Monitoring Movements in Development Aid

Monitoring Movements in Development Aid: Recursive Partnerships and Infrastructures

Casper Bruun Jensen
Brit Ross Winthereik
Series: Infrastructures
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Monitoring Movements in Development Aid
    Book Description:

    InMonitoring Movements in Development Aid, Casper Jensen and Brit Winthereik consider the processes, social practices, and infrastructures that are emerging to monitor development aid, discussing both empirical phenomena and their methodological and analytical challenges. Jensen and Winthereik focus on efforts by aid organizations to make better use of information technology; they analyze a range ofdevelopment aid information infrastructurescreated to increase accountability and effectiveness. They find that constructing these infrastructures is not simply a matter of designing and implementing technology but entails forging new platforms for action that are simultaneously imaginative and practical, conceptual and technical. After presenting an analytical platform that draws on science and technology studies and the anthropology of development, Jensen and Winthereik present an ethnography- based analysis of the mutually defining relationship between aid partnerships and infrastructures; the crucial role of users (both actual and envisioned) in aid information infrastructures; efforts to make aid information dynamic and accessible; existing monitoring activities of an environmental NGO; and national-level performance audits, which encompass concerns of both external control and organizational learning.Jensen and Winthereik argue that central to the emerging movement to monitor development aid is the blurring of means and ends: aid information infrastructures are both technological platforms for knowledge about aid and forms of aid and empowerment in their own right.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31701-6
    Subjects: Library Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    This is a book about emerging aid information infrastructures constructed to enhance modes of creating accountability and of ensuring effectiveness in aid development. It is about technologies developed to monitor organizations, practices, or projects involved in aid and to make information accessible and transparent to a broad range of global users. It is also about aid partnership as an ideal and as a collaborative form. It is at once about these empirical phenomena and about the analytical and methodological challenges they pose for science and technology studies (STS) and for social and cultural anthropology.

    We describe and discuss a number...

  5. 1 Infrastructures and Development Aid: Fields, Fractals, and Frictions
    (pp. 1-30)

    Infrastructures are crucial to the operations of modern society and its organizations. They are also tricky analytical objects. The historian of technology Paul Edwards reminds us thatinfrastructurewas originally a military term designating “fixed facilities” (2003, 186). Infrastructure was seen as the basis on which, or the means by which, a society or an organization operated; it included road networks, waterways, power grids, and even schools and prisons (ibid., 187, quoting theAmerican Heritage Dictionary).

    Today, however, infrastructures are widely perceived to have become less fixed and more fluid. This has to do with the fact that infrastructures are...

  6. 2 Recursions: Partnerships, Infrastructure, and Ethnography
    (pp. 31-50)

    In the previous chapter, we made note of the fact that the notion of partnership emerged at a particular historical moment, crystallizing in the Pearson report. (See Power 2003, 132.) The Pearson report conceptualized aid in terms of partnership. Although at the time “partnership” referred mostly to governments, the report also had profound implications for how people began to think about the “goods” of aid.

    Today partnership is a salient feature of aid cooperation, if it isn’t the most prominent and dominant form through which development programs and practices unfold. Partnership in its current guise, however, is far different from...

  7. 3 Inventive Frontiers: Aid Information Infrastructures and Their Users
    (pp. 51-70)

    Development aid is continuously changing its policies and concepts, yet many argue that it continues to fail to meet its goals—to build infrastructures, modernize, alleviate poverty, ensure gender inclusion and equity, and so forth. (See, e.g., Easterly 2006.) Why this is the case (and, indeed, whether this is the case) has been a subject of academic and policy discussions for several decades. At the same time, the perception that development aid fails to live up to its promises and expectations has become a driving force in the ongoing transformation of its practices.

    For one thing, there is today a...

  8. 4 Development Loop: Technological Politics for Transparency
    (pp. 71-92)

    In the preceding chapter we characterized the AidData conference in Oxford as a diagnostic event. It offered us an entry point from which to begin tracing the contours of the aid transparency movement, and it allowed us to characterize its emerging publics. Among the half-imagined, half-real users making up this constituency we identified several figures, among them the ordinary citizen and the wired-up user. We also pointed to the vividly felt presence of not-yet-informatted bureaucrats. Common among these types is a shared temporal orientation: all are users and are headed toward a future of increasingly transparent information. (See Jensen 2010a,...

  9. 5 Weedy Infrastructure: Monitoring Environmental Partnerships
    (pp. 93-120)

    In previous chapters we described some inventive initiatives that aim to create better platforms for knowledge about aid activities and projects—knowledge that is meant to be beneficial not only to aid organizations but also to policy makers and to various publics. A study of these endeavors, however, didn’t get us in touch with any actual aid development projects. So far, we have heard little about how such projects operate, or about how accountability and transparency matter to the people who instigate them. And we have heard next to nothing about the infrastructures for accountability, transparency, and knowledge making that...

  10. 6 Wormholes: Loops of Auditing and Learning
    (pp. 121-146)

    How is the monitoring work carried out by the National Audit Office in central Copenhagen related to the monitoring work of NatureAid? Among other things, the civil servants, the environmentalists and the people living in and around threatened natural reserves are connected through a flow of documentation through which they seek to account for the progress of development projects. Through multiple procedures and formats, they seek, in their quite different ways, to understand the quality of aid projects and their effects. But there is one central difference. Whereas NGOs such as NatureAid are required to monitor the progress of its...

  11. 7 Monitoring Movements
    (pp. 147-166)

    In this book we have examined the problematic landscape of monitoring in which aid infrastructure, partnership, accountability, and transparency co-evolve. Polymorphous ethnographic engagement with monitoring practices has been central to this endeavor. Thus, we have aimed to characterize ways in which new ontologies of aid emerge through monitoring and evaluation, and through the making of public information, which used to be accessible only to development professionals and government officers. We have argued that today’s development aid is, to a significant degree, constructed by information, standards, and collaboration formats alongside the “usual suspects”: interest groups, development organizations, consultants, and other aid...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 167-172)
  13. References
    (pp. 173-188)
  14. Index
    (pp. 189-192)