Thoughts on the Power of Inbetween conference and Between Ourselves IK Mediaries workshop
Maria McMillan, Development Resource Centre, Aotearoa* New Zealand
I work at the Development Resource Centre in Aotearoa New Zealand. We’re a resource centre that works to create a just world through informing and educating New Zealanders on aid, development and global issues. While part of our work is focused on working with teachers, youth workers, young people and the general public, my programme also works on getting good quality, research based and accessible information to development practitioners and policy-makers.
There’s no other organisation in Aotearoa that is particularly dedicated to intermediary work (as I’ve now learnt to call it) so I was delighted to travel to Centurian, South Africa and meet with other organisations from all over the globe that have a similar mandate. The events were an uncannily perfect fit with what we do. While I enjoyed and appreciated the diversity of the attendants I was also pleasantly surprised by the similarity of the work many of us do, and the lessons that could be learnt from sharing and discussion.
I have come back with a satisfying bushel of ideas and activities to inspire me in my work. Today, my first day back at work, at a whole organisation Monitoring and Evaluation planning session, my team decided to pilot an M and E project around website usability. I could use ideas and propose tools discussed in both Anna’s (IDS) M and E session and Adrian’s (IDS) website usability workshop.
I found the conference plenary sessions intellectually stimulating and practical. The notion first proposed by Megan (DFID) that intermediaries can have a role beyond supplying and communicating research to building demand for research and capacity building among research users was revisited throughout the four days. I’m about to recruit our first dedicated researcher and these conversations are going to shape my work plan for that person.
The workshop was flexible enough to accommodate ideas that arose along the way. Anna and I got somewhat obsessed by benchmarking and we were able to spend a satisfying few hours with others unpacking what that might look like for information intermediaries, Geoff’s pond provided a nourishing source of analogy and inspiration, the hotel’s own small pond with large fish seemed relevant somehow, Homo Infomediary stood upright, wandered out of her cave, gazed around appreciatively in new light, and grunted with a newly found language.
I had conversations throughout the week where someone would describe something their organisation was doing and someone else would say “Oh, that’s interesting, we were thinking of doing that, can we see what you’ve done?”. Theories emerged, collaborations were hatched, ideas were blatantly stolen and copyright and ownership happily ignored. It was a rich time. Many thanks to the wonderful organisers from the Human Sciences Research Council and Institute of Development Studies.
*Aotearoa is the currently preferred indigenous (Maori) name for New Zealand