Notes from EBA:s panel at DevRes 2018 in Gothenburg.
By Helena Lindholm, EBA:s Chair and Professor in peace and development research.
What does ‘‘development’’ really mean in a rapidly changing world?
What kind of development research is needed in an era characterized by climate change; increasing polarization between globalization and nationalism; new migration patterns; digitalization; intricate and complicated interdependencies and connections; fragile states and insecurities but also new and emerging economies?
And what kind of development cooperation should be encouraged given those transformations? In addition, Agenda 2030 means new challenges not only to society and policy, but to research and development cooperation.
Those and other issues were profoundly and intensively discussed during the Development Research conference, taking place 22-23 August this year.
The conference was organized by the School of Global Studies and the Centre for Global Migration at the University of Gothenburg and sponsored by Sida and the Swedish Research Council. 400 participants from a number of different countries and organisations gathered in 60 panels and side events.
EBA participated and served as a bridge between the different worlds of research, evaluation and policy-making.
EBA organized a seminar on the role of research in evaluating and understanding development cooperation in a changing world. The panel brought together people from different backgrounds, both academic researchers and experts from the world of policy making.
Many important aspects were illuminated, such as how to more concretely integrate research in evaluation processes, and how to allow for evaluations to have a more long-term perspective, including risks and indirect effects.
Also, what research brings is theoretical, conceptual and methodological stringency and clarity as well as critical and problematizing reflections. Those aspects need to be appreciated, despite the need for shorter time processes and clear policy recommendations from the point of view of policy makers and officials.
Evaluations are conducted by a number of different actors and organizations, not all the time in consensus or agreement.
Panelists agreed that the system of evaluations is not something neutral, but part of the political economy of development.
Perhaps there is a need for research on evaluations as such? Other burning issues brought forward related for example to how we can learn to navigate in crisis and humanitarian emergencies and how to learn from them.
All agreed on the need for fora bringing together researchers, evaluators, policy makers and practitioners in order to bridge scarcity of time and differences in perspectives and work culture.
In fact, EBA is such a platform.