Simukai Chigudu wins Audrey Richards Prize for best African Studies doctoral thesis

Submitted by jo on Mon, 2018-09-17 15:21

Simukai completed his DPhil, which explored the politics of Zimbabwe’s 2008/09 cholera outbreak, at ODID in 2017. He is now Associate Professor of African Politics at the department.

The prize is awarded by the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK) and was announced at the biennial conference in Birmingham this month.

Dr Audrey Richards, CBE, (1899–1984) was a pioneering British social anthropologist who worked mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, notably Zambia, South Africa and Uganda. She held lectureships and directorships at LSE, Witwatersrand, Makerere, and Cambridge. She was the Second President of ASAUK. 

Find out more.

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Congratulations to Simukai Chigudu, who has won the 2018 Audrey Richards Prize, awarded biennially for the best doctoral thesis in African Studies successfully examined in a British institution of higher education.

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Political Change, Conflict and the Environment

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Joevas Asare - Study

Submitted by jo on Mon, 2018-09-03 12:36

The MSc provided me with the technical skills and professional confidence to contribute within international development, plus a network of colleagues from diverse backgrounds dedicated to improving the lives of people around the world.

Joevas Asare, ODI Fellow, Economic Adviser to the Zanzibar Planning Commission, graduated 2015

Sigfried RJ Eisenmeier and Rocco Zizzamia win 2018 MPhil prizes

Submitted by jo on Thu, 2018-08-23 14:11

Sigfried RJ Eisenmeier of Somerville College won the Eugene Havas Memorial Prize for Best Overall Performance.

Rocco Zizzamia of St Anne’s College won the Papiya Ghosh Thesis Prize.

In his MPhil thesis, Sigfried analysed the labour conditions of Uber drivers in the specific political-economic context of Mexico City.

His research shows that Uber’s impact is a contradictory one. Some dimensions of the drivers' labour conditions are affected positively, such as the drivers' flexibility and safety. Others, however, are negatively affected, including the drivers' social security and their ability to build unions. Furthermore, the study highlights that Uber’s effect on the drivers is crucially shaped by the political-economic context of Mexico City.

Sigfried is currently authoring a report on the impact of on-demand ridesharing in the global South for the Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development at the Blavatnik School of Government of the University of Oxford. Thereafter, Sigfried is looking forward to gaining further professional experience in the area of international development, social protection and urban transportation in Mexico.

Rocco's thesis explores the effects that volatility in the South African labour market has on individual well-being, specifically focusing on those (paradoxical) cases in which disadvantaged workers turn down or quit wage jobs.

Rocco's research focuses on understanding what these cases reveal about the hidden ‘costs’ to wage employment in South Africa. He does this by combining longitudinal quantitative data with an in-depth qualitative case study of a black township on the outskirts of Cape Town. He finds that the disincentives to employment are considerable, and include high transportation costs (time and money), low wages, as well as a host of social and psychological burdens which come with low-skill employment.

A key conclusion is that workers who can afford to (in the sense that they have alternative livelihood options) may in fact turn down or quit wage work as a welfare maximising choice. This finding prompts a closer interrogation of the prevailing orthodoxy that sees employment creation as the main solution to poverty among the non-employed. 

His thesis has been published as a working paper by the Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town. Read it here.

Rocco is now working as a Research Officer at SALDRU, where he will be contributing towards the newly established African Centre for Excellence in Inequality Research. Between October and December he will be based at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg, where he will be working on a joint project between GIGA and SALDRU. In October 2019 he is hoping to return to ODID for his DPhil.

Find out more about the MPhil in Development Studies.

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Congratulations to Sigfried RJ Eisenmeier and Rocco Zizzamia, who have won the 2018 prizes for their performance in the MPhil in Development Studies.

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New RSC report compares self-reliance and aid models in two Kenya refugee settlements

Submitted by jo on Mon, 2018-08-20 14:08

The report compares the socio-economic situation of recent (post-2015) South Sudanese arrivals living in the new Kalobeyei settlement (set up under a ‘self-reliance model’) to the situation of recent arrivals living in the old Kakuma camp (under an ‘aid model’).

The report examines three central questions: How can we measure self-reliance for new arrivals in both contexts? To what extent is self-reliance greater in the new Kalobeyei settlement compared with Kakuma camp? And how can self-reliance be enhanced in such a difficult environment? In addition to outlining a methodologically innovative study, the report also proposes policy recommendations.

The Kalobeyei settlement was conceived in 2015, 30 kilometres from Kakuma in Turkana County. A joint initiative of UNHCR and the regional government, its aim was to take pressure off the Kakuma camps and to transition refugee assistance from an aid-based model to a self-reliance model. It would offer opportunities for economic inclusion and greater interaction with the host community.

However, the unexpected arrival of large numbers of South Sudanese refugees required a need for greater flexibility in the implementation of this model, and emergency assistance was made available. Nevertheless, Kalobeyei’s planners have retained a significant commitment to self-reliance. Given that recently arrived South Sudanese refugees have been allocated to both Kalobeyei and Kakuma, this offers a unique opportunity to compare outcomes for refugees across the two contexts.

The research is funded by the World Food Programme.

Self-Reliance in Kalobeyei? Socio-Economic Outcomes for Refugees in North-West Kenya, by Alexander Betts, Remco Geervliet, Claire MacPherson, Naohiko Omata, Cory Rodgers, and Olivier Sterck.

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The Refugee Economies programme at the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) has published a new report which compares outcomes for refugees in two settlements in Kenya which broadly follow two different approaches to assistance: a ‘self-reliance model' and an ‘aid model’.

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Migration and Refugees in a Global Context
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Refugee Studies Centre

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Meeting Minds in Oxford Alumni Weekend

Submitted by jo on Wed, 2018-08-15 10:27

11:00-12:00 - Multidimensional poverty: from research to effective global and national social policy

Speakers: Drs Usha Kanagaratnam and Ricardo Nogales, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative

If we are to tackle poverty effectively, we have to have a clear understanding of what it is. Researchers in Oxford pioneered a new approach to poverty measurement, which is now starting to transform the way many countries in the global South understand and address poverty in all its forms and dimensions.

16:00 -17:00 - Future of political Islam: developments in the Middle East post-Arab Spring

Speaker: Professor Masooda Bano, ODID

The Arab Spring brought the Islamists to the forefront but only to be soon ousted by the military or weakened due to civil war or internal strife. This talk will examine political developments across the Middle East and Gulf to explore if we are indeed witnessing the end of political Islam, as some predict, or if we are to see its strong resurgence.

Find out more at the link below,

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The department is hosting two events as part of the University's Meeting Minds alumni weekend.

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Saturday, September 15, 2018 - 11:00

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The impact of cohort studies

Submitted by jo on Mon, 2018-08-13 13:34

We’ve put these briefs together to better understand what worked in ensuring research use, and as part of our accountability approach for how we’ve used our resources. Off the back of this I’d like to do two things, first discuss some of the overarching ‘pathways to impact’ lessons; and second, to discuss what types of impact ought to be valued from a study like Young Lives.

Valuing the pathway not just the impact itself

We often get asked, ‘what is the impact of the research?’ That question shows an important assumption that research ought to lead to impact (I find that rather comforting in an era of fake news and when some in the UK at least seem to have had enough of experts…). But I think a more revealing question is ‘how did that impact come about?' The first question is about outcomes that depend on many factors (which include luck). The second question tests (and values) the processes over which researchers have control. Michael Marmott puts it well: “Scientific findings do not fall on blank minds that get made up as a result. Science engages with busy minds that have strong views about how things are and ought to be.” The key point should therefore be how researchers get the right analysis to the right place in the right ways and at the right time.

So what did we learn about these pathways?  Understanding, navigating and being able to respond to the particular challenges and opportunities that power and politics present has been critical for enabling positive change. Considering the Young Lives experience, I’ll draw out four common stories. There is much more in the case studies. We have also previously written some of this in a Picture of change.

First, robust and accessible research. Young Lives is a research study and the bedrock is the credibility of the underlying data and research. But the strength and quality of the research is not just its ‘technical’ virtues. It is also about how it adds value to existing knowledge and how it reaches a wider audience in a timely way. Young Lives has teams in each study country engaged with national debates and it has invested in briefs, papers and a broad range of innovative communication materials, including fact sheets, infographics, data visualisations and short films, with a strong focus on digital media.

Second, flexibility to policy demand. A number of our most successful examples of impact came when researchers used existing research within an identified policy window or adapted their research plans in light of policy demand. A key impact captured in the case study on violence affecting children came from an identified opportunity to contribute to a debate about corporal punishment in Peru. The design of the preschool work in Ethiopia was developed when it became clear what the Ministry of Education’s needs actually were. That involved building on the original longitudinal design to meet policy needs even where that needed different, tailored studies.

Third, working in partnership. The long-term nature of Young Lives has enabled strong partnerships with government and with other development collaborators. The trust those partnerships create is vital, and has often been used to create a shared sense of purpose (for example the creation of the Child Research and Practice Forum in Ethiopia). Close working with officials or organisations, help get research closer to the place it needs to be. Working alongside other organisations such as in the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty creates co-produced benefits from the skills, knowledge and networks each partner brings.  Long-term working has allowed an active engagement with Government research users (as is well shown by the education and school effectiveness case study), from research questions and questionnaire design through to dissemination engagement.

Fourth, measuring impact is not straightforward. Our approach is a case study one, describing the actions and process to a particular impact, and using external sources to verify (quotes and pick up of analysis elsewhere). This approach requires a careful internal logging of meetings and mentions (otherwise much gets forgotten). In the often complex and messy world of influencing policy and programmes, ‘contribution’ is often a better framing than ‘attribution’. There are also influences we cannot capture. Those who have used our research are not always in a position to say this publicly, and research may inform policy documents without ever being formally acknowledged.

Ways to understand the impact of longitudinal studies

I am often struck by how poorly defined impact actually is. Young Lives Theory of Change identifies types of impact as conceptual (shifting thinking); instrumental (responding to existing concerns); and capacity (expanding the capacity to collect and use data and evidence). Our impact case studies have examples of each. Donors usually recognise the importance of each (see for example DFID’s research uptake guidance). But, still it is often the instrumental that is most highly prized as being of immediate real world relevance. That’s not a surprise; instrumental impacts are also likely to be the most ‘provable’ and more similar to measuring the impact of programme spending on vaccinations, clean water and so on. Instrumental impacts are important but they are not the only contribution research longitudinal studies make, and I do not think that they are always the most important. How to measure how thinking changes is a fuzzy sort of a problem, however, those types of impact may have greater long-term significance at scale.

The benefit of longitudinal studies covering a broad range of topics is that large observational, forward-thinking exercises can reach places other approaches cannot. Such studies enable long-term, dynamic analysis and providing insights on questions that were not thought about when the studies were designed. Such studies should not only revolve around today’s policy concerns, as by the time studies come to fruition years later things may have moved on. For the immediate policy need, other approaches are often better (e.g. policy evaluations). Longitudinal studies can do something different.

For me, one of the most exciting stories emerging from Young Lives is of post-infancy growth recovery. The research finding required a long-term longitudinal study to find those patterns, and the question was not one that was thought of when the study was initiated. This ground-breaking finding has stimulated much debate. It has been found that (a) some children recover and falter beyond the earliest point in life (which extends the first 1000 days hypothesis); (b) that when children physically recover that recovery is linked to cognitive test score improvement. The scale of global undernutrition continues to be immense. If research can open up additional windows for intervention this could affect the lives of hundreds of millions of children for the good. Potentially, that could be a very major impact, but attributing it in a neat simple way over a narrow time window, would be next to impossible. So, without care, we are back to the concern that what cannot easily be measured is not valued.

The UK has a great history of longitudinal studies. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK's principle public funder of social science, has likened the British Cohort Studies as equivalent for the social sciences to the Large Hadron collider. These longitudinal studies provide an ‘infrastructure’ for social science investigation. The ESRC has recently commissioned an independent review of its (significant) longitudinal investments in the UK. In its response, the ESRC committed to continued support for longitudinal studies and identified the need to better understand impact. The ESRC’s Rebecca Fairburn noted that, “Somehow we need to be able to capture data on the impact of relationships and conversations, on impacts of the counterfactual, and the policies avoided as a result of social science evidence.”

That message feels familiar so with it in mind I’ll finish on five reflections on valuing and assessing the more fuzzy (but important) nature of impacts:

  1. Keep a broad view of what impact is. Narrow instrumental impact may be easier to measure but to conflate ‘impact’ with instrumental impact to current policy agendas ignores the potential for new ideas to emerge and challenge existing assumptions.

  2. Evidencing impact requires a qualitative approach. The ESRC review notes the challenge of understanding impact in the social sciences, given that influence often comes through engaging in relationships and processes. Qualitative case studies are the best way to understand this subtly.   

  3. Obtaining external verification of impact is not straightforward. Getting the right external quotes and mentions for verification is not always easy. Policymakers may not be able or willing to say on the record that research has shaped their thinking (particularly when researchers from one country are part of a collaboration studying problems in another). Donors judging studies by their impact need to be realistic in their desire for evidence.

  4. Valuing the potential future contribution of research. Given that not all impact happens in a neat and time-bound way, it is helpful to establish the future potential. To make a couple of suggestions. First, it is helpful to be very clear about what couldn’t have been known before a study happened (and why it matters). Second, it may be helpful to show how many people are affected by a particular problem (or how severely) and so how many could potentially benefit from better policy (in my example above the number of children might be helped if it was possible to reverse early undernutrition at older age points). And third, it may be possible to track the development of debates (for example across social media as well as academic publishing) to show how narratives around policy debates develop and how research has contributed to this.

  5. Value the pathway, not just the impact. Finally to return to the start of this blog. To only judge the outcome is often to judge some things over which researchers do not have full control. Worse, the risk is to encourage over-claiming. A focus on ensuring researchers have thought about the pathway by which research gets to the right place at the right time is more constructive.

The Young Lives survey data is now in the public domain as a public good to support future research. The long-term impact should therefore be considerably greater than we are able to show in case studies that can be produced now. Experience from longitudinal studies suggests the most interesting analysis may emerge long after the study is complete. And with that in mind, some trust is needed that if the right pathway is in place, future positive impacts for policy and programming are likely.

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Young Lives has just published ten updated case studies, each of which demonstrates how the study has resulted in significant positive change in both policy and research for addressing childhood poverty.

Research theme: 
Human Development, Poverty and Children
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Masooda Bano, Diego Sánchez-Ancochea awarded title of Professor

Submitted by jo on Thu, 2018-08-09 10:19

Masooda Bano was named Professor of Development Studies.

Professor Bano’s primary area of interest rests in studying the role of ideas and beliefs in development processes and their evolution and change.

Diego Sánchea-Ancochea was named Professor of the Political Economy of Development.

Professor Sánchea-Ancochea specialises in the political economy of Latin America with a particular focus on Central America. His research interests centre on the determinants of income inequality and the role of social policy in reducing it.

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Congratulations to Masooda Bano and Diego Sánchez-Ancochea who have both been awarded the title of Professor in the University's annual Recognition of Distinction exercise.

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Marie Godin wins British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship

Submitted by jo on Wed, 2018-08-01 14:50

Her project is titled ‘Refugees, social protection and digital technologies in times of the “refugee crisis”’.

The so-called ‘European refugee crisis’ that has unfolded over the last few years has generated a dynamic response from a novel and diverse constellation of social actors in the European context: from humanitarian organisations, local authorities, international and local NGOs, private actors and grassroots actors, including citizens and refugees themselves. However, refugees are still studied, overwhelmingly, as recipients of aid in the design of state welfare policies.

In this regard the development of digital technologies has played a significant role in providing new opportunities for refugees while on the move but also on arrival in Western societies, especially in regard to fulfilling their social protection needs.

Marie’s project aims to explore how the development of tech-social protection initiatives led by, with or for refugees, is contributing to a reshaping of the politics of welfare at the local, national and transnational levels.

The British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowships are three-year awards made to an annual cohort of outstanding early career researchers.

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We are delighted to announce that Marie Godin, who is currently a Research Officer on the Mobile Welfare project at ODID, has won a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, to be held at the department.

Research theme: 
Migration and Refugees in a Global Context

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New book by alumna Luisa Enria: The Politics of Work in a Post-Conflict State

Submitted by jo on Wed, 2018-08-01 12:09

The book is dedicated to the memory of Raufu Mustapha, who supervised Dr Enria’s DPhil as Associate Professor of African Politics at ODID and who died in August 2017.

The book, which is published by James Currey, provides a detailed examination of the nature of post-conflict society and youth violence, with important implications for peacebuilding and post-conflict recovery.

High youth unemployment is seen as a major issue across Africa and globally, not solely as a source of concern for economic development, but as a threat to social stability and a challenge to fragile peace. In countries emerging from civil war in particular, it is identified as a key indicator for likelihood of relapse. But what do we really know about how lack of work shapes political identities and motivates youth violence?

Drawing on rich empirical data about young people on the margins of the informal economy in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, in the wake of its civil war (1991-2002), this book moves beyond reductive portrayals of unemployed youth as ‘ticking bombs’ to show how labour market experiences influence them towards political mobilisation.

Dr Enria argues that violence is not inherent to unemployment, but that the impact of joblessness on political activism is mediated by social factors and the specific nature of the post-war political economy. For Freetown's youth, labour market exclusion is seen to have implications for social status, identities and social relations, ultimately keeping them in exploitative patterns of dependence. This in turn shapes their political subjectivities and claims on the state, and structures the opportunities and constraints to their collective action.

Dr Enria now a Lecturer in International Development at the University of Bath, where she also holds an ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship for the project 'States of Emergency: Citizenship in Times of Crisis in Sierra Leone'.

Find out more about the book

More about Luisa Enria

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Luisa Enria, who completed her DPhil at ODID in 2015, has published a new book titled The Politics of Work in a Post Conflict State: Youth, Labour & Violence in Sierra Leone.

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Political Change, Conflict and the Environment

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New article by Georgia Cole explores use of 'sensitive' interview questions

Submitted by jo on Tue, 2018-07-31 12:56

The article draws upon interviews with Eritrean refugees in Uganda, detailing their responses to the question of how support to refugees can be justified where similar assistance is not provided to host nationals. The article also looks at the issue of sensitive interview questions, and provides an extensive justification as to why this angle of enquiry was pursued. It seeks “to learn from and interpolate the opinions of refugees into divisive discussions around their rights to services… and to provide a methodological justification for having asked these individuals to enter this debate.”

Georgia Cole (2018) '“But if Locals are Poorer than you, How would you Justify Additional Help?”: Rethinking the Purpose of Sensitive Interview Questions', Refugee Survey Quarterly, DOI: 10.1093/rsq/hdy010

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A new article by Georgia Cole exploring Eritrean refugees' attitudes towards refugee assistance, and the use of 'sensitive' interview questions, has been published in Refugee Survey Quarterly.

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Migration and Refugees in a Global Context
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Refugee Studies Centre

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