Our Programmes



Sign up to our newsletter.

Follow ODI

Understanding development in a changing world

Press Release

ODI and its partners are embarking on a multi-year programme of work looking at themes of volatility, risk, resilience and uncertainty. The work programme has two parts:

  1. a set of flagship initiatives, each of which is designed to address identified development problems by developing evidence-based solutions
  2. a series of activities to understand and investigate the ways that policy communities can work to take account of uncertainty and risk. 

ODI’s Director of Research, Andrew Norton, said: ’At the turn of the year ODI’s Director, Alison Evans, blogged on how ‘uncertainty rules’ in the optics of development professionals right now.  A few years ago we seemed to be in ‘MDG world’ – where (to parody only slightly) it was assumed that transfers of money and knowledge from wealthy OECD countries would help developing countries on a rapid, steady and predictable trajectory to the elimination of poverty. Since then both specific shocks (such as the food price spike of 2008 and the global economic crisis that followed), together with generalised anxieties about the future, have intervened to shake that confidence. Underneath the general anxieties lurks the uncomfortable sense that global collective action is coming up short of robust solutions to the biggest challenge of our era:  reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Uncertainties of many kinds – climate-driven, environmental, political, economic and social – are in the forefront of the way we see the world.  These elements are increasingly ‘hyper-linked’ –  from food-price rises contributing to political unrest in North Africa, to the way that the Libyan revolution impacted unexpectedly on the capacity of the Sahel region to cope with drought (through the tragic destabilisation of Mali as former Libyan army soldiers returned to reignite a long-simmering conflict in the north of that country).

This new research programme, supported by UK Department for International Development, will aim to tackle these key issues head on, providing answers to some of the key questions facing the development and humanitarian world over the coming years.’

The flagship programmes we will be working on fall into the following five areas.

  • New goals for a new era.  The past decade has seen unprecedented levels of consensus between development agencies, civil society and governments in what development is about – namely poverty reduction as framed in the MDGsClaire Melamed will be leading our work on how this framework may change as we come towards the 2015 ‘end-point’ of the original framework.  What does the evidence tell us about the strengths and weaknesses of the MDGs? And how might the politics of the process of renewing that framework play out?
  • Effective climate finance.  ODI has been tracking the fast-evolving world of climate finance through Climate Funds Update. Flows of climate finance will easily match aid flows very soon (and the two overlap in complex ways). Neil Bird and Smita Nakhooda will lead a work programme designed to support effective delivery by addressing some key questions:
    • what does effectiveness mean for climate finance and how can it be measured and promoted?
    • what are the key lessons for making climate finance effective at the country level?
    • where does private climate finance fit into the policy picture?
  • Achieving sustainable governance transitions.  Building on ODI’s work on politics and governance, this programme will focus on the incentives, behaviours and political and governance features that can enhance or inhibit the achievement of development outcomes in poor and conflict-affected countries. Marta Foresti and her team will provide policy and practical guidance for international and national actors seeking to support more effective provision of public goods and services – such as health, water and sanitation, justice and security – in a range of transition countries, through more politically informed and realistic strategies and programmes.
  • Transforming the lives of girls and young women.  Caroline Harper and her team will look to build on their work on the role of social institutions in determining life-chance for girls and young women with a programme of work that will focus on outlining solutions for those who are hard to reach – due to the collection of formal and informal laws, norms and practices which constrain opportunities for them.
  • Creating competitiveness in a carbon-constrained world. Climate change and the imperative to find low-carbon growth paths will transform the economic opportunities facing countries. Karen Ellis and her team will be working with policy makers and business in low-income countries to develop strategies suitable for the changing global economic context, which identify risks, and capitalise on new opportunities for growth and development.

The work on uncertainty and rapid policy response will build on ODI’s work monitoring food-price volatility and assessing impacts and policy responses for poor countries to the global economic crisis.  We will use ODI’s expertise in economic development, trade, environment, political and social change and humanitarian action to look at the intersections of different drivers of volatility.  There are some key questions to consider in developing this work.

  • Can we make looking at intersections of different shocks and drivers (political, economic, environmental, social) a reality, and if so, how can we make it useful?
  • How can response systems in relation to potential shocks be strengthened, either at the international level (shock facilities etc) or the national (particularly social protection)?
  • What did we learn from the responses to the food-price shocks of 2008 and the global economic crisis of 2009/10?
  • To what extent is it advisable to try to anticipate possible shocks and model their effects? And if it is advisable, how specific should we get? 

Early work in this area has included some analysis of policy and market change in China that may have a big impact on the way global grain markets develop in coming years, and Isabella Massa’s scoping of potential impacts of the euro zone crisis on developing countries.