Louise Stoddard: DSA front line

Development Policy02 Sep 2009Louise Stoddard

I have just set up my laptop in the busy HQ office of the DSA conference, a small room containing a few tables piled high with information packs and laptop computers. One participant has just walked in and told me that I look like Kate Adie reporting from the front line. If this is a front line, then it’s a well organized one.

As I type, Ana Marques, who is also working on the blog, is outside in the lobby taking photos of queues of delegates waiting to register. It feels like this is a true coalition: faces from all over the world, some tired after delayed flights, other energized after a traditional English breakfast, but coming together as a community.

Last night, we sat in the Senior Common Room (the bar) with various participants and organizers. We had all been delayed in airports, some for hours due to visa issues. Rather like the Irish weather, the talk in the bar, and on the conference floor this morning, is variable. Some are talking about the current financial crisis; others are asking very familiar yet key questions. How we can get institutes to become more involved in research dissemination? How, at the end of the day, does an academic get their research into the hands of the right policy maker?

Another topic of conversation is the British Department for International Development (DFID) and their reassessment of funding priorities. Some feel that they might be starting to practise what they preach in terms of where this funding is focused. The global south will get more of a look-in, but where does that leave organizations and research institutes based in the global north? What will happen to the resources and projects that have received so much investment? How flexible can or should these be in the face of new funding challenges?

Of course, there is also talk of the financial crisis. How do we, as a development community, react? We didn’t see it coming, or did we? It is also clear that this global change may significantly impact upon the future funding cycles of most donors. As the conference starts, it feels like there are many questions and very few clear answers; hopefully the next three days will bring some clarity.