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2015: Volume 46

No: 3
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Edited by: Jodie Thorpe and Elise Wach
May 2015

The debate on the role of business and markets in development has a long history, marked by divergent and strongly held perspectives, but also shifts in dominant thinking about what is feasible and desirable. While only two decades ago debates were about the state vs the market, there is currently broad consensus that both are essential. The articles in this IDS Bulletin reflect shifting understandings of the roles of business, markets and the state in development.

They assess the conditions under which new relationships between business and
development actors are likely to be effective in addressing key constraints to development. They explore how transformations towards new systems that achieve goals of economic prosperity, environmental sustainability and human wellbeing may take place. And they also raise some questions about what the end goal of business and development is, and whether current goals are 'fit for purpose'.

The picture that emerges is of increasingly nuanced collaborations and partnerships: business-state, business-society, and between formal and informal business. It is important to understand how narratives develop, what influences and perpetuates them, and how they impact what change is considered feasible and desirable. The issue concludes that working with or through business and markets is not incompatible or unhelpful, but they do not represent a 'silver bullet'. The articles point to the need for approaches that are nuanced, experimental, bottom-up and inclusive of multiple perspectives. More attention is required in relation to the ways in which changes in business practices and market dynamics impact on poverty, inequality and environmental sustainability.

No: 2
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Edited by: Stephen Devereux and Rachel Sabates-Wheeler
March 2015

To most people, graduation means leaving a school or university after completing a programme of study, once the learner has acquired a set of skills that is expected to equip them for a higher-income future livelihood.

In the development discourse, graduation means leaving a social protection programme after reaching a wellbeing threshold, once the participant has acquired a set of resources that is expected to equip them for a higher-income future livelihood. While poverty reduction is not a new idea, programming for graduation is a relatively new concept.

This IDS Bulletin reviews the conceptualisation and practice of graduation programmes across several countries and diverse contexts, describing what graduation is, how it works, and how to do it. The issue argues that as poverty reduction policies and ambitions for holistic social protection systems evolve, so should aspirations for graduation. Poverty is too complex to be solved with a single instrument such as cash transfers; graduation programmes strive to enhance livelihoods and strengthen resilience by providing integrated packages of support in a holistic effort to address the wide spectrum of resource deficits that keep people trapped in poverty and vulnerability. But the perfect package has not yet been designed. We need to understand the optimal combinations of support for people in different contexts, and the best ways to build linkages and maximise synergies across complementary sectoral interventions.

The achievements of graduation programmes are impressive, offering a fresh approach to tackling poverty and vulnerability. At a time when social protection is moving towards integrated systems and strengthening cross-sectoral linkages with complementary social and economic policies, graduation programmes add real value to efforts to build more secure, sustainable and resilient livelihoods.

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.

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