2012: Volume 43
Participatory research to achieve social change has a long history of association with development, with recent significant evolutions and innovations in practice. Participatory and Action Research have never been a unified approach to inquiry with questions of vision, aim, and process, and as they extend to more and increasingly diverse contexts, this range of interpretations and approaches will grow.
Contributors to this IDS Bulletin reflect on both the theory and the practice of action research for development and social change, as we engage in it today. They ask questions such as ‘What do our collective understandings and experiences of, and approaches to, action research have in common?’, ‘What can we learn from instances where these differ?’ and ‘What separates these approaches from other forms of social inquiry?’ and reflect on methods to shed light on the practical implications and challenges of doing action research.
Firm conclusions or a single ‘theory of practice’ are not sought, but rather themes such as power, learning, action, and understanding of change are a starting point for further discussion. The authors in this IDS Bulletin all have different histories and relationships to action research, and use different language. Work is variously described as Action Learning, Action Research, Participatory Systemic Inquiry, Participatory Action Research and Systemic Action Research.
Authors have reflected on how their own positionality invariably shaped the aspects of the research process or outcomes while participating with other actors in trying to alter, improve or transform challenging situations, or at least prevent them from getting worse.
This IDS Bulletin looks back at the legacy of the UN’s New Delhi 1990 global consultation and the Dublin Conference that followed, assessing their meaning and significance, and challenging the wider global water and sanitation community to rethink approaches and emphases, shifting from targets and pronouncement to sustainability and local knowledge, in the context of 2015, the 6th World Water Forum and Rio+20 in 2012. Under the slogan, ‘Some for All Rather than More for Some’, the New Delhi Statement was expected to set a course for the global community to follow in the 1990s.
Articles in this issue derive from Liquid Dynamics II, a STEPS Water and Sanitation Symposium, which brought together current thinkers and past architects of the Statement, as well as academics and those deeply involved in current policy and practice. The notion of Liquid Dynamics helps us address interdisciplinary perspectives and practical action to tackle upfront the challenges of sustainability, uncertainty and social justice in water and sanitation access.
These dynamics have often been ignored in conventional policy approaches, with water and sanitation debates disconnected from the everyday needs of the poor. In 2015, the UN Freshwater Decade will have ended and the MDG targets will come under a critical spotlight – a global policy juncture. We hope that the underlying message of this IDS Bulletin – that it is vital not to forget the past and rush to new futures – will become part of global public discourse in the coming post-MDG world. Understanding how we have arrived at the current situation is key to understanding future pathways to more effective global collective action.
How do we explain the way in which change unfolded in the wake of the recent Egyptian uprisings? What can this tell us about the success or failure of related development policies? This IDS Bulletin contributes to our understanding of why and how the uprisings began, and their implications for development paradigms, concepts and practices.
In view of the politically volatile and dynamic situation on the ground, this issue neither provides an historical account of ongoing political struggles, nor does it assess impact or seek to predict outcomes. Rather, it analyses that moment when people revolted – when the tipping point was reached. The aim of this IDS Bulletinis to bring new empirical and conceptual insights on pathways of political and social change to an audience of development, area studies and democratisation academics, policy actors and practitioners who wish to interrogate the methodological and paradigmatic nuances of that rupture with the status quo.
The focus of this IDS Bulletin is, on the whole, Egypt, although many of the articles have strong resonances with Tunisia, Yemen and other countries in the region and beyond. The issue is distinctive in its engagement with the Egyptian revolt in its examination of the development theory, policy and practice nexus and in the selection of contributors on the basis of their positionality. Contributors are Egyptians who have one leg in activism and one leg in the policy-influencing arena, and whose perspectives are not commonly conveyed in mainstream academia. This is in effect one modest step to reverse the trend of bias in favour of the 'experts' from the West, to give the floor to local voices, not only academics but also activists and practitioners.
2011: Volume 42
The articles in this IDS Bulletin are drawn from a conference hosted by the Centre for Social Protection at IDS in April 2011. They elaborate the linkages between social protection and social justice, to identify opportunities for operationalising the 'transformative' aspects of social protection and to strengthen the case for integrating social protection into broader social policy. Social protection is not only about installing safety nets and alleviating poverty, it also has profound implications for social relations and for local, national and global governance.
The articles in this collection address the perception that insufficient attention has been paid to the politics of social protection, to addressing not just poverty and shocks but structural vulnerabilities and socioeconomic inequalities, and to social protection's relationship with social justice outcomes. 'Social protection plus’ is needed to upgrade projects and programmes from discretionary social assistance to claims-based entitlements.
This 'social protection for social justice' agenda demands an explicitly political approach, driven both from the top and by civil society activism from below. Social protection has been the development success story of the past decade. Not only are social protection programmes extending their coverage across the world, they are increasingly becoming claims-based and justiciable, empowering individuals and communities, and building social contracts between states and citizens. It is important going forward to protect the gains made and ensure that they become permanent and irreversible entitlements. This is a vital next step towards ensuring that social protection becomes an effective instrument for achieving social justice for all.
The major global crises of the past four years have collectively had a dramatic impact on people's lives and livelihoods – but have they also had a large impact on core ideas underlying mainstream development?
This is the question addressed by the Reimaging Development initiative in this issue of the IDS Bulletin. IDS researchers, students and partners build a more grounded view of the crises' effects and bring in new ideas emerging from different sectors in their wake. They also ask, 'What are the enablers and barriers to reimagining?' The articles in this issue are think pieces, often reflecting on very specific events, from thevarious sites in the initiative.
Overall the analysis illustrates how difficult it is to get away from 'business as usual'. While human kind has made great advances in reducing poverty and diseaseand in promoting freedoms over the past 50 years, the work is only part done. Still too many people lack justice, rights and material wellbeing and they must not be forgotten. The issue suggests that we must keep challenging our assumptionsand theories of change about development. Because ideas, institutions and interests are rarely aligned we must be ready to advance human wellbeing whenthey are. This means building reimagining into our everyday work and into our professional relationships by investing in processes that support wild ideas, horizon scanning and reflective practice. In the future, we must not confine reimagining to key moments, however important they may seem.