David Suzuki Fellowships (3)

The David Suzuki Fellowship program will empower emerging scholars to tackle complex environmental problems. It will reduce financial barriers, provide mentorship and foster leadership and creativity so fellows can conduct research and engage and inform the public and policy-makers.


A total of three fellowships are available, one in Montreal, one in Toronto and one in Vancouver. Each will be for one year (with the potential for renewal) and will consist of:

  • A $50,000 stipend, plus up to $5,000 for travel and other professional expenses
  • Mentorship from David Suzuki and David Suzuki Foundation senior staff
  • Access to office space at the Foundation offices
  1. VANCOUVER - RENEWABLE ENERGY AND/OR CLIMATE CHANGE ECONOMICS: The Vancouver-based fellow will join the Foundation's Science and Policy team and research innovative clean energy solutions and/or the economics of sustainable development. Candidates from all disciplines are encouraged to apply.
  2. TORONTO - INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE AND CLIMATE CHANGE: The Toronto-based fellow will join the Foundation's Ontario and Northern Canada team and work to integrate traditional Indigenous knowledge into climate change solutions. Candidates from all disciplines are encouraged to apply. You must be an Indigenous person (First Nation, Inuit or Métis) to be eligible.
  3. MONTREAL - TRANSPORTATION, ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE: The Montreal-based fellow will join the Foundation's Quebec and Atlantic Canada team and work on regional and/or national transportation, energy and climate change issues. Issues may include (but are not limited to) green transit planning and the development of sustainable cities. Candidates from all disciplines are encouraged to apply and must be bilingual (French and English).

Putting the Last First

In 1983 Robert Chambers published "Rural Development: Putting the Last First." If you have not come across this book, it is well worth finding a copy. As a book written more than three decades ago, it offers some perspective on what lessons have been learned. However, this book is particularly challenging to read as you encounter issues that are almost exactly the same today as they were in 1983.

The book begins exploring biases – a topic everyone needs to critical (re)reflect upon all the time. Specifically, Chambers highlights those related to rural experiences: "The direct rural experience of most urban-based outsiders is limited to the brief and hurried visits, from urban centers, of rural development tourism. These exhibit six biases against contact with and learning from the poorer people. These are spatial – urban, tarmac, and roadside; project – toward places where there are projects; person – toward those who are better off, men rather than women, users of services and adopters of practice rather than non-users and non-adapters, and those who are active, present and living; seasonal , avoiding the bad times of the wet season; diplomatic, not seeking out the poor for fear of giving offence; and professional, confined to the concerns of the outsider's specialisation. As a result, the poorer rural people are little seen and even less is the nature of their poverty understood." (p. 2) In a previous post on Eyben's 2014 book, I posed the question to what extent the biases are unintentional, when in fact choices are being made (specifically those of choosing to live an expat live and entrenching the biases). Chambers also notes this: "There is also an element of choice. Outsiders choose what to do – where to go, what to see, and whom to meet" (p. 4).

Chambers' second topic of concern is that of the "negative academic" and the "positive practitioner" divide: "Outsiders polarise into two cultures: a negative academic culture, mainly of social scientists, engaged in unhurried analysis and criticism; and a more positive culture of practitioners, engaged in time-bounded action. Each culture takes a poor view of the other and the gap between them is often wide" (p. 28). Further: "to some critical and intolerant academics, practitioners are narrow-minded philistines and at best naïve reformists, part of a system of exploitation of which they are largely unaware" (p. 29). Chambers understands these divides as being rooted in training as academics are taught "to criticise and are rewarded for it" but also notes that the "critical attitudes have made an enormous contribution" (p. 29). I can only assume this has moderately improved since the early 1980s, but nonetheless continues (asthis 2016 development studies book highlighted). For the critical academics, Chambers offers some thoughts for their reflection: "It is easy to write about what ought to be. The hard question is how, in the real, messy, corrupting world to encourage and enable more people to move in these directions" (p. 189).

I found it quite interesting that Chambers raised a key challenge to the research and academic community – again, in 1983 – that has still not been addressed in a substantial way: "Supposedly rigorous in research methodology, academics are astonishingly unrigorous in the diffusion of their findings. To impress peers and promotion boards they publish impenetrable prose in prestigious journals… Enormous sums are devoted to research and little to diffusion of research results. Diffusion and impact are often left to take care of themselves" (p. 62-63). To this concern, I add the challenges of people who need access to the research (i.e. government staff, policy makers) do not have access to the journal articles.

One of the practical solutions Chambers offers to challenges the biases is for outsider professionals "to step down off their pedestals, and sit down, listen and learn" (p. 101) and to recognize "small farmers as professionals and colleagues, as fellow experimenters and developers of technology" (p. 206). The final chapter, however, explicitly offers concrete recommendations, and concludes: "These six approaches – sitting; asking and listening; learning from the poorest; learning indigenous technical knowledge; joint R and D [Research and Development]; learning by working; and simulation games – all reverse the learning process. They encourage and enable those being trained or educated to learn from the many below and not just from the few above" (p. 209).

Funded MA: Youth & Farming

​Funding is available for one student to undertake a two-year MA in Sociology or Public Issues in Anthropology (with the option of the collaborative International Development Studies program) and to undertake research on a topic related to young farmers in one or more of the four countries (Canada, China, India and Indonesia) under the aegis of the research project Becoming a young farmer: Young people's pathways into farming, at the University of Guelph.

The global phenomenon of an ageing farming population, poor returns on farming in the current economic paradigm and an apparent lack of interest among youth in agrarian and rural futures have attracted considerable attention among policy makers and researchers. At the same time, what is overlooked is that not all young people leave farming and the countryside, and some urban youth establish themselves as first-generation urban or rural farmers. By studying young people's pathways into farming futures we aim to fill an important void in current work on rural youth and agrarian studies and in policies related to rural poverty reduction and employment generation. First, the research studies will go beyond documenting the various barriers that keep young people from establishing agrarian futures to examining how at least some young people manage to overcome these. Second, they will assess the working of intergenerational dynamics underpinning trajectories into farming, ranging from inheritance to the intergenerational transfer of knowledge. Third, they will shed light on generational innovation in farming practices across the globe. Gender will be treated as a key relation of social differentiation shaping all three areas of inquiry. 

A competitive funding package (including a minimum guaranteed stipend, TAships, RAships and field research funding) is available for the right student. Fluency in the local language, prior field experience and familiarity with mixed methods of data collection and analysis are desirable. 

Those interested should please email a CV, a 250 word research design, sample writing, three reference letters, and an unofficial transcript to: Dr. Sharada Srinivasan by 09 December 2016. Short-listed applicants will be interviewed by Skype by the end of December 2016. Admission is subject to the approval of the relevant graduate admissions committee(s).

Funded MA: Decarbonization

Two MA funding opportunity at Memorial University of Newfoundland (Anthropocene and Decarbonization: Mapping the Controversies)

We invite applications for two MA positions on "Anthropocene and Decarbonization: Mapping the Controversies." Decarbonization (through the shift to 'green energies' and the enhancement of 'carbon sinks' in the form of forest conservation) are among the most important strategies being promoted by governments and international bodies to curb climate change. The latter is one of the paradigmatic phenomena of the so-called Anthropocene, a label marking the geological consequentiality of human activity on the planet. Both the notion of the Anthropocene and the strategies of decarbonization are embroiled in controversies with multiple dimensions. We seek applicants who would be interested in 'mapping' these controversies: that is, how different positions in the arguments form clusters (of spokespersons; institutions; groups); what is the relation between different clusters; how positions are translated into policies and concrete interventions, and so on. Under the supervision of a team of researchers that will provide training on the various aspects of the project, applicants will develop their own projects within this general umbrella (for instance they might be interested in how these controversies relate to Indigenous peoples in particular places; or how they are gendered in particular ways; or how science and politics are entangled differently in different places; or how funding flows across the field of controversies; to mention a few possibilities). We will give priority to applicants that have some background on so called material-semiotics versions of Science and Technology Studies (as represented by Actor-Network Theory, or authors such as Donna Haraway). We strongly encourage Indigenous students to apply. Funding is 17K per year (2 years). Students must pay tuition out of their stipend. International students will have the differential fee in their tuition covered by the project. Applicants might join the project through various departments and are thus encouraged to contact Dr. Mario Blaser before applying to the School of Graduate Studies in order to determine the best route to follow. Email: mblaser {at} mun.ca. Applications should include:

  1. A cover letter including: statement on your familiarity with material-semiotics version of STS (i.e., courses you took, or material you have read); some initial idea on what aspect of the controversies would you be interested in researching; disciplines through which you would prefer to join the project.
  2. A CV and a break down/unofficial transcript of grades in the last two years

Check the sites for general information on Memorial University (http://www.mun.ca) and its graduate programs (http://www.mun.ca/become/graduate/apply/)

Funded MA: Environmental Anthropology

Funding is available for an MA student in environmental anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan, beginning in September, 2017. Prof. Clint Westman is leading a community-engaged research project focusing on the resource extraction sector's impacts and processes with respect to Aboriginal people in northern Alberta. The project provides an opportunity for MA students to undertake ethnographic fieldwork in a northern community. Funding is available to support fieldwork and to provide at least $15,000 to the successful student, who will work as a research assistant in year one of the MA program. Similar funding may be provided in year two of the MA program subject to satisfactory performance and available funds. Students may also be eligible for an admission award. Application deadline is January 15, 2017. For further information see


The Politics of Evidence

Evidence is important. We want to know what we are doing works (or doesn't work). But, what happens when particular types of evidence are required to get funding, and what impact does this have on the types of work that is supported by donors? These questions are engaged with in the edited volume "The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development: Playing the Game to Change the Rules?" (2015) edited by Rosalind Eyben, Irene Guijt, Chris Roche and Cathy Shutt. The book emerged out of a conference and was supported by an on-going blog conversation (one that has died of recent). For anyone concerned about the how evidence could be political, the experiences presented by a range of authors in this book is well worth reading. Alternatively, it would be useful for advocates who believe that RCTs are the only means by which we can determine what we ought to do in development activity.

One of the values of edited volumes is that multiple views can be presented in a single book. Some contributors are critical of the ways in which evidence (and specifically shifts such as the emphasis on "value for money") has been politicized and negatively affected international development activity. Others recognize the benefits that the newfound emphasis on evidence offers. For example: "Love it or hate it, engaging with VfM [Value for Money] is encouraging healthy and long-overdue debates that force practitioners to make explicit the reasons why we think we offer value and the values we use to asses that." (p. 74) In addition to seeing where the conversation about evidence adds benefit, it was further argued that such a shift creates opportunities: "Nevertheless, there is room to manoeuver. It can offer power-aware practitioners opportunities to increase accountability to citizens and each other; VfM [Value for Money] also creates possibilities to influence discourse about links between value and money and to debate what kind of development is valued." (p. 58)

Although human rights did not play a key role in the book, I believe that one of the most important conflicts in the debates around cost effectiveness and value for money is that with human rights. At the outset of the book this was alluded to: "The number of agencies, particularly international NGOs, using rights language has continued to increase, but the contradiction between rights-based approaches and their political and process approach to intangible goals such as empowerment and the increasing popularity of results-based management has become very apparent. It is harder to manage support for transformational approaches when one is required to report tangible, easy-to-measure changes" (p. 9) However, the issue of human rights was not taken up in detail by any of the contributors. In fact, one notes the absence of human rights: "focusing on unit cost and things that can be measured misses the importance of politics, relationships and networks in creating exponential value through difficult-to-measure change… linear, results-based management thinking and associated VfM [Value for Money] assessment techniques may have limited use for complex transformational initiatives." (p. 69) To these concerns, I have raised that of human rights and justice. If donors emphasize value for money and impact per dollar, we tend to focus our efforts – by necessity – on the easiest to reach, but not necessarily those most in need, or those most deserving (based upon local or regional inequality).

Accountability is important. But, accountability to whom? Organizations tend to focus on accountability to donors. But, little accountability to those for whom organizations claim to work is done. One of the chapters in this volume presents an interesting example of an organization that grappled with this question, and largely, where those efforts failed: "My central proposition is that, despite some significant efforts by the organization to become more accountable to those is sought to benefit, this agenda never became 'mission critical.' In part this was because of other organizational priorities becoming more pressing – particularly as growth in funding stagnated – and in part because we failed to recognize and align the many different perspectives on accountability that existed in the agency." (p. 80) As this book highlights, I believe we need to be far more critical not only about what evidence is demanded, but for whom evidence is prioritized.

Research Fellows: Makerere Institute of Social Research (Uganda)

Makerere University invites applications for One (1) Senior Research Fellow and Two (2) Research Fellow positions in the fields of:

  • Political Economy: Agrarian studies; Economic Theory and History; Late Industrialization and International Political Economy.
  • History, with a specialization in Pre-Colonial African and Indian Ocean History and/or Historiography and Historical Methods.
  • Political Theory: Modern and pre-modern, Western and non-western comparative.
  • Literary and Cultural Studies: World and African Literature; Social and Cultural Anthropology; Post-colonial studies.

Funded PhD: Northern Food Systems

Lakehead University, in partnership with the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems and the Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged (FLEdGE) project, is looking for an exceptional candidate to undertake PhD research on issues of northern food systems sustainability. We are offering funding of $10,000/year for four years (providing satisfactory performance). Additional funding may be available through a Graduate Assistant position and/or scholarships, as determined by the admitting program. Given the scope and potential impacts of northern food systems, it is particularly critical to understand their dynamics as they emerge and evolve in response to their surroundings within a context geared primarily toward the dominant agri-industrial system. Issues of focus may include, northern food policy, diverse governance systems, alternative food networks, Indigenous food sovereignty, regional agricultural and land-based identity, and harvesting, forest and freshwater foods. Familiarity with and/or interest in complex adaptive systems theory would be considered an asset. The successful Ph.D. candidate will be expected to actively work toward establishing a strong publication record, assist in seeking external funding, and work effectively in the multi-disciplinary field of northern food systems sustainability including stakeholder/community partners.

To apply for this position, please send a letter of interest, a CV, transcripts and the names of two references via email to Charles Levkoe by no later than December 1, 2016. Candidates will also need to apply (by the appropriate deadline) to undertake their PhD in either Forestry Sciences or Psychological Sciences at Lakehead University. The student will support ongoing research on northern food systems and research from the Food Security Research Network starting in September 2017.

For more information on the potential supervisors:

Charles Z Levkoe https://www.lakeheadu.ca/users/L/clevkoe

Rebecca Schiff https://www.lakeheadu.ca/users/S/rschiff

Connie Nelson https://www.lakeheadu.ca/users/N/cnelson

Mirella Stroink https://www.lakeheadu.ca/users/S/mstroink

Poverty & the MDGs

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were widely touted as having broad positive impact, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) continue the general, expanded, trajectory. With these high level, long-term agendas it is important to, on occasion, take ten steps back and reflect. Critical reflection may identify design challenges and structural flaws that can better inform, or entirely change, what is done in international development. Cimadamore, Koehler and Pogge (2016) offer such a space in their edited volume "Poverty and the Millennium Development Goals: A Critical Look Forward." This is not a typical critique of all that is 'development,' and the contributing authors include some engaged and widely respected individuals. As an edited volume, it is hard to review, but in particular I recommend Chapters 1, 2 and 6. Quotes from these chapters are included below, and identified as such.

The editors argue that a "critical assessment of the MGDs is necessary and we could have reached a moment in history conducive to producing the meaningful changes required to fulfil the commitment to eradicating extreme poverty and achieving human development and a better life for all. This volume intends to provide that kind of assessment, combined with a look ahead at the new development agenda" (p. 4, Chapter 1). However, the "trends suggest that, at the country level, income redistribution policies need to accompany poverty alleviation or eradication strategies. This has not been the case; neither in neoliberally oriented economies nor in the developmental states" (p. 12, Chapter 1). Furthermore, good intentions, and even good programs, only go so far. It "must be recognized that poverty, as well as its eradication and prevention, is a manifestly political issue… Policies that do not analyse the impact of power relations on the creation and re-creation of poverty can have only limited and superficial success" (p. 13, Chapter 1). Some of the explicit, political recommendations are repeated by others: "Promotion of participation, inclusion and voice of poor people is crucial to overcoming some of the political and structural determinants of poverty and its perpetuation" (p. 42, Chapter 2).

Chapter 2, a unique contribution from Sundaram, makes a compelling case for the flawed methodological system that determines "success" in the MDGs. Consider: "If one starts from the original poverty definition of $1/day (in 1985 dollars) used for drafting MDG1, and then corrects for US inflation in the 1985-2005 period, one gets an equivalent poverty line of $1.815/day (in 2005 dollars), or $55.18/month, which is clearly much higher than the $1.25/day for 2005 used by the World Bank. The number of poor would then be 2,698.42 million in 1990 and 2,146.68 million in 2010 – for a mere 20.5 percent reduction over twenty years, nowhere near the enough to halve the proportion, let alone the number, of poor in developing countries" (p. 32, Chapter 2).

There are also important reflections from the MDGs on the potential of reaching the SGDs: "Available evidence on poverty trends and our policy analyses suggest that continuing with the same set of policies and measures will not suffice to eradicate extreme poverty, or even to achieve a substantial reduction in acute and other forms of poverty by 2030" (p. 14, Chapter 1). Chapter 3 continues "People feel they have been bypassed by new economic opportunities. Access to markets and/or links to higher levels of society are hindered by their powerlessness and lack of resources for fair participation" (p. 48, Chapter 3). Chapter 6 attempts to re-focus the failures away from domestic decision making to "the treacherous features of the international system whose structure serves mainly the economic and political interests of powerful factions in donor countries" (p. 127) whose power is reinforced by voting weights in global governance structures.

Post-doc Fellowship: Canada

Multiple Disciplines - 2017 Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellowships, Dalhousie University

Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellowships (KPDF) in most fields of study are tenable for up to two years at Dalhousie University, located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. KPDFs are valued up to $55,000 CDN per year including travel allowance, a one-time $3,000 research grant, a $1,000 conference travel grant and benefits. Applicants must have recently completed a PhD (Jan 2015 or later) at a recognized university and have no current affiliation with Dalhousie University. Applications must be submitted no later than 15-Dec-16. Full details available at:


Logan Cochrane


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