The Big Push forward: The Australian Debate (Oct 2011)

October 26, 2011 by Chris Roche.

On 19 October 2011, Oxfam Australia hosted a ‘Big Push Forward‘ event in Melbourne with the co-conveners of this initiative – Rosalind Eyben and Irene Guijt. Sixty development practitioners, including AusAid staff and academics came together to discuss whether the concerns voiced by the Big Push Forward project are relevant in Australia.


Following an introduction from Rosalind and Irene, we  had short inputs from three speakers on how these issues resonated in our part of the world.  Dennis Altman, from the Institute of Human Security, at La Trobe University suggested that the neo-liberal language which permeates Western society has been recast in the development world. into an auditing culture, focusing on evaluation, monitoring, and counting beans.  Marc Purcell the CEO of Australia’s International NGO umbrella group ACFID noted that the commitment to international aid in Australia is extremely brittle, and that the public debate about aid in Australia has led to a deep anxiety in government about how the aid programme is being perceived. But he argued that maybe it’s no bad thing for economists to look at the work of ‘pampered NGOs’. Jess Dart, the Managing Director of consulting company Clear Horizon, felt that whilst Australian NGOs do more internal evaluation than most there was a view expressed at this year’s Australasian Evaluation Conference that ‘development is the cowboy of evaluation’.  If we can’t tell the story of what we’ve done, people will ask for results. There are lots of really good methods out there and we can use these to offer solid alternatives to tell more complex stories of transformation.

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Conference: Making the Invisible Visible: An Emerging Community of Practice in Indicators, Sustainability and Values

Date: December 16-18, 2010
Venue: University of Brighton, UK

The University of Brighton will be hosting a groundbreaking, EU funded, international conference on the theme of Making the Invisible Visible: An Emerging Community of Practice in Indicators, Sustainability and Values, bringing together the leading thinkers, practitioners and organizations in these fields.  The conference will also showcase a pioneering €1million EU funded project to trial values-based indicators at the project (see, which has demonstrated its value as a tool to measure in a non-reductionist, yet rigorous way, the values dimension of civil society activity, and offers a model of good practice in  civil society-university collaborations.

Among the speakers due to address the conference are global experts in economics, such as Augusto Lopez-Claros (former Chief Economist and Director of the the Global Competitveness Report at the World Economic Forum, and developer of the Humanitarian Response Index); leading environmentalists such as Arthur Dahl (President of the International Environment Forum, former Deputy Assistant Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and former coordinator of the UN System-Wide Earthwatch) and Professor Arjen Wals (UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development and world expert on environmental education); parliamentarians  such as Professor Bedrich Moldan (Senator in the Parliament of the Czech Republic and a global authority on indicators for sustainable development); civil society organizations as diverse as the International Red Cross, Earth Charter International, the Alliance for Religions and Conservation (ARC, among others; world experts on values in business across the world, such as Richard Barrett (leadership expert mapping values among some 2000 organizations and 3000 leaders in over 40 countries); and many more.

Attendance is free, and there are still possibilities to contribute with a presentation and/or a workshop on the connection between values, sustainability and the challenges of evaluation in your work.

To register at the conference please go to:

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