Alina Rocha Menocal joins DLP research team
Alina Rocha Menocal joins DLP this month as a Senior Research Fellow, on secondment for 18 months from the UK-based Overseas Development Institute. Alina will lead DLP’s Elites and Political Settlements core workstream until the end of March 2016.
Originally from Mexico, Alina joined ODI, the UK’s leading independent think-tank on international development, as a Research Officer in the Centre for Aid and Public Expenditure (CAPE) in 2005. She became a Research Fellow a year later, and played a key role in forming what started as ODI’s politics cluster and is now the Politics and Governance Programme.
Working closely with colleagues, Alina has since helped shape some of ODI’s leading work on why the state and institutions matter in development, and the political economy of development, while seeking to bridge the gap between theory and practice. She also has a particular interest in how to communicate complex ideas in innovative ways.
During her early days at ODI, in collaboration with Verena Fritz, Alina conceptualised and developed a high-profile series of meetings on ‘(Re)building Developmental States’, which addressed the issue of states in the context of wider debates about state formation and development. DLP’s founding director Adrian Leftwich was invited to launch the series as its very first keynote speaker. Adrian died last year after a short and typically courageous battle with lung cancer.
‘Adrian became a close friend and collaborator, and I was one of many who were greatly inspired by his views and ideas. I followed his work at DLP closely, particularly in recent years while he was developing his ideas about the importance of power in political economy analysis.’
‘This secondment is a wonderful opportunity to continue to build on his ideas.’
Alina is keen to do some more in-depth comparative work on how states have dealt with issues of institutional change, and how they have addressed (or not) the challenges and tensions that emerge from efforts to undertake multiple transformations at once.
‘Many countries across the developing world today, especially in conflict and post-conflict settings, are not only trying to democratise but also to build functional states in the first place – they want to achieve peace, promote development and rearticulate the nature of the links binding state and society. This is a very tall order, and one thing we have learned is that ‘all good things’ do not necessarily go together.
‘There are always some trade-offs and dilemmas involved, and understanding how elites navigate through these in a dynamic interaction with different groups in society is essential to appreciate how states evolve over time and what the potential for developmental transformation might be.’
One of Alina’s key interests revolves around how to bridge the gaps between research, policy and practice. After close to a decade working in this field, she does believe that there has been some gradual change – especially in terms of how the development community thinks about the challenges of development.
‘Minds are more open, and there is a sense of research being used to inform policy in ways that challenge old assumptions about how change happens,’ she said. ‘What is still needed, of course, is to change actual practice.’