By Dr Stacy-ann Robinson, Voss Postdoctoral Research Associate in Environment and Society, Brown University and GDI Alumna
When the Twentieth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP20) ended in Lima, Peru in December 2014, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu spoke to the assembled delegates with desperation. The tiny Pacific island loses a few millimetres of ground every year to rising sea water.
“I carry a huge burden and responsibility. I carry their hopes that there will be a future for Tuvalu. This is an enormous burden to carry. It keeps me awake at night. No national leader in the history of humanity has ever faced this question. Will we survive or will we disappear under the sea? I ask you all to think what it is like to be in my shoes. Stop and pause for a moment. If you were faced with the threat of the disappearance of your nation, what would you do?”, said Enele Sosene Sopoaga.
You’ve got a passion for research and your subject and now three years (or more) lies between you and 80,000 of your best words on that subject. We asked our recent PhD graduates and those toiling through their final years to share a few candid tips for success. Here’s what they had to say. read more…
Dr Sally Cawood, a PhD Alumna of the Global Development Institute recently returned to Bangladesh to feedback her PhD findings on Community Based Organisations (CBOs), water and sanitation in Dhaka’s low-income settlements. This blog shares some reflections on reconnecting with the NGOs, urban poor groups and communities involved in the research.
1: A Waiting Game
On the 20 June 2018, three years after I was in Dhaka to conduct PhD fieldwork, I arrived back in Bangladesh for a much anticipated follow up trip. I planned to return much sooner but, sadly, previous attempts to do so were delayed by security concerns, finalising my PhD and starting a new job. It was the latter, however, that gave me the opportunity to go back. Shortly before completing my PhD, I joined a fantastic team of ‘WASHies’ at the University of Leeds (people who, like me, are passionate about Water, Sanitation and Health, or WASH).
I’m currently a Research Fellow working on the Bill and Melinda Gates-Funded Climate and Cost in Urban Sanitation (CACTUS) Project. My trip to Bangladesh was therefore threefold – scope for CACTUS, supervise an MSc research project, and feedback the PhD findings and revisit the communities I worked in – something I’d been waiting to do for a long time!
The rising profile of inclusion and urban development in international policy has enlivened discussion about the role of organised communities in improving the conditions in global South cities. With nearly 60 per cent of urban populations in sub-Saharan Africa and more than 30 per cent of urban populations in South Asia living in “slum” settlements, without durable housing, adequate living space, or improved water or sanitation, the fresh debate is welcome. However, it also raises a major set of questions about how inclusive development is realised in contexts where there is a large imbalance of power between the state and urban residents and where the structures of public administration are highly politicised. read more…
One of the vices of poverty is not being able to access that little bit of extra money when you need it. An opportunity comes up, such as a job interview, or a useful animal you can buy, but you do not have the savings to make best use of it. The inevitable happens (relatives get married) and you cannot contribute to the celebration expenses. A tragedy strikes, such as illness, and you cannot raise the funds to deal with it. Your capacity to cope with these problems is made further complicated by the fact that, given your low income, you tend to be over-exposed to them. Alternatively a little bit of extra money can ease the expenses of being poor. The poorest families pay to save money, they pay more for basic goods (as they only purchase in small quantities), they pay very high interest rates (>100% interest on loans). But whether for major events or everyday needs, part of the condition of being poor (as research on financial diaries shows) is simply not having the liquidity – the disposable cash – that you need, when you need it. read more…
At a time when countries are highly integrated yet increasingly unequal there is no more important issue than ensuring that everyone lives well, but how do we achieve this? Old paradigms focused on conditional aid to political allies but indifferent to domestic politics must give way to a focus on how relations between and within all nations – rich, rising and failing – are structured. The general public tend to see aid either as charity or a corrupt waste of money. The aid system perpetuates this view resulting in a highly dysfunctional aid system that mistakes short-term results for long-term transformation.
Everyday citizens therefore as well as development professionals need to grapple with these challenges and researchers at The University of Manchester are being bold in suggestions on how all involved in the aid sector can improve the way we deliver and talk about aid, including the public who donate and whose tax funds it.
Since my first trip to Bangladesh in 2008, I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked the same question by those I interview as part of my research: ‘Will you tell our story so people know how we live’. The Lived Experience of Climate Change project emerged from an attempt to do just that, to engage the ‘voices of low-income people’ to ensure that diverse publics are better informed of their needs and priorities.
For my research looking at urban climate resilience and how land tenure affects adaptation to climate change, I spent months in Duaripara informal settlement in North-west Dhaka talking to over 600 people in their homes, workplaces, local teashops, and on street corners to understand how climate change affects their ‘everyday’ lives and what solutions they employ. read more…
The aim of this blog post is to throw light on Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a social policy. In current policy debates UBI proposals have a number of objectives: to address inequality, to provide a basic income flow, to address the labour market effects of automation, etc. I have chosen to focus on the role of UBI in the context of poverty reduction.
When assessing social policy, at least three types of evaluation are relevant. First, does the policy proposal fit with the ethical values of particular societies? By ethical values I describe deeper shared norms on the parameters of economic and social cooperation. Second, is the policy proposal likely to generate the outcomes that are expected? All policies are assessed on the basis of their effectiveness. Third, is the proposed policy likely to command political support? This is crucial to ensure the sustainability and legitimacy of the policy. This post sketches a brief assessment of ethical fit, effectiveness, and political support of UBI proposals as an instrument of poverty reduction. read more…
Daniel Diaz Vera, PhD Researcher, Global Development Institute
Over recent decades, good governance has been seen as one of the key mechanisms for NGOs to build and sustain their legitimacy. For many NGOs, governance is embodied by a board of trustees which is often portrayed as a diversified group of individuals, positioned beyond the daily management duties, who have responsibilities for steering the organisation, acting as a high-level decision-making body, and who hold the ultimate accountability for an organisation’s activities.
In a book published in 1995, Michael Edwards and David Hulme succinctly observed that ‘the developmental impact of NGOs, their capacity to attract support, and their legitimacy as actors in development, will rest much more clearly on their ability to demonstrate that they can perform effectively and that they are accountable for their actions.’ The ongoing validity of that statement was recently demonstrated by the Oxfam scandal in Haiti, which resulted in Oxfam losing 7000 individual donors in 10 days and led to the charity being banned from operating in Haiti. The case vividly highlights what is at stake when public trust is lost, and also its consequences.
The well-publicised example of Oxfam highlights that the widespread use of governance practices within NGO sector has not prevented the occurrence of misconduct. The way in which governance has been defined and operationalised is not necessarily leading to a connection between organisations and their environment – a connection which helps to secure the sustainability of these organisations thanks to a robust legitimacy based on social position. Further research on NGO governance is called for when we consider the current complexity in the field. For example, some governments are restricting the action of civil society organisations at a time when emerging social phenomena such as various refugee crises are shaking the globe. read more…
Researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Melbourne recently meet at the Global Development Institute (GDI), University of Manchester to brainstorm and share ideas on the changing nature and contexts of leadership for development (L4D), with a view of better understanding the influence of ‘development leaders’ in promoting or retarding development initiatives.