Fabian Scholtes

Fabian Scholtes

Fabian currently works for the evaluation unit of MISEREOR, the German Catholic Bishops’ Organization for Development Cooperation. After several years back and forth between research and practice, he concluded that the distinction between the two is indeed less straightforward than it is normally claimed to be. Considering that both are interventions into the world, and that neither can escape its respective epistemological and political particularities and blind spots, he has recently opted for practice without thereby renouncing in any way the value of basic research and critique.

Based on a multi-disciplinary social science background and in the context of a variety of organizations, his work has focused on the organization of knowledge and on translations between knowledge and practices within the field of international development. He has addressed this with regards to topics including national budgeting and monitoring, technologies of financial inclusion, and negotiations of ownership in development projects, among others.

His current work concerns the role of learning processes in local development projects, and the challenges of combining these processes with the dimensions of partnership, accountability and the various differences shaping international aid relationships. A key aspect of this is how, within these dimensions, the evidence of projects’ success is established as adequate, and how it is translated into the indication that learning and change are needed.

Fabian received his Master’s (2002) and his PhD (2006) in International Economics from University of Tübingen. His PhD research explored Amartya Sen’s development ethics towards questions of environmental justice. His postdoctoral research at the Center for Development Research (University of Bonn) focused on power and morality in practices of international development. He has worked for the German Development Bank (KFW), where he was in charge of research-practice cooperation, as well as for the Institute of African Studies at the University of Leipzig, and as a freelance consultant with a focus on institutional analysis of development cooperation programs. Before joining MISEREOR, he worked for the German Development Institute, a leading think tank for global development. He has conducted research and analyses in a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as in Palestine, Brazil and Georgia.

Current position
Desk Officer Evaluation and Quality Management, Bischöfliches Hilfswerk MISEREOR e. V.
University affiliation
University of Halle

Research

His current work concerns the role of learning processes in local development projects, and the challenges of combining these processes with the dimensions of partnership, accountability and the various differences shaping international aid relationships (including cultural ones). A key aspect of this is how, within these dimensions, the evidence of projects’ success is established as adequate, and how it is translated into the indication that learning and change are needed, for instance, over the course of jointly organised evaluations. Learning in the practice of development projects involves determining what went wrong and what should be improved, as well as why, and how. This implies ideas of better practice, as well as concepts of evidence (of success or failure, of room for improvement, or of producing evidence). More often than not, these notions originate on the financing side of cooperation. This is a problem in particular when cooperation is framed as “helping people help themselves”, emphasising local ownership and partnership “on eye’s level” despite the power differences between international financiers and local grass-root actors. Attempts to organise learning in development cooperation could easily be conceived of as a minefield, with looming accusations of neo-colonial “smart-arsing” (cf. Lepenies 2009) through the backdoor. At the same time, evaluations often do succeed in the sense that a jointly drawn picture results, including the open identification of deficits, based on which changes in the cooperation are agreed upon. In case this happens, the question is: How? How does cooperation in evaluation and other learning processes work, despite the aforementioned tensions? How do parties cooperate in bringing together the production of evidence of success, which is needed for the accountability dimension of evaluation (i.e. for the license to continue), with the identification of deficits needed for the learning dimension?

Publications

  • Scholtes Fabian (forthcoming) (2018) "Transregional aspects of International Financial Regulation." in Handbook of Transregional Studies , edited by M. Middell. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Scholtes, Fabian (2015) "Richard Rottenburg: Weit hergeholte Fakten: eine Parabel der Entwicklungshilfe." in Schlüsselwerke der Organisationsforschung , edited by Stefan Kühl, 586-590. Wiesbaden: Springer VS
  • Scholtes, Fabian (2015) "GIZ Manual for the Analysis of National Monitoring and Evaluation Systems." Eschborn: GIZ (Commissioned Work).
  • Scholtes, Fabian (2012) "Afterthoughts. Issues for an Anthropology of Knowledge and Development." in Enviromental Uncertainty and Local Knowledge. Southeast Asia as a Laboratory of Global Ecological Change, 273-279 , edited by Anna-Katharina Hornidge and Christoph Antweiler Bielefeld: Transcript.
  • Hornidge, Anna-Katharina, and Fabian Scholtes (2011) "Climate Change and Everyday Life in Toineke Village, West Timor: Uncertainties, Knowledge and Adaptation." in Sociologus 61 (2):151-175.
  • Scholtes, Fabian (2011) "Postkoloniale & post-development-Kritik der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit." in Fokus Entwicklungspolitik, KfW Development Research 6/2011 (Commissioned Work).
  • Scholtes, Fabian (2011) "Environmental Sustainability in a Perspective of the Human Development and Capability Approach. Background paper to Human Development Report 2011 Sustainability and Equity." (Commissioned Work).
  • Scholtes, Fabian (2010) "Whose sustainability? Environmental Domination and Sen’s Approach." in Oxford Development Studies 38 (3):289-307
  • Scholtes, Fabian (2009) "How does moral knowledge matter in development practice, and how can it be researched?" in ZEF Working Paper 40.
  • Scholtes, Fabian (2009) "Analysing and Explaining Power in a Capability Perspective." in ZEF Working Paper 37.
  • Scholtes, Fabian (2009) "Waiting for the water to come? Climate Change and Poverty Reduction." CARE Germany and Center for Development Research ZEF.
  • Scholtes, Fabian (2007) "Kultur, Ökonomie, Ethik. Ein Werkstattbericht." in Zeitschrift für Entwicklungsethnologie 16 (2):141-156