Debating the ‘politics of evidence’

chrisChris Speed

With just a few days left until the “Politics of Evidence” Conference tomorrow , we are all very excited for the coming conversations and experience-sharing with various programme participants from around the world! As a platform to systematically scrutinise roles of “evidence” and the results agenda in transformational development, we are looking forward to the plenary presentations and group discussions surrounding these contentious and important issues. During the conference, we will be sharing participant experiences and information via video, photos and narratives on various social media platforms to share and engage with others in the global development community. Even though the conference is now closed for participant registration, the final plenary session will be live streamed at 15.45 GMT on Wednesday, 24 April.

This conference comes at a time when international development practitioners and policy makers continue to debate and challenge existing modes of social change initiatives and evidence-based practices. Some of the key points participants will be debating involve:

  • the meaning of “the politics of evidence” and why it is important
  • transformative intentions and impacts of various approaches on evidence of and for change
  • what factors and relationships are involved in driving less useful practices and protocols
  • people’s acceptance or rejection of these existing practices and protocols and the ensuing alternatives for transformational development

Some of the conference goals include for the participants to collectively generate:

  • conceptual clarity about “the politics of evidence” and space for debates and practices around development results
  • mapping of consequences on all levels regarding current foci on evidence and results
  • strategies and new ideas to deal with results-oriented measurement
  • ideas for collaborative efforts to address and challenge the “politics of evidence”

There have been numerous interesting debates and online discussions around the “politics of evidence”. A recent blog post from Rosalind Eyben and Chris Roche spelled out well the arguments going into a conference such as this. Some key points include acknowledging and challenging our “philosophical plumbing”, understanding the politics of our “knowledge generation” as development practitioners and the value of reflexivity in challenging existing practices. I really enjoyed this particular quote from Eyben and Roche:

Those of us working as practitioners, bureaucrats and scholar activists in international development cannot escape the contradiction that we are strategizing for social transformation from a position in a global institution – international development – that can and does sustain inequitable power relations, as much as it succeeds in changing them.

 As an MA student at IDS who will be rapporteuring and assisting with social media at the conference, I am personally excited for the conversations that will be taking place next week. In particular, the exchange’s potential for shaping future development policy and practice. We look forward to you joining us on Twitter (#evpolitics) and with our live stream at 15.45 GMT on 24 April!

Chris Speed is an M.A. student in the Participation, Power and Social Change programme at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisLSpeed

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