International Development Conference 2018



Branded as a dynamic field, development is constantly moving and changing. These changes can manifest themselves in paradigm shifts, government reform, or wars—all of which were prominent during the 20th century. While new NGOs, government policies, innovative solutions, and grassroots movements are garnering media attention for supposedly rehabilitating the field, it is imperative that we acknowledge the historical narratives from which new guises of development emerge. Why does development exist? What causes apparent deviations in development thought and practice? Who benefits and who is disadvantaged? By understanding the particularities and lived reality of development, we can attempt to elucidate the lines which “experts” often draw along the margins of race, nationality, religion, gender, and or socioeconomic status and how development challenges arise systematically.




The aim of IDC 2018 is to focus on people whose contexts and histories have been repeatedly neglected and who have intentionally been excluded from mainstream development. The current political landscape places us in another moment of significant change and movement in the field of development. The voices of those who have previously and continue to be overlooked are reshaping the ways we approach development—voices such as that of refugees, indigenous peoples, women, emerging activists, and other minorities.  As development initiatives across the world work to recognize and acknowledge the needs of these marginalized communities, these efforts are juxtaposed against the structural roadblocks embedded in both formal and informal institutions.

IDC 2018 is a forum to discuss the importance of integrating muted voices into the discourse surrounding development decisions, and explore how the field will transform when minority voices are in the forefront. By examining how minority voices can shift approaches to development, we hope to challenge the tides of history so as to prevent the future silencing of these populations. Development is spurred on by movements. As people move and change, how does development move and change?


Thematic Discussions


Moving Peoples: Borders & Migration

As the world faces a growing number of refugees from conflict zones, climate change, and political turmoil, development in practice is faced with a series of pressing difficulties. Although not a new challenge, the ever changing global context is forcing development practitioners to re-think how to best respond to this burgeoning number of displaced persons. In a time of right-wing populism, and liberal resurgence throughout much of the world the moral responsibility to respond to migrant populations is more complex than in the past. The current political climate throughout much of the Western world makes migration an increasingly contentious issue. How can governments best respond to the needs of their own citizens, as well as those with no place else to go? What is the role of development practitioners in this dichotomy? Through a panel of migration experts, development practitioners and those who have experienced the effects of migration first hand, the many ways in which to move development practices to best support our migrant population will be explored.


Not Just Listening: Activism’s Role in Redirecting Development  

Though attempts at citizen engagement and participation have recently emerged through the grassroots in the forms of committee meetings, community forums, and surveys, the voices of minority populations and subaltern classes continue to be excluded in mainstream development discourse and policy. How can discussions with such “bottom-up” intent be followed up by actual delivery and provision of the needs of minority groups? In what ways do populations take it upon themselves to act with initiative and become more visible in the face of unresponsive and inactive government institutions?  This panel will explore the numerous interactions at work in the politicized realm of activism: the role of activists and autonomous citizen action, the systematic ways government institutions and grassroots organizations work together (and at times against each other) to fulfill the needs of minority populations, and how the politics of citizenship and non-citizenship play a role in the visibility of those “on the margins”. The aim of this thematic discussion is not only to discuss the complex spheres of activism in the Global South and Global North, but also to address how development practitioners, scholars, and current students can move from a passive role of simply listening to minority demands, to the active and progressive delivery of meaningful support to minority populations.


Development in Motion: On the Future of Development

As a field built upon reform, development has taken many forms and approaches since its post-World-War II origins. Increasing awareness of the shortcomings within development have helped it to evolve from the unidimensional, largely economic framework it was born out of in the Global North. And yet development continues to change- both in discourse, as neglected voices work to themselves known, and in practice, as the workforce and its demand changes. The ever-changing nature of the field warrants a myriad of questions surrounding those with their eyes set on the development workforce: What does the development field, in its call for increased focus on grassroots efforts and “bottom-up” approaches now demand from young hopefuls, especially those from the Global North? What roles do major factors within the development sector, like multilateral organizations, technology, and activism play in shaping job creation and overall attitudes towards development careers? How can values of inclusion and equality, as well as progressive shifts in power relations, which have long been called for in development, become integrated in ongoing development efforts and what changes will this bring for the development sector? With a mix of practitioners and academics, this panel will address the current demands and changes within the development field and what the next generation of development workers/theorists will have to consider in this highly complex, multidisciplinary, and dynamic field.



Pop Culture: Whose Ideas Move through these Platforms?

Social activism has taken a new form since social media has transformed the way we live our lives. People can now join a conversation online, and feel as though they are contributing to a social movement. This has allowed for a surge in civil activism in the form of tweets, hashtags, instagram photos, and other posts encouraging others to join them in the fight for current causes. We hope to explore the ways in which social media has propelled the industry of philanthrocapitalism and “couch activism” (tweeting support, purchasing merchandise, expressing support only within like-minded social circles). Additionally, we hope to explore the ways that social media has been detrimental to development and sociological understandings of citizen participation. How does the purchase of social movement sloganed t-shirts affect the movement? What could this mean for similar movements in the global South as we continue to define a Western perception of feminist, racial and social needs? This panel will discuss the role of pop culture and forms of media in shaping recent and forthcoming social movements.