The Rajendrapur Conversation will be an annual event, taking place in the same month as the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, enabling the voice of the poor to be heard in advance of what is one of the main, global debates on poverty, globalization and development held each year. Each conversation will focus on a different theme, which will provide the catalyst for major policy research programs for the Brooks World Poverty Institute and Brac Development Institute (BWPI-BDI) partnership. Each will yield practical recommendations on what we can do and, as importantly, how we can go about it.
Additionally, around each conversation, a series of pilot, community-based projects will be undertaken to provide practical opportunities to test thinking and scalability.
The Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation launched the 'Rajendrapur Conversation' at the BRAC Centre in Rajendrapur, Bangladesh in January 2009. The first Conversation focused on protecting poor people from the effects of climate change. The Conversation provided a platform for dialogue between poor people and BWPI - BDI's experts (anthropologists, architects, engineers, economists, environmentalists, hydrologists, urban planners and political scientists), which including experts from Bangladesh and across South Asia. These conversations then produced an action plan to help Dhaka and urban Bangladesh adapt to climate change, together with pilot projects to be implemented by BRAC and others, to demonstrate how effective help can be given so that large-scale aid from donors and governments can meet the needs of the poor. The action plan will be widely publicized and shared across cities and countries as part of BDI-BWPI's unique knowledge management platform that intends to bring together and disseminate the latest information on what works for eradicating poverty.
From the pilot projects, The Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation intends to inform the scaling up of donor, NGO and government investments to cope with climate change. This not only involves the existing urban population, but those of rural areas, since climate change will accelerate urbanization as the rural population loses its traditional livelihoods to increased flooding, leading to large-scale population movement to the cities.
To raise the profile of this event, The Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation has created a new web site on the theme of 'what works for the poor (www.working-for-the-poor.org). The website aggregates news of what is happening in poverty research and practice, with the aim of becoming the premier site for those seeking the latest advances in knowledge and practice, and it will disseminate the results of the pilot projects developed out of the Rajendrapur Conversation.
Success criteria will be specific to each project agreed to at the Rajendrapur Conversation, but in general, it will be measured by the quality of the practical action generated: the projects and initiatives for poor people that deliver them tangible help. Determining success is accomplished through the pilot projects that will emerge from Rajendrapur together with the strategy for adapting urban Bangladesh to climate change, and the impact of this on the strategies and actions of the government and donors.
The challenge is so large, and so urgent, that many types of experts are needed. Both BDI and BWPI are uniquely placed. BDI draws on BRAC's immense and longstanding expertise on working with the poor to improve their lives, not only in Bangladesh, but now across the globe (notably in Africa, but also in the North, including the US and UK). BWPI draws on the extensive expertise of the University of Manchester in global poverty research, including that of Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, who chairs BWPI, as well as Manchester's reputation as one of the world's great science and technology universities. BWPI is stepping up its work in Africa and Latin America, and this initiative will involve taking the Rajendrapur Conversation to other parts of the developing world, engaging with the poor, and developing practical action to help them. In summary, this is a unique compact between world-class practitioners and researchers to benefit the world's most vulnerable people.
The Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation welcomes additional partners to provide resources to realize this commitment and to help them to move the global conversation on poverty to a new level, to generate knowledge of real value to poor people, to share it so that all learn the lessons of what really works, and last, but not least, to put the voice of the poor into the global debate.
In particular, the Foundation would welcome support and interest from organisations wanting to contribute their knowledge or provide access to projects involving working with the poor for evaluation and to include in the body of knowledge being created and shared.
SEEKING: The Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation is actively seeking new partners to take forward the success of the Global Poverty Summit agenda for both intellectual content and funding.