International Development: the blogging landscape

15 August, 2013

Catherine Boyd

As UKCDS moves into the blogging world, we want to ensure that a new blog will add something to what is currently on offer –who else is blogging about similar issues and how can this blog add value?

As I’m currently interning with the UKCDS Secretariat, I decided to take a look at the current landscape of development blogging, looking at what blogs are out there – and what they’re talking about.

There are a wide range of popular international development blogs. They contain posts on a variety of topics relevant to international development but a few focus to greater extent on the interface between research/science and development.

Probably because many of the posts are written by researchers the most academic blogs come from the think tanks: the Overseas Development Institute (“ODI”), the International Centre for Global Developmentand the Institute of Development Studies (“IDS”). These blogs tend to focus on general themes with analytical pieces on topics, such as open data and research, or the use of aid to promote universal values. That said, there are differences between the three, the Centre for Global Development tends to have a greater focus on the US approach to development as opposed to the two UK think tanks; it also has a specific technology section although this only contains four posts from 2013!

Several notable individuals that blog on development and have a good following are Simon Maxwell, a senior research fellow at the ODI; Owen Barder, Director for Europe at the Centre for Global Development; Lawrence Haddad,  Director of IDS; Duncan Green,  Strategic Adviser for Oxfam GB, and Kirsty Newman, from DFID. Kirsty Newman’s blog stands out as having the greatest lean towards research for international development – her posts are on topics like the use of Randomised Controlled Trials for international development and appropriate evaluation tools. Simon Maxwell’s blog is also distinct – he tends to write one long argumentative piece every week or so, normally on a recent policy paper or book, but this equates with his tag line, he’s primarily interested in “bridging research and policy”.

Duncan Green’s blog seems to be the most talked about in the development community, perhaps because many of his pieces relate to current, interesting ideas like theories of change, and because he uses good infographics.  However his posts and those of the rest of these bloggers are fairly similar: they write regular, chatty pieces, with lots of links and evidence relating to a wide variety of international development topics, including science and technology.

Other blogs include the Guardian Development Network, the Royal Society and SciDev.Net. The Guardian Development Network, which posts work from a range of network members including IDS and SciDev.Net, is perhaps most useful for giving information on real time news relevant to international development like floods and natural disasters, although more in depth analytical posts are also available. The Royal Society’s in Verba blog deals with science, but has a specific post-2015 section, which does not presuppose a great deal of development knowledge on the part of the reader.

SciDev.Net’s blog, as suggested by its name, more than the others, (excepting perhaps Kirsty Newman’s blog) deals with the interface between science and development to the greatest extent. Longish analysis posts predominate.

All in all, there’s a lot out there, but not a huge amount on the impact of innovation and research for development – potentially a gap the UKCDS blog can fill.

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