Friday, 20 December 2013

An Extraordinary event - IDS' tribute to Nelson Mandela

By Melissa Leach  

On 11 December a tribute to Nelson Mandela was co-hosted by IDS and the University of Sussex. This turned out to be an extraordinary event.

The inspiration of one of our students, Noloyiso Tsembeyi, the lecture was extraordinary partly because it was put together in less than two days, yet managed to garner the deeply-thought reflections of some very key and very busy people. It was also extraordinary because amidst the hectic busy-ness of the last pre-Christmas weeks, it made a space in which the bigger, longer-term picture of what we do at IDS and Sussex suddenly became vividly clear.  

As incoming Director of IDS, Noloyiso asked me to host this event. What initially felt like a duty – albeit a vital one – rapidly became a huge pleasure. And a poignant one, reinforcing to me why I feel so privileged and excited to be about to lead this very special Institute at this very special university. 

The short talks recorded here contribute to the vast mass of tributes around the world that reveal Nelson Mandela as a moral giant; an extraordinary man and a very special kind of leader. But they also reveal the particular entanglements of Mandela’s life and legacy, vision and values with IDS and Sussex. The transformations that Mandela inspired, led and came to symbolise in overturning apartheid’s epitome of evil have not been equalled in our lifetimes and have come to stand, in important ways, for struggle against extreme injustice everywhere. 

Those who came together last Wednesday were reminded anew of the close connections between such values, and the radicalism, justice-orientation and internationalism inscribed in our institutions here, past, present and future. And we also unearthed little-appreciated details of the people and relationships involved in those connections. It is not for nothing that on Sussex campus here we have Mandela Hall and a set of Mandela scholarships for South African students. 

Speakers talked eloquently and personally of the different eras in which South African life and politics, IDS, and Sussex, have been inscribed in each other.  

Raphie Kaplinsky, who came to Sussex from South Africa in the 1960s as a political refugee and student in the 1960s and was one of IDS’s most distinguished Fellows until 2006, tracks through these different eras very clearly. The first encompasses the close and direct  support for the anti-apartheid struggle from Sussex, as part of the early days of its radical activist traditions.  

As Dorothy Sheridan, now emeritus professor of History but then a founder member of the Sussex student anti-apartheid movement describes, this extended to marches, sit-downs, demos and the purchase of a vehicle for the ANC.  Subsequently, many ANC leaders and spokespeople, including of course eventual president Thabo Mbeki, were trained at IDS and Sussex; a tradition that continued post-apartheid, interlinked with highly influential policy advice to the new South African government. Indeed at times, much of the cast of characters and sectors involved with running the country drew, in one way or another, on Sussex connections.  
As Richard Jolly’s talk also makes clear, research in South Africa itself as well as in neighbouring countries, feeling the fall-out from the regime over its borders, were part and parcel of these engagements. Researchers in IDS and in the then School of African and Asian Studies addressed questions of poverty and livelihoods, trade and industry, politics and governance in ways that shaped both policy agendas and made key intellectual marks. 

This photograph, taken in 1991 of former IDS Director Mike Faber with Nelson Mandela both illustrates and underlines such connections. The photograph was taken during a trip to Johannesburg by Mike Faber and visiting fellow Roland Brown.

The talks by JoAnn MacGregor and Marcus Williams bring us up to the present. 

JoAnn, a professor in geography and Director of the forthcoming Sussex Africa Centre, reminds us of Mandela’s commitment to revolution – economic as well as political and social. This is a spirit still inscribed in the orientation of Sussex- based work on Africa, now in interaction with far greater networks of scholars and students in the country and region. Indeed, a justice focus cuts through current IDS-based research with South African sites and partners, whether around questions of land and livelihoods, commodities and conflicts, gender and identity, or HIV, health and disease. 

Mandela’s legacy is there, albeit sometimes implicitly, and deeply intersected by the complexities, contradictions and new inequalities of today’s South Africa. Marcus Williams, speaking from the University’s International Partnerships office, links Sussex’s past connections with South Africa and Mandela’s leadership to the university’s aspirations to develop an enriched set of international partnerships focused on regional centres; plans to which IDS’s fantastic partnership networks surely have much to contribute.

So what of the future? 

Perhaps the most inspiring contributions at this event came from the students -  Noloyiso and her heart-warming closing speech; the Nelson Mandela scholarship holder Khayalethu Tshiki, who spoke brilliantly of how Mandela’s example – a humble rural boy who rose to change the world – motivated his personal journey; and the many who talked from the floor of the insight, commitment and hope they drew from Madiba’s leadership. 

This is the generation that will shape future struggles for justice – in South Africa, the wider region and the world. IDS and Sussex are privileged to welcome such students here, and may we continue to attract, nurture and inspire them, heart and mind. 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A good mix of stakeholders and a spirit of inclusivity? How the first post-2015 Geneva Dialogue left me buzzing

Friday 29 November 2013, Palais des Nations, Room XXVI, 10:00 am in Geneva 

I walk into an already bustling room mostly filled with Ambassadors and other diplomats standing or seating behind their country’s name plates and enjoying a chat before the session starts. 

I immediately spot her.

Amina J. Mohammed, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning. I also recognise Arancha Gonzalez, the new head of ITC. These are two of the women that I admire the most in the multilateral system. They are in conversation with other speakers gathered around the small perimeter near the podium. 

Stephen Hale of Oxfam International is also there, as are high level representatives of the WTO, of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and a lady CEO of a Panama-based food company. They will soon be joined by Guy Rider, the ILO’s  Director General. They are gathered here today upon the invitation of Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, the new Secretary General of UNCTAD

I stand there for a moment looking at the scene and taking it all in. I love get-togethers, even if only as an observer. I walk towards colleagues already seated at the edges of the room, where we, (civil) servants ordinarily sit. We exchange a few words of greetings and soon the meeting starts.

Dr Kituyi’s warm voice reminds the audience of the purpose of the meeting, the first Geneva dialogue on the Post-2015 development agenda. He wants personal opinions, an atmosphere of dialogue, no country or regional positions, he says. The latter, he advises, can be taken to the Open Working Party in New York. He stresses from the outset that in contributing to shaping “the critical narrative that will shape development for the next twenty years”, the Geneva dialogues are meant to “give oxygen to substantial, horizontal engagement” involving trade institutions, the business community and civil society.

In the three hours that follow, most speakers from the podium and from the floor stick to his indications. Amina Mohammed speaks passionately about the need for the next development agenda to keep the emphasis on impact at the country level. “This will have to be a transformational agenda”, she hammers on. “It must make economic sense, business sense, and moral sense. It must connect people to decent livelihoods and decent jobs.” Jobs, trade, SMEs, inclusiveness of the process and real influence on final content. These are the issues that are brought to the fore.

It is 1pm. The exchanges come to an end.

I feel excited, energized and a strong sense of belonging. Though there have been other consultations on the Post-2015 development agenda in Geneva, the Dialogue is the first one of its kind. Time will tell us what its influence will be. I walk past colleagues who have worked hard on making the event a success and stop to offer some words of congratulations. Back to my office, I pick up the draft I was working on, stare back at my computer, but cannot help pondering about the power of multistakeholder gatherings.

The room was full and stayed full all of that morning because that is what a good mix of governments, businesses and civil society do to meetings. Plus, they make them livelier. I have had the privilege to be part of teams in which we strive to make such mixes a cornerstone of all engagements at country, regional and international levels. We use a needs-based approach to allow everyone involved at every level feel ownership of our work. 

It is this spirit of inclusiveness that creates the buzz, the excitement, and ultimately, the momentum that we help generate when advocating for policy change for Sustainable Development, with a big D.

Everything I say in my occasional blog posts and comments is in a personal capacity. You can follow me on Twitter at @milasoa

Monday, 9 December 2013

IDS Alumni Come Together!

A post by Susan Fleck IDS Alumni Ambassador for USA.

Thank you so much to all of you who responded to the IDS Alumni Survey from this past September; it received 141 responses from 60 different countries.  The results provide a fascinating insight into our diverse group’s interests and motivations. Perhaps not surprisingly it shows that many of us want to keep in contact with old friends. Meanwhile, a large proportion of us engage with IDS social media and blogs - a type of active engagement with the Institute that simply did not exist just a few years ago. However, despite staying abreast of the news, views and research coming out of IDS it seems few of us have had the time to commit to more substantial interactions.

The snapshot these results provide is being fed into a new alumni strategy that it is hoped will strengthen and broaden 1) the Alumni Association, 2) Alumni-IDS interactions and 3) IDS’ vision of a world without poverty.

IDS builds thinking professionals who are driven by passion to make a difference in the lives of the poor. Outgoing Director Lawrence Haddad asked the alumni working group to support the development of a strategy that combines the time, treasures, and talents of IDS as an institution and of the 3,000 IDS graduates working around the world to everyone’s mutual benefit. The alumni survey was our starting point.

Here is a snapshot of the survey results:

Who responded?
  • Not surprisingly, more recent cohorts of graduates responded – 44% of respondents graduated after 2005, and another 25% graduated during the previous ten years.
  • A third of respondents come from the UK, India, and the United States of America.  An additional 27% are from one of these six countries - Japan, Canada, Italy, Pakistan, Mexico, and Spain.  The others come from 50+ other countries. 
  • 56% of respondents were graduates of MA programs, the others graduated from DPhil and MPhil programs; the most common MAs were governance and gender.

What are we all doing?
  • Most of the respondents report working in areas related to our studies. 
  • The most common areas of development work are poverty, governance, gender, and social protection.

Where do we work?
  • Most respondents reported working in international NGOs, national governments, and academia.
  • Nearly two thirds of respondents have worked in academia, while only 10% have had a career solely as an academic.

How have we been involved in IDS since we graduated?
  • Alumni ‘occasionally or frequently’ keep in touch with their friends – ie, meeting up socially (53%) or through social media and email (60%),
  • Not many alumni ‘occasionally or frequently’ are involved in IDS teaching or research (15%), been to an IDS alumni event (23%), or visited campus (27%).

What do we want an IDS alumni association to do?
The survey asked you to rank a number of activities by importance, and to tell us whether you could support or be involved in the activities. 
  • We are willing to give of our time and talents as individuals.
  • But we look towards IDS to provide us a space for more and/or continued professional development.
  • Only a few respondents commit to supporting activities that require institutional support (ie professional development or jobs) or monetary contribution (ie the scholarship fund).
This chart below shows the results in detail; green bars of importance are ranked one to nine (most to least important), and the yellow bars of alumni support are ranked (most to least likely to be involved), and mapped by activity against the green bars. 

The top three activities alumni want IDS to do for them are:
1.      Provide opportunities for continuing professional development,
2.      Provide information about jobs and internships.
3.      Promote IDS research and events.

But the top three activities that IDS alumni could commit to getting involved in are:
1.      Develop a mentor programme.
And tied for 2nd place:
2.      Promote IDS research and events.
3.      Support research activities.

Of course a survey like this cannot answer all our questions. Why are IDS alumni able to mentor but not able to offer internships?  What did each of us think when we responded to the priority of promoting IDS research and events? Do we want to bring IDS to where we live and work, or do we want to integrate our ideas into IDS research?  What draws us intellectually to IDS?  We will need to flesh out these questions to move forward.

I cherish the memory of community, ideas and activism that I experienced at IDS – and I don’t doubt that most other alums experienced the same. It would be great if the IDS Alumni Association could provide us opportunities to reconnect and build anew. We are perpetual learners; we also have deep expertise. How can we harness the expertise of 3,000 IDS graduates with centuries of experience under our collective belts?

The survey results tell me that it is time for IDS alums to come together. In a consistent and thoughtful way. The IDS Alumni Association can be a community to reflect, to share, and to strengthen our network of dedicated and passionate leaders. As we look for systemic answers to persistent problems of poverty and insecurity the world over – whether we are working in development or another career  –  let’s take advantage of the like-minded vision we share to lead others into a better tomorrow. I’d love to hear your ideas – feel free to write me 

Tell your friends and fellow IDS alums to sign up for the IDS Alumni blog and to get in touch via the IDS Facebook page. You can also find out where your nearest Alumni ambassador is and get in touch.

Disclosure: the survey was designed by me, and fellow IDS alum Mary McKeown with support from the IDS Central Communications team and Director Lawrence Haddad.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Growth, gossip and good company: the Delhi Alumni reunion

By IDS Director Lawrence Haddad

The Delhi alumni reunion last week was a resounding success: over 60 alumni from the 1980's to 2013. They came from far and wide with some flying in, some taking 5 hour train rides, and others driving 4 hours to get to the meeting. I was joined by Anu Joshi, a Research Fellow and the new leader of the Governance team at IDS, Jaideep Gupte, a Research Fellow in the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team and Anna Shepherd our Head of Partnerships and Fundraising.  

The reunion was held shortly after the policy panel, "Economic Growth in India: For What and For Whom?" (see my Development Horizons blog), so we were still buzzing about that and were joined by two of the panelists, Santosh Mehrotra and Biraj Patnaik.  

The reunion meeting featured (very) short speeches by me on:

1.  Recent IDS work on tax, malnutrition and the new Development Goals.

2.  The recent work we have done on the building up the alumni network, with the appointment of over 30 alumni ambassadors 

3. The new graduate scholarship fund with 1 to 1 matching from IDS.  

We then had short speeches from Rajesh Tandon (IDS Trustee and President of PRIA), alum Santhosh Mathew, and alumni ambassadors Ranjani Murthy, and Shantanu Gupta. These speeches were really touching, with alumni telling us about their own journey to IDS and beyond, making the point about how important scholarships were to set them on their way. It was also wonderful to hear about how the IDS brand helps to open doors to interesting new opportunities. It was fascinating to hear about what everyone is doing, working in the Government of India, Indian universities, small Indian charities, national development banks, 3ie, ABD, UNICEF, UN WOMEN, DFID India, JPAL India, the YUVA Foundation and more. 

The 2014 election was very much on people's mind (one of the participants told me that one sign of the slowdown in government activity in advance of the election was the fact that he knew 3 government colleagues who were writing books!) There was discussion of Narendra Modi's strong showing in the Prime Ministerial polls. Modi is the Chief Minister from Gujurat. Gujurat's economic performance, at least measured in GDP/capita, has been very good over the past 5 years, driven primarily by growth and private-entrepreneurship. His economic record is hitting a nerve because many think the state driven distribution model of states such as Kerala only serve to increase the opportunities for corruption.  

In terms of IDS, the alumni had lots of good ideas about how we could create new opportunities for students via internships and how we should highlight student's IDS research assistant opportunities much more strongly in our promotional Masters material. Several of our alumni made donations to the scholarship fund-donations that will be matched by IDS. We are very grateful for their generosity and to Shantanu and Ranjani for their commitment to being Ambassadors. 

All in all a good mix of politics, gossip and networking!