What's New in Development and 'Why I don't have a girlfriend': talks from the Warwick Economics Summit

I spoke at the ‘Warwick Economics Summit’ at the weekend – an annual event meticulously organized by students. Warwick logo12The corridor talk was all about jobs and internships – the banks are apparently back and hiring en masse. Well organized? Thinking about jobs? Students have changed since my day…

My talk was on ‘What’s New in Development’. Powerpoint here – feel free to cut and paste. Main points:
– lots of topics haven’t changed and remain central (pro-poor growth; effective aid; universal essential services; gender justice and human rights)
– hunger and resource constraints are a big ‘new-old’ topic
– increasing prominence in development discussions of hitherto ‘northern’ issues – aging, domestic taxation, mental health, disability, obesity/non communicable diseases
– an ever-wider set of global rules and institutions is being born, but no-one is in charge, so it’s chaotic and ad hoc
– as well as new themes, new ways of thinking are emerging – how change happens, what to measure

You can watch me present it here, but to be honest, you’d probably have more fun skipping to ‘Why I don’t have a girlfriend’: a delightfully silly paper by PhD student Peter Backus, written during what he describes as ‘the Great Loneliness’ of 2008. He decided to employ the Drake Equation (used to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy) to calculate the number of potential Backus-compatible girlfriends in the world. He arrived at the number 26. If you think that’s depressing, a gay Canadian came up with a number of less than one…… Not surprisingly, the paper has gone viral, been picked up in the media etc, and Peter rightly fears nothing he writes in the rest of his academic career will ever do as well.

There’s a happy ending though – since he wrote the paper, he’s found one of the 26 and they’re doing fine. Mind you, if anything goes wrong, he’s now down to 25…..

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