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Development Futures: Alternative pathways to end poverty

The Institute for Sustainable Futures hosted the fourth ACFID University Network conference on 21 and 22 November 2013 at the University of Technology Sydney.

Speakers and delegates from academia, government, non government organisations, media and the private sector met to discuss how the aid and international development sector can tackle the scale, complexity and increasing interconnectedness of poverty and inequality with vision and future thinking at this critical juncture.

The two main themes of the conference focussed on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of approaches to end poverty.

Sam Mostyn, MarcPurcell, Juliet Willetts and Stuart White

Sam Mostyn, MarcPurcell, Juliet Willetts and Stuart White

About the conference

This conference set out to bring international debates on the future of foreign aid, development assistance and international cooperation to the context of Australian actors and partners. This is particularly important at a time when global financial constraints impact upon development budgets, increasing the imperative to be creative, innovative and responsive.

Globally, income poverty has decreased when measured by national averages (mostly due to rapid development in India, China and parts of Asia). However some 1.3 billion people still live in extreme poverty earning less than US $1.25 a day, and there are large disparities in access to education, food, health, water and sanitation, particularly in middle-income countries.

With an overwhelming concentration (around three-quarters) of the world’s poorest people in middle-income countries, some of these countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (known as the BRICS) — are now both recipients and donors.

Whilst the chronic poor still live in rural areas, major rural-urban transition is underway with growing numbers of the poor now living in cities. Concurrently, various forms of crises are facing us including rising food prices, excessive use of natural resources and the growing impacts of climate change. And as shifts occur in global powers and donors, a new context for development aid is currently being set.

The post-2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) process and related development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provided a backdrop to the conference, supporting renewed reflection and questioning of the issues at hand and how we should respond, both in terms of the next global framework and also in terms of organisational responses to this wider context.

This conference provided a space for debate and engagement on these matters.

The two main themes of the conference focussed on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of approaches to end poverty:

1. Current and emerging development priorities — reorienting notions of poverty, inequality and development

• Citizens, rights and accountability

• Development and resilience within a finite planet

• Equity and inclusion

• Ways of measuring poverty, inequality and citizenship

2. Re-configuring actions and approaches: innovating in ‘how’ 

• Rethinking roles and contributions

• New partnerships and cross-sectoral collaboration

• Business for development

• Harnessing technology for development

• Preparing the next generation

Panel discussion at Development Futures conference

Plenary Speakers

Uma Kothari: Professor of Migration and Postcolonial Studies in the School of Environment and Development and Associate Director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute, University of Manchester. Watch Uma Kothari talk about the future of development at the Fourth ACFID University Network Conference.

Enrique Mendizabal: founder of onthinktanks.org, one of the leading sources of information, analysis, and opinion relating to think tanks. WATCH Enrique Mendizabal talk about why we need to call it 'policy' – not 'development policy'

Jim Woodhill:  Principal Sector Specialist for Food Security and Rural Development at AusAID.

Professor Sohail Inayatullah: political scientist/futurist at Tamkang University, Taiwan and at Macquarie University, Sydney and an associate with Mt Eliza Executive Education. WATCH Prof. Inayatullah give a summary of his presentation on futures thinking and strategy transformation at the Development Futures Conference.

Professor Dave Griggs: Director of the Monash Sustainability Institute (MSI) which aims to deliver solutions to key sustainability challenges. WATCH Dave Griggs give a summary of his presentation about sustainable development goals at the Development Futures Conference.

Sarah Cook: Director of the United Nations Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), an autonomous research institute within the UN system with a research agenda that focuses on the widely neglected social dimensions of development. WATCH Sarah Cook of UNRISD give a summary of her presentation at the Development Futures Conference.

Andrew Rogerson: an ODI Senior Research Associate who was formerly a Senior Research Fellow in Centre for Aid and Public Expenditure (2003-06). 

Marc Purcell and Juliet Willetts

Conference program

Development Futures Conferrence Program (7MB PDF)

Papers and case studies

Development Bulletin, Issue 76 August 2014 published by the ANU included papers and case studies from the conference. (2.6MB pdf).

Sam Mostyn, Vicki Sara, Juliet Willetts and Marc Purcell

Sam Mostyn, Vicki Sara, Juliet Willetts and Marc Purcell

Social media 

View the social media conversations about the Conference on Storify


Engendering Poverty Measurement by Anastasia Prikhodko

Business and Development Session by Nick Whigham

Alternative pathways for women and children by Anastasia Prikhodko

Partnership and cross-sectoral collaboration session by Nick Whigham

The silenced voices by Anastasia Prikhodko

Vicki Sara developing introduction to Development Futures conference

Side Events

A program of side events were organised for networking and collaboration during the week of the conference.

Care matters: Why development policy should take care more seriously 
Monday 18 November 2013  
While not all unpaid work is ‘care’ and not all ‘care work’ is unpaid, inadequate attention has been given to care work (paid or unpaid) as a policy issue, and in particular as a development issue.  At this seminar Dr Sarah Cook reported on key findings from UNRISD research on the social and political economy of care in the development context.  This seminar was presented by the Children’s Policy Centre, and the Social Policy Institute at Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University, in partnership with International Women’s Development Agency.

One Just World Forum - Equality: The linchpin of successful development?
Tuesday 12 November
Inequality has plagued global society for centuries. It can be argued that one of the most profound and damaging consequences of inequality is economic instability, and the political and social instability that often accompany it.. This forum focused on the contributors to inequality; the obstacles faced when trying to achieve equality and the strategies to support a more equitable world.

ODI Development Progress Workshop: A Look at Development Progress: Measuring progress against the MDGs
Wednesday 20 November 2013
What constitutes progress?  Which dimensions of poverty and inequality need to be prioritised looking forwards? Are they all quantifiable, and how do we measure the ‘intangibles’? These are just some of the questions surrounding the ODI Development Progress project that informed discussions for a small workshop with Amanda Lenhardt, Research Officer for the ODI Development Progress. 

The Future of Development: Challenges, Changes and Your Choices
Tuesday 19 November 2013
This event explored current and future trends in international development and the challenges and opportunities they create for (young) people entering the sector. Panellists included Development Futures keynote speakers: Uma Kothari, Enrique Mendizabal and Sarah Cook, This event was hosted by United Nations Association of Australia Young Professionals Network in association with the University of Technology Sydney’s Beyond UTS International Leadership Development Program (UTS:BUiLD). 

Sydney Development Circle Annual Networking Extravaganza
Wednesday 20 November 
SDC’s annual networking event celebrated achievements of the development sector. Featuring world music and dance, tasty nibbles, lucky draw prizes and a mini bazaar, this event was the welcome event for the Development Futures Conference.

Rethinking Empowerment of Widows in SE Asia and the Pacific
Friday 22 November 
An event in the lead up to the 2013 16 days campaign, which is a global campaign against gender violence. The event featured speakers, a ballet, and the screening of a documentary on the journey of widowhood in Nepal.  The event was hosted by UTS: Cosmopolitan Civil Societies (UTS: CCS) and Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF).

What future for the Melbourne based international development practitioner?
Tuesday 3 November 2013
A conversation about the future of international development work by Melbourne-based practitioners. especially in the NGO and public health sectors,

Previous conferences

The ACFID University Network Conferences have become anticipated events in the Australian aid and development sector.

Previous successful ACFID University Network conferences have included:

2009 – La Trobe University
Meeting the Millennium Development Goals: Old Problems, New Challenges

2011 – Deakin University
An Australian Approach to Development? People, Practice and Policy

2012 – Australian National University
Challenges of Participatory Development in Contemporary Development Practice

Sam Mostyn presenting at Development Futures conference

Links and resources

ACFID University Network

Australian National University Development Policy Centre Blog

Big Push Forward

From Poverty to Power

On Think Tanks

Overseas Development Institute (ODI) information on the post-2015 context and process

UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals

UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network

Futures thinking resources and tools

Metafuture — Educational think tank on alternative and preferred futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them

The futures triangle — descriptive post on Chris Riedy’s blog

Backcasting — a very simple and short description of backcasting

Scenario planning — this article from Wired is a good introduction to scenario planning. For those who want a bit more, see the video and supporting document (PDF, 115KB) by Oliver Freeman

Causal layered analysis — an accessible introduction to causal layered analysis is difficult, since it’s quite a complicated method, but the Wikipedia entry is a good attempt.