2017: Volume 48
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.
2016: Volume 47
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.
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.
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.
Perhaps more than any other region or any other period of post-Cold War history, the Middle East since the Arab Spring constitutes a significant challenge to established ideas about development and its relationship with conflict. The failure of democracy movements, the collapse and rebirth of authoritarian regimes, the regional conflagration around Syria, new experiments with Islamism, and the return of geopolitics all, in one way or another, challenge these established ideas. The Middle East has always been something of an outlier within development thinking and practice: both the discipline of development studies and development policy have always taken sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America as their central reference points, not the Middle East. But with so much international attention currently on the Middle East, it is worthwhile examining what recent trends and events there tell us about development and the role of conflict therein; this is what is done in this IDS Bulletin.
Broadly, the articles consider myths around conflict and development about the Middle East region. These include: that there is a unilinear model of development; that low development and violent conflict are natural bedfellows; that there is an alternative rentier path of development; that fragile statehood is the main institutional cause of violence; that environmental scarcities are an increasingly important contributor to conflict; that countries need to pass a number of milestones on a democratisation pathway; that more humanitarian aid will contain the Syrian refugee crisis and that, following a period of ‘Arab Spring’, people’s agency has been defeated.