DSA Ireland Annual Conference 2016

Issued 16 May 2016

Beyond Aid? Innovative Models for Social Justice

Date: 24-25 November 2016; 

Venue: The Education & Research Centre, Harold’s Cross Hospice, Dublin 6

Read about this year`s keynote speakers here.



Development theory and practice should always be subject to critical scrutiny in a spirit of innovation. There is a widespread mood across the sector that we need to reflect on means ‘beyond aid’ to achieve social justice. Development agencies are beginning to reconsider the need for industrial strategies after a long period when market mechanisms had total priority. NGOs are debating whether the current models they operate under are fit for purpose today to pursue social justice. We need open, respectful dialogue between critical voices, the NGOs and Irish Aid.

Today across the world we can see a myriad of alternative development theories and strategies that barely register with most development agencies and NGOs. Going back we can also note a continuous preoccupation with the need for a developmental state and an active industrial policy in the South while many in the North accepted the wisdom of the unregulated market.


The 2016 DSAI conference will seek to inform, explore and dialogue with alternative development paradigms. To go ‘beyond aid’ will open up a space for reflection and debate on innovative models and practices to achieve social justice. The Irish common sense around development – shared to a large extent by government, non–governmental organisations and academia needs to open up to new voices.

"It is widely accepted that aid, whilst important, will not deliver the ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda. Leaving no-one behind requires more than what aid can ever deliver. But what exactly constitutes 'beyond aid' is hotly contested. Does 'beyond aid' mean a world of predominantly private finance flows and embracing the encroaching privatisation of the development industry? Or does it mean mobilising innovative sources of public finance, through tax cooperation and internationalised taxes to deliver global public goods? Or is it implying something more transformative, which goes beyond the current siloed institutional and policy frameworks, requiring us to think differently about planetary boundaries? These are big questions which go to the heart of current political and policy debates. It is great to see the DSAI tackling these issues at this year's conference and leading a thought provoking debate."

- Dr Lorna Gold, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Trócaire

"A strong civil society is critical to protect and defend social justice, and yet our legitimacy to speak out, and the space to do so, is being contested like never before. We need to find new ideas, and a stronger voice, to keep humanity at the heart of what we do. It's timely that this conference aims to discuss new innovative ideas to do that."
"We are failing to protect human rights on so many different levels. What do we need to do more off, better, or change completely? This conference is timely to ensure we are adapting to the urgent challenges ahead. Only then can we hope to keep social justice at the heart of development."

- Suzanne Keatinge, Chief Executive Officer, Dóchas


The DSAI Study Groups on Humanitarian Action, Gender, Child Health, Nutrition, Civil Society, Education and Water will be addressing the need of new thinking ‘beyond aid’. We are open, of course, to all sectors and thematic interests groups who wish to open up an alternative space for dialogue beyond the current consensus. We  will also provide a platform for ongoing development research from any perspective as it is our practice.

Topics to be explored include but are not restricted to the following:

  • Does the dominant economic model actually cause conflict in the South, for example around land grabbing and resource exploitation? How can this be changed?
  • Have the development NGOs shifted from an empowering perspective to a role supporting the dominant model? If so, how might that be addressed and what would the implications be?
  • Does the Western model of civil society and civil society strengthening marginalize local representative social structures and therefore reduce the potential for independent development and indigenous modernization?
  • Does the ‘development and migration’ perspective address the needs of migrants? Should Ireland be playing a greater role in the current migration crisis?
  • Is the developmental state a thing of the past or does it have renewed relevance today after the Great Recession? If it does what does it mean to NGOs and development agencies?
  • Does development assistance perpetuate dependency by reproducing dominant structures? If so how can dependency be reduced other than through de-linking? What are the options here?
  • Do international development strategies such as the SDGs miss the need for industrial policy in the South? Would they be able to be integrated? What are the options here? 
  • Does the post-development perspective offer an alternative to the dominant model or is it just a critique? Do the NGOs work with social movements that see themselves as ‘post development’?
  • Does ‘sustainable development’ mean that the current theory and practice of development is inadequate? What are the sustainable development models and where are the practical experiences to validate them?
  • Do indigenous development cosmologies offer an alternative to the dominant Western modernization model? How do we translate this critical voice into development discourse and practice?

To view the Call for Papers, please click here.