On June the 9th 2016, More than 12,000 workers from different Yangon factories were protesting in Hlaing Tharyar township against low wages, forced and unpaid overtime, and the firing of organized workers. They were also protesting against the employers’ ignorance against the decisions made by the Dispute Settlement Arbitration Council.

With the introduction of the new labour law and the democratic opening in Myanmar since 2011, workers increasingly articulate inhumane working conditions and labour disputes are rising. Trade unions play a crucial role in helping workers formulating and articulating their complaints. Claiming rights is an important driver for democratic change in a political environment which was characterized by brutal repression of trade unions and labour rights under the military regime for over 50 years. This article discusses the link between trade union’s role in the interpretation, spread, and application of the labour law and the current model of worker organizing. Unions are important vehicles combining legal institution building and democratization trough worker participation. This is important in a context where the labour law, a key pillar in Myanmar’s transition to democracy, is not coherent and the same concepts and words have different meanings to different actors. Today, a multitude of actors, including lawyers, firms, international organizations, the bureaucracy, global and local trade unions, as well as social movements are involved in shaping the meaning of law. Thereby they contribute to the process of its codification.

This contribution shows that law and trade union building are tightly intertwined in Myanmar: Labour disputes have become a key driver for trade union organizing. I point out three ways through which trade union building is linked to labour disputes, shaping the meaning of law in due course: solving disputes through workplace negotiations, supporting dispute settlements through arbitration, and more fundamentally though the involvement of labour in the labour law reform process.

Overall, while trade unions are important for turning law into a social reality, considerable barriers remain leaving employers often disregarding decisions made by the arbitration council and other legal innovations. Read the rest of this entry »

Among those immediately affected by the Executive Order signed by President Trump to suspend entry into the United States of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are academics with plans to attend research conferences in the US. For instance, the most important conference in the field of management – the Academy of Management (AoM) Annual Meeting – is scheduled to take place in August 4-8, in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Actually, the Annual Meeting has historically only been held in the US and in Canada.

Since papers for AoM Meeting had to be submitted by early January, several scholars whith accepted papers might not be able to attend the conference. Obviously, this would be an issue of great concern for any scholarly association. Accordingly, the AoM officials released a statement today on the subject matter:

Our members hold a range of views on the public policies that have recently been implemented. Many of you have expressed concern about travel to the Annual Meeting in Atlanta; many are interpreting the Executive Order as a direct attack on scholarship; and some are worried about the implication for pluralism on all sides of this issue. A number of you have asked the AOM to condemn the order as antithetical to scholarly values, academic freedom, and democratic processes. Yet because of our very diversity, the AOM has long had a binding policy that restricts any officer from taking a stand on any political issue in the name of the AOM.

Several of my colleagues have voiced strong opposition to such a “neutral” positioning of the AoM, mostly arguing that refusing to take a stance actually implies taking a stance. For instance, Guido Palazzo commented on Facebook:

Other scholarly associations in the social sciences decided to be more vocal on the issue. The statement by the American Sociological Association is all but neutral on the Executive Order:
Read the rest of this entry »

When Creative Commons published version 4.0 of its set of alternative copyright licenses in 2013, this represented a sea change. While previously a generic set of licenses had been legally adapted to different jurisdictions (“ported”), version 4.0 of the licenses was developed as a single globally applicable license standard. To a certain degree, a decade of laborious license porting helped to build an international network of legal professionals and a respective body of legal knowledge, which than enabled Creative Commons to abandon its porting strategy.

global_affiliates_map

More than three years after this “globalization” of Creative Commons’ licenses, the NGO strives to also globalizing its organizational structure. By March 24, 2017, the various communities of Creative Commons activists, lawyers and contributors may comment on a detailed proposal for an entirely new governance structure. The proposal is accompanied by several regional and a global “Faces of the Commons” reports and additional background information on the process that led to the proposal – a particular open form of strategy-making. Read the rest of this entry »

Since the beginning of 2017, over 60 large German universities and other research institutions lack access to journals published by scientific publishing giant Elsevier. Paradoxically, this escalation in the conflict between research institutions and Elsevier is actually a good thing. To a certain degree, the battle puts to test a great thought experiment provided by James Heathers last year. In his post he applied The Garbage Strike Test to the contemporary scientific publishing system:

What happens [when garbagemen just stop doing their job]? Almost immediately, massive stinking middens of rancid trash build up. Streets became partially inaccessible. Rats run rampant. Cities marinate in their own furious stink. Rocks are thrown at strike-breakers and scabs. Mayors call meetings.

In the end, garbagemen win in such struggles because they are (a) truly necessary, (b) on the right side of public opinion, and (c) something whose absence horrifies people utterly. If you apply this scenario to large academic publishers, assuming that they “suddenly refused anyone any access to any of their copyrighted materials at 9am tomorrow morning ”, the outcome would differ substantially: Read the rest of this entry »

I like recursivity in acronyms such as GNU, which stands for “GNU’s Not Unix”, and also in cartoons. A recent example for a recursive cartoon is featured below, addressing a great number of issues regularly debated around the alternative copyright licensing standard Creative Commons. The author of the work is Patrick Hochstenbach, a comic artist, programmer, and digital architect at University of Ghent libraries. You can also find his work on Instagram and Twitter.

Patrick Hochstenbach, CC-BY-SA

Patrick Hochstenbach, CC-BY-SA

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screenshot-egos-copenhagen-small

The 33rd EGOS Colloquium will take place from July 6–8, 2017 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and together with Georg von Krogh (ETH Zürich) and Richard Whittington (Oxford University) I will be convenor of sub-theme 50 on “Open Strategy: Practices, Perspectives and Problems“.  The sub-theme will pick-up threads of discussion from a previous EGOS subtheme on “Open Organizations for an Open Society?” held in 2015 in Athens. Please find the Call for Short Papers below, submission deadline is January 9, 2017:

Many organizations in public, private and non-for-profit sectors are becoming more transparent about their strategies, while also including a wider range of actors in strategy development. These moves involve a variety of strategy practices, for example strategy jamming (Bjelland & Wood, 2008), strategy crowdsourcing (Stieger et al., 2012), strategy blogs and wikis (Dobusch & Kapeller, 2013) or strategy simulations in online games (Aten & Thomas, 2016). Although involving many different practices, this phenomenon has been described most comprehensively as ‘open strategy’ (Chesbrough & Appleyard, 2007; Whittington et al., 2011).

Building upon these studies, recent works on open strategy have begun to look at open strategy from an increasing variety of perspectives such as impression management (Whittington et al., 2016), middle-management inclusion in strategy-making (Wolf et al., 2014) or the inter-organizational explorations of strategic issues (Werle & Seidl, 2015). However, systematic cross-fertilization between the emerging open strategy literature and other areas and concepts of organizational openness are still rare. Read the rest of this entry »

OSN-LogoFueled by new digital technologies and by the perceived success of concepts such as ‘open innovation’, we can observe a growing interest in open forms of organizing more generally both among practitioners as well as among organization scholars (see also the wiki-based course on the matter). One such new field representing the interest in organizational openness is the realm of strategy research under the label of ‘Open Strategy’. The recently launched online community platform ‘Open Strategy Network‘ tries to connect and foster exchange among scholars interested in this emerging phenomenon.

Read the rest of this entry »

The World Bank’s previously public data on microfinance and financial inclusion has recently been locked away behind a paywall. It’s hard to figure out why. However, it raises larger questions about the Bank’s strategies for microfinance and knowledge more broadly.

(This is a background piece to an article published on the IDS blog.)

Since the 1990s, the World Bank has sought to present itself as not only as a lender, but also a global “Knowledge Bank” that collects and provides knowledge as a global public good. It has garnered some praise, and perhaps more criticism, for ostensibly seeking to monopolise knowledge about development. In 2012, the Independent Evaluation Group concluded the objective of creating a global Knowledge Bank had not been achieved, criticising a lack of uptake of knowledge within the Bank and “intellectual silos”.

So how about intellectual vaults, with knowledge securely locked away? Turning public monopolies into private (or pseudo-private) monopolies; now that doesn’t sound like something the World Bank would be in favour of, does it? It’s precisely what happened with the World Bank’s microfinance data platform earlier this month.

The MIX (also known as “Microfinance Information Exchange”, or “Mixmarket.org”) was created by the World Bank’s in-house-but-arms-length microfinance governing body, CGAP, to improve the transparency of the microfinance industry. Since 2002, the MIX (whose connections to the World Bank are not made very clear, but its headquarters are across the street) has collected data about the global microfinance sector, packaged primarily to cater to investment decision-makers.

The MIX’s “.org” suffix denotes its claim to serve the greater good. The data were made available on-line.  Anyone with an interest in microfinance could access it: “a big win for open data in international development”.

Get the “public” data – for upwards of $486

Those days, it seems, are over. All the data which were previously available for downloading and (usually after some cleaning) analysing in a spreadsheet are now behind a paywall. What used to be a “global public good” is now priced at at least $486 a year – clearly too much for most students or researchers, let alone those from developing countries.

paywall

(Image: screenshot from themix.org)

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At the end of March I was invited speaker at a workshop on “Balancing Intellectual Property Claims and the Freedom of Art and Communication” at Bielefeld University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF). My talk was mainly based upon thoughts sketched out in two posts from the series on “Algorithm Regulation” on this blog:

Please find a video auf my talk and the respective slideshare embedded below:

Slides:

 

(leonhard)

Cross-post: a (somewhat provocative) piece from the IDS Blog, addressing the increasing focus in many development programmes on bringing “youth” into labour markets, and some of the issues that are missed in the process.

Youth and young people are becoming a hot topic among development donors and actors. But who exactly do these “labels” apply to, and are they too broad for effective policies? Or do they create too narrow a focus which is blind to larger structural issues?

Varyingly, youth are identified as “at risk” – of unemployment, of marginalisation or abuses – or “as risk”, where they may engage in undesirable activities from crime to terrorism, armed violence or migration. However, there are also many calls to understand youth “as opportunity”, particularly in the context of Africa’s “youth bulge” and its promise of a vast demographic dividend.

A recent visit to the Dutch Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and some great discussions with research colleagues there, brought some clarity into the interlinked promises and problems arising from development actors’ burgeoning interest in youth and work. Clearly, a better understanding of the specific vulnerabilities and needs of particular young subpopulations is useful, and related efforts should be welcomed.

But if applied wrongly, a simplistic focus on young people (or a narrow “youth lens”) may obscure more than it illuminates. The reasons include categories that are too unclear, heterogeneous needs and what a “youth” focus misses.

In the context of questions around young people’s labour market prospects, particularly in agriculture, which both IDS and KIT are working on, these are particularly salient.

Read more on the IDS blog.

(phil)

 

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
March 2017
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