I first joined the Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre (ESID) in January 2013. Since then, David Hulme, Sam Hickey and Kunal Sen have empowered and encouraged me to pursue policy-oriented research and ask sweeping theoretical questions about development politics. They also introduced me to fascinating and generous scholars, like Merilee Grindle, Brian Levy, or David Booth. Above all, they allowed me to find my own identity in a tiny corner of the UK-based development studies community. So it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to leave ESID this summer.
The main reason for “going rogue” (to honour one-time American VP candidate Sarah Palin) is my growing interest in policy work. I first became involved in the PEA/Thinking and Working Politically and DDD/Adaptive Development communities of practice through my ESID research. Over the years I have repeatedly asked tough question of those practitioners trying to make aid and development better, so it was only fair that at some point I began putting my money where my mouth was. Two years ago I was granted an opportunity to do just that as PEA-Research-Strategic adviser for DFID’s STAAC-Ghana programme. I have greatly enjoyed working with STAAC, and I can easily see myself pursuing advisory work almost exclusively.
“But wait”, you might interject, “didn’t you just publish a book?” Indeed I did, good sir/madam/nonbinary individual. And writing it was a very useful process of synthesis, bringing together disparate ideas and threads that I first began exploring when I started my PhD at Cornell in 2007, which now seems a lifetime ago. So, instead of a wasted effort, the book serves as a welcome milestone. I can leave ESID and the academic track confident that I have made a contribution, however modest.
What’s next? Only time will tell.
I have been working as a consultant part-time, and in the short term I think I would like to keep it that way. There is way too much reading I need to catch up on, and it will be nice to have a quieter summer with my wife and two children, instead of having to juggle family time with multiple jobs and writing tasks. That being said, those who know me are well aware that I can’t keep quiet for long, and that I am driven by curiosity. So I expect to begin pursuing new opportunities shortly (if you have one, you know where to find me!). And who knows, if the book does well, maybe I will feel the itch again, and finally start my magna opus on reformers in development…
In the meantime, I have a paper to write for a fascinating panel at the next Development Studies Association conference, which will conveniently be hosted by the University of Manchester. And you will still find me lurking around in my usual haunts: this blog, ESID, GDI, twitter, and linkedin.
Despite how little drama surrounds this decision, I just can’t resist posting this video…