Sinéad Magill l Palladium - Jan 26 2023
Do We Need to Change How we Do Development in 2023?

Sinéad Magill, Palladium Managing Partner

As we step into 2023, it’s with a sense of urgency. From the continuation of COVID-19 and the pandemic, the war on Ukraine, and their combined impacts globally, to the increasing pace of climate change, it’s clear that the development challenges we’re facing are intensifying.

Yet, the traditional sources of donor funding for development work are stretched thinner than ever. While I’m optimistic about the increase in funding available from the private sector, philanthropists, and non-traditional development organisations, it remains unclear how this will translate into coordinated responses and the catalytic impact needed to get ahead of these massive challenges.

Many, if not all, of those challenges are urgent now and expensive to address. It’s made me wonder if it’s time to look at development differently and to reinvent some of the approaches upon which we’ve traditionally relied.

What got us here won’t always be the right way forward. We as development practitioners need to evaluate whether the solutions we’ve used in the past years still work, or if this is one of those critical points in time when so much is changing that something different has to happen in order to address it all.

Around the world, businesses and the private sector are doing positive work to engage on ESG priorities and it’s likely that their work and these sources of funding will address issues of supply chain management, local context, and the energy transition. And while it’s unlikely that they will address the trickier issues of governance and policy, these positive shifts indicate that there are more organisations ready and able to partner on tackling some of development’s biggest challenges.

No matter who steps into the development sector and what those changes may be, I know for certain what won’t go away – localisation. And it must step into the fore. It’s something we’ve talked about before; it’s the right way to ensure the impact we’re having is long-lasting and sustainable and it’s a trend that must continue.

"We are already primed to support the shift to renewable energy."

But localisation alone is not going to solve the problems we will face in 2023. Rather, the answer is in new ideas, new players, and new technology, blended with the development sector as we know it now—yes, including localisation—but also the way we implement systems changes, partner with governments, and support those in need. As we step into 2023, I see this shift happening across three sectors and places; the move towards renewable energy, providing support to refugees, and in the efforts to rebuild Ukraine.

Renewable Energy

As we look towards solving climate change, we know that it cannot be done without global energy transformation, and that switch requires both technology and system wide changes across the energy sector. Development as a sector is largely focused on the provision of technical expertise and advice and supporting whole of system changes. In essence, we are already primed to support the shift to renewable energy.

It’s so easy to suggest going into a country where there’s loads of sunshine and setting up solar energy. Of course, it’s not that simple. Success means more than sourcing the technology and plugging it in. You need to look at everything from export controls and how it will plug into the grid, to incentives, government legislation, how it will be paid for, and more. Simply put, it’s complicated.

But the shift to renewable energy is the perfect marriage of how the development sector tackles projects and problems and the large scale and global challenges that we’ll be facing this year and the years to come.


2022 saw some of the largest numbers of people moving around the world in history. By May of last year, more than 100 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide. The refugee crisis is enormous and it’s not going away anytime soon, especially when we take into consideration the continued war on Ukraine, and those people who will be forced to move due to the increasing effects of climate change.

It’s also putting pressure on the countries where people are landing as the citizens of those countries aren’t seeing the economic dividend – they’re only seeing the cost and pressures on their societies. Solutions are needed, and quickly. Putting refugees in hotels and camps is not just too expensive and unsustainable, but undignified.

I think those of us in the development sector will need to focus in on the causes of immigration and how to stop it, but also how we can be part of the solution to help countries domestically and make it a force for good, because an increase in refugees and immigrants doesn’t have to be a negative.

Instead, we’ve seen time and time again how increased diversity (refugees included) is good for societies and economies alike.

As we look ahead to finding ways to support refugees beyond addressing their immediate needs, it will also be critical to help reframe how host countries, citizens, and businesses perceive them; as assets rather than a drain on resources.


I would be remiss in looking ahead to 2023 without touching on Ukraine. The war is decimating much of the country but it will end, and we need to be ready when the task of rebuilding begins.

The international community is paying attention. Millionaires and charities alike have opened their chequebooks and are ready to support Ukraine in any way possible, providing a massive opportunity to not only rebuild the country’s infrastructure, but to leapfrog closer to renewable energy, sustainability, and inclusivity than it was before. But the government will need support and expertise in doing so in the coming months and years to ensure that there’s the scope and ability to make that change.

That’s where I believe development will excel. At the end of the day, development’s role is about enacting system-wide change. While other organisations may address specific issues, such as building infrastructure or providing funding for specific initiatives, it’s up to the donors and development sector to go beyond the obvious solutions and dig deeper into systemic issues and how they can be addressed.

Yes, budgets are stretched and our global problems feel bigger and more expensive than ever, but I’m not without hope. The development sector is well equipped to pivot to address these global issues and it’s because of the people involved.

I’m finding hope within the discourse, and I’m glad to see that the conversation not only includes impact at the centre of it but continues to broaden and include more people and sectors beyond development.

For more, read 'From Energy to Brazil, 2023 Promises Some Hope' or contact