The transmission and replication of security practices in development research: A case study of the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics

University essay from Malmö universitet/Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS)

Abstract: This project investigates how the everyday practices and supporting narratives surrounding personal security for development researchers in Nairobi, Kenya, are communicated, transmitted and replicated among the community of practice. Everyday practices affect development, but are understudied. A Communication for Development approach show us how these practices are communicated, transmitted and replicated.It does so through a case study of one organisation, the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics. 8 interviews have been conducted with Busara staff.The most prominent personal security practices concern transportation and observed security measures at malls and compounds. At work, the main security practices are seeking expertise, community engagement, election-related office closures and improvisation in the field. The most important narratives informing these practices are Kenyanness and local rootedness, the need to balance effectiveness against duty of care, and a lack of information. There is strong variation in all this, evident between Kenyans and expatriates, by gender, and over time.The means of transmission for these narratives and practices have evolved over time in Busara. They presently include formal methods such as update emails and a WhatsApp group, while briefings are rarer. Unofficial means of transmission include conversations with peers, personal experiences, and broadcast and written media.Security practices and narratives are more varied, and the means of transmission more informal, than is commonly understood. Dominant narratives of insecurity and technical best practice are certainly important – but organisations are aware of these, and may deliberately deploy other counter-narratives. Above all, the means of transmission matter, and practices, narratives and means of transmission are intertwined and mutually supporting.

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