Editorial (23.2)

This issue of Development in Practice brings together a number of articles which we feel reach to the most basic level of development practice, with contributions which focus on experiments, research, and experiences at the grassroots. Many development researchers now seem to be increasingly concerned with high level, often abstract, policy by government. However, it is important to remember that regardless of policies, in theory in place (often they are no more than paper exercises divorced from reality), it is through the implementation of programmes we see the real learning, impact, and mistakes that are made. Elegant policies are no excuse for inactivity and failure to implement, nor are they a replacement for programmes that work (or learning from those which do no).

There is an increasing realisation that micro programmes and models are also increasingly relevant to the new poor in developed countries suffering the effects of recession, where ideas, policies, and practice have for many years not been tested against what actually works. Cheap credit and state welfare programmes removed the necessity for many to engage in traditions such as community credit unions, local cooperatives, and shared resource programmes – all of which have been underutilised in recent years in developed countries. As we can see from some of the articles in this issue, there may be many aspects that recession-hit developed countries can learn from. Several of our contributors have also taken a valuable longer term view of the issues and programmes they have studied, including community based health workers, water programmes in Manila, the dairy industry in Ethiopia, and a community in Niger. All benefit from being able to assess the longer term evolution of these programmes.

Gabrielle Appleford reviews 30 years' experience with community health workers related to primary health care programmes, from the 1970s and the Alma Ata declaration, through to current experience with HIV/AIDS support. Appleford specifically focuses on the motivation of community health workers, including financial incentives. Mariana Gerstenblüth and Maximo Rossi discuss the links between “happiness” and health and other social factors in Chile and Uruguay, showing the importance to people of good health to their perceived well-being/happiness. Alexandra Towns and Daniel Potter share the importance placed on indigenous plants and fish as part of the diet of the Songhai people in Niger. They argue that by ignoring the local consumption of indigenous, often wild, products, much agricultural development can be misplaced and underestimate and fail to understand this aspect of local diet and nutrition.

In their study of urban Ghana, Arku Arku, Emmanuel Angmore, and John-Engelbert Seddoh note the failure to live up to MDGs related to basic sanitation. Their account of the poor sanitation raises the immense challenges of poor urban settings and unmet needs crucial to reducing the threat of many diseases, as well as time and dignity lost through inadequate services. Meanwhile Petr Matous reviews the rise and fall of community based water supplies in Manila between 2002 and 2012. He outlines the original success of community based supply systems allied to a privatisation programme, and then explores why this apparently successful programme was reversed in favour of a subsidised system of individual household connections.

Moti Jaleta et al. describe using a “hub” approach to coordinate inputs and services for the growing dairy industry in Ethiopia. The authors argue that a slower, more “organic” development of these services in line with growth in both supply and demand is one of the causes of the success of the dairy programme. In his viewpoint, Arnab Roy Chaudhury looks at the decommissioning of dams in India – Noting the problem of taking out of service older dams which, although often posing a threat to life, have an emblematic position in the country as symbols of progress, beyond their real value. Also in India, Meera Tiwari explores self-help savings groups for very poor women in Bihar. In addition to describing the functioning of these groups she speculates on the importance of savings for the agency, self-confidence, and security of these women – arguing that a reintroduction of a savings culture in developed countries in recession may be something worth encouraging to strengthen such positive traits in the new poor.

A further development on ideas of agency and self-confidence in development is the paper by Uchendu Chiqbu on the concept of “place” in an area of Nigeria. Chigbu notes that the loss of culture and a sense of place or belonging, and the devaluing of the past and a rapidly disappearing culture, undermines local development. Lynn McIntyre and Jenny Munro's study of ultrapoor women in Bangladesh illustrates how few of the women receive assistance from the existing programmes of the Bangladesh government or from NGOs. These women are excluded from most assistance and feel that there is little they can do about it. The study also shows that although these ultra-poor women often do receive support from family and the community, this is for the most part inadequate.

The article by Andrew Wainer argues that despite massive illegal immigration from Mexico to the USA, and considerable spending on border security, the USA has never prioritised programmes to deal with the root cause of immigration, namely rural poverty. The author shows that there are some very positive examples of what could be done to reduce rural poverty, but that until the USA prioritises dealing with the causes of poverty rather than the symptoms such programmes remain the exception.

Finally our practical note continues the debate from the Netherlands around the evaluation of international assistance channelled through Dutch NGOs (see the articles by de Lange, and Lenfant, and Rutten in Development in Practice 23[1]). In this contribution Peter Huisman and Lieke Ruijmschoot discuss the use of the 5Cs model for the M&E of capacity building: and model originally designed by ECDPM and offered by the Dutch Foreign Ministry as the tool to assess capacity building for their framework funds to Dutch NGOs. The authors conclude that, although being obliged to accept the system as a condition of funding, in fact it has had a positive impact on the work of their alliance.

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Pratt, Brian

Editorial (23.1)

As we enter 2013 many international development agencies will be thinking about their budgets, policies and projections for the period in two years' time when the MDG deadline is reached. Although some argue that we should not be thinking too much about post-2015 as there is still much to do in terms of meeting the existing goals, bureaucracies move slowly and many decisions will be made over the coming year (and indeed may already have been made at the more senior levels). Whatever the future of international financial assistance, many of the issues and challenges of development in practice will remain with us. Development has too often been confused and conflated with international financial assistance. The removal of foreign funding will lead to considerable challenges to some countries, and some sectors within those countries, not least those NGOs who have grown up assuming foreign funding will last for ever.

Regardless of the decisions about to be made, we do know that both technical and socio-political challenges to the development of people will remain. We expect, therefore, that Development in Practice will continue to play a role in providing space for the sharing of ideas, experiences, and opinions about development across all levels. Indeed, the withdrawal or reduction in foreign aid will add greater pressure on governments and civil society to rethink the best ways to tackle issues as wide as chronic poverty and as specific as delivery mechanisms to isolated social groups. One clear challenge will be to encourage greater volunteering and community participation as external resources shrink. Good development has always stressed these elements, but the dominance of paid professionals in NGOs has weakened our commitment to participation by communities. At the same time, recipient developing governments have seemed to be more accountable to their donors than to their citizens.

Interestingly, Anna Wetterberg and Gary Bland explore a relatively new move in Guatemala, a shift from philanthropy to corporate social responsibility, using the case study of Alianza and an empirical review. This acknowledges the difficulty of issues around CSR in this region, where many private firms had a history of being linked to previous authoritarian regimes, but where there is now a major change in approach towards supporting long-neglected public goods such as health and education. They note that, in part because of exposure to thinking in international firms, local companies are now more engaged than previously in supporting local issues and needs.

In “The discourse of ‘development’ and why the concept should be abandoned”, Aram Ziai outlines why we should drop the use of the concept of development as a catch-all phrase to refer to a range of often unrelated activities, in part because of “certain Eurocentric, depoliticising and authoritarian implications of the concept of 'development'.”

An article on a community development project in Kenya by Juliet Kariuki and Jemimah Njuki discusses a progression from PRA to participatory impact assessment and using participatory impact diagrams as a way of giving new life to the qualitative aspect of impact assessment – in contrast to the push by many donors towards purely quantative data. The study also shows the advantages of the method for improved gender desegregated information.

Francois Lenfant and Rens Rutten also describe an attempt by Dutch development agency Cordaid to experiment with participatory impact assessment using quasi-experimental designs, including control groups. This article shows how an attempt to use a certain type of evaluation methodology, being pushed by many donors, sadly had limited real value to the organisations involved, except perhaps as an important learning exercise for those interested in the utility of some of these approaches to NGOs. A further study of evaluation from the Netherlands comes from Piet de Lange, who summarises a series of studies of capacity development of both public sector and NGO programmes.

A critical review of community ‘participation’ can be found in “‘Spoiling the Situation’: Reflections on the development and research field” by Tanya Jakimow. Jakimow explores the concept of the ‘field’ as a place where development happens with local people; looking at the way villagers are treated by NGOs and local elites in the context of rural India.

Zakir Husain, Diganta Mukerjee, and Mousumi Dutta, also working in India, address the common issue of the degree to which women in self-help groups manage to control any income they produce, and seek to explore whether this is affected by the political party in control of the areas in which the women live.

Julian Walker, looking at the Kyrgyz Swiss Swedish Health Programme, explores the gender-sensitive concept of time poverty and how to assess it. He concludes that we need a more sophisticated approach than merely assessing time use quantitatively; a more nuanced assessment should also assess the quality of time use and control over time.

Dora Curry et al. provide an account of community-based surveillance of polio in Ethiopia and how volunteers at community level have been successful in identifying local cases as one means towards treatment, as well as isolating the spreads of the virus.

Ayesha Jamal and Farasat A. Siddiqui offer an empirical study of differing rates of fertility based on the occupation and income of husbands, which contributes to our understanding of how fertility rates are linked to employment, education, and income. Whilst this India-based example is context specific, it demonstrates an approach to getting beneath the broader numbers and assumptions often made about issues of fertility.

The first of our practical notes for this issue, by Alan Fowler, describes the World Vision-sponsored GATE approach to improved governance for NGOs, encompassing a common sense method to improve transparency, evaluation, and assessments of results and impact.

Finally, a second practical note from Gabrielle Appleford looks at the use of ‘strengths- based approaches’ in family planning programmes. Appleford notes the advantages of techniques such as appreciate enquiry and asset-based community development which stress the positive- over the negative-based assessments of needs and deficits.

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Pratt, Brian

Editorial (22.8)

In our final issue of the year, at least two of the articles raise issues beyond the immediate subject they deal with. Both touch on issues around the nature of development itself, and the roles of individuals and institutions engaged in development. The first, by Carolijn Terwindt and Chris van der Borgh, is a challenging article on the shrinking space for NGOs, based on case material from Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They explore a framework which takes into account local political characteristics, the mix of pressures on NGOs, as well as the style and objectives of the NGOs themselves.

We hope that some of these issues around shrinking space will be followed up in a special issue of Development in Practice being planned for 2013. Whilst some critics of NGOs have argued that advocacy and influencing have not produced the results promised in terms of real changes for poor people, it has to be noted that clearly in many countries local governments still see NGOs and civil society organisations more widely as a threat to their monopoly of power. Attempts to close the space for civil society by the state would indicate that they are indeed having a degree of success in sometimes difficult circumstances.

The second article, by Hannah Green, explores a spectrum from philanthropy to participation through the lens of development studies students and their motivation for engaging in development. Her study is timely, given the large numbers still enrolling on development studies courses. Whether the personal motivation of the students will be rewarded through the current architecture of international development agencies is a point left for further study! The orthodoxies of the main development agencies have in many ways slipped back from the participation model that Green posits as one end of the spectrum, and the one to which most students adhere.

We now witness a renewed focus by many aid agencies on very top-down, universalistic, service delivery approaches to development. We realise that politicians are less enamoured by talk of long-term development, transformational change, and capacity development sustainability. Instead we have the focus on short-term, concrete results. Given the attitudes of a broad range of development workers who accept the need for longer term engagement, and dealing with the causes and not just the symptoms of poverty, it would appear that there is an increasing disjuncture between those who delivery development assistance and those who pay for it.

The perennial need to balance the empirical and pragmatic against the broader overview of policies, approaches, and motivations in development needs to be regularly reframed. With changes in many developing countries it seems that we need to question some of the approaches to development currently being accepted as standard. This is not always easy given the increasing dependence of both states and NGOs alike on a small number of official donors. There is a tendency to crowd out different views and approaches in favour of an increasingly homogenous set of approaches; approaches which often seem to owe more to a political shift in donor countries than to any real shift in evidence bases. Therefore Development in Practice will continue to look for well thought-out and evidenced articles which challenge all of our assumptions, from whichever position we take them.

Peter Westoby and Rupert van Blerk review the training of community development workers in South Africa by a large and growing government initiative. They suggest improvements in the training, and compare existing practice in South Africa to other experiences and to 50 years' thinking and practice in this crucial area. The authors reinforce earlier conclusions that community development is only as good as the training of the staff involved.

Several papers look at the impact of different development interventions. Max Saunders and David Bromwich share an evaluation of a programme supporting modern cooperatives in Gansu, China, noting the positive social and economic outcomes for members and how they have resolved some of the problems with previous cooperative models in China. Franklin Obeng-Odoom questions the dominant view of access to water, showing that other issues such as affordability, quality, reliability, and distribution have now emerged. Based on experiences in Ghana, Obeng-Odoom aims to counter-balance the simplistic use of access as the only indicator of success in water programmes. William Mala et al. review the commercialisation of non-wood forest products in Cameroon, concluding that by selling as groups communities can increase their income by an average of 40 per cent compared to individual sellers. The study is an important contribution to the ongoing debate about value chains and whether individual or group approaches are the most effective.

Finally, as we come to the end of 2012, on behalf of the whole editorial team I would like to thank both all the authors and referees who we have worked with over the year, and our very many readers. Special thanks are also due to our contributing editors, our wider editorial advisory group, and our colleagues at Taylor and Francis, for their support throughout the year.

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Pratt, Brian

Editorial (22.7)

The human tendency to continuously sub-divide and reclassify the way we look at our own experience is one of the signs of our creativity. In the world of development this is as true as any other field of human endeavour, perhaps even more so. The negative side to this search for definitions, and the drive to subdivide our experiences into areas we can understand and engage with, is that we create ‘silos’ – areas of study, for example, which are isolated from each other by the use of exclusive language and terms that come from different disciplines. In the endless permutations of concepts and professional vocabularies we often merely create parallel discourses – if we sat and reduced them to their essence or to first principles we would see that are often merely repetitions of ideas recast under slightly different terms.

It seems that there is a proliferation of new development approaches. New terms appear faster than most of us can cope with, but underlying them we often find the same basic issues. For example we hear a great deal about social enterprises, governance, or accountability, which if we unpack them relate closely to discussions which have been taking place for many years on how to ensure development work genuinely enshrines the views of our clients or beneficiaries. After all, one of the reasons participation is important is precisely because it created a feedback loop from end users to development workers and planners. However whole new schools of thought are emerging as though the issue of accountability is new, or that socially driven values are unique to social enterprises. Perhaps people need to read more outside of their ‘silos’ and also go back more than a few months into the literature which already exists, if they are to contribute something new, rather than assume that because they have come up with a new name for an old issue there is nothing to be learnt from the past.

At a time when so much development seems to be increasingly constrained by rules, procedures and top-down agenda setting, the article by Guilherme Azevedo and Henry Mintzberg is refreshing. It argues that global issues such as poverty, climate change and recession will not be resolved by the state or corporations, but through social initiatives allowing communities to resolve problems of a global origin. They take the Brazilian attitude of ‘can do’ or ‘why not?’ and trace several social initiatives which have had global impact (budget monitoring in Brazil, wind power in Denmark); calling for the ‘why not?’ attitude to be a rallying call for further socially based initiatives.

Another side to the failure of top-down planning can be found in the article by Jesus Gastelum Lage who looks at whether social policy design actually addresses social problems. He concludes that social policy contributes less than it should to poverty reduction and linked goals, in part because it tends to work more with the interests of local politicians than along lines which could make real changes. Social policy instead tends to focus on small, incremental changes which are politically possible or expedient.

One solution to improving development practice is given by Rinus van Klinken, who describes experiences of immersion programmes in Tanzania, whereby the immersion process is linked to overall organisational learning rather than just informing the individual being immersed in village life. This experience seemed to lead to a situation whereby staff recognised that business as usual was not going to resolve longer term issues around rural poverty, and it helped them come up with new ideas for their work related to their experiences in the villages.

The apparent contradictions within development agencies are discussed by Payal Arora, using the example of micro-finance in a study of differences within an INGO. Arora highlights major differences in approaches of the individuals interviewed, and how they sit within a common organisation. The tension between individual perceptions and understandings and organisational ones is important in a context of changing development fashions. Thomas Davis, Kate Macdonald and Scott Brenton take this further by looking at the differences and conflicts regarding attitudes to accountability within an organisation; noting that field-based staff were on the whole more positive about existing accountability systems than head office staff.

Several of our contributors focus on livelihoods and income-generating schemes including trade and micro-finance. Sangeeta Arora sets out to evaluate the role of state banks in India and their engagement with micro-finance in the Punjab. Noting that although many state development banks do now engage directly with small lenders/savers, they are still only a small percentage of the bank's portfolio and there are fewer women in the client base than we are used to seeing in NGO-run micro-finance initiatives.

There are two articles looking at trade; the first by Kizito Mazvimavi et al. compares local seed fairs to direct relief distribution in Zimbabwe, noting that local distribution through fairs seems to be more economical and encouraged local seed production and sales, as opposed to the direct distribution of imported seed in the face of the economic crisis. In contrast, Abdoul Murekezi and Songqing Jin concluded that it seems to make little difference to producers in Rwanda whether they sell their coffee through cooperatives rather than to private merchants.

Fedes van Rijn, Kees Burger, and Eefje den Belder have taken a common set of assumptions used to assess sustainable livelihood programmes and developed a multiple methodology approach to impact assessment which tries to encompass a range of needs, from ‘proving impact’ to ‘improving practices’, with reference to a case of coffee production in Peru. The methodological theme is carried forward by Syed Ahmed, who looks at how research was taken into practice within BRAC for two projects supporting the ‘ultra-poor’ and oral therapy. This experience is of particular relevance at a time when people talk a great deal about linking research to practice but are less able to show concrete examples.

We also have another example of the importance of a holistic approach to capacity development from Cambodia, by Phum Thol et al., which stresses the importance of capacity development in encouraging organisational learning for development.

The article by Luke Fletcher and Adele Webb covers several important global issues by focussing on debt-for-development exchanges, but going further into the politics of such exchanges. They focus on Australia and its relationships with near neighbours such as Indonesia in the context of earlier and sometimes doubtful export guarantee loans. This study also gives an insight into the movement in Australia to reduce or write off the government's loans under HIPC and other initiatives.

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Pratt, Brian

Preface (22.4)

This special issue on child protection reflects a growing awareness among many researchers and practitioners of the sheer numbers of boys and girls in developing countries who continue to be exposed to poverty and other related adversities, despite recent concerted efforts to improve children's survival and well-being. There is evidence that too often our efforts to protect children are not as effective as we hope and, worse, there have been nagging suspicions that they are sometimes even misguided and counterproductive.

Boyden, Jo

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.


Editorial (22.2)

Development in Practice prides itself in being one of the most international of development journals, based on both authorship and readership. To reinforce our commitment to this international participation we are pleased to announce that our editorial team will now be strengthened by a group of regionally based contributing editors, who will provide a perspective on the key development issues, authors, and publications from those regions.

Pratt, Brian

Editorial (21.7)

At whatever level we are working, or researching, it is probably a truism that development is a slow business. Recently a UN official said to me that there is no appetite for longer term solutions to the socio-political structural issues which maintain poverty; and that people have been coming to the same conclusion for at least 30 years. Similarly we are often poor at researching longer term trends, not least because the current trend is for short-term ‘results’ from development aid, and evidence to back it up.

Pratt, Brian

Editorial (21.6)

In the current context, when so many policies on international development are changing significantly, it is challenging to write an editorial which may quickly become dated. As I write, we see development ministers across Europe turning their backs on policies such as budget support, the principles behind the Paris Declaration, and co-funding for international NGOs. In their place we see the re-introduction of new conditionalities; a focus on short-term ‘results’; and a reduced list of priorities, such as security and basic welfare.

Pratt, Brian


Towards the end of 2008, Marc J. Cohen and Melinda Smale, both then working for Oxfam America, approached me with a proposal for a special issue of Development in Practice on the global food crisis that had been generated by chaotic price increases. The resulting volume is both grounded in lived experiences and forward-looking. It also presents an opportunity to explore the differences between the relatively self-contained food-related emergencies of the past and the global dimensions of the situation that we now confront.

Eade, Deborah
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