Feminism under siege: Maria Al Abdeh on the work of Women Now for Development in Syria, and the impact of Jo Cox

June 5, 2019
This is the first post of a new mini series on ‘Being a feminist in difficult places’. Recently I spent time with Maria Al Abdeh, Executive Director of Women Now for Development (WND), a Syrian feminist organization. She was in London to help launch the UK branch of Global Fund for Women, which helps fund organizations like hers. WND runs

Combating corruption through community

April 12, 2019
David Riveros García makes a strong case for placing communities at the centre of anti-corruption work, based on the experience of organisations and movements in Paraguay. David is the founder and Executive Director of reAcción, an NGO that promotes civic participation and transparency in the education sector. Growing is often its own trap. For social initiatives, increased visibility brings the temptation of

An experiment in participatory blogging on Ebola in Sierra Leone

April 4, 2018
Anthropologists do things differently, including blogging. My attention was piqued by Tim Allen’s reply to a commenter on his recent post (with Melissa Parker) on Ebola in Sierra Leone, in which he casually mentioned ‘It is perhaps worth adding that the chief and elders wanted us to write it, and we read it out at a meeting of the whole

How introducing electronic votes in Brazil saved lives and increased health spending by a third

February 24, 2017
Just came across a paper which overcame even my scepticism about what often seems excessive hype around technology’s impact on poverty and human rights. Check out ‘Voting Technology, Political Responsiveness and Infant Health: Evidence from Brazil’ by Princeton’s Thomas Fujiwara. He has stumbled across one of those wonderful natural experiments that allow you to try and pin down the causal

Conference rage and why we need a war on panels

June 1, 2016
Today’s post definitely merits a vlog – apologies for quality (must get a decent camera) With the occasional exception (see yesterday’s post on Piketty), my mood in conferences usually swings between boredom, despair and rage. The turgid/self-aggrandizing keynotes and coma-inducing panels, followed by people (usually men) asking ‘questions’ that are really comments, usually not on topic. The chairs who abdicate responsibility

Some healthy scepticism about ‘Citizen Engagement’ (and why I’m excited about MOOCs)

March 25, 2015
MOOCs are taking over. If you aren’t yet excited about Massive Open Online Courses, you should be. When I was first getting interested in development the only way to bridge the gap between reading the news and coughing up squllions for a Masters was to cycle through the rain every Tuesday evening to London’s City Literary Institute to sit at

The Four Magic Words of Development, by Tom Carothers and Saskia Brechenmacher

November 6, 2014
This guest post comes from Thomas Carothers and Saskia Brechenmacher of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Tufts University, drawing from their new paper Accountability, Transparency, Participation, and Inclusion: A New Development Consensus? The penultimate para in particular got me thinking about the different tribes present at the recent Doing Development Differently event. If you are about to visit

Into the Unknown: Explorations in Development Practice: lovely (and short) new book from Robert Chambers

April 28, 2014
Robert Chambers is who I want to be when I grow up, an object lesson in how to grow old (dis)gracefully. Funny, passionate, always willing to admit doubt and failure, and endlessly curious – he never pulls that weary ‘oh, we tried that in the 1970s and it didn’t work’ routine beloved of other development veterans. He also writes short

Making All Voices Count – promising new initiative (and source of funding)

September 27, 2013
A big new initiative on citizen voice, accountability etc was launched this week. OK it’s a bit obsessed with whizzy new technology, and light on power analysis and politics, but it still looks very promising, not least because it is being run by three top outfits – Hivos, IDS and Ushahidi. It is also a potential source of funding for

Panels of the Poor: What would poor people do if they were in charge of the post-2015 process?

August 6, 2013
Many of the attempts to introduce an element of consultation/participation into the post-2015 discussion have been pretty perfunctory ‘clicktivism’. So thanks to Liz Stuart, another Exfamer-gone-to-Save-the-Kids, for sending me something a bit more substantial: 5 day in-depth participatory discussions with small (10-14 people) ‘ground level panels’ in Egypt, Brazil, Uganda and India, culminating in a communiqué to compare with that

Provocations for Development: Superb new collection of Robert Chambers’ Greatest Hits

September 4, 2012

How Change Happens: Improving the Education system in Niger

September 15, 2010
I’m always keen to pick up and explore examples of ‘how change happens’ in different situations (feel free to send suggestions). Here’s one from a conversation with Oxfam’s country director in Niger, Mbacke Niang, As one might expect in one of the world’s poorest countries, Niger has a dysfunctional, poorly managed and inaccessible primary education sector. Adult literacy is less