Reimagining Development Programme

In 2009-2010, IDS embarked on an ambitious research programme to explore crises and responses to crises.

Children in discussion at an afterschool centre in the township on Katutura on the outskirts of Windhoek, Namibia. Credit: Barbara Cheney

The Reimagining Development Programme asked whether recent crises in food, finance, fuel and climate – and the way that people are responding to them – present us with an opportunity to rethink or ‘reimagine’ what international development means and how it needs to change.

The programme brought together 34 research projects. It aimed to identify new thoughts and ideas on international development from across the globe and to bring them together to build a new consensus on the conduct and performance of international development in the 21st century.

In 2011 the programme concluded with the publication of an IDS Bulletin: Time to Reimagine Development.

Key research questions

The Reimagining Development Programme asked key questions including:

  • What is the evidence of the impacts of the multiple crises (financial, energy, food, confidence) 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? 
  • Based on accumulated knowledge in the place/space, what specifically has to change (or not) to support any alternatives emerging? And what are the best strategies and tactics for effecting change?

Spaces and places

At the heart of current practice and policy in international development in the last century were the Bretton Woods institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. The mandate for these institutions was generated at the Bretton Woods meetings which lasted for 22 days in 1944 in the American state of New Hampshire. For the purposes of this initiative, we decided to identify 22 sites – physical places or virtual spaces – where we could explore the impacts of multiple crises, whether and how they are shifting values and whether they are generating new ideas and behaviour.

The quality of ideas and enthusiasm for the initiative were so high that 34 sites were selected. These included 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.

Project details

start date
1 November 2009
end date
30 November 2010

Recent work

Journal Article

Time to Reimagine Development


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?

5 September 2011