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The attitude of different elements of the UK public to the work of development NGOs, and support for international development itself, is a continual source of fascination for all working in the sector. And with good reason – without the right political support or funding it becomes difficult to fight for the juster world for which the sector strives. The general impressions are that while political support for international development remains high across party lines, this is likely to be the view of a political elite. Attitudes among the general UK public to development causes seem to suggest declining support.
It is, however, difficult to get anything other than anecdotal evidence for this view. Indeed it is hard to get robust evidence at all as to what people ‘really’ think, and how those thoughts shape their actions. It is methodologically hard to do. This is an issue which requires triangulation of different sources.
We are pleased therefore that to announce a gathering that will bring together three unique and novel pieces of research that explore this problem from three different angles, as well as an excellent audience to interrogate the findings. The research projects are:
- The Gates Aid Attitudes Tracker which explores changes in attitudes to development aid and behaviours by tracking a nationally representative sample of 8000 respondents by surveying them every six months since 2013.
- The findings of a 3 year study that provides the first evidence-based psychosocial account of how and why people respond or not to messages about distant suffering.
- Research into the changing income and expenditure patterns of a panel of 900 development organisations since 2004, with a detailed breakdown of the changing sources of income from 2009-2015.
We are excited about this prospect. The projects presented here are individually fascinating. But taken collectively, they have the potential substantially to improve our understanding of the issue, raising a host of insights, questions and further issues.
But be warned! The results of these studies are not all concordant. Part of the purpose of this seminar is to work out why. Our hope is that by bringing together an audience of academic researchers and NGO colleagues, and by highlighting the findings which excite, alarm and puzzle us, we will stimulate feedback that will shape the next stages of our work and produce useful outcomes for the sector as a whole.