I joined IDD in November 1978, at roughly the same time as Nick Devas and Andrew Nickson. This was a time of expansion of IDD (then the Development Administration Group – DAG), backed by a ‘development fund’ that Ken Davey had won from the University of Birmingham. I am forever grateful that Ken who was then the director of DAG took time out to visit me at the University of Sussex and encouraged me to apply.
The end of the 1970s had one similarity with current times; the job market was sticky. I had had 13 years of short-term posts: voluntary service in Pakistan through the UN Students Association, research contracts on British urban policy issues, three years in the civil service (the only job I ever willingly quit), research at the Institute of Development Studies and working in Brazil, and research for the International Labour Organization in Chile. It was time to put down roots and I did; I’m still here 35 years later, and for as long as they tolerate me!
Thanks to Donald Curtis who at the outset shared his office with me and whose family provided a circle of friends for me and my family; and thanks to Chris Davies who established for me the benevolent practice of going for lunch at Staff House which remained the norm for many of us until recently – I have since learned to eat sandwiches over the computer key-board. For more than 30 years, IDD presented to me a marvellously diverse combination of teaching, consultancy and research in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the UK and Europe. Though I have often been stupid enough to grumble about the pressures, who could not have relished that opportunity to meet and work with people from all over the world, while being rooted in a team of colleagues in Birmingham?
The great feature of IDD has always been its strong sense of collective responsibility; we know that we have to pull our weight, but how we do that is to a great extent for each of us to create and shape. Moreover, in those earlier days, our own sense of team responsibility was not second-guessed or over-ridden by heavy-handed performance evaluation.
From about 1985 everything changed for me as IDD’s activities and commitments grew. Not only was our masters programme developing but also from then till 1992, together with an IDD colleague (first Jim Amos, then Ian Blore followed by Philip Amis) and Indian colleagues (particularly Shyam Dutta), each year we ran an extensive and intensive course in urban management for Indian officials. This involved a preparatory visit to India, two months of classroom and fieldwork in the UK, and one month in India; we developed what was described by the British Council as the Birmingham model of training. The course participants and staff undertook a joint consultancy on real-life issues first in a British city then an Indian one, developing ideas and understanding through the analysis and proposals. Getting to grips with, for example, urban finance in Hyderabad, urban fringe land development in Bangalore, decentralization in West Bengal, urban rehabilitation in Bombay and Patna, and road transport in Kanpur gave a strong immersion in India, and an insider view of issues as they were experienced by the local population and government officials.
The 1990s and first decade of the 2000s brought a new commitment to large-scale funded research; until then, our research had been largely individual and undertaken incidentally to teaching and consultancy. Personally, through the research, I found myself focusing on the relationship between citizens, governments and service providers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Long-term and substantial research programmes brought the enjoyment of working with continuous groups of colleagues in other UK and overseas institutions (Nurul Alam, Masooda Bano, Padmaja Nair, Natasha Palmer, Pauline Rose and Kevin Sansom), and within IDD (Philip Amis, Ken Davey, Simon Delay, Nick Devas, Mike Hubbard, Paul Jackson, George Larbi, Claire Mcloughlin and Carole Rakodi).
Through a series of major projects, IDD has developed a strong reputation and a large body of publications on service delivery issues, most recently led by Claire Mcloughlin on the politics of service delivery.
If I had to pick out one golden memory from my time at IDD, it would be the day in 2001 that we learned we had won the DFID contract to develop and operate the Governance Resource Centre. This was due not only to our own efforts but also to the support of Geoff Barnard at the Institute of Development Studies which backed our bid and of Roger Wilson, DFID’s head of governance who saw that we were capable. Now known as the GSDRC, covering humanitarian as well as governance, social development and conflict issues, and funded by AusAid and the European Commission as well as DFID, this has acquired a notable international reputation in knowledge management. The great thing is that it is not only about memories. I just have to look down the corridor to admire the energy, intelligence and integrity of the team that provides the service under the leadership of Brian Lucas.