What to expect from Devex in 2016

What can development professionals expect from Devex this year?

Last year we indulged in a bit of nostalgia as we celebrated Devex’s 15th anniversary. As we enter a new year, allow me one final story that looks back. Just after we founded Devex at the Harvard Kennedy School, I had an email exchange with the CEO of a major global corporation — I wrangled a connection to get his email address and was excited, and surprised, when he replied. The CEO very politely told me to get lost. He explained that global development just wasn't a priority for his firm. In a nutshell, he wrote, it was a niche, not a major industry.

Fast forward to today and that same company, several CEOs later, has established a significant focus on global development and is now a Devex client and partner.

All that is to say that global development is no longer niche. It's a $200 billion industry that, finally, has everyone's attention. Name the front-page issue — climate change, refugees, epidemics — and it's the global development community that is called upon to act.

Our job at Devex is to serve this growing community — our community — so we've got a packed agenda for 2016 and I want to give you a taste of what's in store.

Take climate change. Next week we'll host a virtual career fair to connect professionals to organizations hiring for a range of disciplines related to climate change. We'll step up the integration of our content and tools this year, so for a topic like climate you can more easily find related funding opportunities, leading organizations, business news, career insights, jobs, and more. And you'll see more in-depth coverage from Devex reporters around the world following the money both inside the donor agencies and on the ground — as our team did from Paris during last month's momentous global summit.

Multiply that strategy across the many big themes in global development — including the race to get every human being a bank account, a health insurance card, and an Internet connection — and you'll get a sense of our ambitions this year.

One place where all this will come together is Devex World, a first-of-its-kind convening of change-makers and expert practitioners that will take place June 14 in Washington, D.C. We'll tackle everything from what the data revolution means for key sectors like agriculture and education, to considering how your organization can move to innovate at scale. Devex World will be our largest event but it's just one of many meaningful events our Devex LIVE team will be producing this year. All these events — from intimate in-person sessions with key influencers to large-scale virtual learning opportunities — are designed to maximize the impact our uniquely in-depth, practical coverage has on the world.

We'll also be at the major events where you'd expect to see us this year, from the World Economic Forum in Davos in just a couple of weeks, to the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul and the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, both this May — and many others. Our growing global team of reporters and editors will bring you stories where they happen — from Ghana to Kyrgyzstan to India — and will examine how the big initiatives announced in places like London and Brussels are panning out where it counts.

One area we’ll pay special attention to this year is the expanding role of the development and humanitarian community in fragile and conflict situations. Last year British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that half of the United Kingdom’s foreign aid would be targeted for countries such as Syria and Somalia. This is a harbinger: the number of people affected by conflict, instability and violence looks likely to grow larger in 2016, and aid agencies will be increasingly called upon to focus on the world’s most difficult crises.

As more countries graduate to middle income status and achieve a kind of self-sufficiency, extreme poverty is becoming more concentrated in conflict ridden societies — not a new trend but one that will become starker this year. International NGOs, project implementers, individual consultants and aid workers alike will have to ask themselves tough questions about their values, risk tolerance and theory of change in this environment. Devex will explore these questions with our community throughout the year.

These issues come to the fore for the thousands of people who use Devex everyday to recruit. Global development has been rapidly shifting from an expat-led field where citizenship carries outsize weight, to, like most industries today, a global race for talent. This trend will continue in 2016 and recruitment will get increasingly complex and competitive as new skill sets, such as impact evaluation, and challenging duty stations, such as Burundi, grow in importance. This year you’ll see a more deliberate effort on our part to expand our community to include the most in-demand talent in the most sought after locations, along with more tools that help you strategically manage recruitment projects.

One of the fields taking on greater importance in 2016 is sustainable supply chains, and Devex will devote considerable attention to the subject this year. We’ll also look at all the new money flowing into global development from foundations set up by Silicon Valley billionaires and developing country tycoons alike. And we’ll examine the revolution that technology could bring to humanitarian response — think drones, mobile money, wearables — an urgent and exciting opportunity I've been engaged with as chair of the World Economic Forum's humanitarian council.

As we enter a new phase in global development — if you find yourself reflexively saying "the post-2015 agenda" this week, try switching to “today's agenda” — we're also entering a new phase for all of us. Development is changing and we must too. Technology, data and innovation can't just be buzzwords in your CV or on your organization’s “about us” page: they need to be core to how you do your work. And partnering with the private sector or developing a social enterprise business model can no longer just be an idea you're exploring, not if you're serious about being a part of the era of the SDGs. By which I mean now.

So while we indulged in a bit of nostalgia last year, enough looking back. In 2016, what you can expect from Devex is this: more of what you need to change the world, today. Happy new year.

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The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Raj Kumar

    Raj Kumar is the Founding President and Editor-in-Chief at Devex, the media platform for the global development community. He is a media leader and former humanitarian council chair for the World Economic Forum and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His work has led him to more than 50 countries, where he has had the honor to meet many of the aid workers and development professionals who make up the Devex community. He is the author of the book "The Business of Changing the World," a go-to primer on the ideas, people, and technology disrupting the aid industry.