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2023: Volume 54

This photo is the cover to IDS Bulletin 54.2. It features men at a clothes and shoe market.

Knowledge in Times of Crisis: Transforming Research-to-Policy Approaches

Volume 54 Number 2 October 2023 Edited by: Andrea Ordóñez Llanos and James Georgalakis

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in unprecedented challenges for researchers and policy analysts, and accentuated the need for access to civil society and advocacy movements within politically closed spaces. The impact of locally led Covid-19 response research in the global South has subsequently raised questions about traditional research methods that often prioritise academic rigour over practical relevance and result in research disconnected from the realities of people’s lives. 

This issue of the IDS Bulletin presents learning gathered from rapidly mobilised Southern-led research by institutions who designed and delivered research aimed at influencing the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The articles here are drawn from the Covid-19 Responses for Equity (CORE) programme, a rapid research initiative funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) created to understand the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic in order to generate better policy for recovery.

The IDS Bulletin explores the particular characteristics of Southern research organisations that were able to mobilise quickly. It discusses the types of knowledge that were needed in these unique circumstances, and how organisations mobilised knowledge in an emergency to facilitate engagement and influence response to a global challenge with local implications. 

The examples here demonstrate how researchers have developed new skills to present research findings in accessible ways for different audiences. The explicit use of digital technologies, for instance, has allowed researchers to facilitate collaboration across geographic boundaries and engage diverse stakeholders. 

This all highlights how essential locally led research is for pandemic response and for development more broadly. There is also acknowledgement that how organisations responded to the pandemic may have a longer-term impact on the future of those organisations themselves. 

Power, Poverty, and Knowledge – Reflecting on 50 Years of Learning with Robert Chambers

Volume 54 Number 1A March 2023 Edited by: Stephen Thompson and Mariah Cannon

Robert Chambers is one of the most influential and prolific scholars to write about participation, poverty, and knowledge in development studies. His writing and thinking have revolutionised the discipline, inspiring both participatory processes and more inclusive practice. His work continues to inspire and provoke debate and discussion among development practitioners, activists, and academics from around the world.

Here we present an Archive Collection of the IDS Bulletin in a celebration of Robert’s contribution to the journal over the last five decades. The eight articles included in this IDS Bulletin Archive Collection clearly show change – change in Robert’s evolving interests, change in the strategic focus of IDS as a research institute, change in the wider development studies field, as well as change in the world at large over the last 50 years.

Robert’s earlier IDS Bulletin articles show a strong focus on local knowledge and rural development. Over time, this shifts to a concern with professional development management, and a focus on power and participatory methods. While each article stands alone, these themes re-occur and re-emerge. Bias or unfairness in the development sphere is a major concern which Robert highlights in his IDS Bulletin articles, whilst his advocacy for bottom-up, diverse, and process-led approaches to participation clearly emerges.

As the editorial introduction explains and explores, the premise of this IDS Bulletin Archive Collection is to delve into Robert’s contribution to the journal, to resurface buried gems of development studies scholarship, and to reinvigorate debates about how we can do better – a question described by Robert as the eternal challenge of development.

Frontier Territories: Countering the Green Revolution Legacy in the Brazilian Cerrado

Volume 54 Number 1 February 2023 Edited by: Lídia Cabral, Sérgio Sauer and Alex Shankland

Brazil is recognised as a world leader in the production of agri-food commodities in large, highly mechanised farms, but also as a centre of resistance movements advocating for land rights and food sovereignty. Brazil’s portrayal as a success story of agricultural modernisation is invariably linked to the expansion of the production frontier and, specifically, the conversion of the Cerrado region into industrial farmland.  

A vast savannah zone in the centre of the country, the transformation of the Cerrado region has been driven by intensive soybean and livestock production for export. However, the Cerrado ‘miracle’ has come at a high cost. Besides the environmental impacts of land clearance and the removal of native vegetation, the expansion of the frontier has exacerbated poverty and injustice, deepening the historical inequality of land distribution and wealth. 

This issue of the IDS Bulletin highlights the legacy of tensions in the Cerrado, arguing that this legacy cannot be ignored in debates on global agri-food systems to which the region is increasingly central. Authored mainly by early career scholars from Brazilian and British universities, the papers here offer new research and empirical material on the battles that have engulfed people and nature in the Cerrado. Three themes emerge: the logic of extraction in an agricultural frontier; the grabbing of natural resources in the name of sustainability; and conflicts and resistance movements. 

This IDS Bulletin concludes with an agenda for research and action to reclaim the Cerrado, alongside other agricultural frontier territories across the world, as part of the global effort towards sustainable transformation of agri-food systems to secure justice for nature and people alike. 

2022: Volume 53

Reframing Climate and Environmental Justice

Volume 53 Number 4 December 2022 Edited by: Amber Huff and Lars Otto Naess

Despite a growing focus on the justice dimensions of climate and environmental change, this issue of the IDS Bulletin argues that there are still ‘blind spots’ in dominant mainstream approaches to climate and environmental justice. These approaches share a tendency to place growth, not ecology, nor climate, and certainly not justice, at the heart of the international policy agenda.  

The articles in this issue bring together a range of empirically grounded studies that add to – and challenge – some of the dominant views and approaches, and unearth some key ‘hidden’ aspects of the justice dimensions of climate and environmental change. In particular, this IDS Bulletin highlights three major ‘blind spots’ in climate and environmental justice debates: a persistent failure to recognise diverse contexts and knowledges; continuing failure to sufficiently appreciate the deep-seated contestations around climate and environmental justice; and the risks associated with ‘recovery’ and ‘emergency’ mindsets driving climate and environmental policy agendas.  

The articles offer principles to address those ‘blind spots’ in order to move towards more just and inclusive pathways for climate and environmental policy processes. In doing so, the articles recognise that there will be variation – across sites and social groups – in the needs, aspirations, and meaningful notions of justice for those who experience the greatest vulnerabilities in the face of change. True solutions may require that powerful political and economic actors’ interests are challenged or that dominant forms of ‘expertise’ are questioned. Approaches to climate and environmental justice must reject efforts to apply one-size-fits-all solutionism. 

A women wearing a facemask is flanked either side by two men. They are sitting in a meeting room

Pandemic Perspectives: Why Different Voices and Views Matter

Volume 53 Number 3 July 2022 Edited by: Peter Taylor and Paul Knipe

Responding effectively to the Covid-19 crisis and in ways that address systemic inequalities in the longer term raises many challenges – and opportunities – for researchers and commissioners of research.

Launched in October 2020, the Covid Collective brought together the expertise of eight initial partner organisations coordinated by the Institute of Development Studies, and it currently involves 28 partners and supports 56 projects in 34 countries. The Covid Collective seeks to inform decision-making on some of the most pressing Covid-19-related development challenges, and to address emerging social science questions and needs arising in relation to the pandemic.

This issue of the IDS Bulletin draws on experiences from the social science research projects around the world supported by the Covid Collective and provides concrete examples of how researchers have demonstrated innovation and adaptation in a range of contexts. Important lessons have been learned about research processes and evolving technical approaches and methods in the areas around access and engagement; consent, ethics, and incentives; and power and perspectives.

This IDS Bulletin subsequently offers insights for research and provides potential directions for policy and decision-making around research prioritisation, funding, and support. It concludes that research supported by the Covid Collective is providing useful insights for ‘doing development research differently’, which in turn provides real hope for research to help transform knowledge and transform lives. Lessons will continue to be learned and, ultimately may also be an important contribution in ongoing efforts to the significant, critical agenda around decolonising development knowledge.