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New centre will review DFID’s value for money

16 Jul 2012

The way the authorities calculate the value for money of programmes in the developing world funded by both the Government and the private sector are to be probed by experts at The University of Manchester and Birkbeck, University of London.

Among its work, the £600,000 centre funded by the Leverhulme Trust over four years, will explore how civil servants make decisions over ‘value for money’ and then devise  more equitable systems to help the Department For International Development and aid agencies decide where their money goes.

The announcement will provide food for thought to critics of DFID, who accuse it of spending too much cash on badly run programmes in the wrong countries.

The methods developed by the centre will take into account the non-monetary value of interventions in the developing world – such as their environmental and social value.

Professor Sarah Bracking, from The University of Manchester, will direct the new international Leverhulme Centre for the Study of Value

She will work with Professor Philip Woodhouse, also from The University of Manchester, Dr Sian Sullivan from Birkbeck College, University of London, Professor Jim Igoe from Dartmouth College in Hanover, USA, and Professor Patrick Bond from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.

Her previous research has already cast doubt over the positive impact claimed by the UK Government's development finance arm CDC Group on poverty reduction, livelihoods, and well-being.

She said: “I think it’s fair to argue that the basis for decision making in international development is rarely made explicit, but can result in inequalities in care.

“Its not clear how DFID desk officers decide how, for example, an orphaned and vulnerable child might take priority over a person with a disability or an elderly person.

“So this project is about designing better ways to calculate the value of  interventions so that our system is not harmful to the people it is trying to help.”

The new Centre will do more than explore the value of development, as it also plans to study how value is assigned by policy makers to aspects of the human and non-human environment.

Sian Sullivan will work on the financialisation of biodiversity, while Philip Woodhouse will study the values assigned to critical land and water resources in sub-Saharan Africa.

Professor  Bracking added: “Value is  a complex area, and our projects are critically related to how we can build a better quality future, touching on a range of issues such as global warming, poverty, biodiversity, nature, land and water.”

“We aim to radically critique the way we understand value in the social and human sciences by researching contemporary examples of market and value creating processes at the frontiers of our formal economy”.

The Centre will run five separate projects on :
•    Private sector development: how is value for money calculated?
•    Climate change futures: how is the value of carbon created?
•    Allowable death: how is human life valued or not?
•    Conservation banking, offset markets and payments for ecosystem services
•    Land and Water markets in Africa

Notes for editors

The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 under the Will of the first Viscount Leverhulme. It is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing funds of some £60 million every year. For further information about the schemes that the Leverhulme Trust fund visit their website at /  

Professor Bracking is available for comment

For media enquires contact:
Mike Addelman
Press Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881567