Professor Rolph van der Hoeven has been part of the INCLUDE platform from its very start. As professor of Employment and Development Economics at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University (EUR) and member of the Advisory Council on International affairs, Rolph was approached during the establishment of the knowledge platforms by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Based on his former experience in international development, Rolph was one of early supporters of the INCLUDE platform and has been contributing since as a platform member. We asked him what his experience has been like being involved so closely with INCLUDE and how the platform came about back in 2012.
Our conversation starts with Rolph explaining how he was approached by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to contribute to the development offour knowledge platforms on food, law, water and sexual and reproductive health and rights. A great initiative according to Rolph, especially related to an increased interest in, and realization of, evidence based policy making for international development. However, it was obvious there was something missing within these four proposed knowledge platforms to be established:
“ ‘The bigger picture’ was missing within these four individual knowledge platforms determined for Dutch development policy. They presented sub-topics, but they were not integrated yet. A fifth platform was needed to consider development politics from a broader scope that would include these four sub-topics. This ended up being a fifth platform; INCLUDE”
In June 2012, with support of the ministry, the INCLUDE Knowledge Platform for Inclusive Development was founded. Once it was decided that the INCLUDE knowledge platform would focus mostly on Sub-Saharan Africa, Rolph contributed to the requirements of the new platform and has been supporting the platform since. Rolph stresses that the platform had to encompass the equal partnership between Dutch and African members:
“We wanted to avoid for the platform to be made up of a group of Dutch intellectuals that would point out how ‘the world is supposed to look’ “
“This is something I really fought for. We are not at a point in time where ‘we’ determine what changes need to be made in developing countries, but at a point where the people, intellectuals and activists themselves must do so.”
Rolph feels that this equal partnership within the platform has been successfully incorporated and he explains the contribution of this partnership to INCLUDE:
“There is a great sense of engagement within the platform, especially from the African colleagues – they are the ones to respond first”
Challenges for the platform, as Rolph describes, are to get everybody involved; academics, governments and NGOs and private sector. In his observation, some partners have been represented by a core group of people for a longer period of time, whereas for others there is a high turnover. This seemed to be especially the case for the Dutch partners:
“What’s important is that the people involved are able to get to know one another, but this seemed not to work out for all parties. This was mostly the case for the Dutch; the African members are more persistent”
Rolph sees future potential for the platform as a means to broaden the focus of the development field and draw the attention of academics and policymakers towards this broader focus area. Besides themes like social protection, productive employment and strategic actors, INCLUDE could broaden this scope:
“We can use our basis, network and currently working systems to start focusing on other ‘issues’ like migration, ecological challenges, the influence of China on Africa and more. There is potential for the platform to widen the focus area of what is now known as ‘inclusive development’, especially because of the good partnerships with African organizations that we have”
And for Rolph personally? What has it brought him?
“I really enjoy being part of the platform. It enables me to learn, I gain new insights, ideas and I see a dynamic and optimistic side of the African continent as well as things that go wrong. Furthermore, I get to see people that I haven’t run into for about 30 years!”