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5 things I learned at the Bond Conference - Day 1

It is a happy coincidence that the 2018 Bond Conference is being held as I start writing this blog, and it has provided the perfect inspiration for my first few posts.

Here are my five key takeaways from a very full and interesting first day:

1. Development as imposition?

Dr Vandana Shiva, an Indian environmental activist (among many other things) had the quote of the conference so far: “That is part of the problem, we are always being improved.” This was followed by wry laughter in the audience, no doubt in recognition of a paradigm in which Northern actors bring solutions to the South, often without consultation.

We returned to the theme of imposition in the closing plenary – Andrew Mwenda declared that democracy and freedom cannot be imposed, and that international assistance can often hinder rather than help.

My personal view is that development can often feel like something we do to people, not something we do with them. But there are many examples of good practice, which I will highlight in this blog over the coming weeks and months.

2. Individuals are committed to meaningful partnerships, but systems constrain them

During a fantastic session on ‘Turning the partnership rhetoric into reality’, several participants (NGOs, private sector, donor) lamented how they often have to “break the rules” in order to create meaningful partnerships, i.e. the systems and procedures in their organisations often hindered the development of meaningful, organic relationships.

With less and less core funding available for NGOs, partnership building is happening through bids or programmes with short timeframes, and thus the challenges are being exacerbated.

3. The ‘meaningful’ in partnerships needs to be monitored

Camilla Symes from World Vision described the process of conducting yearly ‘Partnering Health Checks’ across various countries. The key question: is the principle of mutual benefit being violated? Partnerships are not a one-off – they require close attention at regular intervals, and it is vital that all parties involved have the opportunity to provide feedback on how they experience the partnership in practice.

4. The Oxfam scandal still looms large

Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt used her opening plenary speech to issue a ‘wake-up’ call to the sector: “You cannot help and support people, you cannot give them hope and a chance, you cannot promote human rights or the dignity of every human being – whilst paying them for sex, and whilst funding an industry that exploits them.” The storms seems to have subsided somewhat, but it hasn’t blown over.

5. Live tweeting is the ultimate multitasking

And it is rather difficult. I guess I’ll have to attend many more events to hone my skills.

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