Understanding the North Korean Human Rights Abuses and Moving Forward

By: Jim Blazey

On February 17, the United Nations released the most recent report  on human rights abuses occurring in North Korea. The report covered the starvation, violence, mistrust and exhaustion that occur within North Korean labor camps. The prisoners in these facilities range from South Korean soldiers and their descendants to people who have spoken out against the ruling Kim family or the government as a whole.

In addition, severe droughts in the 1990s coupled with the absence of Soviet-subsidized goods caused the North Korean economy to collapse and malnutrition to expand throughout the country.

This led me to consider: how can NGOs or governments possibly provide relief to individuals within these camps when they don’t have any access? How can these organizations provide food to individuals within the country while also creating opportunities for North Koreans to become self-sustaining? If I, the public manager of a nonprofit or government agency, am trying to consider the proper strategy to deliver value to these individuals, how can I make an influence on a country where the government is very suspicious of the outside world?

The seminar in Public Administration (MPA 6800) taught by Marsha Lewis at the Voinovich School helped me develop a strategy when tackling complex issues such as providing humanitarian aid to countries like North Korea. We discussed public value chain, a model that identifies the partners and co-producers in a situation, as well as the necessary inputs to solving a problem.

The example used in class was the Gates Foundation and its attempt to decrease malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. The partners the Gates Foundation sought were humanitarian groups in these countries, the manufacturers of mosquito nets, and volunteers. The inputs were the mosquito nets and malaria vaccines. The combination of the partners and the inputs leads to measurable outputs, such as reduced cases of malaria. After the output is measured, the long-term outcomes would be a healthier and more productive society.

So how does this model apply to North Korea?

In the case of alleviating the malnourishment that plagues North Korea, the right partner is China. If organizations collaborate with China to put pressure on North Korea, more aid can be provided to vulnerable citizens in the country. An example of this pressure is China not vetoing any proceedings of the U.N. Security Council on North Korea in March.

Successful implementation of smaller goals like this can then be used to assess how NGOs or agencies should proceed with long-term goals, such as laying the foundation for sustainable food sources that the country and eliminating the labor camps. This leads me to the last part of the public value chain: evaluating external environmental influences.

The external political influences are plentiful in the case of North Korea. The United States and North Korea have a contentious relationship, which could affect the way a U.S. organization works within the country. American NGOs and agencies are not alone in their concern about the humanitarian crisis in North Korea; China, Japan, South Korea and Russia are all interested as well. Another political influence is the provocative nature of the North Korean government itself. All of these factors must be considered

Issues regarding North Korea are not easy to solve. Public managers have to develop strategies to help their organizations successfully deliver value. Future public managers must be innovative, ambitious and willing to change the world for the better. No matter how daunting the task, the long-term positive outcomes will be well worth the effort in the end.

More information here:

Making Connections

By: Mat Roberts

As a student of the Kanawha project, a grant-funding initiative to advance carbon neutrality through the facilitation of climate literacy, I feel fortunate to be a part of pushing environmental dialogue into the classroom. Most of the Kanawha consists of faculty, some from other branches, seeking to add climate change context into their syllabi. As one of six students, our job is to share what we know to the professors and to be the student perspective in decision-making.

The great part about this community is the opportunity we all have to share distinct perspectives on climate change. I am the editor of College Green Magazine, an independent online publication dedicated to bringing the most provocative and engaging environmental news. I met many professors during the first Kanawha gathering who were interested in the vision I have for College Green Magazine in the future: bringing about greater awareness of climate change and showing how to live a sustainable life. At the time, the main problem was finding enough staff members to produce a viable media product and I expressed this concern deeply. The fact is, understanding climate change language is difficult.

Excited as I was to talk to these professors, I am pleased to say the response to my passion excited me even more. Craig Meyer, professor of rhetorical English, reached out to me beyond the Kanawha project to develop a project of his own in his current writing in environmental sustainability class. The students in his class, as part of a large portion of their grade, will be producing content for College Green Magazine.

The goal is to create an incentive to take this course, not only because students can learn more about climate change through the efforts of Craig’s participation in the Kanawha project, but can also leave with a valuable portfolio piece published in a student-led environmental publication. In return, I have been receiving new ideas each day. Some students will be working on a series of articles to turn in weekly, while others will choose to create a much larger product for the magazine. Because the students feel like they are part of something bigger than their grade point average, I feel like making connections like this is part of the solution towards improving climate change literacy.

My main goal would be to have this partnership in every ENG3100J course at Ohio University. With the partnership, creating content becomes a stress of the past. With all of the saved time, I envision College Green Magazine providing services to further enhance interest in environmental studies such as a comprehensive jobs and internships board, a research resources page connected with the Alden library databases, and a shared student and community eco-events calendar. All of this to say: if you have an idea for the common good, do not ever give up.

 

What Kind of Manager Will You Be?

By: L Volpe

I was asked the other day about the quote “Silence Is Exhausting” (Robyn Ochs) that closes all of my e-mail communications. As I launched into my explanation — that every person, no matter who they are, deserves to be heard, taken seriously and treated with respect — I found it to be a wonderful representation of what my education and master’s degree from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs means to me.

Through all of my classes I have taken in the MPA program, my professors have stressed the responsibility we are taking on by becoming leaders in the public/nonprofit sector.  The roles that we will be stepping into have the potential to make a difference in a significant number of peoples’ lives.  We are giving a voice to individuals who may not have one.  Keeping in mind that “Silence is Exhausting,” we need to make intelligent and productive decisions that create public value.

I feel that this type of training is going to be an asset for us as we apply for jobs.  Anyone can step into a managerial role, but the MPA program is setting us up to be progressive managers who will push the public/nonprofit sector forward.  Remembering “Silence is Exhausting” is what makes me passionate about the mission of the organizations I am interviewing for and the difference I can make by performing my job to the best of my abilities.

I continue to be surprised by how much I have learned and grown through my experiences at the Voinovich School. The School has pushed me out of my comfort zone in my classes and given me the opportunity to gain practical experience as an intern with a number of organizations in the Athens area.  Taking a step back and seeing the difference that I have the potential to make in the public sector or a nonprofit organization empowers me to be the manager who gives people a voice and helps lessen the burden — the exhaustion — of silence in our communities.

GMOs and Bitter Seeds

By: Mat Roberts

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m., the Athena Cinema will screen Bitter Seeds, the final film in Micha X. Peled’s Globalization Trilogy, following Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town and China Blue. Before you see this film, let’s look at the seed.

Once the flagship node of the world’s biodiversity realm, the seed has been forced to a place of manipulation and modification. Back in the day, farmers would save seeds from the summer harvest and prepare to fill their greenhouses upon the first trickle of spring. Though this traditional practice is still used across the globe, we have seen some wild changes to agriculture. The current globalized agriculture system, in partnership with many bio-engineering firms, is changing the definition of food, and many people are starting to get worried.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are changing the way food is grown.  Traditionally, farmers used natural breeding to achieve desired traits. According to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), GMOs are created by shooting genes from a “gene gun” into a plate of cells or by using bacteria to invade the cell with foreign DNA. The altered cell is then cloned into a plant. These genetically modified crops demand heavy use of pesticides and herbicides. This degrades the soil, thus producing a necessary cycle of creating stronger breeds of seeds capable of succeeding in a space nearly void of any other life.

As the industrial agriculture system continues to grow, the farther we seem to be from our evolutionary roots. Small-scale farmers around the globe are being forced to grow GMO crops or perish in the effort to keep up with the production of large-scale farms and the demands of grocers.

Some argue that genetic modification feeds the world and is able to adapt to climate change. Some argue that a switch to small-scale operation organic farming will reduce carbon emissions and the degradation of conventional farming, and reshape the American economy to a resilient state. Regardless of what side of the argument one falls on, we still need food. The point I want to make goes beyond the debate. Genetically modified foods were introduced into processed foods at least 15 years ago. The fact that we are living experiments for a new form of food is true, but there is another issue at hand: the loss of diversity.

The loss is what troubles me. I’m an organic consumer (primarily), but understanding the dynamics of biodiversity touches me on a whole new level of my personal values and beliefs. When Janisse Ray, advocate for a seed-saving revolution, visited Ohio University last semester, I was heartbroken to hear the truth. Ray noted in her book that big agriculture business operates with a 94 percent reduction in seed diversity compared to traditional farming methods. We have already lost so many seeds our Earth accepted into its soils and ecosystems.

The need for a conversation about food has never been more urgent.

Come learn more about how GMOs are affecting our world by watching Bitter Seeds. Admission is free.

More information on GMOs here:

http://www.technologywater.com/post/69995394390/un-report-says-small-scale-organic-farming-only-way-to

http://grist.org/food/what-i-learned-from-six-months-of-gmo-research-none-of-it-matters/

http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/how-to-eat-like-our-lives-depend-on-it/vandana-shiva-freedom-starts-with-a-seed


Balancing on the Run

By: Emily Burns

I’ve never paid much attention to my astrological sign or the corresponding horoscopes. But, as I reflect on my first semester as a graduate student in the Voinovich School and look ahead to spring semester, I can’t help but feel thankful that I’m a Libra. The mystical scales that serve as the symbol of Libra are thought to evoke a sense of balance, harmony and peace.

I’ve often heard it said that school of any type is a balancing act, and I think that holds especially true for graduate studies. I find myself juggling quite a few responsibilities at the moment: working as a graduate assistant for the university, applying for summer internships, training. for the Athens Marathon, and last but certainly not least, attending actual classes

Sometimes I have trouble falling asleep at night with so many questions about my future near and far unanswered, but herein lies one of the main reasons I love to run:  It’s exhausting.

The main reasons I’ve put my adult life on hold for another two years is to learn, to go to class, to do homework and readings and write papers in the hope of understanding how to manage people, resources and expectations in the public sector. Still, there is nothing better than coming home after a long run, eating my body weight in peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches and succumbing to the kind of whole-body tired you can achieve only by running farther than you did the day before.  Waking up with sore legs is just an added bonus.

Finishing my first marathon is still one of the proudest moments of my life, and I imagine walking across the graduation stage with my classmates from the Voinovich School will be up there as well. Whenever the going gets rough and the scales seem imbalanced, there is immeasurable comfort in knowing that I can always go for a run and leave some of my problems with the pavement.

What Is Your Baggage?

By: L Volpe

I cannot believe it is already my last semester in graduate school. It feels like yesterday that I unpacked my life into my little rundown apartment over the sleazy local bar, and now I am getting ready to enter the real world again! I left a less-than-ideal work environment when I came to the Voinovich School, so I have some anxiety about what this new experience will entail.

During the first week in my Seminar Class with Dr. Marsha Lewis, she talked about how, upon entering our organization of choice after graduation, each of us will be carrying baggage from previous dealings with co-workers, events at their current organization, and past personal experiences.  This insight gave me a whole new perspective on workplace relationships.

Throughout my classes in the Voinovich School MPA program, we have talked a lot about being self-reflective and how important it is to learn from our successes and failures.  When Dr. Lewis brought up baggage, I realized that being self-reflective isn’t enough.  I not only need to understand my mistakes and how I would react to situations differently, but also ensure that my baggage or previous missteps do not dampen my future success.

When I came to the Voinovich School. I just had left a highly competitive and hostile working environment.  Because I was in this experience for more than three years, I brought that hyper-intensive attitude to my classes and came off as abrasive.  Through working with my mentor, Dr. Millesen, and experiencing many positive growths in the MPA program, I have been able to let go of that baggage and see the difference in environments, allowing me to gauge my reactions better.

I am also more aware of other people’s reactions to different situations.  In any event in the workplace, my previous exposures may lead to one reaction while my neighbor has a completely opposite one.  Being patient and having open communication with your co-workers is imperative to a successful work environment.  So keep in mind that everyone carries different baggage, and that we need to be respectful of everyone’s reactions to situations that arise, good and bad.

Big Data: The Heroine?

By: Mathew Roberts

The CE3 Brown Bag lunch series is coming to a close for the fall semester. CE3 Director Scott Miller and I have been brainstorming who would lead the talks in the spring and further build dialogue among students, faculty, and researchers. This past Friday, I finally found an open time to stumble into the multidimensional world of big data and how it plays out in environmentally related discourse.

Dr. Ani Ruhil, associate professor and associate director of Research and Graduate Programs, spoke at the CE3 Brown Bag lunch series last fall. He amazed me with his talk about the mass amounts of information the digital world has captured.

What I gained in this short lecture is how this discipline takes form as both risk and opportunity.  This world of cloud computing and storage, analytical predication, and coded language is historically unprecedented. Big data has done what journalism may have intended to do from birth: record man’s deeds and be the keeper of his conscience.

The total amount of information in existence is equal to roughly 1.2 zettabytes (or over 1.3 trillion gigabytes [1] ). Our everyday lives revolve around shuffling megabytes and gigabytes across borders and boundaries. The concept of all digital information as a real measurement is astounding.

MATROBERTS pic

Big data is increasingly important in the economy. Big players such as Google and Facebook make their fortunes by accumulating, analyzing, and selling users’ data, much like an investment broker does with stocks on Wall Street.

Big data is integrated into my own work as well. As a CE3 Undergraduate Research Scholar, I have had the great opportunity to explore data on Ohio’s competitiveness in energy production and restoration of local watersheds from acid mine drainage. Journalists are highly dependent on statistics and figures of national and local governments’ regulations, policies, and procedures. They take big data to convey messages in understanding the environmental impacts and how it can be taken to foster sustainable action. In my previous work in creative advertising, big data offered a way to pinpoint markets, test effectiveness, and share marketing research in an effort to create an advertising campaign for national and international brands. In the end, big data is all about predicting behaviors and translating data through analytical tools.

In today’s culture, data is being used to convey points, connect links and inform in the face of great political debate. The product of this initiative has manifested into “data visualization” and it’s becoming widely popular.

This analysis can be used to create a better tomorrow — for example, by saving thousands of lives by improving healthcare. But it also can create uneven distributions of power when people, corporations, or agencies begin looking in places they should not.

Which brings us back to environmental issues. I bring this up because of the irreversibility and costs of using data the wrong way. If we accidently mine too much coal or drill too many wells and create a bigger cost in cleaning up water, we will need more data and money to clean up what more data and more money created in the first place.

Dr. Ruhil believes the future of analytics lies in the hands of the public and grabbing on to hope for much needed social changes. One such innovation is Kaggle. Founded in April 2010, Kaggle is “a platform for data prediction competitions. Companies, organizations and researchers post their large files of raw data only to have it sifted and molded into the world’s best data-mined models.” Because the big data players will ignore rural governments and their communities, “there is an opportunity to make a change for the better by putting your brains to work,” Ruhil said.

Although these ethical questions need more time, public debate, and consideration, we can always find hope in further data innovation despite the dual pulls of fear and opportunity.

Data innovation is especially exciting for students across the globe. Born into the world of computers, the next generation of learners will face the same ethical and logistical questions that we see today. Are you up for the challenge?

 

Athens StartUp Weekend — a observer’s video blog

By: Zoe Graham

I saw the words “StartUp Weekend” on the Center for Entrepreneurship’s calendar print out in my binder, but honestly couldn’t articulate more than, students create their own StartUp company’s in a weekend. Phyllis Bohning an enthusiastic coordinator with the Center for Entrepreneurship, which sponsors StartUp weekend, convinced me that it would be worth my time to cover this event. And man oh man, I’m glad I did. Here is my experience following participants in a not so typical 54 hour weekend.

To read more about StartUp weekend please visit,
bobcat-entrepreneur.com
athensoh.startupweekend.org
facebook.com/StartupWeekendAthens

Hearing the Future

By: Hannah Ticoras

I am a notorious eavesdropper. In high school I would to go to Denny’s after I got off my late shift at the movie theater and transcribe as many of the conversations as I could hear – drawing illustrations on the opposing page of the people or the stories they were relaying.

One of my favorite relationships to witness was this man who came in every night at midnight and the cook that worked at the same time (I don’t remember their names, let’s call them Rick and Julie). Rick would get three pancakes every morning, which could get very boring, except that the cook would create a different design on the pancakes. One morning Julie would make a smiley face out of chocolate chips, the next morning she would cut the pancakes so they looked like a heart, etc. Knowing that Rick’s lonely morning pancakes were made exciting by Julie lifted my own early morning spirits – there is good out there.

At my position as Undergraduate Research Scholar in Building 22 at the Ridges, I sit right outside the office of a main advisor for the MPA program. When I’m not listening to The Shins Pandora Radio — highly suggest if you like songs like this one:

— I can hear the meetings that go on between this faculty member and students. Each day I hear students come in with buckets of ideas – ideas hanging from their backs and running at their heels – ideas that all say this is how I will change the world.

Although I can’t transcribe the conversations, or draw illustrations to go along with them, I still listen fervently. These are students who want to create better drug and alcohol programs for K-12 students, build up the job force on American Indian reservations, and educate middle school students on healthy sexual behaviors. These are students who will create programs that will create a better space to live.

As they sit and tell the advisor all their ideas, she throws back organizations to look at, books to read, people to find. Slowly she shapes their wide berth of ideas into a manageable and powerful goal. Like Julie’s pancakes: Every student wants to do something different.

I come to the Voinovich School at Building 22 three days a week, and each day I am treated to a different vision of a new world. I hope that someday I will be able to create my own vision.

There is good out there, and it begins here. 

The Evolution of Writing

By: Zoe Graham

From elementary school onward, I have been trained to write academic essays, research papers, reports and comparative analysis. However, with the arrival of the Internet and cell phones, people tend to have shorter and shorter attention spans. People tend to read news stories, reports and open links based on attention-grabbing headlines or short excerpts that attract their interest. With so much information available at our fingertips, how do media writers today effectively promote and generate traffic to their story in a world of impatient readers?

As a college student, I get the majority of my news from Twitter. In 140 characters or less, I decide if a story is worth reading based on the headline. That being said, solely writing a well-drafted story is not enough to draw traffic. It’s about effectively developing a concise headline and lead and posting to heavy-reader sources.

I’ve come across this obstacle in the past few months working at the Voinovich School. This is the first time I’ve realized how challenging it is to say everything you need to in a few words. I’ve spoken with many inspiring individuals and organizations such as the Voinovich School’s Robert Gordon, who worked with the village of Pomeroy to create a roadmap for local growth and prosperity called Imagine Pomeroy. There are months of dedication, details and drive behind this initiative—but if I as the writer don’t give an effective introduction and lead, the reader may skim over and forget about the story. It’s a matter of using social media and Internet headlines to generate enough interest to get readers to want to follow up and learn about the details.

To inform successfully today, it isn’t enough to have good ideas, research, plans and programs. Informing and promoting the most interesting, unique and valuable parts requires condensing the most complex ideas into a headline or a tweet. Then, hopefully, those people interested enough will explore deeper and become educated about the programs and research you are trying to promote.

There are great opportunities and great challenges for researchers to promote their programs and research in a sea of information and for media writers to effectively inform their audience of their research in a concise format, as well as ensure their attention-grabbing hooks are not just empty phrases, but introductions to interesting and valuable information and stories.

For me personally, working at the Voinovich School I’ve come to realize the challenge the media faces. When the school does such unique work in the “do tank” attitude, I want to make sure I do my part to generate interest and captivate readers so I can inform the community and the world of all the incredible things happening here.