Social investment, inclusive growth: changing perspectives on the role of social policy in development contexts

Does the shift in focus from social protection to social investment and inclusive growth offer a renewed promise of integration between social and economic concerns in development processes? This seminar explores the ways in which dominant economic development paradigms have dealt with the social question, as well as how social policies have shaped economic development.

Starting from the ways in which major shifts in mainstream economics since the launch of the post-war development project have determined or constrained the space for social policy ideas and practice, Sarah Cook explores the renewed attention to social concerns as reflected in global development goals (the Millennium Development Goals and more recently the Sustainable Development Goals), and the influence of ideas around ‘social investment’ and making growth ‘inclusive’.

Dr Sarah Cook has recently taken up the position of Director, Institute for Global Development at UNSW. She previously spent almost 10 years leading research institutes within the UN - as the Director of UNICEF’s Office of Research / Innocenti Research Centre, in Florence, Italy and from 2009-2015 as Director, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) in Geneva. In these roles, she has led research on transformative social and economic policy, shaping debates in the UN on equity, sustainability and social justice, and engaging at the intersection of research, policy and programming. During this period Sarah led the UNRISD in developing its 2016-2020 strategy on ‘Transformations to Equity and Sustainability’ and oversaw a wide range of socio-economic policy and children’s rights and protection issues related research at the Innocenti Research Centre. Her own research has focused primarily on China, following its social and economic transformations over more than 3 decades, including work on labour and migration, poverty, inequality, social policy and gender. Key research interests include social policy/protection, labour markets and migration, and gender. From 1996-2009 Sarah was a Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and spent 5 years as a Programme Officer with the Ford Foundation in Beijing. She received her PhD in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.  

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