Shaking up how we conduct development work: my picks for the ACFID Conference on Day Two

Shani Cain

17 Oct, 2019

As a first timer, I am pretty excited to sink my teeth into as much possible - from soaking up knowledge and working collaboratively, to also being out of Melbourne’s weather! Fortunately, it seems like a great year to attend - with such an array of knowledge on offer whilst also allowing us relative newbies to network the boots off the sector (so be prepared for me to chat away to you if you cross my path!). With that in mind, the theme this year is Beyond Aid: Championing Sustainable Development Cooperation, therefore I come with the intention to break through some of the silos we operate within and better understand the intersectionality’s that exist within our work. My focus throughout Day Two and the conference is advocating for the role and voice of young people in sustainable development. Moreover, looking more broadly at how we can do development work more effectively by championing voices closest to the issue.

Day Two kicks off with a bang, for those of you who are morning people I strongly recommend heading along to the Climate Justice Breakfast (7-8.30am, registered event). It provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to discuss one of the most significant issues in development in a room where diversity of thought has never been stronger.

Following this, one of the first plenary sessions of the day is also my conference highlight, the IGNITE sessions! As one of TED Talks biggest fans, I think ACFID have been innovative in thinking about the way to deliver as much content, in as little time without causing mental fatigue. It allows for innovative thinking to shake up the way we do development work. I am particularly interested to hear from Makkiya Jawed who remains in Pakistan bringing authenticity and a sense of real time development to the conference.

Then this is where the real difficulty always lies - choosing which session to attend during concurrent offerings. In the interest of being decisive and offering an opinion, my personal picks of the sessions are:

Morning concurrent sessions (11.15am-12.45pm):

I am super excited for the Challenging Power session, exploring ‘feminist practice beyond aid’. I feel the development sector needs to continue to critically analyse how gender inequality remains to be an institutional challenge within development practice, and how the sector can be best placed to support ongoing gender equality struggles. I am excited to hear from colleagues in the sector from IWDA, Plan and CARE who specialise in this field. I would also be interested to hear more about how the mainstreaming of gender has occurred and how this could be applied to other thematic issues; namely youth.

Afternoon concurrent sessions (3-4.10pm):

I am planning to attend the session that explores Confronting Our Own Power that looks at leadership and institutional change in INGOS – Oaktree belonging to this category. This is a chance for the development sector, and ourselves, to reflect inwards to identify how barriers in our development work stem from institutionalised practices and ideas that must be challenged for progress.

Day Two looks to open us to new ways of working, collaboration opportunities and clarity around the actions that need to take place to enable a more sustainable sector and world. With that, I anticipate my greatest challenge in leaving the conference is actioning the learnings and relationships formed from this experience. With the focus being on sustainable practices and co-operation, we as a sector need to hold ourselves accountable to these objectives and ensure we are investing our resources into spaces that support this style of development.

  • Shani Cain
    Shani Cain

    Shani commenced as Oaktree’s CEO in February 2019 and has formerly worked in Refugee Settlement for the Centre of Multicultural Youth (CMY) and has previously worked at the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, World Vision and has worked in development throughout Asia, Africa and South America with the Red Cross, Deakin University and local agencies. Shani has a passion for working in direct crises response to help society’s most vulnerable people. She is passionate about female and youth empowerment, sustainability, and equality.


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