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Green Templeton College | Oxford

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Green Templeton College held its annual Human Welfare Conference on May 11 and 12, 2018. The conference was organized by a student team co-chaired by Papa Kojo Botsio reading a DPhil in Comparative and International Education, and Aditya Srinath, reading an MSc in Financial Accounting. The team received invaluable support from GTC Principal Professor Denise Lievesley, the Bursar Dr Tim Clayden, and the many essential college staff and members who made the conference a great success.

The Human Welfare Conference has been an integral part of GTC’s identity. Each year the conference selects a unifying theme that addresses various human welfare issues from both academic and non-academic lenses. Issues in Health, the Environment, Education, Gender Inequality, Poverty and Economic Inequalities, amongst others in the full spectrum of Human Welfare discourse, are highlighted in pursuit of sustainable solutions.

This year, the theme chosen for the conference was 'Evidence in Action.' The purpose of this theme was to spur deep discussions on the counterpoints between what counts as evidence and whether evidence as we know it is a necessary precedent for human welfare interventions in the field. Our distinguished speakers did justice to the theme and captured its essence quite perfectly.

Esther Duflo, renowned Professor of Development Economics at MIT, Co-founder of J-Pal, and currently the Sanjaya Lall visiting professor at GTC, delivered the opening keynote address. She titled her address, “Beyond Poor Economics: Evidence in Action.” She captured her diverse audience with a catalogue of case studies across disciplines, from Education to Health to Poverty, revisiting instances where further evidence or more qualitative evidence on the ground was needed to substantiate findings.

To kick off Day 2, Professor Jo Wolff, distinguished Blavatnik Chair in Public Policy
at the Blavatnik School of Government, delivered the Sir David Watson Memorial Lecture in honour of GTC’s former principal for whom it was named. He paid a wonderful tribute to Sir David Watson and centred his keynote speech on the evaluation of risks in introducing technological interventions with the absence of usually justifiable evidence.

The closing keynote speech was delivered by Professor Mike English from the Nuffield Department of Population Health here at Oxford. He detailed the immense efforts made by his team in Kenya to improve standards of care, shared some evidence of their successes so far, and strongly indicated their desire to continue working to bridge healthcare disparities.

One of the highlights of the conference which cannot go unmentioned was the Debate on the motion 'Action to improve human welfare should solely be based on widely accepted evidence.' The debaters gifted attendees with a lively argument serving brilliant counter arguments for and against the motion. One half reiterated the importance of evidence which many researchers and policy makers toil to produce as a precedent for interventions, while the other charged the audience to consider that some decisions and actions must be taken out of urgency, and our care and empathy for others, rather than a dependency on the normativity of “evidence” especially in its statistical forms.

The Human Welfare Conference at GTC, since its inception in 2008, has been the college’s flagship event. The first Human Welfare Conference was held in May 2008, the same year of the merger of Green and Templeton Colleges. It was the brainchild of Paul I. Kadetz, a GTC alum who studied for an MSc in Medical Anthropology, followed by a DPhil in International Development from 2007-2012. Paul is currently the Robert Fisher Oxnam Endowed Chair of Science and Society at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, USA. Paul shared with the co-chairs of HWC 2018, that the conference was conceptualized when students were invited to submit ideas to mark the merger of Green and Templeton Colleges. Paul added that he 'wrote a short proposal to the Governing Body for a conference concerning human welfare, which would be convened by GTC students to mark the historic merger.' His proposal was accepted by the Governing Body Fellows and so he proceeded to plan and host 'the First Human Welfare Conference, a daylong event at the Radcliffe Observatory, in May of 2008.'

To learn more about the themes, panels, speakers and programme for The Human Welfare Conference 2018 at GTC, please visit www.humanwelfareconference.com and the Conference's Facebook page