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Public perceptions of development

NYCI is a member of Dóchas, the Irish association of non-governmental development organisations. Dóchas has just published the results of the 2012 MRBI survey into public support for overseas aid.... And the good news is that people in Ireland continue to believe that the Government should deliver on its aid promises to the world’s poorest people.

Dóchas is the association of Irish Non-Governmental Development Organisations. Dóchas provides a forum for consultation and co-operation between its members and helps them speak with a single voice on development issues. NYCI is also a signatory to the Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages.

Dóchas also engages with a diverse range of external stakeholders, including Government, Irish and European civil society organisations, media, academics and the general public. Dóchas aims to continually build on these relationships in an effort to build strategic alliances in the fight against poverty and global injustice.

Dóchas research in public perceptions of development

An MRBI survey found that 80% of respondents agreed it was important for Ireland’s international reputation that the Government kept its aid promises of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid by 2015 at the latest – up marginally on 2011 when 79% of respondents held this view.

More than anything this result shows that, despite continued economic difficulties, the Irish public’s support for international development cooperation has remained resolute. There has been very little change over the last three years in this very high level of public support: only a 2% differential between the results for 2010 (81%), 2011 (79%) and 2012 (80%). In contrast, Ireland’s overseas aid budget has been cut by over 30% since 2008 and has fallen in percentage terms of GNI year on year from 0.52% in 2010 to 0.51% in and now to 0.5% in 2012. For more information see Act Now on 2015

Dóchas and Development Education

Dóchas has a number of working groups including a Development Education Group (DEG). NYCI is a member of the Development Education Group and through this group Elaine Mahon represents Dóchas on the Development Awareness-Raising and Education (DARE) forum of CONCORD.

Members of the Dóchas Development Education Group present Martin Kirk with a thank you giftIn 2011, the Dóchas Development Education Group applied for funding from DEEEP to run a national seminar for the sector in Ireland. On 2 June, 2011 the Development Education Group hosted 'Added-Values: promoting long-term public engagement in development' at the Mansion House in Dublin.

The seminar was planned by the group as research shows that public understanding of development issues is rooted in a 'charity' model of powerful giver and grateful receiver. Furthermore the public seems to understand development issues no better than we did during the 1980's and Live Aid.

Members of the Dóchas Development Education Group and Martin Kirk, OXFAM GB


Martin Kirk, OXFAM GB presents his research to Dochas seminarThe key-note speaker at the seminar was Martin Kirk, Head of Campaigns at Oxfam GB who made a presentation on 'Values and Frames' which is based on research being carried out in the UK. Martin's work focuses on the values we have which influence our attitudes and behaviour, as well as the frames we possess which shape our thinking and responses. Frames are evoked by words and language we and development organisations use such as 'aid', 'charity', 'development' and 'campaigns'. The research Martin Kirk has contributed to is available here: Common Cause and Finding Frames reports.

Martin Kirk, OXFAM GB presents UK research on 'Values & Frames' to Dóchas seminar


The day-long seminar aimed to promote greater and deeper public engagement in tackling global inequality. Is it that difficult to promote public interest in the work that we do? How do we tap into those values we share to bring about long-term public support in Ireland to promote a fairer world?

At the seminar, roundtable discussions were held on different types of public engagement including Advocacy, Campaigns, Community Engagement, Development Education, Fundraising and Working with Volunteers.

You can watch the key-note speech on the Dóchas website. The report of the seminar is now available here.

A development education survey was also distributed to Dóchas members before the event. Full results will be available with the final report. However, it is worth noting that 78% of respondents agreed with the statement: 'There needs to be a stronger focus on development education to foster responsible global citizens for the future'.

How does this relate to Youth Work?

Theories of Values and Frames have been used by sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists for many years. Schwartz1 (1992) ‘created a diagram of 57 human values and how they interconnect. George Lakhoff2 (2004) argues that we can use 'frames' and how people understand the world to mobilise people into practice and action.

What Martin Kirk and his fellow researchers have done is simply apply the theory to the world of development cooperation, large NGOs, the aid industry and how we the public understand it all.

Can the same theory be applied to youth work? And what about global justice in youth work?

1. If we all express certain values, and understand the World through certain frames, how do we interact with youth leaders and young people who have different perspectives to us? What happens when our values are opposed?

2. Is the term 'youth' linked to a certain frame in the public mind? What are the words and thoughts associated with 'youth'?

3. Should we address any negative frames associated with the word 'youth'? How can we do that?

4. International development aims to eradicate global poverty and injustice. If the way we (in the Global North) understand development is rooted in a concept of  charity, what does this mean for doing development education with young people?

5. Is youth work about empowering people to make changes in society and promoting global justice? If so, what frames and values do we need to be mindful of when engaging with local communities, or national and international agencies?

6. If successful global development involves collaborating with people in different ways (e.g through advocacy, education and fundraising), can the same be said of youth work? What other sectors or methods can we engage with to bring about the result we want?

If you have any comments, or further questions on the above, please contact Elaine.


1. Schwartz, S. 1992. Universals in the content and structure of values: theoretical
advances and empirical tests in 20 countries’. In Zanna M (ed) Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 25, pp 1-65). Orlando, FL: Academic Press.
2. Lakoff, G 2004. Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.