Photo of Rosalind Eyben

Rosalind Eyben - Professorial Fellow

I am a feminist social anthropologist with a career in international development policy and practice, including long-term experience of working and living in Africa, India and most recently in Latin America. I also worked at the London headquarters of DFID as Chief Social Development Advisor.

I have been at IDS since 2002 where my research interests relate to power and relations in international aid. Between 2006 and 2011 I was a member of the Pathways of Women's Empowerment Research Programme Consortium with a particular interest in global policy institutions, actors and discourses in relation to gender equality. This included a project with feminist bureaucrats who are working in international development agencies and this is the subject of a forthcoming book At the Margins of Change. My current interest is how and why development policy invisibilizes unpaid care work.

When still working for DFID I had already argued for studying donors as subjects in their own right - making myself such a subject for study when in Bolivia (2000-2002) - and have since t contributed to 'aidnography' since my participation in a 2003 seminar organised by David Mosse and David Lewis where I gave a paper with Rosaio León that became a chapter in (2005) The Aid Effect. This was part of a body of work analysing different aspects of power and aid relations in Bolivia, concluding in Mosse's edited collection Adventures in Aidland (2011). Researching donors poses methodological issues and in my own research I position the anthropologist as a reflexive auto-ethnographer, retaining empathy for the insider's position while sufficiently distanced to cultivate a critical faculty. My new work on donors concerns the impact on the international aid system of the emerging powers.

My interest in knowledge, power and practice has led to my taking the international aid system as an entry point to enquiring more generally into institutions that have a declared normative commitment to progressive social change. I have recently been working with NGOs including in Vietnam, Scandinavia, Switzerland and the Netherlands, as well as the UK, to help them bring theories of social change to bear on practical and institutional questions in a manner that allows practitioners to explore their assumptions and identify alternative modes of action.

Investigating how we understand how change happens has led to a concern about the current obsession in official aid agencies for measuring effectiveness in a manner that assumes all problems are bounded/simple to be solved through linear cause-effect logical planning. Power, relations, the partiality of knowledge and complexity are all ignored in current approaches to performance measurement, as are surprises and positive and negative unplanned consequences. I co-convene the Big Push Forward that links practitioners to identify and share strategies and approaches for fair assessments for a fairer world.

One of the reasons I joined IDS was to be involved in teaching and I enjoy both the classroom experience as well as one-to-one supervision. I regularly teach in MA Participation, Poverty, Gender and Development studies. I am currently co-supervising two doctoral students and regret that am not able to take on any new commitments in this respect.

Exploring power and relationships with BINGOs

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This is a three year project explores why unpaid care work is merited little attention in development policy and programming. We are taking an action learning approach to engaging policy actors on unpaid care, tracking the effects, successes and failures of our policy influencing activities.

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Pathways is a research and communication programme which seeks to discover where women are achieving real gains despite or because of policy and practice. It looks at how this has happened, and aims to make these pathways visible so that we can build on these revealed successes.

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The Big Push Forward is an informal network of practitioners, creating the space for discussion, debate and the exploration of appropriate approaches for assessing transformative development processes.

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This study focussed on the Caribbean Child Suppor Initiative's programme concept and the perspectives of stakeholders to identify the dynamics and influences on the programme's operations and analyse the processes by which it is able to make a difference.

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This is the cover for the book, 'Feminists in Development Organizations: Change from the Margins'.

Feminists in Development Organizations: Change from the Margins

This book is aimed at staff of development organizations - who want their organizations to become an instrument in helping transforming the lives of women – and at students and researchers concerned with the politics of gender mainstreaming. More details

IDS Policy Briefing 36: 'Building Relationships in Development Cooperation: Traditional Donors and the Rising Powers'

Building Relationships in Development Cooperation: Traditional Donors and the Rising Powers

Staff working in development agencies from traditional donor countries in the North need to be aware of the ways in which their actions are understood by their counterparts in the rising powers. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Uncovering the Politics of 'Evidence' and 'Results'. A Framing Paper for Development Practitioners

Hard evidence, rigorous data, tangible results, value for money – all are tantalising terms promising clarity for the international development sector. Yet, behind these terms lie definitional tussles, vested interests and contested world views that this background paper to the Politics of Evidence Conference aims to make explicit and question. The aim is to encourage development practitioners to strategize in expanding the politico-bureaucratic space to make room for flexible and creative support of locally-generated and transformative change. More details

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Getting Unpaid Care onto Development Agendas

There is a large and robust literature on the quantity and importance of unpaid care work. Members of the IAFFE (International Association for Feminist Economics) have produced a substantial, highly credible body of evidence to the highest of standards. More details

Non-IDS publication

Emerging and Submerging Powers: Imagined Geographies in the New Development Partnership at the Busan Fourth High Level Forum

The geopolitics of development is in a state of uncertainty and transition that the Busan High Level Forum both mirrored and contributed to. Busan established a new discourse of international development cooperation in which the old donor-recipient relationship is replaced by an equator-less landscape of a multi-stakeholder global partnership. More details

Non-IDS publication

Struggles in Paris: The DAC and the Purposes of Development Aid

This article historicises the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Development Assistance Committee (DAC) as a site where the meanings of development and the purposes of aid were contested and where gradually a more diverse set of actors were invited to engage in the argument. More details

The Hegemony Cracked: The Power Guide to Getting Care onto the Development Agenda

This paper uses power analysis and the notion of hegemony to enquire into the historical neglect of unpaid care in the international development sector. More details

Non-IDS publication

Fellow Travellers in Development

Although what has been called 'the people-centred development decade' of international aid in the 1990s can be explained at the systemic level by the end of the Cold War, such an account does not tell us how it actually came about. This article argues that a contributory factor can be identified through the life-histories of a generation of development semi- professionals, women now in their sixties who were caught up and part of two great emancipatory moments in the second half of the 20 century: freedom from colonialism and women's liberation. More details

This is the image for IDS Working Paper 397, ' Strategies of Feminist Bureaucrats: United Nations Experiences'.

Strategies of Feminist Bureaucrats: United Nations Experiences

This paper explores the challenges and opportunities for feminists working as women’s rights and gender equality specialists in the United Nations as analysed from a practitioner perspective. More details

This is the image for IDS Working Paper 397, ' Strategies of Feminist Bureaucrats: United Nations Experiences'.

Strategies of Feminist Bureaucrats: Perspectives from International NGOs

This paper explores the challenges and opportunities for feminists working as women’s rights and gender equality specialists in international non-governmental development organisations, as analysed from an insider practitioner perspective. More details

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Learning about the Large Conference Re-Imagined and Re-visited

This paper revisits a study commissioned by IDRC on large conferences. Vast amounts of funds, effort, time, and different types of resources and energies are invested in large conferences. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Supporting Pathways of Women's Empowerment: A Brief Guide for International Development Organisations

This brief by Rosalind Eyben informs the debate around what women's empowerment means and how to best support it with empirical evidence from the five-year international research programme, Pathways of Women's Empowerment. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Supporting Inclusive and Democratic Ownership. A 'How to Note' for Donors

Even in stable democracies broad-based, inclusive policy ownership is rare. It is even more unlikely in country contexts that are more institutionally and socially complex and experiencing rapid economic and social change. With an aid effectiveness agenda that promotes ownership and accountability in partner countries this means looking critically at how 'ownership' is constructed in the policy process and the role of donors in support. More details

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