Editorial (22.3)

I have recently heard several critiques of international development journals which argue that ideas and articles about development are dominated by northern-based research centres and the journals they sponsor. Development in Practice has always had a policy of encouraging a truly international set of both authors as well as readers. This current issue is a good illustration of the international nature of our contributors. In this issue we have authors from Iran, Afghanistan, India, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, as well as from the USA, Canada and the UK. We continue to seek to identify challenging articles from across the globe, and to do this we have recently introduced our international contributing editors to reinforce our editorial advisory group.

Several articles in this issue show the importance of good evaluation work in both helping us learn from practice and to understand the complexity of development, including those issues and challenges not always identified by programme designers. Indeed the need to adapt as required to changing contexts, to design faults, and not be overly controlled by tight design around expected results based methods emerges not only from articles in the current issue but also from much of the material we publish. This reinforces the need to maintain an open mind about the way development works, and how policies can backfire even when introduced with the best of intentions. Human development, whether social, economic or political, is not an exact science and therefore priority must be placed on being able to refine and change our policies and programmes as well as learn from experience.

We have a several contributions using evaluation material. Francis Alinyo and Terry Leahy look at shortcomings in two programmes designed to improve food security in Uganda: they conclude that models based on ‘prominent farmers’ do not help reduce poverty and they stress the greater need for a gendered approach to food security. Gerryshom Munala and Harald Kaing address the failure to improve water supplies to informal settlements in Kenya through the processes of ‘commercialisation’. The challenge of measuring development results is tackled by Mequanent Getachew, who reviews the use of fertilizers promoted by different agencies in Ethiopia and looks at the successes and failures over a 10-year period, noting the differences in ‘outcomes’ if we take a short-term view as opposed to a review over a longer period. Getachew concludes that we need to revise our use of some of the results-based methods to take into account time and context far more robustly. James De Vries shares some of the lessons of the Heifer ‘Passing on the Gift’ programmes and explores why these have been successful in some areas and less so in others, concluding that the basic idea of repayment of assistance to other beneficiaries rather than the donor agency has encouraged pride as well as helped people out of poverty. Finally we have a Practical Note, from Sue Coe, on practical lessons on disability inclusion, which follows on from an earlier and popular article in Development in Practice 20(7), based on lessons primarily from evaluations of World Vision programmes.

Several of our contributors have engaged with methodological challenges to good development practice. Kent Schroeder and Michael Hatton tackle the problems around assessing risks, moving beyond the more simplistic approach to known risks to argue that resilience and adaptability are key to being able to cope with unknown risks; this should be allowed for in otherwise sometimes overly controlled results-based methods. Jiyang Kang et al. surveyed a number of US-based development NGOs and found that many still struggle with the introduction of monitoring and evaluation systems. The authors ask why the development of M&E has been so slow, speculating whether the competitive nature of fundraising inhibits the sharing of mistakes and failures, hence also inhibiting learning from practice.

The concept of citizenship and the links made by many commentators to the neo-liberal free market is explored by Arun Kumar, using experiences from India, who notes the tendency to reduce citizenship to an individualised concept which takes development away from collective organisations and community mobilisation. Dipantear Datta, also from India, addresses the challenge of social assistance schemes in Orissa and argues for the use of new technologies in supporting community led, evidence-based advocacy. The examples of using information at community level and its ability to combat corruption, as well as informing the poor about their state-provided entitlements, provides an excellent illustration of how to improve overall governance.

We have an interesting review from Iran by Hadi Veisi et al . who analyse the factors affecting the perceptions and understanding of environmental issues by local civil servants, as a way of trying to see how best to promote the concept of environmentally sustainable development. Roya Rahmani challenges the international community to review the way international assistance has been channelled to Afghanistan and in particular notes the negative perceptions of NGOs held by both the general population and some senior government figures. This article explores some of the history and practices which have led to this situation.

In our final Practical Note, Carmen da Silva Wells and Christine Sijbesma review some innovations which strengthen community-led total sanitation, drawing on experience from the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, and echoing earlier articles by recommending greater equity based on gender and the poor to sustain sanitation services.

To access the pdf version, please follow the link below: