International Development Research

I joined the Institute of Development Studies towards the end of a professional life in development practice and my research there focused on power and relations in international aid.   This section of my website contains  book chapters, articles and papers published between 2003-2015.

When at DFID Head office I was already arguing for researching aid professionals as subjects in their own right and after moving to the DFID office in Bolivia (2000-2002) I made myself such a subject(auto-ethnography) .   When I left Bolivia for the Institute of Development Studies, Rosario  León and I gave a paper at a seminar organised by David Lewis and David Mosse that later became a chapter in The Aid Effect (2005) . This was the first in a body of work in which I analysed different aspects of power and aid relations in Bolivia and that concluded with my chapter in Mosse’s edited collection Adventures in Aidland (2011).  I continued to research the international development aid system as a reflexive auto-ethnographer, seeking to retain empathy for the insider’s position while sufficiently distanced to cultivate a critical faculty. See my book chapter, Inside, Outside, Upside Down.

Between 2006 and 2011 I was a member of the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment Research Programme Consortium with a particular interest in global policy institutions, actors and discourses in relation to gender equality. This included a project with feminist bureaucrats working in international development agencies,  and the subject of a book, co-edited with Laura Turquet Feminists in Development Organisations. Towards the end of my time at the IDS I shifted my interest in gender and development to looking at how and  why development policy has rendered invisible unpaid care.   Meanwhile my interest in knowledge, power and practice had led me to enquiring more broadly into those development organisations who have a declared normative commitment to progressive social change. I have worked with staff in NGOs in Vietnam, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands, as well as the UK, to help them use theories of social to help them  explore their assumptions and identify alternative modes of action. This emphasis on reflexive professional practice is explored in depth in my book International Aid and the Making of a Better World (2014).

I then increasingly became concerned about the obsession in official development agencies for measuring effectiveness on the assumption that all problems are bounded/simple to be solved through linear cause-effect logical planning. Power, relations, the partiality of knowledge and complexity are all ignored in current approaches to performance measurement, as are surprises and positive and negative unplanned consequences. I co-convened the Big Push Forward (2011-2013) that linked practitioners to identify and share strategies and approaches for fair assessments for a fairer world.  From the 2013 conference of the Big Push Forward, Chris Roche,  Irene Guijt, Cathy Shutt and I  co-edited a book, The Politics of Evidence and Results based on  some of the background papers and case studies discussed at the Conference.


Relationships for Aid  published in 2006 introduces a new relational perspective on the analysis of aid management, exploring the links between, power, learning and accountability in a complex web of relationships. Primarily targeting a practitioner audience, it presents rich theory in an accessible style. 

The Power of Labelling. How People are Categorized and Why it Matters published in 2007 and co-edited with Joy Moncrieffe.  The book’s contributions analyse labelling’s causes and consequences. It is aimed at everyone who wants to scrutinise how they think about development and the implications for their practice.

Feminists in Development Organizations. Change from the Margins published in 2013 and co-edited with Laura Turquet. This book arises from a collaborative project between 2007 and 2012 in which a group of feminists working inside the head offices of multilateral organizations, government aid agencies and international non-governmental organizations came together to critically reflect on their work. This book shows how feminists can build effective strategies to influence development organizations to foster greater understanding and forge more effective alliances for social change.

International Aid and the Making of a Better World. Reflexive Practice  was published in 2014. How can international aid professionals manage to deal with the daily dilemmas of working for the wellbeing of people in countries other than their own? I seek to answer that question in a book that provides a vivid and accessible insight into the world of aid – its people, ideas and values against the backdrop of a broader historical analysis of the contested ideals and politics of aid operations from the 1960s to the present day. Read more about why and how I wrote it. And here’s the link to final drafts of the first and last chapters.

 The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development – co-edited with Irene Guijt, Chris Roche and Cathy Shutt and published in 2015 – critically examines the context and history of the current demands for results-oriented measurement and for evidence of value for money. Practitioner case studies illuminate different sets of relationships in the aid chain, examining the impact of the demands for results and evidence on the pursuit of rights-based approaches and enquiring into whether the growing emphasis on upward accountability is trumping mutual learning.

Book chapters, articles & papers

I have divided these into: