Latest Issues
Volume 48 Issue 2
March 2017
Edited by: Shandana Khan Mohmand and Miguel Loureiro
What are the smaller stories hidden within the larger trends on governance in Africa, and to what extent has decentralisation affected change in these areas? What are the factors that keep local government reforms from achieving more complete outcomes? These are the main questions asked by this IDS Bulletin, with articles focusing on explanations for the impact of decentralisation at the local level through detailed case studies of five countries – Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. This issue deals with all three of the main aims for decentralisation reforms in Africa: improved service delivery, democracy and participation, and a reduction in central government expenditure. It analyses micro, comparative stories by accumulating evidence on how decentralisation works differently within each featured country, and the factors that are responsible for differential outcomes. Contributors are mostly African scholars who live under the region’s decentralised systems and study them with a proximate lens often denied to visiting scholars. Their research questions, on their countries’ respective policy agendas, are joined by the common belief that more innovative methods should be applied to these questions in order to get at better explanations. While decentralisation is an important issue, systematic analyses of its outcomes are limited. This IDS Bulletin represents first efforts to use more innovative and incisive methods to understand decentralisation and its impact – with more resources, such enquiries can be strengthened to provide deeper understanding. The set of studies presented here already represent exciting and important new contributions to a field that requires more attention.
Volume 48 Issue 1
February 2017
Edited by: Pauline Oosterhoff, Catherine Müller and Kelly Shephard

Exploring sex and sexual relationships is an important part of adolescence, and therefore sex education should have a central role in adolescent emotional development as well as dealing with crucial public-health issues. Good sex education reduces maternal and child mortality by helping to prevent unwanted, early and risky pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, yet in many parts of the world unmarried teenagers are excluded from receiving information and sexual health services because – according to unrealistic and conservative religious and socio-cultural norms – they are not supposed to be sexually active.

Much of the research on sexuality in the digital era is moralistic and slanted, so for those working on sexual/reproductive health and youth/digital development issues, learning more about the subject is a major challenge. There has never been a collection of scholarly work on this topic for a mixed audience of researchers, policymakers and practitioners until this issue of the IDS Bulletin. A collaboration between Love Matters and IDS, articles discuss experiences with digital sex education in many countries and in a range of settings. The issues confronted are diverse, yet the common themes encountered are often as striking as the differences.

Young people need help in critically examining the sexual messages they receive, as well as access to new types of digital sex education environments that are realistic, emotionally attuned, non-judgmental and open to the messages they themselves create. Contributions in this IDS Bulletin suggest an urgency for academics and practitioners to understand and develop digital literacy skills in order to help build such environments.


Volume 47 Issue 6
January 2017
Edited by: Melissa Leach, John Gaventa and Katy Oswald

Who defines good quality research? How, why and with whom should we co-construct knowledge? How do we build enduring partnerships? The articles in this IDS Bulletin aim to answer these questions based on IDS’ approach of ‘engaged excellence’. This is where the high quality of work (excellence) is dependent upon it linking to and involving those who are at the heart of the change we wish to see (engaged). Acknowledging the worldwide struggle of researchers, policymakers and practitioners to create knowledge that is both rigorous in its own right while being relevant and useful to those whose lives and futures are potentially affected by new evidence, insights and concepts, engaged excellence combines conceptually and empirically innovative research with extensive engagement with particular countries and people through IDS’ practices, partners and students.

Four pillars of engaged excellence are identified as delivering high quality research; co-constructing knowledge; mobilising impact-orientated evidence, and building enduring partnerships. Uniquely, the articles in this IDS Bulletin bring these together to show that they are interrelated and mutually dependent, with contributors raising challenges around reflecting more deeply on what engaged excellence means in different contexts. The complexity and interrelationships become most real when the four pillars are applied in practice. The value of this IDS Bulletin is that it illustrates the challenges, trade-offs and difficulties of using such an approach while contributing to a more cognitively just world in which our research engages with those at the centre of change. 

Volume 47 Issue 5
November 2016
Edited by: Marjoke Oosterom and Patta Scott Villiers

Ten years on from the landmark 2006 edition of the IDS Bulletin that brought us the ‘powercube’ – a practical approach to power analysis that offered a way of confronting its complexity – we return to the question of how to analyse and act on power in development. This issue focuses on the ways in which invisible power can perpetuate injustice and widen inequalities. Articles call for ways to denaturalise norms and structures of social, political and economic inequality – tackling injustice, misrecognition, poverty, disenfranchisement – so that the universal aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals may have a chance of success. Contributors discuss the ways in which economic and political modes of inequality interact with social inequalities such as gender, race or sexuality to create yet more inequality, confronting policymakers with a challenge. Such complex social inequalities become ‘normal’ – but the contributions in this new IDS Bulletin offer ways of untangling complexity using approaches to analysis which take account of multiple dynamics in unequal relations.

Articles suggests means by which tacit understandings of what is bearable, useful and fair can be brought into question. The SDG call to ‘leave no one behind’ – which will only be achieved through breaking the vicious circle of inequality – is more than about policy, increased action, or creating alternative economies. It is also about changing norms of what is possible, and making visible those invisible norms that have hindered our ability to imagine and create a just world.

Volume 47 Issue 4
September 2016
Edited by: James Sumberg and Gioel Gioacchino

This issue of the IDS Bulletin focuses on the role of foresight in policy-oriented international development research and seeks to draw attention to the opportunities and challenges associated with the wide range of foresight approaches and methods that help individuals and groups to think about and prepare for different possible futures.

From its systematic origins in the private sector – where the interest was in developing strategy, understanding implications of present and future trends and events, facilitating better decision-making and improving risk management – so governments and public sector bodies subsequently embraced foresight with similar objectives.

Looking to the future is – or certainly should be – at the core of development studies. While the benefit of ‘looking back to look forward’ is well recognised, foresight is more akin to ‘looking forward to look forward’. It is striking that foresight approaches and methods do not figure prominently in policy-oriented development research. Why might this be so? This IDS Bulletin suggests two possible explanations. First, most social science disciplines are more comfortable with the analysis of the past and the present than the future. Second, the model of the large, well-funded public sector foresight programme simply does not reflect the realities of much policy-oriented development research.

A principle concern of this issue is whether foresight approaches and methods can be usefully integrated into small-scale, exploratory research of relevance to the international development community.