2017: Volume 48
Humanitarian crises appear dramatic, overwhelming and sudden, with aid required immediately to save lives. Whereas climate change is about changing hazard patterns and crises are in reality rarely unexpected, with academic researchers and humanitarian and development organisations warning about possible risks for months before they take place. While humanitarian organisations deal directly with vulnerable populations, interventions are part of global politics and development pathways that are simultaneously generating climate change, inequities and vulnerability. So what is the level of convergence between humanitarian interventions and efforts to support adaptation to climate change, and what lessons can be drawn from current experience on the prospects for reducing the risk of climate change causing increased burdens on humanitarian interventions in the future?
This IDS Bulletin is a call for increasing engagement between humanitarian aid and adaptation interventions to support deliberate transformation of development pathways. Based on studies from the ‘Courting Catastrophe’ project, contributors argue that humanitarian interventions offer opportunities for a common agenda to drive transformational adaptation. Changes in political and financial frameworks are needed to facilitate longer-term actions where demands move from delivering expert advice and solutions to vulnerable populations to taking up multiple vulnerability knowledges and making space for contestation of current development thinking. Yet while the humanitarian system could drive transformative adaptation, it should not bear responsibility alone.
In this issue, alternative pathways and practical ways to support local alternatives and critical debates around these are illustrated, to demonstrate where humanitarian actions can most usefully contribute to transformation.
Who are the youth and what is the problem? Are entrepreneurship and self-employment the solution? And what about youth aspirations? Such questions are addressed in this issue of the IDS Bulletin, drawing from the literature on how development research affects policy and noting that it says little about how young researchers move into policy engagement. Articles consider the evidence on youth employment policy and interventions, the politics of youth policy, the changing nature of young people’s work, and the promotion of entrepreneurship. They are authored by the ten members of the first cohort of the Matasa Fellows Network (a joint initiative by the MasterCard Foundation and IDS), which has a particular focus on the youth employment challenge in Africa.
Youth and employment concepts are not new to development discourse in sub-Saharan Africa but over the last decade interest has increased dramatically, becoming an increasingly important focus for policy, intervention and research throughout the continent (and globally). Fundamental to the Matasa initiative is the proposition that no matter how innovative or rigorous the research, policy influence will seldom be achieved by adding policy recommendations to a research paper. Rather, influence requires reflection, strategy, planning and tactics, and above all a nuanced understanding of the context and the politics that shape any given policy process.
This IDS Bulletin reflects these challenges in Africa and demonstrates how political context shapes youth-related policy. It illustrates the need to critically reflect on the multiple and divergent meanings of work and employment and to re-think interventions that promote entrepreneurship and self-employment. The scope for quality research and effective policy engagement is tremendous.
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.