6th Annual Research in Development Network (RiDNet) Conference: a summary

The 6th Annual RiDNet conference kicked off with a welcome note from the co-director of the Leeds Centre for Global Development (CGD), Prof Caroline Dyer. This was followed by an excellent talk from Dr Tony Bromley of Organisational Development and Professional Learning (OD&PL) on ‘how to make the most out of your conference’. Dr Bromley asked all attendees to write down an email address, and three key words describing each person’s research interests on a post-it note. The notes were then stuck to the ‘networking wall’ at the back of the room, where participants could browse and network throughout the event!

Dr Bromley’s talk was followed by the first keynote address from Prof Barbara Evans, co-director of CGD, who discussed the challenges of urban sanitation. Prof Evans highlighted the importance of PGR conferences (such as this), that foster interdisciplinary collaboration and learning. Prof Evans’s talk was followed by:

Panel 1: ‘Measuring and Evaluating Development’, chaired by Dr Polly Wilding. Three speakers (Lena Jeha, Bianca Van Bavel and Atsiya Amos) introduced their work, and responded to questions from the audience. Panel 1 was followed by a fascinating keynote talk from Hilary Williams, Evidence and Learning Manager at World Vision UK. Hilary outlined the methods used to monitor and evaluate projects, disseminate and communicate findings, including participatory focus-group discussions, ‘story telling’ and visual, web-based platforms (e.g. START Network).

Panel 2: Chaired by Rachel Palfrey, kicked off after lunch, with talks from Chris Blois-Brooke, Brendan Lawson and Elle Seaver on ‘Reporting and Documenting Development’.

Panel 3: ‘Linking Academia and Practice’, chaired by Thirze Hermans. The session included talks from Ameena Al Rasheed, Lucy Atkinson, Xaman Minillo and Niki Sole.

This last panel linked well to the roundtable discussion on ‘Careers in Development Practice’, chaired by Dr Sally Cawood, with insights from Hilary Williams (World Vision UK), Jill Healey (Child Hope UK), Chris Blois-Brooke (The Community Performance Network) and Elle Seaver (The Seaver Foundation). The panellists discussed their journeys into development practice, and advice they would give early career researchers and practitioners, including:

  • gaining as much experience in different roles as possible (especially within large organisations);
  • understanding the language of big donors (e.g. DFID);
  • having an ability to meet targets and manage budgets effectively;
  • having ‘lived experience’ of development practice; and, crucially
  • a passion for the work.

The final session consisted of an excellent talk from Dr Nilam Ashra-McGrath on ‘A PhD Rollercoaster’. Dr Ashra-McGrath talked about her ups and downs during the PhD process, and gave some important advice to PhD researchers in the audience.

The conference then concluded with final remarks and thanks from Prof Evans, who handed out the prize for ‘best received speaker’, given (upon voting) to Brendan Lawson (pictured above). This was followed by a wine reception and more networking!