The Head of Strategy at the Independent Development Trust (IDT), Chris Mulaudzi, addressed the UP Development Studies Honors Students on 17th February 2020. He shared from his work experience that spans from being an independent researcher on land issues to working in the Department of Land Affairs - implementing land redistribution projects - to being Director of Monitoring and Evaluation in the Department of Social Development, until he started his current job three years ago.
In all these positions Chris used research for a range of purposes. These included: to inform development policies, such as on land reform; the monitoring function that supplied information ultimately to Cabinet level reviews of progress on the implementation of priority programmes; and to involve communities in the design and support of infrastructure projects, such as school building.
It was elaborated that there is a lot of application of research in Monitoring and Evaluation. Chris pointed out that in South Africa we have a Department of Monitoring and Evaluation, that is the only one of its kind in the world. Development Monitoring and Evaluation also offers career opportunities as it is being mainstreamed at all levels of government and across departments.
There was a discussion on where policy making goes wrong, given the research that is done to inform policy. One of the conclusions was that research is often ignored due to narrower political interests; politicians tend to prioritize short term political agendas rather than effective evidence based policy development.
Chris pointed out how research can challenge some common myths and assumptions. For example, he said that thorough research by the Human Sciences Research Council and others has refuted the assumption that women have more children due to the child support grant. Some of the students challenged this raising concerns about the creation of dependency. It was agreed that we should look at the various reports and draw our own conclusions on the important question of dependency and development.
In the IDT social facilitation incorporates participatory research to engage communities in the design of projects and through the process build ownership. Chris claimed that none of the IDT built schools have been burnt in protests, which is due to the process of building community ownership of that social infrastructure.
Chris stressed that we need people, such as development studies graduates, who are able to assess and expose problems and find solutions. Development studies gives one a broad understanding of the world, informed by a range of disciplines, like Anthropology and Sociology. As Chris put it: “You [development studies students] may not become engineers, but you may be managers of engineers”.