Looking back to look forward – defining a new era of development

Published on 4 July 2016

As IDS prepares to bring together over 200 global development experts for its 50th anniversary conference to think about the future of development, it also reflects back on the last fifty years of development history and the lessons that can be drawn for a new development era.

Reframing development in a global dynamic era

 In 1969, the first ever IDS Director Dudley Seers said in his communication,The Meaning of Development:

“The starting point in discussing the challenges we now face is to brush aside the web of fantasy we have woven around ‘development’ and decide more precisely what we mean by it.”

In her essay, Reframing Development in a Global Dynamic Era, current IDS Director Professor Melissa Leach, uses this quote as her starting point and argues that:

“Every era’s ‘international development’ community should grapple with its (development’s) definitions.”

The essay is the first in a collection of digital essays, IDS Development Frames, which are published by the Institute and aim to bring together global perspectives and expert analysis on development issues.

A history of international development

To celebrate its official birthday earlier in the year, fifty years on from its founding as a ‘special institution’ and Britain’s first national institute of development studies, IDS launched an interactive timeline. The timeline charts the course of the Institute’s contribution to development and the defining moments that have shaped the last half a century of world history.

Debating the challenges and implications of a new development era

The timeline features the influential book, States or Markets. It was written by IDS fellows and based on discussions at an IDS-convened conference, and argued that neoliberalism as a universal frame of policy applicable to all developing countries was both flawed and incomplete.

These issues and the role of states, markets and society in shaping a new development era will be revisited at the IDS 50th anniversary conference. As part of the two day conference the IDS inaugural lecture will also be launched and will be delivered by James Ferguson, Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University and author of The anti-politics machine and Give a man a fish: the politics of redistribution. There are still a small number of places available at this event, either to attend in person or to watch online. Register your place now.

Key contacts

Hannah Corbett

Head of Communications and Engagement


+44 (0)1273 915640