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Development in Practice

For a Special Issue on

‘We talk about shifting the power, but are we really shifting the practice?’

Abstract deadline
15 December 2023

Manuscript deadline
01 March 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Suzanne H. Hammad, Independent Consultant & Adjunct Faculty of Sociology
[email protected]

Kate Newman, CEO, INTRAC for Civil Society
[email protected]

Logan Cochrane, Associate Professor, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
[email protected]

Charles Kojo Vandyck, Development Practitioner, Rights CoLab & WACSI
[email protected]

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‘We talk about shifting the power, but are we really shifting the practice?’

This special issue aims to explore the experiences of those working to #shift the power in international development, and particularly learn from the practical experiences of people across various regions and countries within Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. The aim is to amplify their voices and perspectives as actors who should be in the driving seat of determining what it means to shift the power in practice.

The movement to shift the power in international development has increased its traction in recent years, with diverse actors joining calls to think and do development differently.  This diversity of participants bring different meanings and expectations in their calls to shift the power.  Some argue for a radical rethink, a dismantling of the development industry. Others are focused more on reimaging relationships to locate decisions and agenda (and power) at the ‘local level’.  These different meanings and ambition creates different implications for funders, INGOs, and civil society at national and local level, as each determine their role, relationships and limitations.  Moreover, much of the debate is currently held at the conceptual level, and at times appears dominated by those who currently ‘hold the power’; with the practice of power shifts lagging behind the calls for action.

At the same time, it is often more straightforward to call for change than to work through the messy realities of how change happens.  Additionally, the focus for change is often located elsewhere – asking others to take on new practices and behaviours, with less focus on the power and control that we each have, and what it might mean to shift our own practice.  And yet, power involves a relationship, and for that relationship to be different action is needed from all those involved.  Moreover, power shifts suggests a zero-sum change, a transfer from one to another.  How does the framing itself constrain the possibility and (co) creation of new power; what would it mean to talk about power with, and power to?  What types of power, and power relationship are central in what types of contexts, and how do these come together to fundamentally challenge injustice, eradicate poverty, and build long-term sustainable societies? What do these abstract words mean in practice?

We invite contributions for a thematic Special Issue with Development in Practice. DIP is one of few development journals which seeks to facilitate collaboration, reflection  and engagement within and beyond the academy, encouraging contributions from both academic scholars as well as practitioners, policy shapers, and activists. It is edited by the Development Studies Association of Australia (DSAA).

In this special issue we are interested in reflections from practice from actors have made ‘shifting the power’ meaningful in their context.  We want to understand more about what this means in as many of the following areas as possible in order to inform and redirect practice, policy, and research:

  1. Positioning and Better Understanding What Shift the Power Means:
  • What does ‘shifting the power’ mean in your specific field of practice, interventions, and knowledge production?
  • How do power relations impact upon choices, spaces, and actions?
  • What are the key facilitators and obstacles that influence your ability to enact power shifts?
  • What are the various factors that converge to make change more feasible or streamlined?
  • How does the context we operate in affect the manifestations of power shifts and the actors involved?
  1. Impact on Work Strategies:
  • In what ways do shifts in power relations influence your strategic approach to addressing issues like poverty and injustice?
  • How does your perception of research and knowledge change when power dynamics shift in your field?
  • What criteria or indicators do you prioritise when gauging the impact of your actions, and how do they evolve in response to changing power dynamics?
  1. Authentic Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL):
  • How can authentic MEL approaches disrupt prevailing conceptions and hierarchies of knowledge, thus contributing to power shifts?
  • Could you provide practical examples of what these alternative approaches to MEL look like in action within your context?
  1. Organisational Strengthening and Effectiveness:
  • As notions of power shift, how does the concept of organisational strengthening and effectiveness evolve to accommodate these changes?
  • How do organisations support the creation of new and diverse power relations in practice?
  • Navigating Tensions and Compromises:
  • When striving for change, what tensions arise, and what trade-offs or compromises are often necessary or made?
  • Are there any 'red lines' that actors consciously choose not to cross, and what motivates these decisions?
  1. Leadership and Partnerships for Change:
  • What types of leadership and partnerships have proven effective in driving practical change in power dynamics?
  • How are new relationships and expectations established, maintained, and made impactful in your context? What actions complement local practices effectively?
  • What are the ways through which governments and policy directions exert agency when interacting with international organizations and donor organizations, which might assert greater sovereignty for the nation and its people via laws and regulations and/or advance the localization agenda? Do they enable or disrupt?
  1. Collective Change and Its Limitations:
  • How do multiple actions undertaken in various locations contribute to collective change in power dynamics, and what challenges are associated with this approach?
  • Can you share examples of successful strategies for mitigating or overcoming these challenges?
  • What is the role of policy, law, regulation of the sector in the geographies of implementation? Examples include regulation of employment visas for expats and which organizations can implement activities, to the expulsion of INGOs and donors, for a host of reasons, and/or resistance against donors, censorship of knowledge production, access to baseline data.
  1. Perceptions of Beneficiaries (a loaded word, used deliberately) in Power Shifts:
  • When it comes to power shifts, what do the individuals or communities affected by these changes consider to be the most important outcomes?
  • Are there aspects that they see as potential losses, as well as gains? Which doors are opened, and which may close for them in this process?
  • Contributions about terminology used in development discourse are welcomed, as language tends to be embedded with power configurations.
  1. Power Shifting and Decolonisation:
  • How does action to shift the power interact with broader discussions and initiatives related to decolonisation?
  • Do these actions bridge the gap between rhetoric on decolonisation and tangible results, or do they follow distinct pathways?
  • Do discourses of localisation, decolonisation, and the #stp movement ultimately lead to different outcomes, or if theory and practice remain distinct in these domains?

In this special issue, we invite submissions which tackle any of these questions, or different questions on the same broad theme. In-depth case studies of impact are especially encouraged, as are viewpoints and practice notes. We are looking to hear responses to these questions from voices at the margins, whose ideas should be better known about and engaged with, and whose experiences are rooted in local realities and practices.

We have a profound interest in the practice of collaborative writing, which engages participants situated in diverse settings, with the aim of collectively contemplating shared experiences from their distinct vantage points and contexts. This collaborative endeavour may encompass cross-regional cooperation or involve various stakeholders, such as a representative from a national civil society collaborating with a funding organisation or an international NGO, or an academic collaborating with a practitioner, among others. We firmly believe that the process of writing serves as an exceptional platform for introspection, knowledge acquisition, and the systematic organisation of experiences.

With this in mind, we actively welcome a variety of contributions, including narratives, parables, and reflections from practitioners grounded in their personal experiences, alongside traditional academic papers. This inclusivity is intended to disrupt traditional knowledge hierarchies and foster a more diverse and holistic exchange of ideas and help disrupt knowledge hierarchies alongside academic papers.

Submission Instructions

Review phase and decisions: May/June 2024 (depending on reviewer responsiveness)

Deadline for Final Revised Draft Submissions: 10 September 2024

Estimated publication date: December 2024

Deadlines and guidelines: In this Special issue, we invite papers, praxis notes and viewpoints. Submissions should be in English, papers between 6000-7000 words (including references and footnotes) and praxis notes and viewpoints approximately 3000 words. To be considered for inclusion, please send an abstract of 200 words to [email protected]  by 15 December 2023. We will aim to confirm whether you been accepted within 10 working days. Once accepted, the deadline for submission of the full manuscript will 1 March 2024 Papers will be subject to double-masked peer review, as per the editorial guidelines of Development in Practice.

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