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Happy Birthday to … the BPF!

2013 April 21

This week our Politics of Evidence conference gets underway – and we celebrate our second birthday. We are delighted there has been so much interest and sorry that we have inadequate space for all those keen to attend. For those unable to attend, ailment we are live streaming the last session of the conference (15.45- 17.00 UK time on April 24).  We hope to post the conference report on the website at the end of May and have longer term plans for a book.

The conference coincides with the second anniversary of the birth of the Big Push Forward. We posted our first blog on the 26th April 2011. Our aims have stayed consistent – helping create the political space to ensure appropriate approaches in the design, monitoring and evaluation of projects with transformative aims. This is necessary for the international development sector to continue to seize opportunities to support transformation for greater social justice.

Where we have shifted direction is in how we have implemented our strategy. The Big Push Forward’s core strategy of collective thought and action has been adapted since the initial conception in September 2010 when we held a one day meeting at IDS.   At that meeting, the seventy or so participants identified seven key themes for our agenda and we used these to shape the structure of the BPF initiative, seeking to establish practitioner networks around thematic ‘clusters’. One of them, Value for Money, got much interest, two others gained some traction and the remaining four never got going.  Even members of the VfM network found it difficult to find sufficient time to engage in e-discussions and sharing.

We refashioned our strategy to focus on a single task – an international conference on the central theme of the Big Push Forward that the politics of the results and evidence agenda is playing out in ways that make a frank debate about its consequences hard. The conference preparations achieved what we needed, giving us a clear target to focus our energies, simplifying the structure for the BPF, and focusing the interest of others.  With Cathy, Chris and Brendan, we have had fun as a reflective and supportive steering group.

In the process of challenging ourselves and each other, more nuance has crept into our thinking and messaging. The challenge of thinking through the conference has helped clarify the key questions, sharpened by the wonkwar debates (that proved to be one of  ‘greatest hits’ on From Poverty to Power), presentations in places including New York and Geneva, crowdsourced experiences, and thinking through how to discuss sensitive aspects. By working through topics such as Value for Moneyreporting, and rigorous thinking, we’ve discussed the positives of the results agenda alongside the problems. All these issues – and more – have found a home in the framing and structure of the conference.

Thank you, Big Push Forward supporters – including our six hundred subscribers – for your interest and encouragement! We hope that making the politics of evidence discussable can prove inspiring for development practitioners.


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