to be sure that anyone acting as a Sightsavers ambassador and role model is genuinely passionate about our work. 

That’s why we prefer to work with figureheads who either have a first-hand experience of what it is to be blind… of our programme work (such as Lorraine Kelly…), or of one of the countries where we work” (Sightsavers, 2014a).

There are reports and research from 2007-2012 which dispute this argument. This research contain data on: public support for foreign aid, public interest in global poverty and public engagement with celebrities. Couldry & Markham (2007) suggest that people with high levels of interest in celebrity culture show little interest in politics and are the least likely to vote or campaign. Brockington (2011) demonstrates that celebrity culture is prominent however, the majority of the public are not particularly engaged. He argues that celebrity advocacy is populist in appeal, but not very popular.

However, Inthorn & Street (2011) take the argument that citizens may not respond to all celebrities in the same way. Their research demonstrates that it is an error to treat celebrities as a homogeneous group. They contend that celebrities who pursue political causes that are close to individuals’ hearts are – in theory – an alternative to a system which the UK public distrust. Celebrities seemed “the more genuine and trustworthy politicians” (Inthorn & Street, 2011, p. 4). This argument seems to support the view held in the press team at Sightsavers, but is it accurate?

The UK Public Opinion Monitor (Institute of Development Studies & The University of Guelph, 2012) aims to understand how everyday citizens see the world in which we live, and if or how attitudes change over time. Focussing on attitudes towards famous people, celebrities and their work in the public domain, 2,842 respondents (broadly representing the British public) had limited engagement with celebrity magazines and celebrity television programmes, with greater than 50% saying they avoid them.

Rojek (2001) distinguishes between types of celebrities and identifies three categories: ascribed greatness (royalty) achieved renown (highly-achieving athletes) and attributed glory (media/reality TV stars). David Attenborough and Lenny Henry can be used as examples of people in the public eye who hold some moral authority for their involvement with fundraising but are not obviously on the ‘celebrity circuit’ (Darnton & Kirk, 2011).

Sightsavers press team held the view that potential celebrity supporters could only be approached if the public respected them. They needed to be understood as famous and credible. A famous person that Sightsavers press team was enthusiastic about approaching was Lorraine Kelly. In 2012 Kelly was awarded an OBE for her services to charity (Kelly, 2014). Kelly is a Scottish TV presenter and a journalist and having worked with her multiple times (Sightsaver 2014b), Sightsavers contacted her during the application process for the BBC Radio 4 appeal. The Radio 4 appeal is a weekly programme that highlights the work of a charity and appeals for donations (BBC, 2014). Sightsavers applied with two objectives: (1) to raise awareness of Sightsavers and promote it as a credible organization to Radio 4 listeners, and (2) to raise at least £15,000 in donations from the appeal (Sightsavers, 2014c). In the appeal application it states that charities need to contact a presenter. The presenter must donate their time for free and as part of the application each charity has to suggest a list of presenters and why they would like them to read the script (BBC, 2014).

In the project briefing notes there were some points of consideration:

“Its important for the celeb to have a personal connection to the charity/cause so their voice is emotive.

Don’t approach anyone before discussing the long list with the producer

Don’t be afraid to chase agents, they won’t be too proactive given they’re not making any ££…

Give short deadlines for reply date (2 weeks max) so you can chase them when they don’t reply. Approach them one at a time so we don’t have to turn people down!” (Sightsavers, 2014c)

Kelly was the first person on Sightsavers’ list. It was a priority for them to have a celebrity presenter who had seen Sightsavers’ trachoma projects in Kenya, as this was what they wanted the public to engage with. Trachoma is a contagious bacterial infection of the eye, causing inflammation and irritation on the inner surface of the lids (Sightsavers, 2014d). A colleague said:

“She is… our ambassador, which is a bit stronger than just a supporter; she is well known and well-liked… and has a …voice that most listeners would recognise even if they missed her introduction” (Sightsavers, 2014e).

In the project brief, this was written

“Research has shown that Scottish and Irish accents for voice-overs are more likely to encourage listeners to donate to broadcast appeals” (Sightsavers, 2014c).

It also said that Kelly could promote listening to the appeal to her 460,000 Twitter followers.

Rather than broadcasting widely, Kelly was asked to promote Sightsavers’ work to a specific audience of her fan community and regular Radio 4 listeners (Sightsavers, 2014f). The message communicated was: Sightsavers is a leader in the prevention and treatment of trachoma and Kelly is a supporter, so Sightsavers must be a credible organisation. Sightsavers overall objective of using a famous person in this way is to contribute to the larger process of societal change. However, when it comes to evalutating, as Brockington (2014a) argues, it is extremely difficult to measure whether this one celebrity appeal could help enagage the public and have a lasting impact on society’s behaviour.

(This is part of a much longer paper, there is a bibliography! Please contact me if you’d like more information.)

Social media and political action

Social Media

The world’s networked population has grown from millions to billions since the rise of the internet in the early 1990s (Shirky 2011). The world’s population now covered by a mobile phone signal is almost 90 per cent, and nearly 40 per cent have Internet access (IDS 2013).

“The explosion of social networking and the ubiquity of affordable digital technology that allows people to document, capture and create visual imagery is unprecedented. It has created a multitude of new ways for people to access and engage with information and with other people” (IDS 2013).

It is argued that the internet reduces the costs of social and political engagement which promotes political development worldwide. Through the internet, individuals are able to easily learn about government policies and actions, develop networks, connect with community, exchange information and establish shared norms (Shirky 2008 and Skoric, Ying and Ng 2009). Gleason (2013) argues that social media sites, such as Twitter, are information-sharing communities that support participation in social movements. Twitter can play an important role in facilitating the exchange of multiple perspectives, especially news related. News is now a communications ecosystem, occupied by a mix of individuals, informal collectives and formal organisations. User-generated content allows the voiceless to have voice (Gleason 2013 and Shirky 2008).

Reach

It is now possible for any citizen in possession of a mobile phone to post media online within seconds of an event’s occurrence at low cost. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook allow for instantaneous distribution of content. (Stevenson and Webster 2001). Social scientists have used the Zapatistas’ uprising as an example of this sort of effective social-networking reaching people worldwide (Atton 2003, Laer & Van Aelst 2010). In 1994 the Zapatistas started a local project of resistance. Their demands were for more rights and autonomy for the indigenous people of Chiapas in the rainforest region of southern Mexico. The Zapatistas used an international communications medium. This won support and recognition from all over the globe (Laer & Van Aelst 2010). Online coverage gained sympathy from those who were struggling against neoliberal globalization. It was now possible to inform others in distant places of their political communication and organisation methods. Anti-capitalist groups from different regions were able to collaborate with the Zapatistas as solidarity groups. They created networks where they could publish about their protsests. This led to the Indymedia network (The Independent Media Centre) (Atton 2003).

Indymedia became prominent during the demonstrations in Seattle in the USA in 1999. On 30th November demonstrations took place against the World Trade Organization Summit meeting. As well as a physical presence in Seattle, the anti-capitalism movement had an effective online presence. Audio and video footage as well as written reports were distributed over the internet and across the world.

Hundreds of hours of audio and video footage and hundreds of thousands of eyewitness reports, analyses and commentary became available to activists, supporters, detractors—to ‘global citizens’ at large” (Atton 2003:7).

This is significant as this growing online communication is enabling people in different countries and continents to: interact, influence each other and make decisions together. Social Media allowed a diverse range of activists, groups and social movement organizations to loosely knit together and coalesce in coordinated actions against the WTO summit both offline, in the streets, as well as online (Laer & Van Aelst 2010).

For social networks like IndyMedia “amateur journalists…report from the ‘front line’, from the grassroots, from within the movements and communities they thus come to represent. At this more specific level of journalistic practice, the principles of self-management, organizational and ideological independence, and prefigurative politics are played out in what we can think of as ‘native reporting’” (Atton 2003:10). This has fundamentally changed the reach of movements. However, stated on the publish page on Indy Media’s website is ‘while we struggle to maintain the news wire as a completely open forum we do monitor it and remove posts’ (IndyMedia 2003).

Freedom of speech is a difficult right to take away. One issue with extended reach is that many ideological groups (anything from violent political organizations to teen annorexia support groups) all use these same social-networks. It is difficult to close down individual discussion groups and blogs. Shirky (2011) argues that there needs to be a virtual police presence to keep a virtual community safe. But, do we always agree with police decisions or can this disempower activists?

In autocratic states, facebook is banned. The Chinese can only use Qzone, Iranians can only use Cloob and Vietnamese can only use Zing. These sites are government monitored and domestically developed. This prevents them from growing into online centres of alternative political expression, here the governments use the internet to control stories (The Economist 2010). Access to information is far less important politically than access to conversation (Shirky 2011). “Periodic arrests of dissidents caught posting things they had believed to be anonymous help propagate a society-wide chilling effect on political discussion, and a sense that one is better off sticking to flirting… and other entertaining and risk-free online pursuits” (The Economist 2010:1). In the most extreme cases, the use of social media tools is a matter of life and death. Hossein Derakhshan from Iran has a propsed death sentence for his blogging (Shirky 2011). Online reach has limitations.

Power

Movements make strategic use of social media for various counter-hegemonic purposes. This includes disrupting dominant discourses and identities, critiqing existing social and material conditions and articulating alternatives. Corporate control of public communication is short-circuited (Carroll and Hackett 2006).“By implication, power is no longer concentrated in a materially dominant class; it is dispersed across the diverse fields of the social”(Carroll and Hackett 2006:94).

Shirky (2008,2011) argues, alternate media networks and social media, outside the purview of governments and traditional media corporations, open new possibilities for opposition voices to be heard. It is widely agreed in the literature that under the old media model, news was typically produced, vetted and distributed by a single entity. The democratic deficits in a corporate dominant, highly commercialised media system include inequalities of access, representation and power. This system allows patterns of hierarchies and exclusion to be reinforced. For example, ‘free market’ policy institutes monitor media to prevent journalistic deviation from their neoliberal agenda. (Atton 2003, Carroll and Hackett 2006, Carroll and Ratner 1999, Nanabhay and Farmanfarmaian 2011). In the new information environment, these functions are being disaggregated. Existing regimes of power and knowledge can be disrupted, decentering the power of the previously powerful media in the public sphere (Atton 2003, Caroll & Hackett 2006, Carroll and Ratner 1999, IDS 2013, Nanabhay & Farmanfarmaian 2011, Van Laer & Van Aelst 2010).

Shirky (2008) argues that social media does increase the power of impassioned social movements because the voiceless can now participate in political discussion. Like Gleason (2013) and Skoric Ying and NG (2009), Shirky’s key point is that social media websites allow for impromptu organisations. These are harbingers of a future society that can self-organise without formal hierarchies. A wider group of people can now contribute to discussions. However this perspective is contested. Does simply enabling more people to connect and access information automatically make them zealous activists? Gladwell identifies a crucial distinction between the power of traditional activism to the power of social media. Gladwell contends online relationships have weak-ties. Effective and powerful social movements require strong-tie relationships meaning a high degree of personal connection to the movement in order to be resilient in the face of attack. While social media makes it easier for activists to express themselves and find like-minded people, “activism that challenges the status quo—that attacks deeply rooted problems—is not for the faint of heart” (Gladwell 2010:3). He concludes internet activists cannot transform society in the same way that a powerful movement like the US Civil Rights movements did. He concentrates on casual participants who seek social change through low-cost activities, such as joining a facebook campaign, that show no real-world action.

Shirky (2011) responded to Gladwell’s critique. “The critique is correct but not central to the question of social media’s power; the fact that barely committed actors cannot click their way to a better world does not mean that committed actors cannot use social media effectively” (Shirky 2011:1). He argues that social networks make it remarkably easier and cheaper to coordinate massive and rapid responses to arranged protests. Protest movements use social media as a way to coordinate real-world action not as a replacement for it. Shirky goes further, saying adopting these tools as a way to coordinate and document real-world action via mobile phones will be a part of all future political movements. For those citizens who are earnest for change, social media assists them. Gladwell’s (2011) response offers a significant consideration; Shirky has not proven that uprisings are impossible without social media. The power of social movements has not been fundamentally changed by social media, it is not essential.

Conclusion

Social media will not automatically make social movements more successful, power is fuelled by the dedication and commitment of the people involved, not by technology. Also, its important to remember that not all nations have the freedom to use social media, and some people do not have access to the internet. However, in democratic nations, social media has fundamentally changed the way protests, demonstrations and action can be organised and they way participants can engage.

Bibliography

Online journals

 

Atton, C. 2003. Reshaping Social Movement Media for a New Millennium. Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest. 2(1): 3-15

 

Carroll, W. and Hackett, R. 2006. Democratic media activism through the lens of social movement theory. Media Culture Society. 28(1): 83-104.

 

Carroll, K. and Ratner, S . 1999. Media Strategies and Political Projects: A Comparative Study of Social Movements. Canadian Journal of Sociology. 24(1): 1–34.

 

Gladwell, M. 2011. From Innovation to Revolution. Foreign affairs. Available at: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67325/malcolm-gladwell-and-clay-shirky/from-innovation-to-revolution. Accessed 12.12.2013

 

Gleason,B. 2013. Occupy Wall Street: Exploring Informal Learning about a Social Movement on Twitter. American Behavioural Scientist 57(7):966-982

 

Nanabhay and Farmanfarmaian. 2011. From spectacle to spectacular: How physical space, social media and mainstream broadcast amplified the public sphere in Egypt’s ‘Revolution’. The Journal of North African Studies, 16:4, 573-603

 

Shirky,C. 2011. The political power of social media: Technology, the public sphere and political change. Foreign Affairs. Available at: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67038/clay-shirky/the-political-power-of-social-media. Accessed 12.12.2013

Skoric, Ying & Ng. 2009. Bowling Online, Not Alone: Online Social Capital and Political Participation in Singapore. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. 14:414-433.

Schneier, B. 2008. Book Review ‘Here Comes Everybody’. IEE Explore. Available online: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.ezproxy.sussex.ac.uk/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=4607925

Accessed: 11.12.13

 

Van Laer, J & Van Aelst, J. 2010. Internet and Social Movement Action Repertoires. Information, Communication & Society, 13(8): 1146-1171

Books

Shirky, C. 2008. Here comes everybody. The power of organizing without organizations. London: Penguin

 

Stevenson, N. and Webster, F., eds., 2001. Culture and politics in the information age: a new politics? London: Routledge.

 

Websites

IDS. 2013. Available at:http://www.participatorymethods.org/task/communicate. Accessed11.12.13

 

IndyMedia. 2013. Available at:http://www.indymedia.org.uk/. Accessed 11.12.13 The

 

Economist.2010. Available at:http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/09/social_networks. Accessed 11.12.13

Aid Stories: Memoirs & Blogs

Do aid-workers’ blogs, poems and memoirs have value as a resource for research?  

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Writing as catharsis

A picture of human life, such as a great artist can give, surprises even the trivial and the selfish into that attention to what is apart from themselves which may be called the raw material of moral sentiment (George Elliot)

Non-academic literature has power: it can effectively convey extremely complex ideas to a variety of people. Fictional writing, poems and blogs are engaging and they can reach out to a large audience and express elaborate questions in every day language that invokes compassion.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog by Quinn Zimmerman who is an American 30 year-old-man who lived in Haiti for a year and six months to work with an aid organisation. Zimmerman discusses the way his feelings change throughout his time spent there, something that resonated with me from my experiences living abroad. But also, after living in Haiti for over a year, he reaches his own conclusion on foreign aid that is similar to the arguments we are encountering on our development degree at the University of Sussex. It was nice to hear it from someone who isn’t an academic, to read it from a very personal, diary-style account. His main point is that when you first arrive in a new country you see all the beauty and appreciate all the differences, but after a few months you become more cynical and start to see the challenges and annoyances.

His honesty and humility is inspiring…

“I helped people in Haiti in the immediate sense of the word… But in the long view, I have a hard time believing I accomplished anything akin to real change, because I was part of a system designed to combat the symptoms of Haiti’s illness, not the root causes.”

“Aid is not charismatic, but it is compelling, because it represents a desire to manifest the best of ourselves: a powerful, affirming, awakened engagement with one another that comes from the marriage of human ingenuity to human compassion” (Zimmerman, 2012)

Reading an informal account of development was refreshing. Lewis, Rodgers and Woolcock wrote an article called “The Fiction of Development: literary representation as a source of authoritative knowledge” (2008) which argues that literary fiction can help development practitioners ‘glean new insights and novel perspectives’. They claim that policy documents should be understood as narratives that decide which development problems are discussed by powerful actors. Non-academic publications shouldn’t be considered to have less authority, there is a fine line between what is fiction and what is not. Story telling happens in news journalism too, its all about the way you present the facts.

One of the most useful aspects of this publication by Lewis, Rodgers and Woolcock was the list of books it recommended to development students. It includes The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, insisting that books like this one educate western readers about the realities of everyday life in Afghanistan. Their assertion is that literature can paint a more nuanced view of life and helps the reader understand foreign values and ideas from a different society.

Here is the list of over 60 books on development:

Achebe, C. (1958) Things Fall Apart (London: Heinemann).
Ali, M. (2003) Brick Lane (London: Doubleday).
Amado, J. (1965 [1943]) The Violent Land (New York: Knopf).
Ballard, J.G. (1994) Rushing to Paradise (London: Harper Collins).
Ballard, J.G. (1987) The Day of Creation (London: Victor Gollancz).
Borges, J.L. (2000 [1964]) Labyrinths: Selected Short Stories and Other Writings (London: Penguin Books).
Boyd, W. (1982) A Good Man in Africa (London: Penguin).
Boyd, W. (1991) Brazzaville Beach (London: Penguin).
Brunner, J. (1968) Stand on Zanzibar (New York: Ballantine).
Buck, P.S. (2004 [1931]) The Good Earth (New York: Simon and Schuster).
Camus, A. (1994 [1948]) The Plague (New York: First Vintage International).
Carpentier, A. (1989 [1957]) The Kingdom of This World (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
Cohen, A. (1996 [1968]) Belle du Seigneur: A Novel (New York: Viking).
Condé, M. (1996 [1984]) Segu (New York: Penguin).
Conrad, J. (1990 [1902]) Heart of Darkness (New York: Dover Publications).
Conrad, J. (1983 [1904]Nostromo (London: Penguin).
Darko, A. (1995) Beyond the Horizon (London: Heinemann).
de Bernières, L. (1990) The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts (London: Secker and Warburg).
Desai, A. (2000) Diamond Dust and Other Stories (London: Chatto and Windus).
Farrell, J.G. (1973) The Siege of Krishnapur (London: George Weidenfeld and Nicholson).
Fielding, H. (1994) Cause Celeb (London: Picador).
Forster, E.M. (2000 [1924]) A Passage to India (London: Penguin).
Frisch, M. (1959 [1957]) Homo Faber (New York: Harcourt).
Fuentes, C. (1989 [1987]) Christopher Unborn (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
Galgut, D. (2004) The Good Doctor (London: Atlantic Books).
Genet, J. (1988 [1958]) The Blacks: A Clown Show (New York: Grove Press).
Gordimer, N. (1978) The Conservationist (London: Penguin).
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Work Placement at Sightsavers

I am hoping to secure an exciting work placement in communications and public relations at Sightsavers, an NGO in Haywards Heath, in January 2014 as part of my BA International Development at Sussex University.

Sightsavers do life transforming work in over 30 countries and so the opportunity to work for them would be a huge honour.

Visit their website: Sightsavers

Sightsavers is a Non Governmental Organisation based in Haywards Heath, UK.

January 2013: I DID indeed secure a work placement and you can read about it here!