Why ‘Youth Development Voice’? Background to this blog project

This blog is a space for young people who work in and around development to write about and reflect upon our views, experiences and the lessons we are learning from working in this sector.

We are young people who feel compelled to contribute to reducing global inequality in some professional capacity. We have specialised in international development whilst at university where we were confronted with insightful, intelligent and astute critiques of international development. We therefore recognise that ‘development’ comes with complex historical, cultural and moral baggage tied into ex-colonial relations and the power dynamics that this creates between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries.

However, reading these critiques of international development in a book is frustrating. Yes, they are analytically sharp but where does this leave us in the meantime? It feels as if these ideas and texts are locked in the confines of ivory towers, gathering dust and never realising their potential contribution. Do people working for NGOs know these exist? Do the academics that write them tell practitioners about their findings and how they can inform real projects? We are sure that the answers to both these questions are yes in theory, but in practice there seems to be a major disjuncture between those working ‘on the ground’ and those writing our textbooks.

We want to create a space where academic ideas can usefully influence the work of young people in the development field. Unless we make a conscious effort to engage with these debates it is easy to be paralysed into inaction or pursue a career in development whilst blindly ignoring the important debates and critiques that exist. We hope that this blog will be a place to ask self-reflexive and self-critical questions – what are my motivations for doing this; what does a ‘developed’ world look like; who decides; what kind of organisation do I want to work for; can I be more helpful in the UK or abroad; why do I want do this if there are other people in ‘developing’ countries doing it?

So on the one hand, this blog is a space for people to question what they are doing and work through the issues they encounter. On the other hand, it is somewhere that people can come if they want to learn more about the debates surrounding international development: you can come here to find summaries of academic arguments (because who says you have to have studied development to work in the field?) and you can come here if you are unsure about international development as a concept to find others who are working through the same issues. The more people who write and read the more people can avoid working in development whilst heedlessly ignoring the moral, cultural and political issues involved in working with people in other places.

We want to harness our youthful idealism (before we wither away into aged cynics!) and ask the fundamental question everyone asks at the beginning of their professional lives – what do I want to do, and why?

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