Rethinking the Economy

In 2015 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published The Financial System We Need – Aligning the Financial System with Sustainable Development as an attempt to encourage an alternative economy which is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Precisely, rethinking the global economic system seems like an essential change in a world striving towards sustainable development.  The UNEP is talking about a “quiet revolution” in order to transition into a green economy, where social and environmental aspects will be integrated into the existing financial system.

On the other hand, circular economy has been another interesting alternative concept. In 2002 William McDonough and Michael Braungart published Cradle to Cradle, a book that challenges the discourse of production and consumption of ‘cradle to grave’ manufacturing. They suggest that the industrial system should instead mimic the global ecosystem, where every product or material is a valuable resource and nothing is discarded as waste. They argue that applying this framework to the current economy will require a complete rethinking of business models, product design, and product removal. In the design phase of a product, it is crucial to consider what will happen to the product after its use and how the materials can be re-used. The main problem is that many products are a hybrid between the biosphere and the technosphere, which challenges the recycling process. Another crucial point made by McDonough and Braungart is rethinking the idea of ‘products of consumption’ which implies ownership. Circular economy fundamentally defies this concept and focuses on renting, leasing and services. Reshaping the economy into circular models can be an effective way of addressing environmental issues, as it encourages lowering the production of natural resources and decreasing greenhouse gas emission, as well as reducing soil and groundwater pollution from toxic landfills.

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William McDonough TED talk about Cradle to Cradle design

 

H&M applying circular economy in their business model

If you found these videos inspirational and would like to find out more about future trends, we have compiled a list of links that will give you a more thorough understanding of the topic. For further information on circular economy and the fashion industry contact the author, Ida.

Join Your Association’s Committee

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We are recruiting an Events Planner!

The Events Planner is responsible for the organisation of MIDP Association events. Working closely with the Events Coordinator, and the rest of the committee, they ensure the smooth execution of a variety of events throughout the year.

To understand more and how to apply, click the link below for the detailed position description:

Download Events Planner PDF

From Melbourne to Brasil: pursuing my gender justice goals through an internship of a lifetime

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My story began very unremarkably: I applied for a last minute internship opportunity with Oxfam’s gender justice unit that had been created as a result of the Oxfam-Monash partnership. I emailed back with my CV within a few minutes (thank you email notifications!), and was eventually shortlisted for an interview with Kim Henderson, Oxfam’s gender justice lead.

I was pretty nervous, but the interview ended up being a casual chat over a coffee in a café across from the Oxfam office. I say casual chat but, in retrospect, there was still a huge amount of information to absorb! It was exciting though; I felt that even if I was not successful in securing the internship, I was still doing something hugely proactive for my future. I was even more excited when I found out I had secured the position!

Things moved fairly quickly after that. I enrolled in the internship subject, completed online Oxfam inductions, and arranged my first day with Kim for a general orientation. It was only then that I discovered a major perk of this internship: Brazil.

Let me backtrack. My internship title was International Feminist Forum Delegation Coordinator, and my role involved assisting with the preparation and coordination of Oxfam’s presence at the 2016 Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) forum in Brazil.

AWID is an international feminist organisation committed to achieving gender justice by supporting and resourcing the collective action and impact of global women’s rights advocates, organisations and movements. AWID hosts a global forum every three to four years that is attended by about 2,000 feminist activists from around the world. These forums provide a platform for activists to collectively strategize and mobilise, share feminist knowledge and information that can support women’s rights movements, and develop a more just development agenda.

AWID hosted its 13th international forum between the 8th and the 11th of September 2016, in Costa do Sauípe, Brazil. After applying for this internship, I was asked whether I could potentially go to Brazil in September (my answer of course was a quick and absolute ‘yes’). This had not been raised in my interview so I was thrilled about the opportunity. Forwarding back to my first day on the job, I found out that not only would I be able to attend the AWID forum, my attendance would be funded by the Oxfam-Monash partnership!

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Once I was set up and ready to start working, my first task was helping with the logistical coordination of Oxfam’s presence at the forum. Oxfam took care to send only a small delegation of employees, so as to not crowd out the space at the forum. Instead, they invested in the attendance of activists from partner organisations. These forums offer opportunities for smaller organisations and for activists from all walks of life to have a voice, and it is very important for international non-governmental organisations like Oxfam to enhance these opportunities instead of dominating them.

My role also involved helping with the preparation of the event strategy, policy positions and key messages that were used to ensure that Oxfam had a coordinated presence at the forum. I performed a lot of this work independently from home and worked about once a week from the Oxfam office. I was extremely fortunate to work directly with two inspiring, engaging, and very down to earth women, as I felt very comfortable to just jump in and get my hands dirty.

Participation at the forum itself was educational and motivational. Each day started with a plenary session (attended by all participants) that covered a broad scope of feminist issues. The remainder of the day was filled with a variety of experiences: from other participant-led sessions, to well-being activities and cultural events.

I divided my time between helping to staff the Oxfam display booth and performing general coordination, and participating in as many sessions as I possibly could. To name a few, I attended sessions on feminist resource mobilisation, intersex issues, and religious fundamentalism. Through this experience, I developed a deeper understanding of current feminist discourses and issues faced by women and the LGBTQI community across the world. I also learnt about current strategies, tools, and methodologies that activists are using to combat gender injustice globally.

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Upon returning to Australia, I spent several weeks preparing some follow-up work for Oxfam, including advice to improve the logistical coordination for the next AWID forum, an evaluation of the extent to which Oxfam achieved its goals at the forum, and an analysis of how Oxfam could improve its partnerships with women’s rights organisations and become a better ally in the fight for gender justice.

I also worked on my assignments for Monash, including a short presentation, a reflective journal, and an end of mission report that outlined my goals and achievements throughout the internship. These papers required a fair bit of work and critical reflection on my experience, including some soul-searching regarding my career goals, strengths and weaknesses, and they acted as a nice bookend to the internship process.

My Oxfam and AWID experience has cemented my desire to work in women’s rights and to further my academic study by pursuing a thesis on gender. I have improved my networking skills significantly (though it is still a work in progress!), and I have built friendships with women’s rights activists from around the world.

This internship has also continued to open doors for me. I presented about my experiences at the forum in a Gender and Development class, I have kept in contact with Oxfam’s Gender Justice team and other feminist activists, and I managed to secure a second internship with Oxfam’s Humanitarian Advocacy Team performing policy mapping and research on humanitarian issues.

My advice to you would be that, if you have the opportunity to do an internship as part of your studies, do not hesitate to go for it. Even if, like me, you tend to feel nervous about networking, it could be a game changer. Putting yourself out there for opportunities is never as scary as you think it might be, and it could be a step in the right direction for your career and gaining practical experience in the field.

Is Effectiveness Killing Happiness?

Development practitioners have a very big responsibility. Our job will always affect people.This affirmation is not to increase our self-importance, but rather to make us reflect on how every intervention can affect the course of human lives for many years to come.

As a student, I am increasingly worried about our ‘numerization’ of results. Today, world wide systems work according to the ‘market logic’. As a result, everything can be measured by a given scale, and happiness is no exception.  Happiness reports are highly influenced by Benthams’s work. According to Davies (2015) Betham was a policy maker who decided that political decisions had to be made accountable. In short, he created this concept in order  to convert political decisions into hard, empirical data. He argued that nouns such as ‘goodness’, ‘duty’, ‘mind’ were abstract propositions and that the more abstract these nouns were, the more false perceptions they held. On the other hand, happiness is not about smiling all day and being cheerful; to me, that would be excitement. The Dalai Lama describes it as neutral experience that can bring deep satisfaction.

The happiness report that was released on the 21st of March,  bases its ranking on the economic power and decision making capabilities of each nation. As a result, wealthier countries appear at the top of the table: Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Finland. These countries measure happiness through a ‘numerical perspective’. Measuring today’s happiness is made in a non-abstract way. Contrastingly, the video below involves only abstract nouns. There is no clear definition of income, acquisitive power, or social level of  influence.

If you feel the same as I did with this video, it left you feeling like you want  to go out and do the best you can do to help yourself and others. In my opinion, that very heartwarming sensation is what happiness is. That said, my background is not in psychology, so my claim might be biased or even incorrect. However,  I am certain that happiness is not a numerical value.

This statement does not mean to dismiss the Happiness Report. On the contrary, I believe that it is an excellent initiative. However, I do think that the report needs to be more comprehensive and consider alternative ways to measure happiness. When we are trying to transform a society,we can not assume that increasing wealth will necessarily translate into an increase in well-being. For example, let us consider  South Korea of the most amazing countries in terms of economic development, but one of the worst countries in terms of happiness. In the Happiness Report of 2016 South Korea was ranked in the 58th place under ‘happiness’,  but came in second place in highest suicide rates. This proves that the measurement is incomplete and still needs to be  improved further. On the other hand, Jamaica is ranked as the  73th happiest place in the report, but according to WHO, it is the 6th coutry with lowest suicide rates.  I used suicide rates as a counter measure of the Happiness Report as suicide represents ‘depression and unwillingness to live’ and happiness means ‘fulfillment and will to live’.

Overall, my message for you today is to think about what happiness and well being mean to the community you are setting out to assist. Question everything, as there is still so much we do not know. After all, a simple happiness measurement does not reflect the complexity of humanity itself, as happiness is as complex as our nature.

Reference: 
Davies, William (2015) The Happiness Industry. Verso, London. UK.

Javier
Marketing & Partnerships (2016)

If you are interested in reading more about development and happiness have a look at these articles:

The Happiness Metric; Happy Life, Sustainable Life; Freedom and Consumption

On the Record: On Discrimination

For our second segment of On the Record, our Marketing and Partnerships Officer, Javier Icaza Santos reflects on what discrimination means to him, how it affects us on a daily basis, and what that means for development programs. This week’s topic was chosen to honour the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

On the Record 2 (discrimination)

Q. Why did you take this picture?
A. When you asked me to take a picture about discrimination I really did not know what on earth I was going to do… then, one day, I was walking past the Law building and I saw this and I realised it was easier than I thought.

Q. What did you see in particular?
A. If you look closely, you can see how the main group is almost exclusively made of Asian students, and then you can see how even people who are sitting alone tend to sit closer to people from their same race. That was when I realised how much we tend to discriminate, even unconsciously; how much we tend to pick the familiar over opening ourselves up to new people.

Q. Are you referring exclusively to racial discrimination?
A. That was the most evident factor in my picture and something that is quite common in our everyday life, but no. I think we also tend to discriminate based on how we think, not just how we look. Think about it: we tend to spend time with people who share our same values and ideas. I think we can also tend to discriminate based on ideology.

Q. How do you feel that relates to Development?
A. [laughs] That is a deep question! But yeah, I think that this way of thinking affects Development a lot. Nowadays, Development is undoubtedly global and, even with all the different economic systems in place, we all depend on each other. Therefore, if you support programs that favour discrimination -that is to say, favour one race in particular- then that is not development, that is exploitation; that is resource exploitation.

If you would be interested in participating in On The Record, please do not hesitate to contact our Content Editor at editor.midpassociation@gmail.com

Javier
Marketing & Partnerships (2016)

Single Origin Coffee: More than just a delicious cup of joe

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Coffee is a beverage that all of us know, most of us drink, and some of us desperately need to function in the mornings. As a barista who has been working with ‘specialty’ coffee for just over five years, I have been lucky enough to make, taste and experience coffees from all over the world. From Rwanda to Panama,each coffee growing country has a distinct characteristic due to factors such as altitude, climate, varieties within the beans themselves, and differences in the processes of the cherry both after it is picked, and after it is dried. From harvesting the cherry to making a latte, we often forget that there are many steps at the heart of coffee making. The fact that it is the second largest traded legal commodity in the world shows its importance.

Sometimes, when walking into a café, you may see espresso or filter coffees that range from 5 to 30 dollars, which seems like a lot of money when you know you could probably buy a 1 dollar coffee at any  7/11. The process to turn a coffee cherry into a coffee bean has multiple stages, all of which cost the farmer time and money. When big buyers of coffee partake in the race to the bottom, it is the coffee farmer who loses. Much like Australian dairy farmers, they are forced to sell their product for less than what it takes to produce.Now, I do not need to go into details, but the ripple effect of conglomerates buying coffee for the lowest price possible has crippling effects on the farmers, their families, their workers and the community as a whole.

Over the summer, I was lucky enough to go to Guatemala and visit coffee farms who have direct relations with roasters from all around the world, including Melbourne. As buyers and roasters of coffee are always on the lookout for exciting, new coffee farms, this has opened the door to direct trade between farmer and roaster. Direct trade between farmer and roaster ensures both a profit and  a predictable cash-flow during harvest, which is not always the case for farmers who can be easily coerced into selling their coffee to big buyers for an unfair price. This income source means that farmers can invest more money back into the farm knowing that their income for the next harvest will be steady. To name a few examples, farmers can invest in better quality fertilisers or cultivating different varietals. Additionally, a steady income can also change the ways in which pickers are paid; pickers can be payed per day instead of per kilo of cherry picked, which is considered to be fairer for the pickers.

Valuing quality means that we can make good on the promise of development through the de-commoditisation of coffee so as to ensure that coffee is a logical and sustainable choice for the farmer. Farming coffee is a tough business; harvests are dependent on climate and rainfall, plants are susceptible to disease (coffee rust or coffee borer beetle to name a few), coffee plants need to be maintained to ensure maximum harvest, and in some countries, coffee only harvests once a year. When taking all this into account, if the final price is lower than what it costs to produce, it is easy to understand why Colombian farmers might turn to coca production instead, as it requires less cultivation and harvests at least three times a year. Obviously, this is a very simplistic analysis of the situation, as there are other factors that also come into place. However, it is the one aspect we, as consumers, can easily influence.

So what can you do to help? The next time you have a coffee, scout places that have direct relations with the farmer because these places also have the ability to pay the farmer more by cutting out the middleman. If this is not possible, cafes that serve single origin coffees are also  a good starting point.  Paying those extra cents  could help a farmer in Guatemala send the children of their workers to school as opposed to  condemning farmers from all over the world (especially Vietnam) to sell their product for less than it is worth. Coffee is just one example amongst many of how direct trade can make a big difference in someone else’s life.

 

Why I chose to study international development is a question I often ask myself

Pursuing a career in international development is an interesting choice because, in an ideal future, it is an industry that would no longer exist. If development is done right, the demand for development workers will decrease.

So why did I chose to enter this (hopefully) dying field?

Firstly,  I am not happy with the way the world is.  Studying a Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) meant that I had to learn about everything that was wrong with the world. Topics ranged from global conflicts and global systems that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor, to human rights violations and environmental degradation.  As you can imagine, it was indeed as gloomy as it sounds.  Even the development subjects I chose focused solely on where development went wrong. I finished my undergraduate course with significantly more knowledge that I had started with,  but I still felt disempowered to change anything.

Fortunately that is where the MIDP comes in

The masters course provided the perfect opportunity for me to gain  practical skills. Although we still learn about the ‘dark side’ of the development sector, we also learn about potential solutions and programs that are devoted to getting development right. Furthermore, units like Project Management, Research Methods, and the internship provide real insight and practical skills that will come in handy for the future.

From theory to practice

Recently, I was fortunate enough to complete an internship in India with a Social Enterprise called Pollinate Energy. It was fantastic. It was incredibly rewarding to see a successful development program in action and be a part of the process. The opportunity gave me the chance to put theory into practice and truly challenge myself. Even though I was very excited, a part of me was understandably terrified. I think everyone at some stage doubts their own abilities- and I had over 20 hours on several aeroplanes to do so. Thankfully, putting my knowledge into practice showed me I was more capable than I had initially thought and I left feeling like I had made a valuable contribution to the organisation.  

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What makes the MIDP stand out

As well as the practical component built into the curriculum, there is a wealth of knowledge in the cohort itself that I do my best to absorb. For someone wanting to work internationally, being part of a group of mostly international students is ideal. The professional and life experience of both the domestic and international students, and their willingness to share, is what makes this course stand out.

Given the skills, knowledge, and passion of my fellow students, I sometimes wonder whether I should worry about the future of the development sector:  it is easy to believe that global issues will be solved in no time and that I might find myself out of a job before I even start.  Fortunately, many of the skills we learn are transferable, and the pessimist in me knows development projects and programs will be required for a few more years to come.  

Katie
Events Coordinator (2017)

On the Record: On Gender

On the Record is MIDPA’s freshest segment, combining the art of photography with the practice of development. Following the methodology of photovoice, we ask participants to capture an image on a topic they are passionate about, and then add their voice to these images. The consequent interview adds context to the images, encouraging debate and reflection.

In honour of International Women’s Day, our Content Editor, Feli Bran, kicks off this segment with her reflections on gender, beauty, and representation.

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Q. Why did you choose this picture in particular?

A. I stumbled upon this advertisement by accident in a busy downtown street in Sydney. I was still a bit unsure of what my contribution would be for the blog on International Women’s Day and then I saw this picture and felt such rage that the words just flowed from me.

Q. What is it about this picture that had your blood boiling?

A. I don’t really know where to start. I think when people state that we live in a post-feminist society, that gender is no longer an issue, that we all have equal rights, I struggle to see what they see. I was actually with my brother and my dad when I came across this image, and they did not seem to make much out of it but for me? It was like someone had dropped a cold bucket of water on me.

Q. Could you pinpoint why that was exactly?

A. I think as a girl you always have a tight balancing act of beauty versus intelligence. I remember being a teenager and ‘uglifying’ myself on purpose because I wanted people to take me seriously. Society had taught me that a pretty woman was just that: a trophy to be paraded to the world. And that was the only thing I had to aspire to. I struggled a lot because I knew I wanted more out of life than being someone’s property. I felt like I was being placed into a box that I had not subscribed to and had no way whatsoever of getting out.

This is just one example of how women’s bodies are constantly commodified and objectified. It makes me feel powerless feeling like my main goal in life as a woman is to achieve a certain paragon of beauty that is completely unrelated to who I am as a human being. This is society telling us: you have no ownership over your body but rather your body is a vessel for others to appreciate. Men are not subjected to this kind of pressure to this extent; these double standards never fail to get me riled up.

Q. So is it more of a personal issue?

A. Yes, and no. That was my experience, but I am also a white latina. Imagine being a woman of colour and stumbling upon this advert. Apparently, perfect beauty means a skinny white woman with long blonde hair –but hairless everywhere else! – that has a noticeable cleavage. How would you feel? You can clearly see that colonialism and oppression still feature heavily in our society; they have just become subtle in their rhetoric. We only need to open our eyes to actually see it.

 

 

If you would be interested in participating in On The Record, please do not hesitate to contact our Content Editor at editor.midpassociation@gmail.com
 
 

Think Outside The Box

Imagine you meet a new person – the first information you would share would probably be nationality, occupation, educational background, current living situation and interests or hobbies. Meanwhile, you will probably be silently judging their appearance (whether it is gender, skin color, age) and forming your own opinions. It would only take you a couple of questions to figure out their sexual orientation and religious beliefs.

Without being conscious about it, you categorise. You automatically will label this person and place them into pre-determined boxes that have been created from external societal norms and that, in turn, will judge the societal worth of this person. I believe that these unconscious boxes we put others and ourselves in, have deep roots in the cultural and social environment we have grown up in. Whilst this might have benefits for navigating in a social environment, this also limits our openness to look beyond the boxes and see the uniqueness of each and every person.

Putting people in boxes also has another limitation: what if you feel like you do not subscribe to any of these labels? What if you do not feel like a man even though your biological appearance has the characteristics of a man? What if your interests and passions fall more into the box categorised as ‘woman’? What are you then; undefined? And for who? Who is to decide which box you fit in, and what if you don’t even want to fit in it?

On International Women’s Day, this is more relevant than ever. We have to remember that ‘being a woman’ does not stem only from biological appearance. ‘Being a woman’ is fluid, and comes in countless versions and shapes. The ‘woman’ box also includes newly-become women, transgender, queers, and everyone else that feels they somehow fit into the ‘woman’ box.

Fortunately, in recent years there have been more cases that recognise this variety. Most of you will of course remember Vanity Fair’s “Call me Caitlyn” frontpage, with Caitlyn Jenner which led to public awareness on the topic of transgender rights.

 

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This month’s Vogue Paris features Valentina Sampaio on the frontpage. This makes Vogue Paris the first magazine in France to use a transgender covermodel.

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Recognition of transgender as women is a step towards an equal, non-discriminating, post-gender society that embraces diversity and fluidity. This is why I think it is very important to remember that when we celebrate International Women’s day, we are celebrating everyone who wants to define themselves as women.

People should not tell you who you are but rather you should tell them. As one of my good friends always says to me: You do you!

#midpa #internationalwomensday

Get inspired… World Wildlife Day

 

wwd_logo_englishOur global environment and wildlife are highly impacted by human consumption. A clear example is how plastic in the ocean has severely affected aquatic wildlife. In order to pay tribute to World Wildlife day, the MIDPA has chosen to focus on this current global issue.

More than 250 million tons of plastic products are manufactured each year. While this number might initially seem outrageous or unrealistic, when we think about it, most of our daily routines involve use of products that either contain plastic or are wrapped in plastic. Food, cosmetics, soap, kitchen equipment, computers, and toys are just some examples. The use of plastic is so widespread that even washing our clothes made of polyester means that microplastics are being washed out into the oceans!

We can no longer ignore the impact that plastic and microplastic has had on wildlife- not just aquatic but also birds and even humans that might ingest these microplastics through seafood. If you find the previous statement quite hard to digest (pun intended) then the following video by National Geographic might give you a better understanding of this particular issue:

If you are still not convinced or would like to know a little bit more on this topic, the MIDPA has selected some relevant videos and organisations of interest to further expand your mind.

To give you more context, World Wildlife day is one of United Nations International days. You can read more about the campaign on wildlifeday.org or follow WWD2017 on Twitter.
The United Nations also lists ‘Life Below Water’ as Sustainable Development Goals number 14 which is why they are currently championing a campaign to beat the microbeads in our products.

World Wildlife Foundation is probably one of the best known organisations working to save endangered species. 

However, this issue is not reserved for the third sector alone. As a matter of fact, corporations have also seen business opportunities and a potential market in putting value on discarded plastic products. Saltwater Brewery is an example of how innovation and rethinking can address sustainability problems while still being profitable and business oriented.

The Ocean Cleanup is another project that tries to address the problem.

Last but not least, ABC’s documentary Oceans of Plastic is a fantastic and thought-provoking way to ponder and debate on what we should all be doing on World Wildlife Day: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2017/02/27/4624878.htm

We certainly hope this will inspire you to #DoOneThingToday to save and improve our wildlife!

#DoOneThingToday, #youth4wildlife, #YoungVoices,  #WorldWildlifeDay, #EndWildlifeTrafficking #BeatTheMicrobeats #TheOceanCleanup #WWF #WorldWildlifeFoundation #SDG14