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National Cancer Institute

Reflecting on Global Development: A Toolbox for Development Teams

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Malavisi A, Rinkus M, O'Rourke M. Reflecting on Global Development: A Toolbox for Development Teams. Oral presentation at 2017 SciTS Conference. Clearwater Beach, FL. Jun 13, 2017. Training for Team Science- Developing Team Science Competencies. Online at:

In a small rural village in Bolivia stood a brand new rehabilitation center for malnourished children. It was empty, unstaffed, and inaccessible by public transport. Funded by an international Non-Government Organization (NGO) through a local, national NGO, this project reflects an absence of critical reflection and dialogue about the purpose and the real impact of their work. The failure of development projects like this is attributable in part to the lack of communication among the various teams involved, leading to a lack of mutual understanding. Questions that may arise from global development include: do members of development teams have a shared understanding of the concept of development, or the concept of sustainability? How much thought goes into the impact of decisions on the communities where development organizations focus their work? How much should it be? We submit that structured dialogue about these and other issues that undermine deep, mutual understanding within development teams can improve the effectiveness of international development efforts. Within development organizations, and particularly development teams, there is a need to generate a space for critical reflection and dialogue about the values and beliefs that influence decisions. This dialogue can support identification of potentially damaging differences and enhance communication by enabling colleagues to see the development landscape through each other’s eyes. The Toolbox Dialogue Initiative ( offers an innovative, concrete, and tangible approach to critical dialogue that can help in two ways. First, it can generate a space for critical dialogue within development teams about issues that matter to them; second, it can enable discussion and analysis of specific concerns such that afflict development teams, such as conflicting assumptions, power dynamics, implicit biases, ethical issues, and epistemic injustice. We propose modifying this approach to address the communication challenges that confront global development.We also argue that the analysis presented here can also be applied to teams working in humanitarian aid and academic research in a global context.



Type of Publication:

Oral presentation


scits 2017 conference, presentation, global development

Addresses these goal(s):

  • Learn about the field of team science: history, theory and concepts
  • Conduct research on/evaluate team science

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Resource created by Jane Hwang on 10/3/2017 12:05:48 PM.

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