February 15, 2012

Reasons why we reflect

Acquiring self-knowledge requires reflection.
Failure to reflect has been associated with inadequate or poor leadership skills by many authors. (Hammer & Stanton, 1997,. Kouzes & Posner, Sherman, 1994).

Smith (2001) outlines the reasons why we reflect:

 Natural element of learning
 Gain insight & understanding
 Foresee consequences
 Solve problem(s)
 Justify action
 Achieve control
 Improve decisions
 Increase options
 Clarification
 Detect errors
 Forced to do it
 Seek “truth”
 Explore mindsets
 Identify “right” problem
 Challenge norms
 Gain new perspectives
 Self-insight
 Self-development
 Personal mastery
 Overcome resistance
 Apportion blame
 Explore responsibility
 Increase self-confidence
 Get new ideas
 Part of thinking
 Conflict resolution
 Negotiation
 Cultural expectations
 Be more successful
 Enhance performance
 Gain multiple viewpoints
 Intuitive element in adaption
 Gain an edge
 Uncover discrepant reasoning
 Shift blame (distancing)

(Peter A.C. Smith: Management Learning Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2001)

January 31, 2012

"Portraits of the Women of Afghanistan."

The cover image this week is powerful, shocking and disturbing. It is a portrait of Aisha, a shy 18-year-old Afghan woman who was sentenced by a Taliban commander to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws. Aisha posed for the picture and says she wants the world to see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan, many of whom have flourished in the past few years. Her picture is accompanied by a powerful story by our own Aryn Baker on how Afghan women have embraced the freedoms that have come from the defeat of the Taliban — and how they fear a Taliban revival.
(See pictures of Afghan women and the return of the Taliban.)
I thought long and hard about whether to put this image on the cover of TIME. First, I wanted to make sure of Aisha's safety and that she understood what it would mean to be on the cover. She knows that she will become a symbol of the price Afghan women have had to pay for the repressive ideology of the Taliban. We also confirmed that she is in a secret location protected by armed guards and sponsored by the NGO Women for Afghan Women. Aisha will head to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery sponsored by the Grossman Burn Foundation, a humanitarian organization in California. We are supporting that effort.
(Watch TIME's video on photographing Aisha for the cover.)
I'm acutely aware that this image will be seen by children, who will undoubtedly find it distressing. We have consulted with a number of child psychologists about its potential impact. Some think children are so used to seeing violence in the media that the image will have little effect, but others believe that children will find it very scary and distressing — that they will see it, as Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston, said, as "a symbol of bad things that can happen to people." I showed it to my two young sons, 9 and 12, who both immediately felt sorry for Aisha and asked why anyone would have done such harm to her. I apologize to readers who find the image too strong, and I invite you to comment on the image's impact.
But bad things do happen to people, and it is part of our job to confront and explain them. In the end, I felt that the image is a window into the reality of what is happening — and what can happen — in a war that affects and involves all of us. I would rather confront readers with the Taliban's treatment of women than ignore it. I would rather people know that reality as they make up their minds about what the U.S. and its allies should do in Afghanistan.
(See the cover story "Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban.")
The much publicized release of classified documents by WikiLeaks has already ratcheted up the debate about the war. Our story and the haunting cover image by the distinguished South African photographer Jodi Bieber are meant to contribute to that debate. We do not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it. We do it to illuminate what is actually happening on the ground. As lawmakers and citizens begin to sort through the information about the war and make up their minds, our job is to provide context and perspective on one of the most difficult foreign policy issues of our time. What you see in these pictures and our story is something that you cannot find in those 91,000 documents: a combination of emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land and the consequences of the important decisions that lie ahead.
To learn more about Aisha and her reconstructive surgery in the U.S., visit www.GrossmanBurnFoundation.org and www.WomenForAfghanWomen.org.
Watch TIME's video "Portraits of the Women of Afghanistan."

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2007415,00.html#ixzz1lq8CoY7V

January 10, 2012

Cultural Anthropology Online Commences in March

We are pleased to announce that the distance learning Cultural Anthropology Programme through distance learning is now available in EU member countries. It is a fascinating course and the programme is designed for those who already have a background in social science (Diploma in Social Studies or level 7 Bachelor’s Degree in social science) and particularly relevant to professionals whose professions include working with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. The cost of the course is 780 euros. Previous students with a Diploma in Social Studies will be able to participate for a special alumni fee. Students must have completed the programme in Social Studies with a minimum of a Third Class Honours Award in order to be eligible for participation.

The Foundation is presently being restructured and the the logo has been redesigned in keeping with the essence of the foundation’s roots. The design retains the two distinguished and recognised lions. The lions are representative of the coat of arms and educational institutions traditionally symbolising bravery as they are regarded as the kings of beast. The lions are holding an artist’s impression of a Reuleaux triangle which rolls three times up and down per rotation to represent the skill of reflective thinking with three colours to represent the visualisation acquired through thinking.

The International Foundation will also be launching a Reflective Teaching Programme for the 2013-2015 academic cycle in conjunction with the promotion of public awareness of the benefits of reflective learning. The aim is to support teachers, school mentors, university tutors and curriculum developers to cultivate an effective dialogue and expertise in educational practice. The course will be of benefit to vocational and academic educators at all levels, but in particular in areas where over prescriptive curricula and assessment procedures have resulted in inhibiting the engagement of learners. The course will have three aspects: an introduction to various philosophies of education, reflective practice in the classroom, and assessment and self – assessment effectiveness.

November 24, 2011

Anthropologists in a Global Village

Ken Banks, combines over twenty-five years' experience in the technology sector with a degree in social anthropology, and nineteen years experience living and working across Africa.

Social anthropology was a discipline I was fortunate to stumble into when I headed to university way back in 1996. My main motive for going was to read Development Studies, but at Sussex you couldn’t study it as a single subject. Choices for a second ranged from English Literature to Spanish to Geography. I rather casually picked anthropology.

If I were to be honest, for much of the first year I struggled. I never could get my head around the intricacies of “Kinship, Gender and Social Reproduction”. It wasn’t until we shifted focus in the second year towards applied anthropology that it all began to fall into place. Grounding the discipline in the problems and challenges of ‘modern’ life helped frame how useful, relevant and outright interesting it could be. By the time I graduated my main two pieces of work had focused on the role of anthropologists in the creation of conservation areas and national parks, and language death (including attempts to “revive” threatened languages such as Manx and Jerriais).

When people first come across our work they usually hone straight in on the “anthropology” in the strapline. Many people seem genuinely fascinated by what anthropologists could ever be doing working in mobiles-for-development, or ICT4D more broadly. It’s a good question. This is how I answered in a recent interview with National Geographic (this is one of a number of possible answers):

How are anthropologists exploring the enormous impacts of technology in the developing world?

Today, with markets saturated in the ‘developed world’ – if we can call it that – manufacturers are increasingly turning their attention to the two billion or so consumers left on the planet who don’t yet own a phone. Many of these people sit at the “bottom of the pyramid” (BOP) as economists like to call it, and many have very different needs from a mobile phone.

Manufacturers looking to build devices for the BOP need to very carefully consider price, which is often a crucial factor for someone with very limited disposable income. They might also need to consider literacy levels, or technical ability, perhaps re-working the user interface on the phone to make it easier to use.

They might also need to consider building phones which can take multiple SIM cards, since many people in the developing world regularly switch between different networks before making calls to take advantage of special deals. And they might need to think about providing security and privacy features on the phone which allows it to be shared between family members, something else which is very common in developing countries.

Understanding what these users might need or want from a phone needs time in the field, and researchers need to immerse themselves in the consumer, their lives and their phone usage patterns. Often it’s simply a case of patient, participant observation rather than just going in asking a bunch of questions, and anthropologists are particularly well suited to this kind of work.

Back in the summer of 2008 I was approached by researchers from the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Texas. They were working on a book chapter which looked at how anthropologists were contributing to the development of technologies that addressed the challenges of globalisation. Their focus was principally on consumer uses of technology, not organisational, and how anthropologists were melding theory and practice in the technology space, or “Global Village”.

After much work, that book – “Applying Anthropology in the Global Village” – is about to hit the shelves. For anyone interested in how anthropology can be usefully applied in the modern world, this is a must-read. kiwanja’s early work which lead to the development of FrontlineSMS is featured in the chapter on “Localising the Global in Technology Design”.

A comment from one of the reviewers sums up the book’s contribution well:

Once in a generation comes a shift in the practice of anthropology, or perhaps a shift in our perspective on the place of practice in the discipline and in the world. Here is a harbinger of such change – the book we have all been waiting for – taking us to the cutting-edge of an anthropological practice that is ‘globalised’, hybridised with other disciplines, technology-infused, and on the go 24/7. A remarkable collection, this volume provides prospective and retrospective views of the agglomerative power of anthropology in the halls of global practice – influencing policy on global climate change, gendering our knowledge of mobility around the world, explaining the reason for technology ‘grey markets’ in developing nations, revealing the concept of ‘plastic time’ and so much more. It will challenge what you thought you knew about ‘applied anthropology’

Although nothing as grand as a book, there are a few posts here covering anthropology and it’s increasing relevance in the ICT4D/m4d sector. There’s a general introduction here, a few additional resources here and an anthropology ‘category’ here.

If you’re interested in working in ICT4D and would rather focus on the “D”, you could do a lot worse than study anthropology. This book could well be the perfect place to start.

Cultural Anthropology & Diversity Skills for Professionals, Enrol Now for January 2012.

October 20, 2011

Tuition fees in England at up to 28 universities expressed an interest in cutting their average fee to £7,500 or less.

As many as 28 universities in England are considering lowering the fees they have said they will charge from next year.

The news comes as hundreds of thousands of teenagers are preparing to apply for university.

Universities set their fee and bursary levels in April but in July the government announced further changes.

Fees will rise up to a limit of £9,000 next year but the changes mean some universities might want to charge less.

In England, fees will rise up to a maximum of £9,000. Fees in Wales and Scotland are also rising up to that maximum level - but only for students from other parts of the UK.

Scottish students studying in Scotland will pay no fees and Welsh students will be subsidised wherever they study in the UK.

The Office for Fair Access (Offa) said 28 universities had expressed an interest in cutting their average fee to £7,500 or less.

Eight have already taken steps to do so.

There are about 130 universities and other higher education institutions in England.

It means that young people hoping to apply for university next year cannot yet be certain of the fee levels of the institutions they are considering applying to.

Most will want to apply before a deadline in mid-January. Those applying to Oxford and Cambridge and for medicine and veterinary science have already applied.

Offa is writing to all universities giving them the timetable for revising their fees.

Universities have until 4 November to submit their new plans, which will be confirmed by the end of November.

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October 19, 2011


Since Michael D Higgins, one of the seven presidential candidates in Ireland studied sociology, Julia Kennelly, who has commenced her study on Cultural Anthropology has been researching his previous work. She came across one of his poems which is moving and which she feels students will appreciate in their study of ageing. Following the poem submitted by Julia is a speech made by Michael D Higgins at the Sociological Association of Ireland’s Annual Conference in 2008 in which he calls for sociological imagination and critical insight. He criticises what he calls “dubious shibbolets from management journals from abroad” in which he cites such tips as “walking around with an air of importance” and warns of the limitations of this superficiality which is replacing intellectual work and inhibiting the development of a creative society .
His collections are The Betrayal (Galway, Salmon Publishing, 1990); The Season of Fire (Tralee, Co. Kerry, Brandon, 1993); and An Arid Season(Dublin, New Island Books, 2004).

The Betrayal
A poem for my father

By Michael D Higgins

This man is seriously ill,
The doctor had said a week before,
Calling for a wheelchair.
It was
After they rang me
To come down and persuade you
To go in
Condemned to remember your eyes
As they met mine in that moment
Before they wheeled you away.
It was one of my final tasks,
To persuade you to go in,
A Judas chosen not by Apostles
But by others more broken;
And I was in part,
Relieved when they wheeled you from me,
Down the corridor, confused,
Without a backwards glance
And when I had done it,
I cried, out onto the road,
Hitching a lift to Galway and away
From the trouble of your
Cantankerous old age
And rage too,
At all that had in recent years
Befallen you.

All week I waited to visit you
But when I called, you had been moved
To where those dying too slowly
Were sent,
A poorhouse no longer known by that name,
But in the liberated era of Lemass,
Given a saint as a name, St. Joseph’s
Was he Christ’s father,
Patron saint of the Worker,
The mad choice of some pietistic politician?
You never cared.

Nor did you speak too much.
You had broken an attendant’s glasses,
The holy nurse told me,
When you were admitted.
Your father is a very difficult man,
As you must know. And Social Welfare is slow
And if you would pay for the glasses,
I would appreciate it.
It was 1964, just after optical benefit
Was rejected by D eValera for poorer classes
In his Republic, who could not afford,
As he did,
To travel to Zurich
For their regular tests and their
Rimless glasses.

It was decades earlier
You had brought me to see him
Pass through Newmarket-on-Fergus
As the brass and reed band struck up,
Cheeks red and distended to the point
Where a child’s wonder was as to whether
They would burst as they blew
Their trombones.
The Sacred Heart Procession and De Valera,
You told me, were the only occasions
When their instruments were taken
From the rusting, galvanized shed
Where they stored them in anticipation
Of the requirements of Church and State.

Long before that, you had slept,
In ditches and dug outs,
Prayed in terror at ambushes
With others who later debated
Whether De Valera was lucky or brilliant
In getting the British to remember
That he was an American,
And that debate had not lasted long
In concentration camps in Newbridge
And the Curragh, Where mattresses were burned,
As the gombeens decided that the new State
Was a good thing,
Even for business.

In the dining room of St. Joeseph’s
The potatoes were left in the middle of the table
In a dish, towards which
You and many other Republicans
Stretched feeble hands that shook.
Your eyes were bent as you peeled
With the long thumb-nail I had often watched
Scrape a pattern on the leather you had
Toughened for our shoes,
Your eyes when you looked at me
Were a thousand miles away,
Now totally broken,
Unlike those times even
Of rejection, when you went at sixty
For jobs you never got,
Too frail to load vans, or manage
The demands of selling.
And I remember
When you came back to me,
Your regular companion of such occasions,
And they said, They think that I’m too old
For the job. I said I was fifty-eight
But they knew I was past sixty.

A body ready for transportation,
Fit only for a coffin, that made you
Too awkward
For death at home.
The shame of a coffin exit
Through a window sent you here,
Where my mother told me you asked
Only for her to place her cool hand
Under your neck.
And I was there when they asked
Would they give you a Republican Funeral,
In that month when you died,
Between the end of the First Programme for
Economic Expansion
And the Second.

I look at your photo now,
Taken in the beginning of bad days,
With your surviving mates
In Limerick.
Your face haunts me as do these memories;
And all these things have been scraped
In my heart,
And I can never hope to forget
What was, after all,
A betrayal.

Michael D Higgins speaking at the Sociological Association of Ireland’s Annual Conference in 2008
Absence of political will our greatest challenge
Speaking at the Sociological Association of Ireland’s Annual Conference, at which he was made an honorary life member, the third since the founding of the Association in 1973, Michael D Higgins made a strong appeal for sociologists to reclaim the intellectual space that had been forfeited to a form of economic commentary that lacked intellectual content, rigour or depth.


October 16, 2011

Why is Lifelong learning important?

The rhetoric of lifelong learning has become familiar throughout the developed world - broadly speaking it describes a cradle to grave approach to learning which according to Green, ‘implies the distribution of learning opportunities throughout the lifetime’ (2000, p. 35). So the term is increasingly understood to encompass schooling as well as tertiary, higher and continuing education.
Why is lifelong learning important? Lifelong learning opportunities serve both economic and social purposes through enabling and supporting people to keep pace with and adapt to worldwide changes in society and the growth of the global economy. While this chapter is written from a largely UK perspective many of the central ideas reflect international concerns about the nature of lifelong learning. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2004, p. 1) suggests that the concept has four central features:
• Lifelong learning covers the whole life cycle and comprises all forms of formal and informal learning.
• The learner is central to the process.
• The motivation to learn is fundamental to lifelong learning and is fostered through ‘learning to learn’.
• Personal goals for learning may change over time and will encompass all aspects of our lives.
The quality of people's lives may be enhanced through participating in lifelong learning. The concept of quality of life is difficult to define and can mean different things for different people in different settings and at different points in their lives.

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