Participate’s proposal for Post-2015 targets that respond to the realities of poor and marginalised people

16/04/2014

Danny BurnsDanny_Burns200

 

‘When the demolitions started in 2005, our life changed drastically… we were moved 50km away from Manila. There was no house…we were not able to spend the money on making the floor but on food because my husband could not work there… (now) The soil of our house erodes during rainy season’. My children had to stop school for a whole year…’ (Sara Mendoza, Philippines)

Participate research  has shown with remarkable consistency that not only has development failed to benefit the poorest and most marginalised people, it has frequently been the cause of, or has deepened their poverty. In other words, the poorest and those on the margins are often collateral damage for the ‘development’ of those who are easier to reach. The stories of numerous people in the Participate research was of shifting sands – never feeling secure, stable, recognised, safe – never knowing what tomorrow might bring.

Targets that fail to address these issues – instead focusing only on providing more and better services – will continue to fail those that have been left behind by development. The targets needed for people living in greatest poverty and those who are most marginalised are ones that provide solid ground and strong foundations from which dignity is enabled and people can build a future for themselves and their families. These include a secure place to live (an informal settlement which people know will be there tomorrow is a good start), an identity, the rights to citizenship, a basic livelihood (probably in the informal economy) and safety and security. They also include freedom from extreme discrimination and exclusion, an environment that does not destroy their capacity for building collective solutions and solidarity, and meaningful processes for them to articulate their needs, participate in and shape the construction of their own futures.

The refrain that reverberates through our research is that ‘there are clinics, and schools, but we don’t get access to them’. There is no point in talking about education if children still have to work in the fields or beg on the streets because their parents livelihood is not enough or because education is not available to them because of who they are (women, people with disabilities, lower castes, etc). There is no point in distributing resources to local villages if these are diverted by corrupt officials or dominant local families. There is no point in local clinics if people can’t afford medicines or are humiliated by doctors that treat them like animals as opposed to a person in need of treatment with a right to appropriate health care.

The realities of those living in extreme poverty and marginalisation are different to those on low income, and if their needs are to be met and their rights recognised then a different development paradigm is necessary: One which challenges fictional trickle down theories and starts with the poorest and most marginalised; one which recognises that much of what countries see as unquestionable – such as infrastructure development and economic growth – has to be questioned; and one which directly addresses the discriminatory norms and abuses of power that impact gravely on people’s capacity to overcome poverty and marginalisation, and participate in development.

The Participate proposal for post-2015 targets does not try to provide targets for every issue that was raised in the 18 participatory research studies.  Rather it seeks to distil three foundational target areas which must underpin the others, and without which the post-2015 targets framework will be meaningless for the poorest and most marginalised people. The targets relate to:

  • Livelihoods and pro-poor infrastructure development
  • Participation and citizen action
  • Tackling discriminatory institutional and social norms

As country representatives at the United Nations continue to formulate the final post-2015 framework, Participate reiterates the call to ‘leave no-one behind’. Tackling extreme poverty and marginalisation, alongside rising and intersecting inequalities, must be a priority. This will require a rights-based, people-centred approach which prioritises social justice and recognises the need for long-term policies and programmes.

Read more of Sara Mendoza’s story ‘Urban Growth in the Philippines’ on page 19 of the Work With Us report

Danny Burns is a Co-Director of the Participate initiative and Team Leader for the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at IDS.

Read other posts from Danny Burns


Harnessing creativity to give marginalised people a voice: An example from Brighton

11/04/2014

Susanne SchirmerSue_Schirmer200

‘…. That’s the reason why I no longer want to be silent. I’m willing to speak up. As long as it raises awareness on what it is like to live with HIV. It means to live with HIV, the most important part of it is to live.’                 

Excerpt from one of the participant’s recordings in the Speaking Volumes project

On Wednesday this week,  IDS hosted a lunchtime seminar in which local Brighton drama practitioner Alice Booth talked about her experience with using ‘Theatre for Development’ in Uganda and Kenya, alongside her recent participatory project ‘Speaking Volumes’ in which she has been working with a group of people in Brighton, who are living with HIV.

While her experiences in Kenya and Uganda were somewhat mixed, it was the ‘Speaking Volumes’ project that grabbed my attention. When looking for best practice it’s so easy to look towards the more ‘exotic’ places and big donor-funded project and overlook the smaller really good participatory practice that is right on our doorstep. So I thought I’d introduce the project to you and I hope it will inspire you as it inspired me.

‘Speaking Volumes’ is a project that uses storytelling to allow the voices of hidden, stigmatised and marginalised people to be heard. Alice worked with a small group of HIV positive people to enable them to share their experiences of living with HIV. Before recording interviews with the participants, Alice used a portrait workshop, to enable participants to explore themes of identity and self-image and a story workshop to help them to discuss the story they wanted  to share. Participants’ stories were then recorded on a voice recorder (giving people the opportunity to remain anonymous if they choose to do so). Finally the participants worked with portrait artist Jake Spicer, to draw a representation of each of them for their record.

The stories are presented in an installation, with individually designed book covers housing each story.

book with one of the recordings

I will be heading down to Brighton Jubilee Library this weekend, where, the exhibition is exhibited until 8th June and the public can listen to the stories and explore what it means to live with HIV. The recordings can also be accessed online on the project website. Follow the project on facebook or on twitter@SpeakingVols.

As the installation flyer says: ‘Come, leave your pre-conceptions at the door and take five minutes to listen to the stories’.

Colleagues in the Participation, Power and Social Change team have done (and are doing) great work using creative methods. Find out more about how creative and visual participatory methods can be used to give marginalised and often overlooked people a voice  on the Participatory Methods website.

Sue Schirmer works as Communications Coordinator for the Participation, Power and Social Change (PPSC) team at IDS.

Read other blogs about using creative and visual methods:


The Sustainable Development Goals for post-2015: Economic Development or a Guarantee of Rights?

27/03/2014

Carlos Cortez Ruizpicture of Carlos Cortez

Earlier this month, the Participate initiative co-hosted its ‘Work with Us’ exhibition at the headquarters of UN in New York in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations. The exhibition coincided with two important events in the post-2015 calendar; the ninth meeting of the Open Working Group (OWG) for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the President of United Nations General Assembly (PGA) debate on the Contributions of Women, the Young and Civil Society to the Post‐2015 Development Agenda. During the same week, Participate Co-Director Danny Burns and myself met with members of the Open Working Group, including some of the UN Permanent Representatives.

These meetings were a good opportunity to present Participate’s research results; to further understand the complex process underpinning the Post 2015 agenda; and to gain some insight into the different positions and opinions on what should be included. We also discussed the serious limitations to getting the voices and perspectives of the most excluded and poorest heard in the global debate.

Different perspectives on poverty
The positions and proposals on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), expressed in the discourse and in the concepts used by some of the OWG members, show different perspectives on poverty, their causes and on the way to face the situation in the future. While some consider economic development to be the answer to reducing poverty, there are a few who see that the struggle against poverty and exclusion requires the guarantee of rights and a more complex perspective that includes cultural and social issues.

There are also differences between those who maintain that that the road beyond 2015 must continue towards realising the MDGs, and those whose consider the debate on the SDGs as an opportunity to have a deeper reflection on the general agenda – one which includes an open, participatory process from the definition to the implementation of the post-2015 agenda. Other differences appear to be between the pragmatic perspectives of those that want to define objectives and indicators and those who want to embed the rights of the poorest and more excluded social groups in new institutional and social approaches.

A lot more work to do
As members of Participate, we spoke of the impact of cultural and social norms on the existence of poverty and exclusion and the need for a different approach to deal with them. The differences between those who are more receptive and active around these issues and those that weren’t were clear.

For now it looks as though the proposal will be based on economic issues, with a group of targets similar to the MDGs. If the final document is to include the guarantee of rights, gender equality and the active participation of the poorest and accountability, we’ve got a lot more work to do.

Dr Carlos Cortez works for the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana Xochimilco (UAM), Mexico. He is also a member of Participate’s Participatory Research Group (PRG).

Read other recent blogs about Participate:


Who engages with whom? Who is accountable to whom? Can the development sector learn from the humanitarian sector?

20/03/2014

Robert ChambersRobert_Chambers200

Wow! The 29th Annual Meeting of ALNAP in Addis. This was memorable and eye-opening. But what is ALNAP? The Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action. Rather less memorable in full than as an acronym. But a vital orientation and a remarkable organisation. This annual meeting brought together for two intense days 170 people engaged in the sector. From a great range of over 100 organisations, with NGOs more than any other category, and international agencies, governments, universities, and the private sector in smaller numbers. An astonishing range of experience to have all in one room, and the largest ALNAP annual meeting so far.

And why was it memorable? For me it was one of those Rip van Winkle re-entries which for some reason seem to come my way more often these days. My time in the sector was long ago in UNHCR as its first evaluation officer in the mid 70s, and then in 1986 in a team evaluating the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies drought relieve operations in Africa in 1984-6. How radically things have changed since those days of relative amateurism and ignorance. In the mid 70s UNHCR was faced with many millions of rural refugees in Africa and did not have a single health, nutrition, agricultural, sanitation, water, settlement or other specialist. Though lots of lawyers, good at law. There were some large refugee settlements, but it was convenient to believe that most African refugees were best off left to fend for themselves. African hospitality would take care of them. Often not, I concluded, the case. And as for 1986 we wrote in our evaluation report that people had ‘a basic human right to be protected from incompetence’.

What a different universe it is now!
People in this conference were far, far more professional and experienced. Their concerns for accountability and performance have spread, deepened and evolved almost beyond recognition. There are now many guides, protocols, critical reviews and even organisations preoccupied with accountability to those affected by crises, outstandingly ALNAP itself.

The theme for the meeting was great – Engagement of crisis-affected people in humanitarian action. The overview and background paper by Dayna Brown, A Donini and Paul Knox-Clarke is excellent. The subject is vital because of the misfit and tension between urgent action to save lives and minimise suffering on the one hand, and listening, sensitivity, responsiveness, and supporting not undermining what people are doing and can do for themselves. And the many contexts and types of emergency or crisis challenge standard solutions. All this is pretty well known, so let me jump to what hit me in the face.

Top-down measurement versus accountability to people.
Paradigms are in tension. Underlying current debates and practice in the sector is a tug of war between the (Newtonian) paradigm of things, which is top-down with control, measurement, standardisation and upward accountability, and the (complexity) paradigm of people in which we find discretion, judgment, diversity and downward accountability. And there are contrasting concepts, language, values, methods and processes, relationships, mindsets and personalities that go with these. Top-down is driven and sustained by the real or imagined imperatives of crisis.

Take language. Beneficiary belongs to top down. It patronises. It begs a basic question, implying people do benefit. It ‘others’ those affected by crisis. It misfits equality, respect, listening and learning from people. Other words and phrases have been tried – crisis-affected people, and citizen (but this does not work so well for UNHCR with refugees). But again and again beneficiary is the word that is used. It is deeply, deeply embedded. And I dare say many see nothing wrong with it. One organisation has even appointed a Beneficiary Accountability Officer. Can’t we do better than this?

Then there are donors’ demands and ‘the system’. There was a view that to be ‘evidence-based’ the case for engagement and participation had to be supported by measurement. Others, myself included, felt the case was already overwhelming. When someone asked how many had read evaluation reports which blamed ‘the system’, a forest of hands went up. And participants lamented their experiences of how data demands forced them into gathering data for upward accountability at the cost of action, learning, adapting and accountability to affected people. Yes, a tragic trade-off, just as in the development sector.

Highlights and reflections

  • To bypass recurrent rush. In sudden onset emergencies, many agencies carry out similar rushed and biased assessments (close to airport, only meet the leaders, men etc.). After typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines a non-operational team did a slower more interactive and representative assessment, hearing other voices, and found unrecognised needs: who would have guessed that old women needed underwear? Could UNOCHA (UN Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs) try this dedicated team approach to test whether it should be standard practice?
  • Participatory statistics. Dawit Abebe and Berhanu Admassu presented their participatory impact assessment work with pastoralists which generated participatory statistics. Dawit and Andy Catley have a chapter in Jeremy Holland’s Who Counts? The power of participatory statistics. Great stuff and huge potential. But who will pick it up? I recommend the guide which has just been updated. It is an eye-opener.
  • Definition of terms? We did not spend much time on definitions. This was sensible. There was more interest in action. But engagement is a good word. And engagement of crisis-affected people was a move in a good direction.
  • Personality and recruitment. The background paper considered skills (the word so often used), but then went further with behaviour and attitudes. I wonder, though, does personality go even further, and somewhere we need to go? Some saw recruitment procedures with interviewing face-to-face as critical. If the sector needs people who are good at listening, empathetic, participatory, they must be sought out, and trained. Also, institutional cultures, personality and relationships interact, so that for good engagement with affected people, with sensitive listening and respect, these must be part of good engagement in organisations at all levels.
  • Learning what affected people are doing already came over as important. What are their existing organisations? What are they already doing? These were priority questions, as they have been for decades.
  • The Who? Whose? questions. These were as relevant as ever. Who participates in whose project? was asked in the background paper. Who engages in whose action? Do they engage in ours or do we engage in theirs? Several times in the meeting someone asked ‘How do we want to engage with them?’. But further steps are ‘How  do we find out how they would like us to engage with them?’ This was raised but I did not hear it much discussed. A future agenda? To ask them? As standard good practice?
  • Listening and learning. We often say and hear that we must ‘go and talk to [sic] people’. Talk to at least involves meeting, but when will we habitually say listen to or learn from? Or listen to and dialogue with? The training the day before the meeting was on evaluation. Next year, a training on listening? But would anyone sign up? Or be able to persuade their organisation to give the extra day to be trained to do something we all know how to do (when we talk to people)?
  • Time with people. In a panel session on Building Accountability to Affected Populations into Humanitarian Evaluation, it was proposed that those engaged in the evaluations 9 months or so after an emergency should have to spend 50 per cent of their time with the affected people. Yes. Good idea.
  • Accountability to whom? At that moment, a penny dropped with me. I wondered and still wonder, is the humanitarian sector ahead of ‘development’ in accountability to people? If so, or if it appears so, is this because the need is greater? In any case, what can the development sector learn? I suspect, quite a lot. But if so, where should we go from here?
  • Gems for reflection from Luz Gomez Saavedra (Oxfam Intermon, formerly with MSF in Niger):
    • ‘Nothing can replace presence and proximity’
    • ‘The most amazing tool, sitting down under a tree with people’
    • An old woman who said: ‘If you want to know who is poor and who not, don’t count goats – ask who is receiving remittances from a relative in Calgary’
    • When she asked people how she could do her work better the reply was unanimous: ‘Don’t change but keep smiling’

Will this meeting transform the sector?
That would be asking too much. But intensifying the shift in the agenda to examining ourselves more (and this is in line with the World Development Report 2015 on Mind and Culture), yes, one can hope for that. And it may countervail against the magnetism of upward accountability which afflicts both humanitarian action and development, and reinforce actions and policies for accountability downwards to crisis-affected people, and learning more about and appreciating their realities, and what they want and need. And what they already do and can do, perhaps often much more than outsiders suppose.

Some in the sector are already onto all this. Could many, many others join them in putting into practice two PRA slogans which fit here as signposts and reminders:

ASK THEM              THEY CAN DO IT

Robert Chambers is a Research Associate in the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at IDS.

Read other blog posts from Robert Chambers:


Sex and the Citadel: Shereen El Feki on the evolution of sexual rights in the Arab World

27/02/2014

Kate HawkinsKate Hawkins

This week Sussex University’s Amnesty International society hosted a fascinating event on sexuality, the Middle East and North African regions where we were lucky enough to hear Shereen El Feki speak. Shereen was previously a journalist at the Economist. But she wears many hats, having been Vice-Chair of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, a presenter at Al Jazeera, and a board member of AFE, an NGO based in Beirut which empowers human rights activists across the Arab region. Most recently, her book Sex and the Citadel has been causing quite a stir – focussing as it does on two explosive topics, sex and the Arab World – and is currently being translated into a range of languages, including Arabic.

Shereen’s background
Shereen explained that it was her personal and professional roots that led her to write Sex and the Citadel. Half Egyptian and half Welsh, she grew up in Canada as a Muslim but felt quite disconnected from her roots in the Arab World until September the 11th 2001. Suddenly there was an outpouring of coverage in the West about the place her father heralded from, mostly from outsiders, and she felt it was time to ‘re-orient’ herself. Her professional training was in immunology and she then went on to become a journalist writing about health care, particularly HIV. Sex is the main route of transmission of HIV in the Arab World and that region has one of the fastest rates of new cases of HIV and AIDS-related deaths.

Shereen recounted how she had little trouble getting people to start talking about sex, in fact it was sometimes difficult to get them to stop! Poorer people were more free and frank, leading her to conclude that education doesn’t necessarily make you more open-minded. Perhaps it makes you more mindful of everything you have to lose. Because she looked Western, yet was a Muslim and spoke Arabic women were comfortable talking to her. Whilst people tend to avoid speaking to people outside their social circle for fear of being judged, the fact that Shereen was from the West – an area of the world where everything seemingly goes – meant people had little fear of shocking her.

‘What happens in the bedroom is reflective of what happens outside it’
Shereen’s study led her to believe that sexuality is a useful lens for viewing society as a whole. Whilst the Arab World is not homogenous, there are general themes and taboos that run across the region. How these came into being, how they are perpetuated and challenged provides useful insights into politics and the process of change,

‘The sexual and the political are intimate bedfellows. We can’t have freedom unless we think about our family, personal and intimate lives. Many women understood that immediately. That bodily autonomy is not my family’s business it is my own business.’

Her book uses the metaphor of ‘The Citadel’. The Citadel which is an impenetrable, imposing medieval fortress in Cairo which was constructed by Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn to protect the city from Crusaders. It has played an important political and religious role in Egyptian life since that time. The Citadel in contemporary Arab life is marriage – recognised by family and the state. Marriage is the only acceptable place for sex to occur and it is an institution many are desperate to be part of, yet a growing number of people no longer fit into this institution, or find it difficult to access.

The process of change
For all the uprisings in the region, Shereen cautioned the audience to expect evolution rather than revolution when it comes to sexual rights. She provided an anecdote about Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, an Egyptian woman who became infamous as the ‘Nude Photo Revolutionary’ for posting naked pictures of herself online. To some, her unveiling had a political spin that matched the spirit of the uprising. The response of religious conservatives was fire and brimstone. But many young liberals at the vanguard of the revolution disowned her actions, and some actually took her to court. Shereen cited this as evidence that even among the young and politically questioning sexual rights are seen as a Western invention, or imposition, which will lead to free love, prostitution, porn and homosexuality.

Other changes include a growing awareness of, and backlash against, harassment and violence against women, particularly in the light of attacks that happened in Tahir Square. Whilst a UN report, published in 2013 a found that 99.3% of women and girls are subjected to sexual harassment in Egypt, due to rising conservatism and insecurity, young women and men are protecting each other in new ways. The hostile environment has also prompted women to speak out in ways which they wouldn’t have previously.

Shereen explained how patriarchy, or more precisely the mix of power and sex in an authoritarian and patriarchal system is to blame for rising tides of violence. Patriarchy affects young men too. There is a great burden of expectation on men around marriage and providing for their family, and yet due to the worsening economic and employment situation the age of marriage is rising because many cannot afford this commitment. In these circumstances how do you realise your masculinity and attain manhood? Many young men are in a suspended state of adolescence, still living at home with their parents. To assert themselves they lash out at those weaker than themselves, in this case often women.

Meanwhile dogmatic Islam has created entrenched ideas about the proper place of women. The policing of women’s mobility (and activities such as sport, using tampons or riding a bike), female genital mutilation, virginity testing, and hymen repair operations are all related to the need to preserve women’s virginity so that they can enter the Citadel of marriage. And it is an institution that the majority of people want to break into, given there are few, if any, other ‘legitimate’ sites for sexual activity.

Why this analysis is timely and important for the rest of the world
In many settings the ‘sexual rights as human rights’ approach to sexuality has been met with resistance by who see it as a foreign or ‘Western’ imposition which lies at odds with ‘traditional culture’. Indeed this debate has risen again in Uganda this week with the signing of the ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ and President Museveni’s warning,

‘I advise friends from the West not to make this an issue because if they make it an issue the more they will lose,” he said. “This is social imperialism. To impose social values of one group on our society. “I would advise Western countries, this is a no-go area,” he said. “I don’t mind being in a collision course with the West. I am prepared.’

Whilst sexual rights are a vital framing for these issues there are other ways of approaching sexuality which might be fruitful too. Shereen’s entry points for the discussion of sexuality were more medically focussed, as a way of opening a wider conversation. Of course, HIV has often been a starting point for discussions of sexuality and this approach is not without its critics. But its utility is worth noting in this case.

She also is clear that the Arab World is evolving its own vision of sexual freedom which is unlikely to look anything like a Western model. Understanding how different models of freedom are evolving by listening closely to people experiencing this flux, rather than advocating for a blue-print approach to change tied to the Western model, is clearly important.

In addition, this politics of sexuality does not only focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans identities (important as those are). Women’s desires, freedoms, challenges and triumphs are central to the analysis, which recognises that all people are effected by norms related to sexuality. I think this is enormously important for linking across social movements and interest groups and forging a wider coalition of people to press for change, which has been one of the underlying principles of the Sexuality and Development Programme at IDS since its inception. It is also important because a vision of a socially and sexually just world that doesn’t take account of gender inequality more broadly would fail to recognise and challenge law and policy that leads to women being married to the men who rape them; sterilised because they are HIV positive; arrested or harassed for wearing a mini skirt or trousers, left without a penny as widows, deprived of basic citizenship rights for selling sex. It is a world in which we would all be poorer.

Read previous blog posts by Kate Hawkins


World Development Report 2015: Congratulations so far. Can you go further?

26/02/2014

Robert ChambersRobert_Chambers200

Robert Chambers was recently asked to provide comments on the forthcoming World Development Report (WDR) 2015. The annual reports are the World Bank’s major analytical publication, each year focusing on a different aspect of development. The WDR 2015 will be on the topic of ‘Mind and Culture’. Below is Robert’s response to Steve Commins, of the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA, and Varun Gauri, Senior Economist at the World Bank. Both are part of the WDR 2015 team at the World Bank. Robert’s response  gives a window onto some of the pressing avenues that participatory thinking should be exploring.

Hi Steve and Varun,

Much stimulated by the video call yesterday. Good to meet again after some time, Steve – I do remember your visit to IDS.

I am excited by the focus and proposed content that you outlined. Both actually and potentially (see below) this WDR promises to take us forward. As background to this, please read the critical piece I wrote about WDR 2000, which was such an achievement by Ravi Kanbur especially. It is in a book Provocations for Development, reprinted from Journal of International Development You are closer to what I advocate in the final paragraphs of that piece than any other WDR has been, to my knowledge, in examining ‘us’. This raises a host of questions (Who? Whose?) which you illustrated, Varun, with the example of Whose indicators? I.e. score cards for health services. How far can you push the envelope in this WDR? Huge opportunity.

My main points:

Reflexivity
(As above, a mirror on ‘us’) Can you, as I suggested yesterday, conclude powerfully with the case for reflexivity, setting an example with your own critical reflections on the framing and content of knowledge in your own WDR?  It would be brilliant, absolutely brilliant, if you could, and would set a wonderful example to all of us who call ourselves development professionals. ‘Belief traps’ is a great phrase and concept. Can you illustrate and elaborate, and show how we are all in them, and how we can recognise them and mitigate them.  Wow! What an opportunity!

Emotion
This is such a significant driver of change in norms and behaviour. In your presentation to us, Varun, you did use the word once, but only once. But is it not almost everywhere, but papered over by our analytical intellectualism? For learning and changing, is it a key element? See John Kotter and Dan Cohen  The Heart of Change: real-life stories of how people change their organizations ,including the critical distinction between see-feel-change and analysis-think-change.  Argues for the transformative power of the former. See also Valerie Curtis Don’t look, don’t touch, don’t eat: the science behind revulsion; also Nick Haslam Psychology in the Bathroom . Both well researched, insightful, entertaining. Haslam pages 9-11 section on emotion points to a dramatic rise in professional attention to disgust and shame.

There is a right hemisphere-left hemisphere dimension here – development in the last decade has lurched into the left hemisphere. But with participation, much of it Bank-led in the now-forgotten 90s, there was a much better balance. See paradigms in Provocations pages 190-4. This links with

Experiential learning
This is implicit in initiatives that give people new experiences. The Bank’s immersions (starting with Wolfensohn in the 90s, and still going on a bit) and similar experiences have been enormously formative. (See pages 171 ff in Provocations). You have experiential learning and change in there – experiences overcoming belief traps. Do we, in development, need to be much more resolute, imaginative and bold in designing experiential learning, as with immersions, into our professional lives? When you talk about horizontal (and by implication vertical) teaching and learning, is the horizontal more experiential in a whole-person and relational sense?

Accelerating change – in every dimension?
Has the perennial challenge of keeping in touch and up-to-date with the realities of people living in poverty – marginalised, vulnerable, weak…. become more acute because of the way in which social and other change has accelerated and continues to accelerate? I recommended the Reality Checks in Bangladesh (pdf). They have done five annual summaries of these. The rate of change they find is astonishing. I have to say that Bangladesh may be an outlier in speed (fertility rate now 2.2!!!), but there are many indications and experiences that suggest that acceleration is the norm. Could you have a box, perhaps combining the experiential learning of immersions with the need to keep in touch and up to date? This could have a big, good, impact. The person best able to advise on this is Dee Jupp who started and has continued this (There is a major review of this in Stockholm this week). In my view all countries should have reality checks – and they are spreading – Indonesia, Mozambique Nepal, Ghana , Dee could tell you.

Blind spots
This is something I am working on just now and links with the points I made about reflexivity above. There have been major areas that have been overlooked or given inadequate attention in the past across a whole range – sexuality and discrimination against LGBTs, canal irrigation at night, group-visual synergy in diagramming on the ground, the potential of participatory statistics, the combined nutritional impact of the many faecally-transmitted infections (perhaps responsible for some half of the undernutrition in the world, certainly in India…remarkable recent research findings by Dean Spears ), environmental enteropathy).These raise the question: what are the characteristics of areas that are blind spots (links with your belief traps, also institutional and professional silos, blinkers)? Why have there been these blind spots? Can you take this on? Open it up as a topic? If we missed these in the past, what are we missing now?

Words and concepts
They frame pretty much everything. We all have our favourites (see the first section of Provocations). The words and concepts here are not as dominated by economics as they might have been, but all the same what are the implications for framing and recommendations of those which come naturally to you and are part of current development speak,  Incentives, Prices, Regulations, information, for example ?

Can you define e.g. belief traps with examples, and cognitive taxes with examples, and explain how the latter overlaps with but goes further than transaction costs (if I understand it right)?

Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS)
I will write about this separately. Excellent that you have this in. And it is a good illustration of a number of the points above.

Finally, I would like to congratulate you, the collective you working on the WDR, on your work, but I would also like to challenge you and ask ‘How much further can you go?’ in order to make a real difference.

Robert Chambers is a Research Associate in the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at IDS.

Read other blog posts from Robert Chambers: