In solidarity with ‘development 1.0’

Living in a small city in Canada and recently having attended a retirement party for an NGO friend made me think about change, solidarity and the value of local history and stories. Since I started blogging I sometimes feel under pressure to write about ‘current affairs’, i.e. ‘trending topics’, topics with Twitter hashtags or events taken on by the ‘ blogosphere ’ . Not writing about revolutions, T-Shirts or aid transparency – as important as these topics are – seems to be a way of getting out of the loop. But attending a retirement party for a friend, let’s call him Peter, who has been working for more than 25 years in the regional office of a well-known international development NGO and generally living outside the spotlight of international development made me reflect upon some of these issues from the ‘periphery’. It also reminded me that my blog is supposed to be engaging with ethnographic challenges around development and peace issues.  I live in a city in Canada that hos

Aid transparency-From standards to innovative accountability and action

When everyone can see how much aid is being spent where, and on what, governments whether giving or receiving aid – can be held accountable by their citizens for spending it well (Karin Christiansen, director of the global campaign for aid transparency, Publish What You Fund) I agree with the importance of more and better aid data as I have expressed already in previous posts . I also think that the International Aid Transparency Initiative is important. But agreeing on standards for aid transparency is only a first and relatively small step and linking transparency to real, new, innovative 21st century accountability and participatory ideas will be the much bigger challenge . How can citizens hold a government accountable over something that has been and will essentially be a political issue that management tools and technocratic fixes can’t ‘solve’? And I don’t mean in the traditional ‘every four years there are elections’ way. And, at least equally important, how ca

Should I consider a PhD in International Development Studies?

After the Economist’s piece on the (non-)value of doing a PhD and some comments later (e.g. Prometheus doesn't read the Economist (I like the slightly cynical dichotomy between ‘civilians’ and the ‘academic insiders) or the ' 100 Reasons NOT to Go to Graduate School ' (they are only halfway through so check it out regularly in the future...) I had an interesting conversation with a prospective PhD student a few days ago. This was not the first time that I had been approached about doing a PhD and I always try to be as frank as possible, even playing the ‘devil’s advocate’ when it comes to the complicated ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ decision-making process. At the end of our conversation I sat down and tried to summarize a few important and generic points from the point of view of doing a PhD in Development Studies and in the UK . I understand that every case is different and involves a range of motives, options and rationales, but there a few important questions and t

MA Participation, Power and Social Change at IDS: Linking practice, theory and reflection

The IDS MAP is a unique programme combining action-research and reflective practice with more traditional elements of a one-year postgraduate programme.  It is likely to be a small (~15 participants) course with excellent possibilities for sharing, learning and networking. Subject to university approval, the fees should be the same as for other IDS MA programmes, i.e. around £11,000. Feel free to contact Angela Dowman or myself if you need further information. 'This MA allows me to put theory into practice on a daily basis. I have experienced a paradigm shift in my career.' Tamara, USA, student 2008 IDS is actively recruiting now for the next intake of the MA in Participation, Power and Social Change at IDS (starting in October 2011). MAP is a unique 18-month programme providing experienced development workers and social activists with the opportunity to critically reflect on their practice and develop their knowledge and skills while continuing to work or volunteer for

Stuff expat aid workers like: Looking down on academics

Unfortunately, 'Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like' editorial policy states that only 'actual aidworkers' can submit contributions and this excludes me from publishing my contribution on their blog, but I still think that the relationship between aidworkers and academics is a very suitable topic.   Among the many unique features of expat aidworkers is that they know everything about the country they are working in. 'Everything' often meaning all the nitty-gritty political gossips that emerge every day about, say, the new minister of health, the president’s daughter or that really big aid project by that really important donor agency. Throw in some local gossip told by the driver and most expat aid workers could well be journalists, country experts – or academics.  Although most aid workers have a range of qualifications from a range of universities, they like to nurture the idea of out-of-touch academics sitting in their cosy ivory towers. Many still ho

Are we still chasing the flame? A few reflections after reading Sergio Vieira de Mello’s biography

My last post for this year will be in line with the reflective end-of-the-year mood rather than engaging with an ongoing debate. I enjoyed reading Samantha Power’s biography of Vieira de Mello and it made me think about two bigger issues that have been part of my research work and that also interest me beyond academic endeavours: First, the book is a vivid example of how the UN transformed from a small, political and 'neutral' organisation into a participant of the global aid industry and became part of the transnational work- and lifestyle – and how little the UN seem to have engaged in these transformations. The other issue is that Vieira de Mello’s career and his duty stations are good/sad examples of how difficult, slow and interlocked peacebuilding challenges are. Practically all of the countries he has worked in throughout his career are still struggling with (the aftermath of) violent conflict and civil war – which often happened years or even decades ago – and that man

Great article: Autoethnography-An Overview

I'm a big fan of FQS, the Forum for Qualitative Social Research : FQS is a peer-reviewed multilingual online journal for qualitative research established in 1999. FQS is interested in empirical studies conducted using qualitative methods, and in contributions that deal with the theory, methodology and application of qualitative research. Innovative ways of thinking, writing, researching and presenting are especially welcome. The current issue features an excellent introduction and (literature) review of 'autoethnography' : Autoethnography: An Overview Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams & Arthur P. Bochner Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act. A researcher uses tenets of autob