2007: Volume 38
Does development research need reinventing? If it does, why now and in what ways? These are the questions addressed by the papers in this issue of the IDS Bulletin, many of which were presented at IDS Fortieth Anniversary Conference in late 2006. They were also asked by the 46 Roundtables held throughout the world in 2006, organised by IDS partners and alumni, which preceded and helped frame the Conference agenda. Much is changing in 'development' and its political context. International development issues are becoming more global; inequality, capacity to use and generate knowledge, China's emergence altering Western assumptions, new sources of financial capital, information shared through the internet, new transnational alliances, sustainable development, consciousness in the West about living conditions in other countries, shrinking spheres of influence of the aid donors, and the blurring of boundaries between domestic and international policies.
Development research has constantly reinvented itself over the years, but for those involved in the IDS40 activities there was a sense that there is a need for development research to make a conscious decision to change direction. In the West, one's fortieth birthday is known as a watershed year - an ending of one phase of life and a beginning of another. But in many countries the fortieth birthday signals a very different kind of transition as one draws closer to the end of life expectancy. It is natural therefore to reflect on how much has changed in the world since IDS was founded in 1966 and to characterise the above changes as some kind of fork in the road or threshold for development and therefore for development research.
Does the devolution of responsibility for service provision to elected local authorities improve the delivery of services to the poor? This is the major challenge of democratic decentralisation and a key benchmark for assessment.
Many governments devolve power and resources to local bodies which assume responsibility for health, education and other essential services. Decentralised service delivery is now a key determinant for less developed countries (LDCs) to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
While decentralisation potentially increases accountability and participation at the local level, for poor people the real test lies in whether it improves services and material well-being. Improvements in democratic accountability and service delivery are not mutually exclusive but can complement and reinforce each other.
However, decentralisation policy initiatives often strengthen local democracy without considering benefits to service delivery. The challenge is that evidence to support decentralised service delivery is fragmentary and inconsistent, and conditions for successful devolution of services are poorly understood.
The articles in this IDS Bulletin discuss these issues, with evidence on service delivery outcomes from a range of developing countries, and implications for designing reforms that maximise prospects for improvements in the quality and access of services for the poor.
Democratic decentralisation is still a relatively new phenomenon in most LDCs and positive results will take time to mature. Short-term and time-bound interventions will not work; steady, incremental and well-resourced initiatives that build capacity and increase accountability are instead the surest route to realising the promise of democratic decentralisation.
2006: Volume 37
Concepts and methods of participation' are used increasingly to shape policy and deliver services. Such approaches throw new light on complex interactions within and between society and state institutions at all levels. They lead to questions about how different kinds of knowledge and values shape policy choices.
- What are the societal and political processes through which power operates that inform whose voice is heard and whose is excluded?
- What is power?
- Is it about making people act against their best interests; or is it the glue that keeps society together?
- What are the connections between power and social change?
These questions are at the core of research and teaching at IDS, and this IDS Bulletin presents current work on the practice of power in development and the entry points for change.
Contributions to this issue, and ways in which power is interrogated, are very varied - despite a shared commitment to exploring its meaning for social change. In categorising power in the way the team has, the intention has not been to offer a comprehensive or exclusive framework for analysis. Rather, a positive spiral between reflection and transformation is constructed, concluding that the role of the action researcher/teacher is to explore with others how power can be harnessed for change, and to work alongside them in tracing and learning from the myriad of micro-level efforts, successes and failures.
This IDS Bulletin addresses a theme that mainstream development has persistently neglected: sexuality. Over the last decade, development policymakers and practitioners have come to endorse a multi-dimensional approach to poverty, and growing attention has been placed on achieving greater freedom, wellbeing and human rights for all. It is no longer possible to ignore discrimination, inequality and social exclusion; yet when it comes to the economic, social, political and rights implications of sex and sexuality, there is a silence. Treated as a ‘health issue’, or disregarded as a ‘luxury’, sexuality barely features in development debates, unless in negative AIDS references. Sexuality is treated as a problem which needs to be contained rather than as an integral part of human experience.
The issue shows why sexuality matters. Drawing on the inspiring ‘Realising Sexual Rights’ workshop held at IDS in 2005, the resulting innovative articles here provide diverse accounts of sexual rights conceptions, mobilisation, and new approaches to implementation. This is a first for IDS – both to host such an event and to produce an IDS Bulletin on this theme. The human side of sexuality is combined with macropolitical and analytical issues. Contributions include research into experiences of sexuality in diverse contexts and among diverse people, with personal stories of activism and initiatives that transform the ways in which sex and sexuality are experienced. The introduction draws together threads that weave across the issue, exploring their interconnections and implications for theory, policy and practice.
What makes a classic IDS Bulletin article? Wandering through almost 40 years and 140 issues of the IDS Bulletin, some common features can be discerned. The most memorable IDS Bulletin articles challenge orthodoxy and present alternative perspectives on development issues.
hey also reflect the spirit of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) as both an eclectic bunch of opinionated individuals and a community of thinking - but not necessarily a unanimity of views - and showcase the various contributions of IDS and its partners to development thinking and practice. Almost as important as content is writing style. The most widely cited articles are accessible to a wide readership (they avoid technical jargon, even if they convey specialist knowledge), and they are written in a deceptively informal style - yet beneath the easy narrative and occasional polemical flourishes is an authority that comes from deep knowledge of the subject area, often inflected with an urgency driven by a conviction that this matters! What's changed and what hasn't?