The secret ingredient for development meetings

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About a year ago, I experienced one of the hardest working days of my life. It was the first day I chaired a meeting of a new 20-ish person taskforce on green growth and poverty reduction. It sounds odd and a little laughable now, especially now that a year has passed and that the group has concluded its work (our work will be published in a few months time). But I think the reason I found that day hard was because I wasn’t used to chairing such a large group, particularly not in such a formal setting.

So when I watched, just over ten days ago, three women ministers – DFID’s Secretary of State Justine Greening, Planning Minister Armida Alisjahbana from Indonesia and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria – co-chair a group of about the same size getting together for the first time, I was impressed. Of course, these ministers had chaired large groups before. And there are lots of guides out there about how to make every meeting matter. We all know the tips: make sure people come to the meetings prepared; make sure the room is set up so that it feels physically inclusive; have a clear agenda and vision for what you want to get out of the meeting; be open to new ideas, and be ready for detractors too.

Three women Ministers take charge of development effectiveness, 2012

In the case of last week’s meeting, the first meeting of the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, several people had been involved in making it matter. The Support Team, made up of officials from UNDP and the OECD, had worked really hard to write the key documents for the meeting and circulate them in good time. They, Nigerian and Indonesian officials and I had been working together to design a clear and stimulating agenda. The EBRD, where the meeting was being hosted, had people on hand to deal with all the logistics and ensure the sessions could be filmed. The 15 non-ministerial Steering Committee members had been preparing their own contributions, contacting colleagues from other countries and organisations to ask them their views, including on progress they’d seen (or otherwise) on development effectiveness over the past year, and the specific documents that had been circulated.The secret ingredient, however, was unknown to all of us until the meeting actually began.

The secret ingredient was the three ministers. Their special contribution was to bring leadership to the table. As business lecturer Robert Pozen describes in this interview, there are two typical chairperson styles that are used in meetings. The first style is to be open and ask everyone what they think should be done. This is problematic because it lacks structure, and can lead to a lot of time wasting. The second style is what Pozen describes as authoritarian – where the chair gives their views and asks for a response. This technique can scare people into simply acquiescing. Neither techniques are particularly effective or inclusive. Pozen recommends a third technique – designed to focus discussion and encourage debate.And this is what I saw the ministers deliver at this first meeting.

As you’ll see from the videos of the sessions, the ministers opened by putting forward a number of areas they felt needed action. They gave structure by setting out the major challenge – working out what change and success for development that the Global Partnership, now that it is formed, might deliver. They each offered a suggested path, but invited Steering Committee members to support their views or give alternative suggestions. Through this leadership, the ministers were able to gather consensus around the table that the Committee should work on four to five initial topics, which members will write papers on, and which will be shared and discussed with the international community in the early New Year. They also agreed that the Steering Committee will meet again in March and June/July next year and made plans for a bigger ministerial meeting in October 2013, modifying some of the suggestions that had been set out in the papers circulated in advance. The effective chairing was all about leadership.

In retrospect, I think I managed to provide some leadership to the green growth and poverty reduction taskforce that I chaired over the past year. But I know I’ve still got a long way to go if I want to deliver as decisive, un-bureaucratic and inclusive a meeting as I saw a few days ago. Though there is still a great deal of work to do, it was certainly a successful first meeting, and my hope is that as a result, the other Steering Committee members will be energised in future to come up with new ideas and challenges. We have an exciting year ahead.

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EDMOND BOSILONG

Research Analyst

Edmond is a research analyst who is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and the environment. Passionate about climate financing, he firmly believe there is a more reliable system to promote equality, growth, and welfare in societies without affecting the ecosystem. Through his skills, knowledge and experienced gained over 7 years, he wants to make an impact in the world of development. Edmond holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Korea Development Institute and a BA Degree (Honors) in Business from University of Derby.

   HANNAH RYDER

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Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.

LEAH LYNCH

Deputy Director

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.

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Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.

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Research Analyst

Judith is a Research and Policy Analyst, where she specialises in Africa-China relations, international development, and diplomacy. During her time at Development Reimagined, Judith has co-authored several articles published in The Diplomat on debt and China-Barbados relations and was quoted by China Daily in a piece on Women Rights in China. Previously, Judith worked as a research analyst for an Advocate and Commissioner and Oats office in Kenya.

OVIGWE EGUEGU

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Ovigwe specialises in geopolitics with particular reference to Africa in a changing Global Order. He is adept at critically analysing the politics of contemporary development processes and providing insight into the geopolitical interests that influence them. His work includes research, publications, tailored briefings and advising on global and regional trends, and issues at the nexus of geopolitics and development. Ovigwe appears frequently in media around the world such as Al Jazeera, TRT World, SABC, CGTN, BBC Radio, and other platforms.

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Jing leads China-African health and agriculture cooperation research at Development Reimagined, having managed our FOCAC Policy Analysis and Advocacy project. She is also the co-author of “China-Africa Health Cooperation under FOCAC Umbrella”, in which she analysed China’s commitments around health cooperation since the first FOCAC summit and deepdived into four African countries’ health overview, challenges and cooperation with China as cases studies. Before DR, Jing worked at GIZ Cambodia on M&E of a disability advocacy project. She also worked as a translator with Chinese medical team in Benin.

PATRICK ANAM

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Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst and was the lead author of Development Reimagined's recent Report on Africa-China Relations titled "From China-Africa to Africa- China: A Blue Print for a Green and Inclusive Continent-Wide Strategy Towards China." and “Reimaging FOCAC Going Forward.” Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.

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Rosemary is our Senior Policy Analyst. She is a skilled policy analyst and has previously worked as a UK civil servant. She is studying Human Rights at Birkbeck, University of London with a research focus on international law in the context of health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

JADE SCARFE

Project Manager and Africa-China Communication Assistant

Jade is a Project Manager for Development Reimagined’s flagship project Africa Unconstrained, which focuses on financing needs and debt vulnerabilities of African countries. Her research focuses on China-Africa development finance alongside debt vulnerabilities, infrastructure needs and South-South cooperation. She has worked with a breadth of stakeholders from China, Africa and the wider international community, including governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including The Africa Report, The China-Africa Project, The Diplomat and more. Jade holds a Master’s in China and Globalisation studies from King’s College London.

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Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Rosie is also alumni of the School of International Studies at Peking University in Beijing where she is also an editor at the Peking Africa Think Tank. PATT is led by a diverse group of scholars who specialise in African Studies within the context of Sino-Africa relations.

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Lauren has lived in six countries from the Americas to Europe and Asia and speaks both French and Spanish proficiently. At Development Reimagined, Lauren’s research focuses on climate action both in the Asia-Pacific and in Africa, and how countries are using tools such as SDGs and Covid-19 action to build a more climate-resilient future. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Leiden University.

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Chensi Li is a research analyst. She has previously worked for local NGOs in Nigeria and Cameroon and think-tanks in China.  Her research areas include Sino-African relations, African foreign affairs, public diplomacy, state-building and national governance.

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Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion

HANNAH RYDER

Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.