Why a reading list?
Exploring social problems and effective interventions is thrilling and rewarding, but can also be frustrating. (A confusing feeling to encounter when dealing with philanthropy - haven’t we been taught that it should be all warm fuzzy feelings?) There is so much information out there, and often, the closer you look at a topic, the more complex you discover it is. So where do we start?
Well, let's start by looking at the tools and approaches we use to understand social problems and identify effective interventions. Let’s strive for a fact based world view. (Important now more than ever, eh?)
1. Everything you know is wrong.
Hans Rosling’s geniously simple ways of debunking massive misconceptions about the world caused by false media representation and confirmation bias has become a classic staple of international development discussions, and for all the right reasons. From the refugee crisis to global health, he was debunking myths left, right and center. (Update: And will be very sorely missed).
2. Ben's pick: What’s confirmation bias, you might ask?
Here is a 3 minute read on all sorts of cognitive biases, which will perhaps make you slightly more vary of your strongest convictions.
3. Patrick’s pick: For everyone who ever thought statistics were boring (and those who love it)
Patrick Ball, The Founder of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group - a.k.a statistician magician - a.k.a human rights investigation celeb, demonstrates the nuances, risks and potentials of data collection and analysis, and he does it better than anyone else we’ve come across.
This is not only a fascinating read; it’s also an extremely important statement on the importance of data that isn’t merely true, but representative. For everyone who wants to adopt a data driven approach to social problems, we can’t stress the importance of Ball’s message enough.
4. Regan’s pick: Human Rights defence is changing, and our donations should too
Support from international human rights communities and donors is often focused on remote work and emergency relief, and fails to protect localised community responses to human rights abuses from an increasing number of security risks. This is an important call for the international community to complement existing support models with long term movement building and grassroots empowerment, again highlighting the absolute necessity of a complex understanding of localised problems.
‘Have we adequately analysed the changing dynamics influencing risk and contested civil society space, and adapted the policies and support to confront the new reality? Is the protection model of relying heavily on international groups and service providers insufficient and unsustainable, given the scale and severity of attacks on defenders? Should protection start closer to home?’
5. Dr. Srinivasan's pick: Are human rights 'real'?
What does the term 'Human Rights' actually mean, and who decides? In global politics, different stakeholders usually have very different conceptions of its meaning; which is subject to constant change, contention, and requalificaiton, but, as Dr. Srinivasan argues, Human Rights is mainly 'an evolving lanuguage of our time'. A language through which we understand the complex political relationships and power dynamics of our world, enabling us to contest, resist or support them.
6. What do we do now?
The rise of demagogues in the US and Europe brings with it a host of implications for Human Rights defence throughout the world, as highlighted in Human Rights Watch's comprehensive world report for 2017. This short article summarises the global developments of autocracies and populism in the year passed, and sends one clear message: 'The antidote is for voters to demand a politics based on truth and the values on which rights-respecting democracy is built.'
About the contributors:
Ben Clifford is the Growth Director at Founders Pledge
Patrick Ball is the Founder of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group.
Regan Ralph is the president & CEO of the Fund for Global Human Rights.
Dr. Sharath Srinivasan is the Director of the Centre of Governance & Human Rights, and co-founder of the Africa’s Voices Foundation.