By Brian Pratt and Anne Garbutt

This piece was originally published in the August 2020 issue of the INTRAC newsletter. Subscribe today to receive new issues in your inbox.

It is with great sadness that we heard that David Marsden had passed away on 24 July 2020. David was an early supporter of INTRAC and was one of the few academics in the 1980s who saw the need for academia to engage with the issues and challenges being faced by development NGOs. He worked closely with another INTRAC founding member, Dr Peter Oakley, with whom he shared interests in issues such as participatory and community-based development.1 Brian met them regularly (when he was representing Oxfam) at international conferences invariably organised by the big multi-lateral and governmental agencies. At these events we kept feeling that they failed to address the problems and experiences experienced by NGOs; so in 1989 we organised a conference together with supporters from a range of European NGOs on evaluating social development and invited representatives from across the global south. The proceedings were published by Oxfam2 and the event made us realise that we didn’t need to have the resources of a World Bank or Dutch government to convene people from NGOs to tackle the issues affecting us. This gave us the confidence to start a process which was to lead to the founding of INTRAC a few years later in 1991.

At that time, David worked at Swansea University in the Centre for Development Studies. His previous background had been as an anthropologist at Durham University and in Iran. In the early days of INTRAC one of our first offers was around evaluation, and David led on many of our early training courses in M&E which in those days were held in different venues across Europe. The success of our first conference on evaluation also resulted in a series of other M&E conferences sponsored by INTRAC and David edited the book from the first of these.3 Sadly for INTRAC, David left Swansea to join the World Bank as Social Development Adviser in India, later transferring to Washington DC, but he remained a supporter of INTRAC at a distance. In 2001, David’s long-term collaborator Peter Oakley – and then Research Director of INTRAC – died suddenly, leaving a big gap. David found a scheme in the World Bank which allowed him to be seconded to INTRAC as acting Research Director for a year, at a time when we had several large ongoing research projects and institutional evaluations.  The largest of these projects was the civil society strengthening programme in Central Asia and one of David’s first jobs was to visit Central Asia with Anne where they found that a major area that needed strengthening was the analytical skills of NGOs in the post-Perestroika era. Together they developed an Analytical Skills Training Programme (ASTP), the first of which David delivered in Kyrgyzstan. This programme was the first of its kind and is still recognised across the region as an important legacy of INTRAC’s work in Central Asia.

David had to return to his post at the World Bank after his year with INTRAC, but continued his interest and support of INTRAC’s work as an Associate and friend of the organisation. We will greatly miss his experience and expertise.

1 They were both editors of the Community Development Journal.

2 Evaluating Social Development Projects, David Marsden and Peter Oakley, Oxfam, 1990.

3 Measuring the Process: Guidelines for Evaluating Social Development, P. Oakley, D. Marsden & B. Pratt, Oxford, INTRAC, 1994.

An obituary for David Marsden has also been published online by The Guardian, written by his friend and former colleague Charles Gore. Friends and colleagues shared tributes on Twitter, including Rajesh Tandon and Anne T. Kuriakose.