Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rethinking the role of intermediaries in bridging policy, research and practice

'You can’t propel knowledge into the world and expect change to happen.'

The term ‘knowledge intermediary’ is something that’s open to different interpretations. So last week as I sat in a session at the DSA/ EADI conference examining the role of intermediaries in bridging policy, research and uptake, I was really interested to see where the discussions would go.

Ananya Raihan from the Development Research Network (D.Net) began the discussion by sharing his experience of Knowledge intermediation at the grassroots in Bangladesh.  D.Net use the following definition to describe an infomediary role:

'An infomediary is a person who combines a set of technological resources and coaching to meet users’ information needs and communication capabilities.'

D.Net are trying to address a core problem they term as 'triple illiteracy' in Bangladesh (ICT illiteracy, information illiteracy and inability to read and write Bangla). They aim to address this with various intermediary initiatives including offering infomediation at the door step through 'infoladies' on bicycles and mobile applications.

So what have D.Net learned from doing this type of infomediary work? Ananya thinks the key success factors for infomediaries are, a positive attitude,  quick learning ability and good communication skills. He also stressed the need for an entrepreneurship mindset. D.Net has also developed a new way of measuring the benefit of knowledge intermediation which works out a community impact figure in relation to cost of set up and resources.

Josine Stremellar then introduced the Hivos Knowledge Programme. Hivos see itself as an International Intermediary NGO who link academics and practitioners from different regions and create space for marginalised actors for their voices to be heard. 

Josie stressed that defining your role in the knowledge business is key  - you need to be clear what you do, what the issue is, what the demand is and who you are going to share knowledge with. It is also important to be creative with how you share knowledge - Hivos recently gathered the opinions of youth on a social issue, but instead of synthesising their findings for policymakers (a common intermediary response), they annotated their stories.

 Intermediaries aim to enable people to make their own decisions, but solutions really depend on what questions are being asked. you can give a farmer the market price of tomatoes but the farmer might not understand how the economic system works, and potentially make the wrong decision for productivity.  Information systems are not geared to meet demands of audiences in a holistic way.  So you need intermediaries with a different set of skills to help people define their problem.

Dr Shamprasad Pujar from the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) ended the session by talking about a paper that he and Catherine Fisher from IDS have been working on entitled Stimulating Demand for Research: Exploring Cultures of Information Use in South Asia.  You can view the the full paper here.

There are different understandings of ‘demand’ and in this process both Sham and Catherine viewed the term from meaning ‘asking for research’ to the ‘value placed on research’.

Examples of action from South Asia in this area include dissemination of information e.g. web portals such as the India Environment Portal; interaction between research and implementation communities bringing parliaments and budget staff together; and social influence methods e.g. PIDS host the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) in the Philippines every year. In addition there are capacity building initiatives for policymakers to help them understand information and stimulate evidence based practice.

So lots of interesting initiatives in South Asia were found, but little or no evaluation of their success or the changes they had brought in behaviours towards evidence. Multitudinal studies and outcome mapping could help to track changes but how do we move beyond linear evaluation models? One participant asked whether these initiatives were being designed to change attitudes and behaviours in this way and stimulate demand.  Perhaps this is the underlying problem.

Follow this link to find out more about IDS’ DFID-funded Mobilising Knowledge for Development Programme (MK4D) who helped enable this session. 

Yaso Kunaratnamworks for Knowledge Services at The Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rethinking campaigns

Following a session at the DSA conference Duncan Green reflects on the thinking behind the new Grow campaign at Oxfam .
I would argue that (comparatively rare) NGO campaign victories rely on a combination of the legitimacy derived from field experience and good research, the ability to move publics in the rich countries, working in coalitions of dissimilar bodies, and skill in constructing a compelling narrative for decision makers and media. It is important to combine insider and outsider strategies and use power analysis (political economy + lobbying skills) in designing influencing strategies.
There are several weaknesses to this model, including uncertainty over how to relate to developing country governments, a degree of planners’ sclerosis when it comes to responding to events and new opportunities, and a tendency to focus on policy detail rather than politics or big picture narratives. It may well be that this model has to change, not least because the NGO default demand of more money is unsuited to a downturn.
I outlined these points in a session I participated in at the DSA conference last week, also involving Oxfam and Exfam (former Oxfam) staff and an ex Action Aider (Claire Melamed, now head of the Growth and Equity team at ODI).
Rob Bailey, (senior research fellow, Chatham House), introduced the Grow campaign report, which he wrote prior to leaving Oxfam. He highlighted the multiple challenges of achieving food justice in a resource constrained world (for a summary of the Grow campaign, see here). Bailey saw Oxfam’s distinctive contribution as introducing issues of power, politics, equity and justice to a debate (how to feed the 9 billion without destroying the planet) that often confines itself to technical issues of yields, productivity and carbon intensity. He pointed to several encouraging examples of developing country leadership, such as Brazil (reducing hunger), Vietnam (smallholder-based development) and the Maldives (decarbonisation), contrasting them with India’s failure to turn growth into benefits for its poorest citizens.
Kate Raworth (senior policy researcher, Oxfam) presented work in progress on ‘Economic growth for a hungry and fragile planet’, explaining the nature of the pressures for growth, the problems with growth (especially environmental impact), the prospects for sustainable growth and finally, the politics of talking about (and questioning) growth. She pointed out that the traditional growth-sceptic argument in rich countries (it doesn’t contribute to greater wellbeing, or does so with diminishing marginal returns) has been undermined by the financial crisis, which leaves all governments desperately pursuing growth as a solution to their debt crises.
Within Oxfam, the climate change campaign launched in 2008 crystallised doubts over its previous overarching model of ‘Growth with Equity’, and could well lead to a major paradigm shift in its attitudes to growth. However several factors may constrain that move. Firstly, we don’t know what a capitalist non-growth economy would look like (and there is absolutely no appetite for it among decision makers and elites), secondly, enough progress has been made in relative (and in some cases absolute) decoupling of growth from resource use to make some form of ‘green growth’ worth pursuing. The question then becomes what kind of conditionality is placed on growth – when is it green enough?
Martin Kirk, Head of UK Campaigns , discussed the concept of ‘framing’, arguing that campaign organizations have become intellectually lazy due to operating for many years in relatively benign political environments. This has allowed them to ignore the deep frames held by the public, many of which are stuck in the ‘charity + starving baby’ stereotypes of yesteryear. By telling a story of difference (rather than common ground) NGOs add to the problem by undermining solidarity, and selling a vision of grandious hope lays them open to accusations that  ‘nothing ever changes’. In this discourse, power, morality and agency rest with the rich – a grotesque misrepresentation of the reality of development.
Martin saw other blocks to campaign effectiveness arising from focussing on what people say they think, but being bad at knowing why, or what they actually think (often much more regressive – ‘No one believes it is possible’; ‘It’s their fault’ etc); not having a credible long-term vision for engaging the public and not tapping into existing expertise on cognitive frames, language and discourse. Martin declared he would die happy if all campaigns began with a discourse analysis of their issue.......
Claire Melamed (ODI) commented that she had not heard the word ‘paradigm’ (employed liberally in this panel) used anywhere else in the conference and saw two contradictory stories in the presentations. A traditional campaign story from Martin and I in her view contrasted with a message from Kate and Rob that presented an extremely complex, well researched problem, but neither villain nor solution. ‘Are you trying to run a traditional campaign, or do something new – very much more long term, complex and difficult?’ she asked
Martin Kirk, replying, argued that these were two different sides of the same coin – a more comprehensive problem needs a different and more profound kind of campaign. In addition, a big global issue will in practice be broken up into bite-sized campaign chunks that often follow a more traditional model of ‘problem, solution, villain.’
Others in the audience raised issues of campaign design – how to find metrics and an end point, in such an all-encompassing campaign.
I would conclude that if the rest of the conference have avoided the world ‘paradigm’, the problem lies with the DSA, not this panel. Given the state of the economy and planet, if we aren’t advocating new paradigms now, then when should we do so?
Duncan Green is Head of Research at Oxfam and author of the forthcoming 3rd edition of ‘The New Economic Diplomacy’.   Read his Oxfam blog here

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Disasters, climate change and development: what do we need to do differently?

Jonathan Ensor from Practical Action reviews the barriers and drivers to integrating climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

What is the missing link in disasters? According to Terry Cannon, in a session I attended today it is the attention to social and cultural issues that mediate preparedness and perceptions of risk. Terry highlighted the need to think more broadly about the challenges of addressing disaster risk, discussing the need to bridge institutional and local knowledge systems, and bring in knowledge from other disciplines – a theme taken up by his co-presenter, Katie Harris.
Where Terry focussed in on the mismatch between NGO/policy priorities and those of local people (for whom, empirical evidence demonstrates, disasters are seldom the most pressing concern), Katie explored the role of emotions in disaster preparedness. Bringing insight from psychological research, Katie discussed how an appreciation of emotions can help explain why preparedness campaigns repeatedly fail, revealing refusal to prepare as a rational act when understood from the perspective of those at risk – for whom ontological security demands a rejection of risk narratives that would challenge the perception of the home as a safe place, of nature as a benign force, and in the ability of society to provide protection.
The insider/outsider tension that Terry and Katie highlight was taken up in the title of the next presentation, by Terry Gibson from the Global Network for Disaster Reduction. ‘It’s all one’ captures the views of local people, for whom disasters and development don’t exist in separate silos. As discussant, I suggested that this is a stark challenge to NGOs – what are we doing? Whose priorities are we following? Why is there a mismatch between ‘our’ priorities and ‘theirs’? One response was to be found in Terry Gibson’s focus on social learning and negotiation processes to enable the co-definition, between development actors and local people, of the priorities for development action.
Terry Gibson’s presentation highlighted how the View’s from the Frontline Project, in which NGOs and CSOs undertake a comprehensive assessment of progress in disaster preparedness as a counterweight to government reporting on progress on the Hyogo Framework for Action. This work initially had huge success in opening up political space at the international level for attention to action at the local level. However, no sooner had this space been opened, GNDR  realised that it’s language had been co-opted as a fig-leaf over a process that was as heavily top-down as ever. Part of the answer being explored is to adopt an approach that explicitly attends to power through a focus on politics, negotiation and contestation, working from the social learning literature that highlights the need for ‘double loop learning’ – changing not only actions (single loop) but also the assumptions on which these actions are based. Strong resonances, here, with the need to change mindset in disaster preparedness and start to understand why people behave as they do, rather than just assuming that our expert knowledge of mitigation measures is enough.
Thomas Tanner took the discussion on to consider tools for integrating climate change adaptation and disaster reduction into development. Sifting the preponderance of tools into three categories for analysis – process guidance, data and information provision, and knowledge sharing – Thom focused in on the first category and suggested that a significant benefit of these was to build awareness of climate issues at an individual level within the organisations that have developed tools. While highlighting the need for centralised, nationally owned climate information and disaster profile information, he also critiqued tools for bringing ‘the end of politics’ through a focus on techo-managerial fixes, and echoed Wilby’s suggestion that robust decision making would be more valuable than an endless search for climate information that only becomes more uncertain the more one tries to put it into action.
Thom’s call for a common approach to M&E was taken up by Paula Silva Villanueva, who presented an innovative approach that moves on from a preoccupation with indicators to an iterative, learning process that is specifically designed to support organisations in reflecting on their policies and programmes and to incorporate resilience as a framing for their work. The ‘ADAPT’ framework does this by encouraging: Adaptive learning and management that enable flexible planning; Dynamic monitoring that acknowledges changing hazard profiles and uncertainty; being Active in understanding social, cultural and personal issues, including the diverse interests of the actors that touch and are touched by interventions; are Participatory to promote self-reliance and problem solving; and Thorough, in looking across scales and at the underlying causes of vulnerability.
 Edwin Elegado, from Plan International in the Philippines, explored much of this in practice in the context of a climate hotspot that is ranked third in the World Risk Index. By applying the Climate Smart Disaster Risk Management (CSDRM) approach, on which Paula’s work is based, Edwin compared the work of actors at three scales – the national Climate Change Commission, an alliance of seven cities in a common watershed, and an island town – finding that each had made substantial progress in the three CSDRM pillars: dealing with risks and uncertainty, building adaptive capacity, and addressing the underlying causes of poverty. Reflecting a common and important theme throughout the meeting, Edwin and Paula both highlighted that integration ultimately means dealing with the complex realities of local change, demanding political will, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and the participation of the people at risk.

Jonathan Ensor is the Policy Researcher at Practical Action

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rethinking or revisiting? Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water

Emilie Wilson from IDS explains how the English expression 'Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water' (don’t throw out the good with the bad) is particularly relevant in discussions on rethinking development knowledge.

In his welcome address the outgoing President of the DSA, Lawrence Haddad suggests that ‘Rethinking development is not about us simply re-surfacing our own pet ideas, it is about co-constructing new ideas and new norms.’

Yesterday, I attended two sessions which looked at the global development knowledge ecology – with an emphasis by Robin Mansell on ecology, not economy. Continuing on the Nature metaphor, Dr Sebastiao Mendonco Ferreira started the session by contrasting the practise of managing knowledge as a resource with managing natural resources.

This was a useful way to focus our minds on ‘knowledge’, rather a slippery word, like an intellectual game of charades or a riddle ‘it’s intangible, non-rivalrous, non-erodible, human-made, both tacit and explicit, contained in receptacles such as human minds or embedded in machines, it’s unlimited’….would you have arrived at ‘knowledge’ after this description?

When it comes to pet ideas, ‘knowledge’ (and all its associated issues  - what it is, who owns it, how does it come into being, how does it work in development) is something we’ve been grappling with in IDS Knowledge Services (the clue is in the name) and IDS more generally for years. (see Knowledge is Power? IDS Bulletin 25.2, April 1994).

As an intellectual football, ‘knowledge’ experiences all the tensions and chafing between the rationale/objective/positivist end of the development spectrum (often but not exclusively inhabited by economists, engineers, health specialists, agronomists, etc) and the subjective/lived experience/pluralist end of the development spectrum (broadly including anthropologists, historians, sociologists… etc). And from discussions we were having yesterday, on n’est pas sorti de l’auberge. (use Google Translate for an amusing interpretation of this French expression).

So, into this mix, has come an increasingly potent ICT environment with its heady mix of private-sector development and aggressive marketeering, new scientific and cognitive frontiers. ICT has an ability to feed our fundamental human need to communicate and connect with one another and a potential for upsetting engrained power structures.

Will this increasingly custom-made and intuitive ‘web-environment’ help us develop the epistemic cultures and communities Sebastiao suggests we need to address our limited ability to ‘absorb’ knowledge? A knowledge which is increasingly complex and sophisticated, and thus difficult to verify? This is one approach that IDS has taken through its development of a social networking platform for people working in development, Eldis Communities.      

When discussing open data yesterday with Duncan Edwards (IDS) and Tim Davies (Practical Participation), the importance of revisiting the old arguments around knowledge, power, ownership was brought home to me. We need to be aware that simply making things ‘open’ will not, in itself, redress the power imbalance we are all too acutely aware of although don’t always address. It’s a sort of post-colonial malaise for many working in development, not from developing countries.

And while there is a role for our technical experts to ensure that we are not gate-keeping ‘knowledge’, there is still an important role for ‘curators’ of knowledge. In the past these have been the media, libraries and academic institutions, in the present, these are joined by a vast arrear of knowledge brokers and information intermediaries. Those actively involved in the business of disseminating, repackaging, synthesising, indexing and aggregating that knowledge are becoming aware that they are not just mere taxis of information and knowledge, but rather taxi drivers: choosing their passengers and choosing their routes. They are not waiting in taxi ranks, but rather are out and about, stimulating demanding for knowledge – like the bicycling “Info Ladies” that Ananya Raihan from Bangladesh described.

Flicking through the massive and fascinating programme for this conference, most of which I am going to miss (because you can only be in one place at one time), I am aware of the awesome responsibility of knowledge brokers to ensure that this precious and deeply valuable knowledge is wanted, grappled with, shared and understood. And ultimately, that it makes a difference to people’s lives.      


Emilie Wilson, is Communications Officer at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Heralding Development: What's your headline?

Imagine a newspaper with the front page development headline of your dreams. What would it say?....

Children’s development matches prosperous economic growth

Tassew Woldehanna, Associate Professor, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia: 'I would really like to see that the world has been made better for children'

Society works together for widespread access to knowledge
Prof Faustin Kamuzora, Mzumbe University, Tanzania : 'I teach at Mzumbe University in Tanzania, where people have their own knowledge but it’s just a matter of building on what they already know'

Finally a global governance system that works!
Iliana Olivie, Senior Analyst, International Cooperation and Development. Real Instituteo Eelcano 

How to reconcile law with social realities?
Dominik Kohlhagen, Institut de Politique et de Gestion Du Developpement (IOB): 'I work in legal anthropology, so this might not be very representative but it’s a question that I would like to be asked'

Children included in policy for poverty eradication
Uma Vennam from Young Lives India 'Because I work in research to do with children I would like to see households with young children as the focus of poverty eradication programs. In some case studies I have found households in early stages of family life are moving down in social mobility'

More from Heralding Development soon.....

Louise Stoddard

An exercise in stone rolling

As the DSA/ EADI conference discusses new partnerships in development, Rodger Williamson describes the intellectual and practical realities of working with academics and philanthropists.

What difference does it make to someone trying to live on a dollar a day if a few hundred billion dollars get wiped off the New York or Tokyo stock exchanges? Some things work brilliantly, but a lot of things are in a mess. That’s the contradictory reality of our world. Interdependence provides huge opportunities and also makes us more vulnerable when the economy or the social fabric breaks down.

My role in the Bellagio Initiative is to work on organising the Summit in November. How do we stage a global dialogue around the key themes, and still come out with some clear points for action?

I have spent most of my life in NGOs on issues around human rights, development, peace issues, environment, religion and conflict. The last 11 years have been taken up with organising about 80 international affairs conference for the British government. Then I took early retirement and thought I would settle down and research urbanisation and extreme poverty. But no. The chance to work on this project was far too exciting and I got drawn back into conference organising.

It’s like working with two new ‘tribes’. At the risk of caricature, the academics are great ‘problematisers’. They live in a world of ideas and text, and more analysis always needs to be done. The philanthropists, by and large, have been successful in one area of life and like to get things done: ‘Here are the resources, let’s do something.’ And then the academics start to talk about unintended consequences …

In the meantime, we have got some themes knocked into shape and sent some invitations out. The record reply was three minutes – from Nairobi.

Manuel Castells has told us that networks are now the thing. That’s what we are trying to do – to get networks talking. We want to design a process so the foundations and development specialists, the NGOs and the business people, the innovators and social entrepreneurs all have their say. But just this week my headache is how we get 92 people into the remaining 20 of 40 bedrooms. We also face the reality of visas – you can lose or make millions in seconds on the world’s stock exchanges, but to get a visa for someone is serious long-term work.

Still, I marvel when I get a reply from Mexico saying, ‘I can’t make it, but can we send a co-founder of the firm?’  or a positive response from a representative of a slum dwellers’ organisation in India saying, ‘I’ve got some diary commitments to sort out before I can accept.’ A government minister from Bhutan is keen to inform us about their commitment to a happiness index as a better measure of wellbeing than GDP. But he is aware that running his ministry is also a priority.

It’s exciting stuff. The mix is great. Wellbeing is a fantastic diagnostic tool. With another hat on, I am working on wellbeing in the context of the global epidemic (likely to get worse) of depression. Mark Williams and Danny Penman have coined the phrase ‘frantic world’ - and that sums it up. Suddenly everyone is into ‘balance’. Some of it feels more like it’s teetering on the edge.

But we are keen to carry on making the connections. Some of that is an intellectual task, some of it is practical. A social entrepreneur told me that the way to find out what works (I was asking him about fundraising for the depression project) – ‘Push some stones and see which of them rolls’ …

… But I have invitations to sort out and people to track down.

Roger Williamson is an IDS Visiting Research Fellow. This blog was first posted on the Bellagio Initiative blog

There is an alternative to the relationship of dependency between Southern Africa and the EU

The EU- Southern Africa relations date back to the dark ages of slavery and colonialism. Sort of rider-horse relations with the latter always coming second-best.
The early 1970s ushered in a new era of a relationship that was based on some degree of mutual respect and equality (Lomé Agreement). Southern African countries were full of hope because Lomé granted them trade and economic preferences that had the potential to catapult them to the path of development.
But then came the WTO and the Most Favoured Nation Principle. Southern African countries were forced to abandon Lomé preferences and enter into a reciprocal trade relationship (EPA) with the “much powerful EU”. The Southern African countries are not keen on this. They feel that they do not have necessary capacity to negotiate a good EPA for their people. They fear that EPAs would “Tie” them to the EU forever and endanger their much needed policy space to develop. Surprisingly they have gone on to sign the interim EPAs and they are on track to sign the final EPAs soon.
But why should Southern African countries enter into trade negotiations they are not sure will benefit the people?
The answer is “Dependency”.  Virtually all of them are economically and financially dependent on the EU. As a result, they fear opposing it, in case that support maybe withdrawn. Apparently the EU uses this fear to control their less-fortunate partners. History shows that this has always been the case.
But there is something called “Hope”. The EU can also use it to gain control if it so wishes. That hope is needed in Southern Africa; not “Fear”.

Dr. Medicine Masiiwa is a research fellow with the Institute of Development Studies, University of Zimbabwe. His areas of interest are agricultural development, marketing, international trade and regional integration.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Dudley Seers questions that are still relevant today

As participants arrive at the DSA/ EADI conference in York today, Sir Richard Jolly outlines his thoughts prior to the Dudley Seers Memorial Lecture.

Dudley Seers, first President of EADI, issued the challenge: 'We have to rethink our views of the transforability of models in the social sciences'

This is a good starting point for the EADI/DSA conference. This quote, copied from the thirty years of EADI website, is a slight misprint for what Dudley probably said – transferability. As a structuralist in his analysis Dudley often warned of the dangers of transferring models of analysis devised for one sort of economy to another. But perhaps today, when development studies is more concerned with strategies of transformation one ought to read the word as “transformability” –though Dudley would surely not have like the word, even if he was sympathetic to the concept. What are the models of transformation? How similar are the experiences of such strategies in different parts of the world. Is there a risk that our models of successful or desirable transformation smack too much of a one size fits all approach? And how much are the possibilities of strategies of transformation affected by the broader macro-strategies being pursued in a country?
With his structuralist approach Dudley Seers was and, I’m sure, would still remain highly sceptical of most cross-sectional econometric analyses of GNP and other indicators as a way of understanding patterns of economic development over time. As a statistician, he was also acutely aware of the enormous part which heroic estimations played in the construction of national income indicators and highly critical of  using GNP as an indicator of development. In one of his much quoted addresses on the Meaning of Development, Dudley memorably put it like this:

            The questions to ask about a country’s development are therefore: What has been happening to poverty? What has been happening to unemployment? What has been happening to inequality? If all three of these have declined from high levels, then beyond doubt this has been a period of development for the country concerned. If one or two of these problems have been growing worse, especially if all three have, it would be strange to call the result ‘development’, even if per capita income had doubled.”

(Dudley seers, The Meaning of Development,  address to SID 1969, reprinted in Development, Forty Years in Development: the search for social justice, Volume 40, No 1, March 1997 (Sage Publications,) 1997)

At a time when GNP growth still rules the waves of most conventional (economic) analysis of development, the EADI/DSA conference provides a major opportunity to explore better and more subtle understandings. It may also provide a chance to explore a second concern of Dudley’s – to break down the artificial barriers between ‘us and them’, between development studies applied to developing countries and the ideas and models used in so-called developed countries. At a time when most of Europe and the United States is stagnating at near-zero growth, with high levels of unemployment and inequality and top incomes mostly rising, York provides a good opportunity to turn our development searchlights onto these problems, using Dudley’s three questions as the staging point for more challenging and more relevant analyses.

Sir Richard Jolly is Honorary Professor and Research Associate of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What if the world’s poor live in non-poor countries?

Until now, poverty has been viewed as a poor country issue, but now that most of the world's poor live in middle-income countries, donors will need to rethink their approaches and strategies.

Two decades ago, almost all of the world’s poor lived in countries officially classified as Low Income. Now, 72% of the world’s poor live in Middle Income Countries. This “new geography of global poverty” with the mass of the poor living in stable, non-poor countries—raises important questions for the current model of development assistance, where national per capita income is a key determinant of the volume and composition of aid flows.

Should aid allocation be targeted equally to poor people in poor and non-poor countries, or should special weight be given to poor countries? How, if at all, should international agencies with a focus on poverty reduction re-calibrate their engagement with MICs?

The spectacular growth of a number of populous countries over the last two decades has changed the global map of poverty. On the one hand, growth in countries such as China has contributed to dramatic reductions in the incidence of global poverty—indeed the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG), of halving the incidence of poverty between 1990 and 2015, will be met at the global level. However, two decades of this process has led to another feature of the global map of poverty—more and more of the remaining poor now live in MICs.

The poor haven’t physically moved of course. What has largely happened is that the countries in which many of the world’s poor live in have got richer in average per capita terms and have been reclassified as middle-income countries.

The new geography of global poverty throws into sharp relief development assistance policy towards MICs.

There is no justification for a blanket exclusion of MICs from development assistance. We would argue that the policy has to be crafted on a country specific basis, taking into account the detailed nature of poverty in each MIC, and the specific institutional and implementation context of development assistance.

However, looking further ahead, there will be fewer and fewer poor countries - maybe just 20 in 2025 according to one estimate - and most countries will need and want aid as resource transfers less and less. What does this mean for aid and development cooperation? Is this the end of 'traditional' aid and the birth of something new in terms of development cooperation and global public policy?

We hope that the coming DSA conference will be able to consider some of these dilemmas.

Andy Sumner is a cross-disciplinary Economist based at IDS

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Can we be sure that developmental science serves children well?

The final years of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century have seen unparalleled concern globally about the well-being of children, with an attendant rise in the volume of measures and experts dealing with diverse aspects of children’s lives. This activity reflects efforts in research and policy as well as practice to enhance children’s situations, motivated by mounting consensus that young people today are confronting unprecedented levels of risk and uncertainty and that there are some fairly obvious universal solutions to their problems.

The growing sense of urgency around these issues seems to legitimise widespread state intervention into children’s lives; indeed, intervention has become a moral imperative. So, two parallel courses of action have been set in motion. The first provides broad support to all children and involves diverse services such as health and education, sometimes backed by social protection programmes. The second, intended to shield the young from specific risks, entails a range of specialist protective measures centering on social work practice and the law.

The moral authority behind these interventions derives from their framing in terms of progress and children’s rights, as well as their alignment with the latest scientific evidence on child development that seemingly shows how children’s well-being can be best supported. The thinking underpinning developmental science is compelling and has been taken up by the international community through means like the human capital framework and the age grade system in school. Yet, the vast bulk of this evidence draws on research with children in the industrialised world, and hence is both limited and biased; in this way, ‘irrefutable’ science applied in the name of progress globally has generated deep moral norms that go largely unquestioned in measures to promote and protect.

Although few in number, studies with boys and girls in developing countries make it clear that young people growing up in these regions are indeed gaining significantly from the spread of modern values and services, fuelled by macro-economic growth. The first wave of measures, in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, were successful in reducing infant and child mortality. The second, focused on education, considerably increased pre-school and primary enrolment, dramatically changing children’s aspirations.

Nevertheless, these studies are also uncovering the things boys and girls are losing, as well as some of the unintended adverse consequences of interventions. Education gains mask significant inequalities in access and quality; poor children, rural children, the children of poorly educated parents (mothers), ethnic minority children, girls and other marginalised groups get an especially raw deal. At the same time, human capital models which focus on formal learning of a narrow range of academic skills don’t take into account the relevance of these skills for local labour markets or the financial and social costs of keeping children in school and isolating them from everyday activities in their households and communities. Nor do they recognise the many benefits children get from the contribution they make to family and community. And the third wave of measures, aimed at eliminating social risks like workplace exploitation or trafficking, are deeply ideological and have had a very bumpy ride indeed, often producing as many problems as they solve.

We have to recognise that with all its benefits, modernity affects children’s lives in complex ways, leading to competing ideologies of childhood and competing demands on children’s time. Given all of this, can we really be so sure that developmental science and modernity automatically serve children well, for example in their education and protection? Are we sufficiently attentive to the dangers involved and prepared to countenance closer scrutiny of our efforts? It is important to consider what children and families stand to lose through change and who is designating what is good and what bad for children. Above all, we should be wary of standardised policies and programmes that pay insufficient attention to children’s own concerns, to the socio-cultural and economic context they live in, and to children’s roles and relationships within their families and communities.

Jo Boyden is the Director of Young Lives, University of Oxford

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why involve men in work on gender equality?

I am a feminist who has spent 20 years writing about gender, both in the UK and the Global South. I have no doubt that women suffer just because they are women.  But I have also become convinced that if we are ever to move forward in terms of gender equality, we need to involve men too.

Surely this ought to be a no-brainer. Gender is about men and women and the relationships between them. So why is it so problematic?

First, because the focus on men does not always come from a gender equality perspective, but from the idea that it is men who are now the victims. For example, Atlantic Monthly ran an article noting that men are becoming redundant with an ‘unprecedented role reversal now under way’. And in 2010 Newsweek ran a cover story on ‘reinventing masculinity’, analysing assertions that women are taking over the world – or at least the US.

This is dangerous nonsense. Of course there are individual men who face rape or violence from women, but they are in a tiny minority. Overwhelmingly, it is still predominantly women who face abuse, violence and discrimination from men. Things may look better in the rich world, but for example, in the US, a woman is battered by her intimate partner every 15 seconds in the UK, women working full time still earn on average 15.5% less an hour than men.  Globally, women hold only 19% of positions in national parliaments.

Second, there is suspicion from feminists, and from some women and women’s groups about working with men. (Not to mention the scepticism from some women and men about the value of gender work at all in our ‘post-feminist’ era). They question men’s motives. And they feel that the debate is hijacking the focus and the resources from work with women.  They are right.

But it is precisely because patriarchy is the problem that we need to put some of our attention on men and boys.  We need to shine a light on the reasons – social, political, economic and individual - why so many women and girls still face abuse and discrimination in almost every area of their lives. Then we need to involve men as part of the solution rather than as part of the problem. This should be in addition to, not instead of, what is already being spent on women and women’s projects.

In order to do this, men themselves need to see that equality is a matter of justice. They need to recognize that it benefits their mothers, wives, girlfriends, and daughters. And they need to realise that it is in their own interests to change. Because the current gender order, although it may benefit men in many ways,  has its downside for men too. For example, a
national survey of adolescent males aged 15 to 19 in the US found that those who adhered to traditional views of manhood were more likely to report substance use, violence and delinquency and unsafe sexual practices. Young men are also more likely than any other group to die in traffic accidents, or through murder or suicide– in Britain, for example, suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 35.

This is not just about individuals, it is also about the huge structural issues that govern society, about economics, politics, globalization… We are still not clear enough about what we mean by involving men. Which men, to do what? Is it men in power who can influence law and policy? Is it men in their homes? Is it male community leaders? All of these? And what do they have the power to change?

What we do know is that men and women need to work together until it becomes socially unacceptable to beat up a woman or discriminate against someone just because they are female. We have come a long way, (thanks mainly to women’s efforts) but in the end men are still in charge - and it is men who now need to change.

Nikki van der Gaag is an independent consultant who specialises in gender and communications

Civil Society at a Crossroads?

The 21st century has seen enormous shifts in dominant perspectives and power balances: with national security agendas dominating international relations and development assistance; the rise of Asia as the fulcrum of global economic development; financial meltdowns in North America and Europe; global assertions of new coalitions of emerging economies influencing global governance; and citizens' movements across different regions demanding democratic freedoms.
As a result, the civil society perspective based on values of solidarity, equity and inclusion finds itself under increasing pressure. Recent trends that have led civil society to a crossroads include intermediary NGOs and professionally-staffed national and international non-profit organisations who are assumed by many to be the mainstay of civil society. It should also be noted that ODA and OECD began to confine the in-country roles of civil society as subordinate to state development (see the Paris and Accra declarations).
Countries in Asia (China, India, Indonesia, South Korea) and elsewhere (Russia, South Africa, Brazil) have expanded their international ‘aid’ to developing countries, without reference to civil society - primarily by stressing state- and market-led approaches. Economic globalisation has also given wealth and influence to private business to shape development policies, including sectors such as sustainable development, education, and health care - which were previously the forte of civil society
Other trends include the global financing of civil society which is increasingly now shifting to private foundations, away from national and global governance institutions. Also the concentration of ODA in a few African countries is creating a ‘new breed’ of external NGOs opening ‘shops’ to access additional funds. Large sections of civil society actors in hitherto excluded regions and languages (such as the Muslim world) mistrust global governance institutions. Humanitarian contributions in post-disaster situations continue to significantly dominate civil society activity.
INTRAC is one of five civil society support organisations (along with CDRA, South Africa, EASUN, Tanzania, PSO, The Netherlands, and PRIA, India) involved in a reflection process about the future of civil society around the world. This will address the question of 'what are the roles, capacities, contributions and limitations of civil society in the changing local and global contexts?'
You are encouraged to join in by sharing thoughts and materials, documenting emerging stories of civil society, and facilitating discussions with your partners and networks. From these reflections, the group will produce publically available materials for practitioners and policymakers.
There are many other contradictory trends. These changing contexts offer both opportunities and challenges for the future development of civil society.
There are also many other key questions to consider such as what are the roles of civil society in emerging, middle-income societies? And how do civil society associations interact with political parties and elected legislatures?

Brian Pratt, Executive Director, INTRAC

Friday, September 9, 2011

Development research's Love-Hate relationship with policy and practice

I was asked to make some introductory comments at the Development Study Association-Ireland (DSAI). DSAI is the newest part of the DSA, and this was its second conference with the theme of linking research, policy and practice.

I started off noting the Love-Hate relationship development research has with policy and practice.

Love: many of us took up development research through some personal motivation to make a difference; normative aspirations are firmly and openly embedded in development studies; many of our institutional homes reinforce this sense of mission; and finally, we are quite good at it by virtue of our multidisciplinarity and our comfort with evaluation and learning.

Hate: on the other hand we are sometimes not so enthusiastic: when there is a sense that the "use" orientation is taking us away from fundamental relationships and questioning assumptions and framings; when we feel we are no longer able to speak truth to power; when we get drawn into researching the amenable and not the meaningful and finally when we are told to do it (e.g. the value for money imperative).

Most of these risks can be managed, it seems to me, and in any case, we can't help it, it's in our DNA this linking of policy and practice.

How do we do it better? I used the Motives/Means/Opportunity model.

Motives: there are many ways of inculcating the motive to connect with policy and practice--supporting young PhD researchers to spend time in the field and recruiting Masters students who have some overseas work experience.

Means: models are useful (I like the problem stream, solution stream and political stream approach of Kingdon)

Opportunities: "build it and they will come" is a slogan for non-dissemination. We need to build relationships with key people we want to influence. Be clear about it and be focused on it.

It's easy for researchers immersed in the daily grind of writing proposals, supervising students, writing papers, teaching courses, doing administration and management of projects etc. to forget the privileged position we occupy. We should not underestimate how inspiring the best of our work can be to people outside the sector. I am constantly reminded of it. That's good, because it is easy to forget the potentially transformative potential our work can have when it is firing on all cylinders.

The DSAI had a couple of terrific panels bringing together researchers and organisations like Trociare (a large Irish NGO) and Irish Aid. We reflected on how difficult it was to make time to develop and invest in these relationships, but we also noted several instances when it had made a big difference.

DSAI seems to have found a valuable niche in bringing research, policy and practice together in Ireland. It has tremendous energy from its members and steering group and I wish it well.

Footnote: At the DSA-EADI conference in York Sept 19-22 --places still available, topic "Rethinking Development in an Age of Scarcity and Uncertainty", over 1000 people will attend--I will step down as DSA Chair after 3 years and a new Chair will be elected from the nominees. I will remain an advocate of the DSA--I believe it does a very good job of promoting development research, connecting researchers with other researchers and with policymakers and practitioners, supporting the next generation of researchers and providing a stimulating space to draw out new ideas.

You should join!