IIED at 50 – reflecting on the past, looking to the future: Make Change Happen podcast episode 15

In the first Make Change Happen podcast episode of 2022, we take a look back at five decades of IIED’s history and discuss future ways of working, considering the new challenges ahead.

Article, 10 January 2022

IIED’s ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast provides an opportunity to hear our researchers and guests discuss key global development challenges and explain what we are doing to support positive change. 

In the year we celebrate 50 years of working for a fairer and more sustainable world, we invite two eminent former colleagues back to look at where IIED came from, how we have developed, and where we should be going.

Host Liz Carlile, IIED director of communications, is joined by Achala Abeysinghe, Asia regional director and head of programmes for the Global Green Growth Institute and former principal researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group; and David Runnalls, a fellow with the International Institute for Sustainable Development in Canada and former IIED vice-president.

Looking back at an inspiring history…

There is no way of looking back at IIED’s 50 years of history without celebrating its founder, Barbara Ward. Runnalls, the first IIED employee, observes that “I think [Barbara] was one of the most remarkable women of the 20th century”.

He also recalls that, because of her, IIED became the first institution to systematically look at the relationship between the environment and development and make this link the focus of our work – a focus that prevails today. 

Abeysinghe pinpoints IIED as one of the very few organisations that genuinely “champions the voices of the poorest and the most vulnerable”, while also playing a central role in linking global, national and local levels, and vice versa.

Partnerships are an essential pillar of today’s IIED structure and ways of working. Carlile, who has been a part of IIED for over 15 years, shares that one of the changes she has witnessed in IIED is this strong focus on partnership that roots the institute very firmly in local issues and working alongside local organisations.

Looking forward to future challenges

As the world is faced with new global issues, guests reflect whether IIED’s ways of working are still relevant in helping to meet the complex challenges ahead and discuss what IIED needs to do to adapt.

Among the issues that arise are climate finance, partnerships and how to support the poorest and the most vulnerable to ensure their voices are heard and they are able to achieve their goals in vital decision-making arenas – from village councils to international conventions.

Barbara Ward Lectures

In honour of Ward, IIED organises a series of Barbara Ward Lectures by leading women in the field of sustainable development. The latest took place in December 2021 and featured UN Conference on Trade and Development general-secretary Rebeca Grynspan tracing the story of Costa Rica’s journey from being a poor country of smallholder farmers to being a world leader on sustainable development and climate change.


Head and shoulders photo of Achala Abeysinghe

Achala Abeysinghe is the Asia regional director and head of programmes for the Global Green Growth Institute and former principal researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group. A lawyer by training, Dr. Abeysinghe was the legal, technical and strategic advisor to the chair of the Least Developed Countries Group of the UNFCCC from 2010-19.

Head and shoulders photo of David Runnalls

David Runnalls is a distinguished fellow with the International Institute for Sustainable Development in Canada and is a member of the board of the Institute of Advanced Studies of the United Nations University. A former vice-president of IIED, he was the institute's first employee and worked alongside founder Barbara Ward. Runnalls has also served as senior advisor to the president of the International Development Research Centre.

Head and shoulders photo of Liz Carlile

Liz Carlile (host) is director of the Communications Group at IIED. She is an expert in strategic marketing and communications, with a particular focus on research communications and policy influence, and has published on social learning and climate change communications.

How to listen and subscribe 

The ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast provides informal insights into IIED’s work to create positive change and make the complex issues we face more accessible to wider audiences. The title refers to IIED’s 2019-2024 strategy, which sets out how IIED plans to respond to the critical challenges of our time.

You can subscribe to the podcast on your favourite podcast app as follows:

The podcast is also available on IIED's YouTube channel.

You can follow some of the people you have heard in this episode on Twitter at @lizcarlile and @AchalaC. Follow the podcast on @IIED_Voices for all the latest updates.