Minutes from the workshop 20-21 February 2012


Mike introduces the workshop:

- Background who is here

- Evaluation of knowledge

- Introduction of preparatory and background work: work on evaluation; case studies on CARE's work in Peru and ??; Pete Cranston's summarising work on local knowledge; and Hannah and Daniel's paper on what IKM's ways of working for development practice, posing question and incorporating what it mens to work in a more participatory way and the implications for own practice. This has implications for Dutch development aid in terms of Peter van Lieshout's book and current changes in development with all Dutch NGOs now being evaluated on the basis of RCTs.

Introuction of participants and what they want to get out of the meeting

Hannah We need to talk about ourselves and role in the development system because otherwise it will be too abstract for her to get anything out of it. Curremtly working as a consultant and doing a lot of evaluation but selelcting learning-focused evaluations. Confidence for doing this was gained from IKM and the Ripples work. Good to talk about who we are and what we do. The written work is a good starting point and what has come out of IKM work is that the learning has to be joint rahter individual. So we need to look at this background work and our own experiences to talk about our common understanding,vision and opportunities to bring about change in the development sector.

Pete Consultant working with Peter Ballantyne on local knowledge. In 2002 they worked for the DotForce on local content but they have revisited over the last three years the organisation they worked with then. After three workhops, they feel that there has not been much changes since 2002 and people keep having to learn the same lesson. So Pete sees this as a peer assist because he is perplexed: why are you still working on local content without funding but they are doing this because they have to. Pete is a neo-geek and has that perspective on things and uses technology to bring things together, good nexample of the new Wikipedia. Development sector uses technology in fundraising and ??? but no-where ealse. We are very critical of current practice but how can we have bring about any change? Even the good funders are getting less flexible: Gates and Comic Relief. Organisations have very different perspectives: some open and others nitpicking. How can we play into the current situation, getting space for people we think are doing things.


Siobhan Loosely involved in Ripples work but found it a useful experience writing article in first person. Working on oral testimony progromme but now senios adviser Voice at Panos. She is currently working on proposed project with |IFAD on local realities of young people in Madagascar. She really enjoyed Hannah's and Mik'e piece: we need to focus on the consumption of knowledge so it's better to have a smaller group to co-create knowledge. Parts of work that she finds most enjoyable is working with an equal peers to create something new but in hierarchies it is more difficult; power of position and age. We all get sucked into a system of doing things. How can we ask the critical questions in the right way? The donor calls for ticking boxes but are actually less constraining then the structures in which we work. Currently asked to look at the way we learn which is a hopeful development.


Michael used to work on quality at Care but now is consultant and is enjoying the freedom. Has done some lecturing in Atlanta on organisation in development and established that there is very little litterature on iNGOs and conflict. INGOs are some of the most complex organisation in the world with intangible products with global reach, and the clients are people who don't pay for the product. The challenge os for organisations to operate in an increasing complex world. Where can you get useful literature sources as manager of iNGOs who will guide you. At the same time, iNGOs are working with donors who are taking a more simplistic, linear approach. Issues of accountability: there is very little useful work which help give guidance on this. In this context, the MDGs are the lowest common dinominator and everyone starts asking'which indicators shall we use? 10 years ago it was much easier to get funding for participatory work but now everyone focuses on impact. CARE Peru work aims to develop better models of accountability but it is very difficult and complex. The development sector is not really looking for better models of accountability: we need to counter RCTs and a simplistic view of the world with 'perverted' model of chenge. CARE Nepal work uses the Reflect methodology and has the most activist model in CARE. Michale asks people what bthey feel proudest of in the Reflect groups related to strike action: 13,000 people and millions and dloaars in wages but there was no idea how this has happended. So they went to look at the process. But when they presented the results, the leadership had changed and they were not interested. One of the problems was the lack of documentation and people don't market the stories within the organisation. Complex of power relation in these process is the most difficult and relate to power relations in society, including elites, donors and within organisations. How do we deal with power? Power is not negative, it is also an opportunity. iNGOs need to spread their authorising envitonment and their collective voice is very weak. If you can't collectively advocate with donors.

Mike If you insist on seeing the world is simple, then you have to create a mythological narrative and others need to support you in this fiction. Example of Zimbabwean history, referneces each other creating a fiction. (The emporer's new clothes). How do you feed in the real world?

Hannah Master's teaching ..what they want is to know how to do the job but when you have more experienceat work you know that log frames don't help in that way.

Dani role of individuals in iNGOs, involced in the Ripples process. Motivation is very positive. If we focus on our own change, change is happening a sense of what we are getting from IKM. Working on a basis of trust and integraty. What is my role as a professional in this sector, understanding social change as a complex process.

Ewen ILRI, previously IRC. Moving from NGO to the research system, donors are seen as promoting change. Working on KS and communication, and also M&E which is a misssed opportunity. How can we promote differemt models of accountability? Ewen is looking for hoiw we can bring about effective change, parking things that we can't change. How can we inform and challenge development actors? What are the practical implication: what are the things we can offer the development secotr: freebies, practical tools, things we can share. Looking for ways we can informa and challenge with a guerilla marketing tactics. Interesting reflection on what are the barriers we have faced when we plant IKM-like. A number of research gaps on IKM: civil driven movements; MSPs; how can we make sure that we put more learning itno our work but where is learning not enough; beyond organisation - personal KM and how we can bring about change in a insiduous way and interaction with networks as a way of bringing about change; how we can keep the community alive?; what lessons have we learnt from IKM for other possible programmes in the future; and a timeline of IKM, namely the bigger picture; like to hear what is planned outputs in the pipeline and the future of IKM.

Pete: interested to hear how we think the development world is changing? Bridget Dylan (DFID) talking about the Chinese model. Would like to brainstorm what we think as happening.

Hannah: Dani in his dissertation talks about what NGO are not. Possibly developing a a common ToC. What are the threats and opportunities?

Sarah: The development sector is not healthy right now. I'm not optimistic, looking at e.g. the referencing system of development journals. I'm very happy to be here with you lot though. Comparing the 2 ways of working (adaptive pluralism vs. neo-Newtonism) shows that people that solely judge on the basis of recognised expertise are 'the enemy'. > Hannah: do we invest in relationships with allies or enemies. < The accountability trend is anyway very negative. IKM has been advocating the importance of individuals - e.g. in DGIS we have been interacting with individuals. > Hannah: sometimes people are defined by the structures <.

Robin: When I did my research on 'crime in the UK' I was told to look into 'social capital' and found out that the World Bank had created a lot of literature about it. Who creates a dominant story? Some of the networks we are involved matter e.g. in HIV/AIDS there is a movement of people that look at other, non-predictable, alternative evaluation methods. At some point it hit the wall of randomized control trials (RCTs) etc. Can you find pragmatic tangible examples to show that we have an alternative way to approach this? One of the things that I really enjoyed in IKM-E is the opening up of these spaces and tackling a series of sophisticated ideas and to coalesce to find a counter point (e.g. a theory of change) etc. and I'm really excited about this work, arriving quite late in the process. There is a current swing back from donor agencies and in the UK there is also a self-supported movement where people challenge dominant logic. There are different power layers. Civic social movements evolve their language through negotiations etc. and that's very much aligned with ideas from this programme. > Daniel: what are the opportunities for learning in the big push forward initiative? < Economics masquerades the social science side but there's always a small group working in isolation. But the evidence brought forward is very dim. > Hannah: we're blogging about all activist ideas from 30's through to the 70's and I've moved from thinking like I didn't do enough to thinking 'this is the right time to be activist'. It's important to think about social change, which is happening all the time. <

Mike What else is coming through? a lot of materials in the next weeeks

Mare (to review and remove duplicates)

How is practice changing or not and why? Working differently involves structural change – we are dealing with structural problems. It’s not an issue of knowing what we need to do but rather of doing.  the development business model is based on contractual relationships. And you are always forced to come back to contractual relationships. Many of us are keen on working differently around this. The diversity of people working on a common activity and creating a network around it is great. How can we support this kind of approach in an organisation? How do we move development from problem oriented towards more social-change-oriented work? We need to define ourselves around our funding mechanisms (a lot of development issues are related to that restricted funding 'ball park'. How to plan differently? What responsibility do we have? How free are we in e.g. an NGO to do things the way we want? If we want to redefine our own role, we need to clearly redefine the way we are funding ourselves and find alternative ways of relating to another (developing relationships). e.g. new forms of partnerships, e.g. working around social entrepreneurs. There are small NGOs that also depend on us and we also impact the way they work. It is difficult for us to change our approach to relationships. How to go beyond existing funding mechanisms? How easy is it to move the institutional donor environment and the funding mechanisms? How can we learn to follow different development approaches.

  • How is practice changing or not and why?
  • Working differently involves structural change – we are dealing with structural problems. It’s not an issue of knowing what we need to do but rather of doing.  the development business model is based on contractual relationships.
  • Which are the other actors that can help us change and challenge practices?
  • Tools are out there but how can we practice with them?
  • (Robin) Alternative sources of funding: key question and deep question too because the mechanism is about delivery.
    • Robin: We need to find ways to work on downward and upward accountability. Anthology of change from ??? . There are opportunities to do different ways of doing development but they’re usually related to evaluations.
    • Robin: Link with individuals ready to connect with others inside organisations that are not so encouraging of learning.
    • Robin: Looking at evaluations on the ground etc. and supporting them is also a good way forward.
    • Robin: If we had stronger accountability to grassroots movements it would constrain us more too.
  • Hannah: How do you make change happen in development sector. You are thinking about how we can change the whole structure? We looked at that in the ‘how wide are the ripples’ strand of work. The whole structure seemed disempowering but when we talked about changing our own attitudes and small changes with large impact we had a lot more energy. I see more impact when change happens at a personal level.  (Mare) we need to put all the different levels together. We might be able to achieve more results with new actors in the development sector (even though they have their own accountability mechanisms etc.).
  • Pete: interesting debate on ‘from poverty to power’ blog about making direct cash transfers to local actors (direct payments to them for them to decide how they contract people). Is there space for IKM-E to go more radical. Why are we not encouraging alternative solutions in that sense?  (Mare) everyone is part of the problem by encouraging the donor-cajoling side of relationships but it’s helpful to look at these alternative solutions.
  • Michael D: How INGOs are so compliant with donors? We have been also rather ineffective in our own accountability mechanisms. Oxfam seemed to be stuck in the same kind of system. Donor emphasis is on accountability and impact and value for money etc. It’s very difficult to work in flexible ways.  (Mare) we are compliant in a very ‘Northern’ view without always respecting other cultural systems etc. e.g. the NGO in Peru where I worked before had to destroy social movements when following donor mechanisms… We have to be exposed to various kinds of organisations otherwise you tend to think from the cultural perspective of your organisation (e.g. CARE has a very Northern American perspective). We are risk-averse so the more you destructure the more you think you need to restructure. In NGOs we sometimes lose the vision of why we are doing what we are doing (all the more so when higher up and more disconnected from field needs). Now everything has to be ‘value for money’.
  • Using new models such as social entrepreneurs, social media groups etc. How do we broker our relationships to shape a different kind of work? We need to recognise different kinds of groups otherwise we’ll struggle to find ways to influence current status quo.
  • Robin: Cash transfers are indeed a different mechanism that is very liberal in its philosophy. The macro-context is changing. Social RoI is a different school of thought. Who values this? < (Mare) I like Sebastiao’s idea about connecting knowledges to find out where we aspire to be. How do we ensure that we build upon and link different societies, institutes, organisations for a better collective good and who takes final decisions on this? Historically NGOs were trying to do that but the question now is ‘who plays what role’ in each society. No one-size-fits-all… A key message for your conversation here is to think beyond the traditional intervention cycle and tools but to think beyond the box…

How to go forward in this workshop

  • Taking the four points from Hannah:
  1. Linearity and predictability
  2. Participation and engagement
  3. Individual agency and organisational remit
  4. Accountability

Other discussions: