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SP50316: Negotiating the field: response to conflict, humanitarianism and development in practice

[Page last updated: 01 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 12 [equivalent to 24 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 240
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Academic Year
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Blog post (CW 20%)
  • Critical case review (CW 80%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Requisites: If it is available during their studies, students are recommended to participate in the first-year practice-based residential in Amman
Learning Outcomes: By the end of this unit students will be able to:
* Critically apply key concepts of conflict, humanitarianism and development to case studies of professional practice
* Critically analyse and evaluate policies, taking into account the complex dynamics and challenges that underpin policy design and practice in emergency contexts
* Assess the role of research in humanitarian policy and programming and evaluate the relative merits of different methodologies for gathering evidence
* Critically reflect on how research findings can be translated into programme design and how practitioners might work with researchers.

Aims: This unit
* Applies core theoretical approaches to conflict, humanitarianism and development to real life case studies, both historical and contemporary
* Introduces key debates on and critiques of how policy is made and implemented
* Explores and assesses key debates surrounding the ethical, political and practical challenges faced by practitioners in the fields of conflict, humanitarianism and development
* Identifies and evaluates various methods and tools for integrating research into policy and programming design.

Skills: By the end of this unit, students will be able to
* Identify and evaluate analytical, political and practical challenges in policy design and operationalization in the field of humanitarian action (T/F/A)
* Interpret, select and apply key models for practice in the areas of humanitarianism and conflict, (T/F/A)
* Interpret, select and apply key tools and methods for analysing development and humanitarian policy and practice, and critically evaluate their effectiveness (T/F/A)
* Synthesise and use research evidence to develop both strategic and immediate responses to challenges of humanitarian action (T/F/A)
* Demonstrate inter-cultural and inter-personal sensitivity (T/F/A)
* Critically reflect on the politics and ethics of development and humanitarian assistance in diverse settings, and develop ethically-informed responses to challenges in the field. (T/F/A)
* Communicate complex data in a clear, ethical and rigorous way in a range of formats suitable for diverse professional and policy audiences; (T/F/A)
* Construct persuasive and critically engaged arguments in the area of development and humanitarianism for diverse professional audiences; (T/F/A).

Content: This unit enables students to explore:
* how policy design, programming, and practices play out on the ground,
* shape humanitarian action `in the field', and
* lead to a range of responses to the challenges of humanitarian action in the field.
It will draw on the 3 case study notes circulated to students at the start of the course but may also use a wider selection of case studies that provide real life examples to better illustrate, inform and engender debate. These case studies draw on the strengths of the Bath research staff, and would typically include:
1. Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
2.Transitional Justice and Human Rights in Cambodia
3. Refugee Crisis in The Middle East
4.Development and Peacebuilding in The Occupied Palestinian Territories
5. Peacebuilding in Nepal and Sri Lanka
6. Trafficking and Conflict in Central America
Students will also be strongly encouraged to critically reflect, and draw on, their own experiences of `negotiating the field', including how such negotiations are shaped by specific contexts. Students are able to draw on these cases or their own professional experience, especially for the Critical Case Review assessment.
Part 1: From Policy to Practice (weeks 14-19)
This part of the course will discuss key debates in policy design, programming and practice, with a particular focus on practice in emergency contexts It will consider along the ethical, political and practical challenges associated with those situations. It draws on examples from practitioners involved in the delivery of aid, who undertake adaptation of policy into practice, and would typically include:
* Working with policy from the ground up: theory, critique and practice
* Politics and Power: The Influence on Aid Policy and Funding
* From Policy to Practice: Working with Donors and Commissioners
* Ethical Dilemmas of Working in Emergency Situations
* Objectivity and Subjectivity: How Does Your Identity Shape Your Approach, and the Way Others Receive You
* The Transition from Emergency to Development Contexts
Part 2: Research for Practitioners (weeks 20-25)
This part considers the role that evidence can play, evaluates the different methodologies available for collecting evidence (participatory research, ethnography, surveys, etc.), and considers the practical challenges of finding time for and of applying research to practice. It will draw on the case studies to add further context to each topic covered. Topics typically include
* Humanitarian or Development Intervention: Terminology and Methodology in Research and Practice
* Engaging Researchers in Humanitarian Practice
* Participatory Methods in Crisis
* Ethnographies of Conflict
* Practical Challenges of Data Collection in an Emergency Situation: Slow Science Versus Fast Science
* Can and Should We Be Conducting Research in Emergency Situations?

Programme availability:

SP50316 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • THSP-ADM31 : MSc Humanitarianism, Conflict and Development


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.