Reimagining Development in the early 21st Century
2 March 2010 - Lawrence Haddad
The events of the past two years should make us take a hard look at our models of international development. Are they fit for purpose as we enter the second decade of the twenty first century? Have recent crises in finance, food, fuel and climate created a space for alternative, and perhaps better, ideas to emerge? Or for old ideas - like the Tobin, or Robin Hood, tax - to be resurrected? These are questions that Reimagining Development, a new IDS initiative, hopes to answer.
Some people have referred to 2008/09 as a 'defining moment'; certainly crises level the ground, allowing space to create something new. Multiple crises have tested the dominant ideas about international development and found many wanting. Reimagining Development is bringing together 34 research sites from around the world, some physical and some virtual, where we hope to identify emerging thoughts and ideas on international development and explore alternative pathways out of poverty. I believe that many orthodox ideas (often from the west) are no longer replicable, sustainable or even desirable.
The Reimagining Development initiative began with a group of IDS students, who came together to form the 'Moral Economy Working Group'. The aim was to build engagement between the worlds of private finance and international development. As the project developed its name changed and more IDS staff, alumni and partners became involved. We began to explore how we might find these emerging ideas from other groups who have huge impacts on development and yet don't define themselves as working 'in development'. The 34 research sites include social movements (from women's groups across the world to sexual rights campaigners in China), the security community (including the Kabul 'Green Zone'), the business sector (including banks and hedge funds and wind farms), faith organisations and media houses.
We're asking our research sites four questions:
- What is the evidence of the impacts of the multiple crises on lives and livelihoods?
- What is the evidence that significant shifts in values, relationships, ideas, methods, and behaviours are taking place?
- What are some alternatives to the status quo that a particular place/space proposes in terms of ideas, values, relationships, methods, behaviours and knowledge?
- What specifically has to change to support any emerging alternatives?
The Reimagining Development initiative is experimental - both in its methodology and questions. I hope that by engaging with some new partners and asking some different questions we will get a better sense of what is - and what is not - happening on the ground. But what is happening is only half the project. The other is the identifying what needs to happen, and how we can respond to that need.
Lawrence Haddad is Director of the Institute of Development Studies
Image: Dermot Tatlow / Panos
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