Friday, 12 December 2008

DFID's International Growth Centre Launch

On Wednesday December 10th 2008 I attended the launch of DFID's International Growth Centre at LSE (London School of Economics). For details see Invitation to the Launch of DFID's International Growth Centre.

According to the press release from DFID

The IGC will provide practical help to the governments of developing countries to support growth and improve their ability to cope with effects of the economic downturn. The centre will also provide innovative research on growth.

Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander said:
"The IGC will be a unique resource giving developing countries a hotline to the advice of world-class experts – for example on finance, agricultural yields, the energy sector or policies for the economy as a whole. "

The IGC will:
  • Provide a systematic link between international research and on the ground delivery of policy and programme change around growth.
  • Be able to provide both whole economy analysis drilling down into specific sectors.
  • Provide a mixture of short and longer-term technical support.
  • Be free in its advice from the constraints and preoccupations around aid and loan programmes common to many international agencies.
The IGC has three core components: policy engagement, networking and research
Full DFID Press Release

What does it mean to us
As a practitioner in ICT4Ed&D (Information Communication for Education and Development) I am interested in collaboration between academics and practitioners, and also in how top-down initiatives connect with grass roots.

Regarding collaboration between academics and practitioners I was encouraged by the very down-to-earth comments of Professor Paul Collier (author of The Bottom Billion). I don't claim to be quoting his exact words, but the notes I wrote as he was talking say "Researchers have not had enough exposure to context so governments have learned not to listen (to economists/researchers) ... modesty and realism need to be part of the approach... start from where countries are; what is realistic; need to ask. He spoke about the bottom billion (most economically deprived people) and the need for long-term convergence between them and people who are economically privileged, and the need to use academic research to achieve this convergence.

Regarding how top
-down initiatives connect with grass roots it seems a very long way from DFID's International Growth Centre (IGC) to places like Fantsuam. IGC will be advising governments, and Fantsuam is rather "far down the food chain" if you are starting as far up as Federal Government. So my usual cyncism about initiatives making any differences started to kick in. However I was encouraged when Robin Burgess spoke about networking and "consultation up and down stream". He commented that researchers don't know priorities and referred to the priorities of governments, the private sector and civil society organisations, and finding out what the most innovative are doing in odrer ro recognise what the areas of key research should be. Professor Collier also mentioned people who are serious, courageous and struggling for change, and the need to "step up behind them to make their struggle easier". What this means in practice and remains to be seen. Apparantly there will be ten thematic areas. When these are defined we can go back and see how they overlap with our grass-roots concerns, we could also consider trying to connect with the research team to offer some of our grass roots information.

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