24 April 2010

Who are the New Voices in Development and Why Have we not been listening? The Dochas 2010 Conference

Dochas is the membership organization for Irish NGOs working on international development--the Irish equivalent of UK’s BOND.

They kindly invited me to give a keynote talk at their 2010 Annual Conference, chaired by Sarah Carey of the Irish Times. The theme was “New Voices”.

My presentation stressed the need to listen to the voices less heard in development: the G20, business, security forces, and most importantly, citizens in the developing world. I talked about the importance of forming new alliances with these players and generating knowledge together. In this way we can contextualize global knowledge for local use and diversify the global knowledge pool, making it more stable and useful and actionable.

Other voices were discussed: the boom in PDIs—private development initiatives (often MoNGOs—“my own NGO”) which are very small—about 20k-50k pounds. There are thousands in Ireland, mostly based in Ireland. Issues about regulation, sustainability, impact and motivations were raised and discussed. Definitely tapping into the citizen to citizen.

There were lots of interesting examples of how local businesses were thriving in east and west Africa (distribution of prescription drugs, microprocessor manufacturing) and a great deal of openness to this from the Dochas community (I wonder how this compares to BOND?).

The interesting issue is why are new voices emerging? My guess is (a) they were there all along, but we can no longer afford to ignore them (e.g. business, security services), (b) they have enhanced their capacity to articulate their views (e.g. organizations in Brazil, India, China, South Africa), and (c) technology (involving citizens in the aid donor and recipient countries in rating interventions and organizations.)

Keep your ears open for them…

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