Centre for Global Development


CGD Summer School 2016 – A Week of Sun, Socialising and SDG Solutions

The feelings and basis of the Summer School was a meeting of people from all over the world, with valuable views born out of their experiences from their countries. This collaboration of minds was fantastically fresh for me, and I will carry this experience throughout the rest of my education in Leeds…

Luke Humphrey blogs about this year’s CGD summer school

The summer sun shone around Leeds especially for the students of the 2016 Centre for Global Development EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes) Summer School. Chock full of distinguish and specialised academics from across the world giving lectures and workshops on a smorgasbord of eye-catching development subjects ranging from Climate Change to Development Journalism.

summer_school_2016_LukeAs a second year International Development student at the University of Leeds, many subjects over the week were second nature, but what was not familiar was the bottomless amount of knowledge, depth and insight provided by both seasoned lecturers and a diverse and engaged group of students. What was most enlightening in fact was the discussions and debates from the students coming from four different continents across the world altogether for the school. A scorching hot Monday set the scene for a double dose of development talks. Firstly from Professor Cuz Potter and Jinhee Park, an intriguing and informative tale of city transformation, rural to urban, green pastures to dense city high rises. Cuz and Jinhee pulled in their extensive knowledge of South Korea. What becomes immediately apparent is how interconnected development is with so many other fields of study, from Architecture & City Planning to Engineering and Construction, development is at the heart of what we are studying, but it stretches out so much further when applied to real life projects and transformation of societies in the developing world. Not only does this huge spectrum of study find its way into the lectures, but also it shines through the wide variety of student’s backgrounds. Engineers, Geographers and Historians alike gather to study a constantly growing field full of potential. What cannot be stressed enough is the limitless amount of different experiences and background from the participants which greatly enriched every debate and discussion during the summer school.

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Pretty Political – mixing Art and Politics

Blog post by Jorine Beck

As a University of Leeds alumni I am pleased to be able to share some thoughts on the relationship between academics, global inequality, art and the general public with you. Under the name ‘PrettyPolitical’ I make political art and studying at the University of Leeds inspired me a lot to build my ideas further.

the blame gameIn Leeds I studied the MA course ‘Theatre and Global Development’ at the School of English and POLIS. Before attending the Masters, I had worked in the arts and mental health care. Having always had an interest in global politics and discourses around inequality and human rights, I was eager to apply my knowledge about processes of change in the arts in a more political manner. I now organise and manage arts projects around peace and social justice, and create political art.

In the ‘Esscher Series’ I re-created the famous ongoing structures by Dutch artist M.C. Esscher in the context of inter-religious violence, military intervention, global dependence on oil and bankers during the financial crisis (on permanent display in the POLIS building). The symbolism in well-known fairytales formed the basis for the series ‘Political Fairytales’, in which The Wolf and the Three Pigs, The Golden Goose and Hansel and Gretel exposed controversies in the contemporary society.

What I love about Esscher’s work is that he creates all sort of dynamic structures, which challenge perceptions of movement and identity. In his work ‘Day and Night’ (1938), plots of rural land turn into black and white birds that fly in different directions. In my piece ‘The Blame Game‘ pictured above, I use this idea to explore ongoing violence and hate on the global scale: one (seemingly) insulated event, represented by the drop of blood, can lead to different groups blaming each other, and escalating violence. I think my piece still resonates with the original atmosphere  Esscher’s work breaths, depicting division so closely before the start of WW2.

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Challenges of fieldwork in Northern Nigeria

Plangsat ’s presentation was voted “most innovative methods” at the RiDNet conference at the University of Leeds last November. Here she presents some of the challenges faced during fieldwork in Northern Nigeria for the CGD blog.

My Personal Encounter Conducting Fieldwork in Northern Nigeria: The Encounters, Challenges and How to overcome them

Plangsat B. Dayil (PhD): Department of Political Science, University of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. Email: plangsat4sure@yahoo.com

Nigeria since independence has produced a catalogue of religious, ethnic and communal conflicts that Plangsatresulted in an estimated loss of over 3 million lives and unquantifiable psychological and material damages” (Salawu, 2010:345). The return of Nigeria to civilian rule in 1999 onwards, has contributed to the emergence of ethnic and religious competition in the struggle for political and economic power and representation. In Northern Nigeria and particularly North Central zone of Nigeria, conflicts erupted and often took the form of ethnic or religious garb and in most cases a combination of both.

My research analyses the everyday difficulties and forms of exclusion women face as a result of the recent ethnic and religious conflicts in North Central part of Nigeria. My study analyses the impact of conflict on different aspects of the lives of Nigerian women by looking at four areas; inter-marriage, markets, politics and the public sector. Due to ongoing conflict, ethnic and religious boundaries have become hardened. The growing importance of group boundaries means that women’s life choices, such as marriage, are increasingly subject to public comment and criticism. Due to these attitudes and societal norms, women are more likely to be excluded from taking part in research unless the researcher is willing to adjust the recruitment procedure, appointment timings and interview venues. I encountered numerous challenges and made several adjustments in the field to ensure that I get the best of my respondents.


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Working with Research Assistants in the Field

RiDNet (Researchers in Development Network) Brown Bag lunch!

Last month RiDNet ran a training session for development researchers working with research assistants during field work. The session was part of the RiDNet Brown Bag series and was the first of 2016.

Dr Pete Steward, and PhD researchers Jo Clarke and Caroline Ward talked about their experiences of working with assistants in the field in Kenya & Malawi, Cameroon, and Madagascar. This seminar was attended mainly by first year PhD students working in developing country contexts, who will be carrying out fieldwork this summer.

First of all, the importance of research assistants to the researcher’s field experience was emphasised. All of the speakers recounted the invaluable support they had received from good research assistants.

The research assistant’s role is different to a translator, even though they may provide translation – it is so much more. RAs can help the researcher to understand local context and culture, provide practical support, conduct interviews and focus groups, facilitate workshops, take notes, help with organisational tasks, planning, reflection…. RiDNet01

A good research assistant is invaluable and integral to the research process!

So, this begs the questions – what is a GOOD research assistant and how does one find such a person?

Finding a research assistant

Here, networking is important. Contact local NGOs, University departments, research institutes and ask to be introduced to a potential RA, or see if they can recommend someone. Talk to other researchers who have returned from field work in your area to see if they have any recommendations too.

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International Development in Parliament – a hopeless fight or helping our voices to be heard?

Luke Humphrey blogs about the ‘International Development in Parliament’ workshop which took place at the University of Leeds earlier this month.

Development has always sat uncomfortably in the foreground of parliament and government budgeting. Does it deserve its own department and budget? Or does it fit into other departments like foreign affairs which has been done recently in Canada? What difference does are spending make? How can we make a difference ourselves? And of course there is always the age old question of how much we should be putting into our aid budget. Is it enough, is it too much? Is it being spent effectively? I hoped these questions would be answered on the 2nd March at the ‘International Development in Parliament’ workshop at Leeds University hosted by Lynn Hobson – Regional Outreach Officer for Parliament in Yorkshire & Humber.

The talk was incredibly helpful and insightful, providing information on how parliament works and how to influence debates and raise awareness of campaigns and issues through various parliamentary systems. However the workshop left me with a bittersweet taste, we now know how to influence parliamentary procedure… but does it really make a difference. I have always firmly believed that if I could influence change for the better in governments whether it being one of many signatures on a petition or a face amongst thousands in protests then it was my duty to do so. But the disheartening fact is that parliament almost always replies to these outcries with the same unwavering conviction that outraged people enough to march and voice their opinions. It’s a worryingly similar story in parliamentary questions, public bill committees and in pressure groups across parliament. It’s this cynicism that worries me the most, because frankly the reality is you could spend decades petitioning, protesting, sitting in committees, sending emails and supporting fringe groups just to have your voice heard enough to amend a sliver of a government bill. So how does this translate into International Development?

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Sports Policy in Cameroon: a PhD student’s perspective

University of Leeds RiDNet (Researchers in Development Network) member and Leeds Trinity University PhD student Jo Clarke had her first journal article published in the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics. Titled Sport Policy in Cameroon, the article draws on Jo’s PhD which critically explores Sport for Development in Cameroon.

Jo recently returned from a fieldwork trip to Cameroon, during which she collected data for her PhD. She tells us more about her Cameroon experiences, her research, and how the process of getting her first peer-reviewed article published. 

Sport is a major part of my life. I have spent years watching it, playing it and coaching it, and now I am researching aspects of it. As a PhD student at Leeds Trinity, I am interested in researching sport and specifically how it is used within an international development setting. As part of my ongoing PhD research, I have recently spent six weeks in Cameroon, West Africa, where I collected a significant amount of data via interviews, participant observations and a participatory visual technique called stakeholder mapping. Jo Clarke, Cameroon 2

When I returned home to Leeds this time, as with all of my previous trips to Africa, people often ask me “how was it? how was Cameroon?” Which, to be honest, I find an incredibly hard question to summarise in a short response. I usually reply with something like “incredible, challenging, hair raising at times but worth it!”.

Behind that short reply is a much bigger story of what happened and how I felt, reacted and coped with various fieldwork situations, which I hope to reflect on in my final thesis. As a westerner travelling to Cameroon, there is inevitably a period of adjusting to the local context and the way of life which for me includes the food, changeable weather, road conditions, and attitude towards women and foreigners, to name just a few. There are also language barriers, as Cameroon is both French and English speaking. But for me, what always stays in my mind, months and years after each visit to Cameroon, are the people who I meet and get to know – professionally, and sometimes socially.


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Insight into a Washington D.C International Development internship

Thinking of applying for a Development related Internship? Second year International Development and Italian student Ludwig Ahlqvist blogs about his experience of working as an intern in a Washington D.C based NGO ‘Free The Slaves’

I did a two months internship this summer (2015) at a Washington, D.C. based NGO called Free the Slaves (FTS). I became interested in FTS since during the first year module Making of the modern world; where we were introduced to the topic of ‘Modern Day Slavery’ and to NGOs working on this issue. FTS is one of the NGOs working to end slavery and I began to research more about their work. I found out that they work through a “Community Based Model”, which means that they are not rescuing slaves directly, but instead are working with local communities who know the area where they operate better. This approach is a bottom-up approach and one that I am interested in. In the past I have been working with young people in Sweden about cultural diversity and openness in society through youth exchanges in Europe and the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region. During these youth exchanges the young people learn about different cultures and people through interaction with each other. It is a very simple method but I have seen an amazing change in the behaviour of young people through this approach. I think this is approach is similar to the one used by FTS. FTS staff work with the affected communities themselves to address the problems of slavery, rather than bringing in their own solutions.


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WOMID: a new mentoring scheme for women working in international development

WOMID is a new global mentoring initiative for women working in international development, facilitating mentorship between early career academics and practitioners. Alex Dorgan and Beth Harrison, who co-founded WOMID based on their own experiences of doing PhDs, explain what WOMID is all about and how you can get involved.

This blog first appeared on the LSE Impact Blog


Women Mentoring in International Development (WOMID) is a new initiative for women (including all those who identify as women) which facilitates mentorship between early career academics and practitioners working in the international development space across the globe.

The idea is to:

  1. Support early career female academics – especially PhD and post-doctoral researchers – who want to move towards more practical and applied development work whether in academia or outside;
  2. Facilitate knowledge exchange on current practice in the field and front-line research as well as sharing life experiences of working in the international development sector;
  3. Contribute to the bridging between research, policy and practice, including potential collaboration; and
  4. Build a network of women in international development, facilitate a learning hub, and use these as a platform to provide support for members.

As of September, WOMID has had registrations from over 70 mentees and over 40 mentors across almost 30 countries including from institutions such as IIED, Womankind Worldwide, Oxfam, CAFOD, Save the Children, the National Centre for Technology Management (Nigeria), University of Colombo (Sri Lanka), Utrecht University (the Netherlands), and Stellenbosh University (South Africa) to name just a selection.


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“Global Development as Relationship: Dependence, Interdependence or Divide?” Reflections on the DSA conference

Reflections on this year’s DSA conference

blog post by Lata Narayanaswamy, Kate Gooding and Anne Tallontire

Three CGD members took part in this year’s Development Studies Association Conference “Global Development as Relationship: Dependence, Interdependence or Divide?” which took place 7th and 8th September at the University of Bath.

Here they share some of their reflections on the conference, which explored as its theme the forms of relationship that are valued, enacted and denied through current processes of international development. Click here for conference blurb.

Dr Lata Narayanaswamy, POLIS

“I am a member of the NGOs in Development Study Group of the DSA. What was extraordinary about the conference, which may be unique in many ways for an academic conference, is how many practitioners were in attendance. These were people working in development-oriented roles as part of both the private and third sectors. Bringing together this diverse set of stakeholders raised urgent questions for all of us committed to broad goals of human development and social justice. Discussions centered around the practical challenges development practitioners face when attempting to tap into academic research. Despite in many instances being former academics themselves, they shared the real uphill battle of having donors recognise the value of research. This challenge is further exacerbated by the reality of their day-to-day operations, which are circumscribed by narrow measures of effectiveness, managerialism, results-based management and payment-by-results frameworks. At the same time, academics were equally keen for their own research to support the work of development practitioners, whilst still maintaining their independence to engage in critical scholarship that challenges the very mainstream development frameworks and orthodoxies that so often constrain practice. One theme that emerged forcefully in these discussions – common across practitioners and academics – was how to address inequality and power imbalances. How do we engage in development research and practice that is inclusive of marginalised voices, concerns and innovations? Central to these questions is the tension around whose knowledge counts, a question that could be usefully unpacked, I think, given the rise of BRICS, South-South cooperation and changing aid modalities, as the world embraces the challenge of implementing the SDGs.” Continue reading

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Well-intentioned Chaos: Britain’s #RefugeeResponse thus far…

Blog post by Hannah Leach which first appeared on the Practical Initiatives Network blog

“The world is witnessing its worst refugee crisis since WWII.

Hard to ignore, right? And despite waves of videos, cartoons and memes portraying refugee-kicking journalists, fascist border police retaliations and “undercover” ISIS recruits sneaking into the country under the guise of “migrant”, the response of much of the British public has been nothing short of overwhelming. [The Refugees Welcome] demonstration of tens of thousands in Britain’s capital, demanding safe channels and open border policies, is a testament to this growing frustration at the Tories’ pitiful response to the crisis thus far. A response that has, no less, forced relief responsibilities to fall to the general public to rectify through grassroots community response and international aid coordination.

But as people so generously scurry to empty their pockets, airing cupboards and future garage sale stockpiles, there has been a worry rise in “rogue humanitarianism”, or “aid tourists” i.e. well-intentioned citizens with little experience of large-scale humanitarian aid operations who, instead of conducting a bit of background research on pre-established delivery channels, decide to take matters into their own hands.

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