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2015: Volume 46

No: 1
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Edited by: Barbara Befani, Ben Ramalingam and Elliot Stern
January 2015

This IDS Bulletin explores new frontiers in international development evaluation, making a useful contribution to an ongoing debate about how to assess effects and effectiveness without ignoring the complexity of the contemporary development landscape.

Bringing together two themes – impact of development interventions and implications of development within complex systems and settings – this issue gives prominence to both systems thinking and complexity science, two perspectives increasingly drawn on by evaluators. This is the second of two IDS Bulletins (the first one was Rethinking Impact Evaluation for Development) following a workshop entitled Impact, Innovation and Learning: Towards a Research and Practice Agenda for the Future, held in March 2013 at IDS.

Straightened budgets and accountability-driven demands to demonstrate the effectiveness of public expenditure have led to the emphasis on impact evaluations. Policymakers are interested in 'evidence-based policy', while also judging the effectiveness of specific interventions, though achieving clarity and measurement of policy impacts is challenging. Systems thinking and complexity science draw on diverse roots (epistemological/technological/mathematical) and are new to development evaluation (which has traditionally favoured linear frameworks). This issue offers a view of how complexity and systems thinking could inform impact evaluation (though further research is needed to engage more fully with the conceptual and methodological possibilities that this area of work holds for evaluation).

These two issues of the IDS Bulletin represent a useful step in the right direction of incorporating systems and complexity ideas into the impact evaluator's toolkit. Their methods and agendas should stimulate insightful, conceptually sophisticated as well as practice-grounded debate.

2014: Volume 45

No: 6
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Edited by: Barbara Befani, Chris Barnett and Elliot Stern
November 2014

This IDS Bulletin presents a 'rallying cry' for impact evaluation to rise to the challenges of a post-MDG/post-2015 world. It is the first of two issues that follow a workshop entitled 'Impact, Innovation and Learning: Towards a Research and Practice Agenda for the Future', held at IDS in March 2013.

Convening a distinguished group of scholars and practitioners, this event situated development evaluation in general, and impact evaluation in particular, in the specific setting of today's complex and changing international development context. It aimed to sketch out a research and practice agenda to meet increasing demands for evidence about successful programmes and projects. Such evidence – needing to serve accountability and learning purposes while being accessible to recipients and donors – goes beyond innovation on research methods.

Methodological innovation is tightly linked to the new requirements of development impact evaluation; methods with the best current reputation are not necessarily the best at addressing the multiplicity of development outcomes, or the complex pathways towards long-term impact. This is fertile ground for a new research and practice agenda: one that can better enable impact evaluation to meet the new purposes of development cooperation; one that can innovate around methodological designs and practice to address increasingly complex challenges; and one that will help us better understand and improve evaluation systems.

The success of such an emerging agenda rests on whether we can make better use of evaluative evidence to have a real impact on the lives of the poorest and most marginalised.

No: 5
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Edited by: Anuradha Joshi and Markus Schultze-Kraft
August 2014

The past two decades have seen an enormous increase in academic and policy attention to, and engagement with, governance at the sub-national and local levels. Yet, our understanding of the conditions that enable local governments to deliver services to citizens, reduce poverty, be inclusive and responsive, bridge cleavages in divided post-conflict societies or represent citizen interests to higher levels of authority remains limited. Drawing on different perspectives, this IDS Bulletin takes a fresh look at how local governance 'really' works and how it could become more accountable, effective and legitimate to support development that favours poor and marginalised people. Extending the boundaries of prevailing debates on methodological and conceptual issues, civil society, political and power relationships, and the challenges of decentralisation in (post)- conflict settings, the authors offer an outlook on taking forward the work on localising governance and designing policies that help improve its performance. Rather than a set of contributions that speak to one overarching question, this IDS Bulletin represents a panoply of different perspectives on 'the local'. Articles chart out several promising avenues for taking forward the work on localising governance and designing policies that help improve its performance. While these are not the only avenues that deserve attention, they do point to several issues that require deeper thought on the part of both scholars and policymakers. There is certainly a need for more multi- and inter-disciplinary research on the complexities involved in making local governance in poor and/or conflict-affected countries more responsive, inclusive and effective.

No: 4
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Edited by: Jing Gu, Xiulan Zhang, Xiaoyun Li and Gerry Bloom
July 2014

In parallel to its domestic economic boom, China has also been growing as an international actor and as a ‘Rising Power' in global development.

This IDS Bulletin focuses on China’s development strategy and its own development experience, its increasing involvement in development activities in low- and middle-income countries, as well as its collaboration with OECD-DAC members in international development, and its growing engagement in global governance structures.

Articles contribute valuable expertise and insight from both Chinese and non-Chinese perspectives, to map the shifting landscape of China’s engagement in global development, and contribute to mutual understanding between traditional donors and rising powers in development cooperation. The aim of this issue is to contribute to dialogue between decision-makers, policy analysts and researchers in China, the UK and other countries, about strategies for supporting development.

No: 2-3
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Edited by: Marika Djolai, Eric Kasper, Ricardo Santos and Shilpi Srivastava
March 2014

This IDS Bulletin offers a platform for IDS PhD researchers to reflect on their fieldwork experiences, including research-related challenges, as well as cultural and personal encounters along the way.

The authors also develop theoretically-informed arguments about their research findings and the editors offer further reflections on the importance of fieldwork as part of the transformative experience of ‘doing a PhD’ in Development Studies.

The collection of articles in this IDS Bulletin represent a vision for the future of Development Studies research in which the human, relational and public work elements of research are emphasised throughout the contested process of working for change. The authors are not just researchers but agents of development, taking part in the contested process of working for change by doing research with people rather than on people.

This IDS Bulletin, produced and edited by PhD researchers and IDS Fellows with all the contributions written by IDS PhD candidates who have recently been awarded doctorates, is part of a wider IDS initiative to invest in the professional development of PhD researchers. It comprises seven articles covering locations from Ecuador to Bolivia, Mexico, Kenya, Swaziland, Germany, Nepal, China and India. The topics cover issues such as power of wellbeing discourses to water management, migrant children and education, and peace-building. The authors show, through their own experiences, the importance of connecting to the world outside the university – to the places where development is actually happening. Their new perspectives offer insights into a variety of research topics, innovations for fieldwork practices, and important reflections on the human experience of PhD research.

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