Master's Award Ceremony Celebrates Martta Kaskinen

March 9, 2020

The winning thesis by Martta Kaskinen was applauded by the Award Committee for the innovativeness of the work: "There is no previous research on the relationship between development imaginaries and the political, social and economic contexts in Finland".

In the photo from the left: Daniel Nyarko-Afriyie (the first honourable mention), Martta Kaskinen (the winner) and Katriina Huttunen (second honourable mention). Quivine Ndomo also received a second honourable mention, but was not able to receive the certificate in person.

The Finnish Society for Development Research (FSDR) and UniPID handed out the Master's Award in Development Studies 2019 on 28 February 2020 in a ceremony organised in conjunction with the Development Days Conference at the House of Science and Letters in Helsinki.

The Award Committee, emeritus professor Pertti Haaparanta and PhD in Social Science Helena Jerman, presented the certificates of honour to Martta Kaskinen (winner), Daniel Nyarko-Afriyie (first honourable mention), Quivine Ndomo (second honourable mention) and Katriina Huttunen (second honourable mention). Professor Haaparanta and Dr Jerman both commended the excellent and eye-opening theses that they had the pleasure to read.

Just Fundraising?

Martta Kaskinen

The winning thesis by Ms Kaskinen was about the imaginaries of women and girls in the Global South that Finnish development NGO fundraising campaigns make, and the narratives of development that those imaginaries produce.

In her speech at the event, Ms Kaskinen said that the inspiration for the problem setting of her thesis came initially from a national survey that indicated that Finnish people have extremely pessimistic understanding of development issues and girls' and women's rights in the Global South.

"For example most Finnish people think that extreme poverty is increasing, although it has decreased in the past decades. And that most girls don't have access to primary education, that's a common perception, which is untrue and a very pessimistic understanding. So although global inequality is extreme in real life, I found it problematic that the gap between the North and the South is even more extreme in our minds here in Finland", Ms Kaskinen summarized.

Ms Kaskinen also noted that there had just been budget cuts to development by the government in 2016. Many NGOs stated concerns over having to focus more on private fundraising and how they would make it in the increasing competition for private donors. One of the empirical examples in her thesis of the outcomes of this development was the campaign by Plan International Finland, in which a 12-year-old Zambian girl modelled for a a fake maternity wear collection.

"I couldn't help but wonder the connections between the extremely pessimistic understandings of development that Finnish people possess, and then on the other hand the increasing need for marketing the deservingness of donations in ways that maximise pity and shock-effect and are built on colonial stereotypes. So my main finding was that when the logic of development communications is dictated by the marketing logic of supply and demand, or when people as potential donors are told the narrative that they already know and just want to hear more of, then that narrative and that communication builds on a colonial discourse. And in such fundraising appeals inequality is commercialised to a narrative that is not productive for NGOs' ultimate goal, which is to fight inequality", Ms Kaskinen concluded.

Dr Helena Jerman handing over the Master's Award to Martta Kaskinen.

The Award Committee commented Ms Kaskinen's work as follows:

"In exploring how NGO campaign imaginaries play part in constructing public knowledge about development, Kaskinen uses an ethnographical method, a multi-sited approach whereby represtations of the "developer" and the "developing" form demanding discourse topics. Kaskinen applies with success the chosen method showing that any activity is constructed by multiple agents in a number of contexts. Visual representations bear an important relationship to her text theoretically and empirically. The innovativeness of Kaskinen's work is obvious: there is no previous research on the relationship between development imaginaries and the political, social and economic contexts in Finland."

Master's Award in Development Studies

The Finnish Master's Award in Development Studies has been granted annually by UniPID and FSDR since 2012. The aim of the award is to promote and inspire interdisciplinary studies and research related to global development issues in Finland.

In 2019, UniPID received 14 theses for the competition, of which the pre-selection committee selected 4 theses to be sent to the final Award Committee. The Award Committee chose one to be granted the Master's Award and three to be recognised with honorary mentions.

See the theses recognised in the competition below: