Our growing, multidisciplinary International Development list – now featuring almost 80 titles – includes leading researchers in the field including Jo Boyden, Pádraig Carmody, Gustavo Esteva, Garth Myers and David Simon and supports decolonial thought, indigenous research and transdisciplinarity.
Building on our reputation for publishing on poverty, inequality and social justice, and our not-for-profit status, the list explores key social challenges including poverty, cities, infrastructure and urban development, migration and health, and covers the impacts of COVID-19 in the Global South.
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In spring 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, research projects funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) were subjected to budget cuts. The cuts were the result of UK government’s decision to reduce its Official Development Assistance (ODA), which had devastating effects for humanitarian, development and research work. This article draws on focus group discussions with project teams working on three large GCRF-funded projects to explore the effects of these cuts. The article documents how the cuts curtailed project aspirations and impact, had a negative toll on the mental health of researchers, and imperilled the trusting relationships upon which international research collaborations are built. The article argues that the cuts expose the shallow commitments to research ethics and equitable partnerships of powerful actors in the UK research ecosystem, including research councils and government. In ‘doing harm’ via these cuts, the article explores the failure of research governance structures and the continued coloniality underpinning the UK’s approach to researching ‘global challenges’.
Summarizing the arguments of the book, this chapter reviews the effort to expand the social ecosystems for skills model. It considers some limitations to this approach. It then considers implications for vocational education and training (VET) policy and practice. Finally, it points to a new language for thinking about VET policy and practice.
This chapter introduces the main themes of the book. It justifies a concern with how the current policy and practice orthodoxy is not working despite the efforts of educators and learners. It is driven by a realization that the futures for which vocational education and training (VET) is intended to prepare people are ever more precarious at the individual, societal and planetary levels. And it is motivated by a sense that while better futures are possible, VET is poorly positioned to respond to the new skilling needs these will require. It introduces four cases from two Anglophone countries, Uganda and South Africa.
The book provides an immanent critique of the current state of VET and what underpins it being this way, and a vision of what a future, better VET might look like based on emerging visions of a better world and the first stirrings of new VET practices that are aligned with this vision. Thus, the book is intended to be part of an opening up of a new phase of VET research.
This chapter focuses particularly on the mediating role of the university, in close connection with vocational institutions and informal community actors, in developing an inclusive approach to vocational education and training (VET) through an expanded social ecosystem for skills model. It draws upon lessons learnt from the Alice and Gulu cases on community-based approaches to establishing an expanded skills ecosystem approach to VET in Africa. The main question guiding this chapter relates to the possible mediating role of the university to enhance a regional expanded ecosystem for supporting quality vocational education that is also relevant to its context, including emergent possibilities to build skills and livelihoods linked to just transitions.
Eighty per cent of Africans work in the informal economy. This chapter considers the highly informal, unregulated and often marginalized contexts that form the majority experience of living, working and learning. Situating the praxis of horizontal learning within these very normal contexts of informality demands renewed analysis into the questions of how horizontal learning is facilitated, by whom, with what resources, and why. This is explored through two empirical case studies offering distinct lenses on to the informal sector. In Gulu, the current dynamics of learning and inclusion among informal traders at a local market and in a set of food and clothing initiatives are considered. In Alice, the reflection is on an intentional effort on behalf of established, formal institutions to explore new approaches to teaching and learning through support of expansive informal learning in the context of food growing.
Following the 2008 global financial crisis, Digital Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) have become a common feature of the urban landscape in cities throughout Europe. An emerging body of literature suggests that Fab Labs go beyond providing access to digital fabrication tools, and function as ‘third places’ as they enhance social connectedness. Drawing on a case study of a Fab Lab in the English city of Coventry, this article utilises the concept of ‘austerity urbanism’ to understand the changing nature of third places in England since the 2008 global financial crash. In doing so, we argue that a confluence of austerity urbanism and digital advancements has influenced both the emergence of new third places (such as Fab Labs) while simultaneously undermining long-established third places (such as libraries). As a result, vital aspects of social infrastructure are being shaped and reshaped in the contemporary era. The article reflects on what these changes mean for individual and community well-being.
This chapter documents the evolution of skills ecosystem research and outlines a way of expanding the approach. The chapter contributes to the wider project of transforming VET for a transformed economy, society and environment. After tracing the emergence of skills ecosystems within the Anglophone north, the chapter draws on critical realism to help shape a conceptual and theoretical framework that avoids succumbing to reductionist conceptualizations of vocational skill formation. It explores the potential of conceptualizing skills ecosystems as a complex phenomenon that can be resolved into their separate yet related and emergent components so as to identify and relate the various mechanisms as different levels of reality that enable and constrain local skills ecosystems. This allows for the development of an expanded model that sees these interactions in a multiscalar, spatiotemporal way.
The 2021 UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) awakened the world to the critical need for food systems transformation. Several commitments were made during the summit, with the UN Secretary-General reiterating the need to support national mechanisms that develop and implement national pathways to 2030 that are inclusive and consistent with countries’ climate commitments, building upon the national food systems dialogues. Much of the discussion in the post-summit era has mostly been high level and focused on how countries can be supported to transform pathways into strategies and to design and operationalise investment plans aimed at fostering sustainable and inclusive food systems transformation. However, what has been missing in these discussions is what the envisaged transformation means for the smallholder farmer, and what it takes for smallholder farmers to embrace the transformative agenda and transition to more sustainable methods of production. In this article, reference is made to two of the Five Action Tracks, namely Action Track 3 (boost nature-based solutions) and Action Track 5 (build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses), whose central themes are anchored around resilience and sustainability. The paper discusses the underpinnings of nature-positive production systems and explores how these systems interface with smallholder farmers’ circumstances and production goals, and how this might affect implementation of the envisaged practices at the farm level. The central argument in this article is that discussions around food systems transformation must include the smallholder farmers, their lived experiences, socio-economic circumstances, aspirations and production goals.
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The transition to more just and sustainable development requires radical change across a wide range of areas and particularly within the nexus between learning and work.
This book takes an expansive view of vocational education and training that goes beyond the narrow focus of much of the current literature and policy debate. Drawing on case studies across rural and urban settings in Uganda and South Africa, the book offers a new way of seeing this issue through an exploration of the multiple ways in which people learn to have better livelihoods. Crucially, it explores learning that takes place informally online, within farmers’ groups, and in public and private educational institutions.
Offering new insights and ways of thinking about this field, the book draws out clear implications for theory, policy and practice in Africa and beyond.
This chapter provides a brief historical overview of skills development in Africa. After a brief consideration of the powerful and multifaceted colonial legacy, it tracks three dominant trends in vocational education and training (VET) systems and reform since independence. The combination of the strong presence of the colonial legacy as well as these three moments of VET reform have led to the current state of VET on the continent as weak, fragmented and littered with haphazard projects and reforms. It is from this point that a new approach must be built.