Institute for Development Research

Our Institute for Development Research is an independent and non-partisan unit of the Dataville Group which brings together more than 75 independent experts in academia and government from all over the globe who provide the highest quality research, policy recommendations, and analysis on a full range of development and public policy issues.

Our collaboration with researchers, policy makers and international development practitioners help to foster thinkers with well-informed views. Their diverse insights and opinions represent our commitment to advancing knowledge and using rigorous research to find sustainable solutions to international development challenges.

Dataville Group IDR located in Durban is home to 45 research fellows and 25 graduate interns, but our community extends far beyond. Our research tackles the complex and persistent challenges of poverty and development. We take a multidisciplinary approach and work with an international network of partners to develop solutions which we actively seek to see applied in development policy and practice. Our research revolves around Africa; Poverty and Development; Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Gender and Development;and Aid Challenges.


The world’s largest and most populous continent after Asia, Africa faces some of the world’s most intense development challenges. A continent with great challenges, Africa’s recent history has been marked by political instability, violence and authoritarianism, with post-colonial struggle, ethnic tensions, famine, civil war and environmental challenges all impeding social and economic development. High levels of illiteracy, malnutrition, poor water and sanitation and dismal health indicators make for the worst human development indicators in the world.

But although Africa is often spoken of in terms of crisis and a place of failure and insurmountable problems, it is also a continent of cultural richness and immense diversity. Some countries are making great strides economically. Many more states are democratically governed than was the case twenty years ago. The rate of HIV infection appears to be stabilising and child mortality appears to be declining while primary school completion is improving. Today, Africa is a continent whose economic and social orders and governance structures are undergoing extremely complex transformations.

Capturing these transformations lies at the heart of our IDR’s Africa-related research. Drawing on approaches from anthropology, sociology, political science, ecology and biology, our researchers are currently involved in projects in across the continent. Our research covers topics ranging from the challenges of implementing renewable energies and the socio-cultural aspects of energy, biodiversity, livelihoods and food security, to studies of governance and aid policy and global health issues including immunization, reproductive health and health system development.

Poverty and Development

Despite the high expectations generated at the start of the 1990s, the past two decades have offered little hope to many poor countries whose populations increasingly find themselves in a complex web of poverty and deprivation. Poverty and inequality appear as resilient as ever and hundreds of millions across the world suffer the daily anguish of deprivation in some form or another, be it the pain of persistent hunger and disease, the absence of adequate health care or the blatant disregard of basic human rights. 1.4 billion people live in poverty, 1.6 billion live without
access to modern energy, 25 per cent of the world’s children suffer from malnutrition and one in six have no supply of clean water.

IDR’s poverty research explores how lives of the African poor are characterised by the lack of capabilities and entitlements to food, health, education, land, natural resources, security and political influence. We are also interested in comparative studies of disparities across countries and regions in terms of income poverty, vulnerability and well-being and issues related to natural resource use and management, climate change, ethics, foreign aid, governance and human rights. Our aim is to study both success stories and failures, including studies of policy formulation and implementation which shed light on why certain poverty reduction strategies succeed in certain contexts and not in others.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In September 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were adopted by world leaders at a historical UN summit. While the SDGs build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), they aim to go further to end all forms of poverty. The new SDGs are unique in that they call for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.

The SDGs also differ from the MDGs in taking a more consultative approach in the formulation of the goals, and including stakeholders such as civil society and the private sector to a greater extent. Many argue that this has created a greater ownership to the SDGs among various groups, and that Agenda 2030 has created a shared platform for different actors and sectors to work towards the same goals. The role of the private sector has especially been highlighted in 2030 Agenda, as it is widely recognized that none of the goals can be met without a dedicated commitment from the business community.

The 2030 Agenda is not legally binding, but national governments are expected to establish national frameworks for the implementation and monitoring of progress on the 17 goals, which are accompanied by 169 targets. At the heart of the ambitious agenda lies the promise to leave no one behind, but critics have raised concerns of the dangers that the SDGs might only help those who live in states with administrative capacity, the political will to act and a certain sense of social legitimacy.

Gender and Development

Research on gender requires an understanding of what women and men do and how they relate to each other, but also an understanding of the ideas, conceptions and socio-material contexts that motivate and organize gender roles. Gender roles, relations and perceptions are challenged by changing global, national and local conditions. Because societies are gendered, the ways women and men, relate to change will be gendered too, even when innovations are conceived of as “gender neutral” and not directed particularly towards men or women. For example, land reforms that are seen as neutral may reproduce or even aggravate gender inequalities when implemented. The same may happen with the introduction of new “gender neutral” technology. Technology cannot be understood independently of social and cultural contexts because, from their production to their uses in everyday life, technologies are intimately tied to human life and the organisation and dynamics of social life, for example in the form of gender division of labour.

This view on social change is associated with an approach that assumes that the variations in organizational forms and cultural patterns are to a large extent the outcome of the different ways in which men and women in a given context organizationally and cognitively deal with new situations and accommodate themselves to changing circumstances. Moreover, it draws the attention to the ways in which individuals and groups can contribute to and indeed modify patterns of local, regional and national development.

The gender research conducted at IDR spans from international gender and development issues to ethnographic studies of male and female identities in changing social and natural environments. It focuses on agriculture, political mobilization, migration, and reproductive health at global and national levels.

Aid Challenges

Aid, or development assistance, has now a long history; it is half a century since the first United Nations Development Decade was declared. Much has changed as regards the international context: the end of the Cold War, the rising power of middle income countries, the impact of continuing globalisation, the communication revolution. But much remains the same in ‘aidland’: continued debates about the need for policy coherence, problems of corruption, criticism of United Nations bureaucracy and Bretton Woods neoliberalism.

IDR aims to undertake critical research, from different disciplinary perspectives, on the challenges that aid still faces: both for ‘donors’ and ‘recipients’. More specifically we are concerned to:

  • Study how power is exercised: not only through the transfer of money, but also other sources of authority: technical expertise, ‘ideas’, formal mandates, moral authority etc.
  • Critically examine the phenomenon of ‘aidland’: both the internal workings of aid agencies and how these affect what happens ‘on the ground.
  • Participate in continuing aid debates: e.g concerning the need for policy coherence,
    problems of corruption, criticism of United Nations bureaucracy and Bretton Woods neoliberalism.

The Global South Journal of International Development

The Global South Journal of International Development is a bi-annual peer-reviewed multidisciplinary international journal publishing original and high-quality articles covering a wide range of topics in development. GS JID is an industry journal that publishes papers submitted in English language.

The Journal welcomes author submission of original and significant contributions. The primary criterion for publication is the significance of the contribution to advancement of the knowledge, practice, research and application of key sectors of development in regions of the Global South.

Topics suitable for GS JID include but are not limited to Human Rights, Education, Public Health, Agriculture and Food Security, Climate Change, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Private Sector Development and Governance and Civil Society.

Manuscript should not be more than 6000 words. The tile page should contain the title of the article, name(s), qualification(s), status/ranks and affiliation of the author(s).

Articles, book reviews and research notes intended for consideration for publication are subjected to reviews by three experts in the related field. The decision of the Editorial Board, based on the advice of the reviewers, is final and not subject to negotiation.

All correspondence, enquiries, contributions and research notes should be submitted to:

Submission deadline: April 30, 2020

Abbas N.M

Vacancies at IDR

Part-time Research Assistants

IDR is recruiting a diverse team of 15 part-time research assistants to assist in the collation and review of selected country-level WASH project data.

Collation of data is conducted by reviewing multilateral, bilateral and national governments agencies WASH projects reports on a list of assigned countries, and recording key performance indicators (KPIs) into an Excel template. Data is updated weekly, so team members develop an excellent understanding of on-going, current issues and themes in development projects through their work.

Hours and Availability

The role will require 10 – 15 hours per week. Following initial training and periodic meetings, most work is conducted remotely (team members may work from home, the library, etc.) and at any hours which are convenient, in accordance with set submission deadlines.

Skills and Competencies

IDR is seeking applicants who possess at least a postgraduate degree in development-related disciplines with the following skills and experience:

  • Familiarity with Excel (essential).
  • Experience conducting desk-based research.
  • Experience working to deadlines with limited supervision.
  • A high level of attention to detail.
  • Research focus or professional experience in development research or country-specific studies is a strong advantage.


To apply, please submit resume and cover letter detailing qualifications and experience to

Deadline: Closed.

Due to the volume of applications received, we may not provide feedback to all applicants. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.