Young Lives, child poverty and lessons for the SDGs

The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

This one-day conference is designed to create a vibrant and informative discussion among leaders from government, donor bodies and civil society who can share progress and advance collaboration on addressing challenges of child poverty, education, health and nutrition, especially across low- and middle-income countries.

The event combines keynote talks and panel discussions with a ‘World Café’ style interactive session that provides an exciting opportunity to share research and stimulate conversation with all participants. An outline of the day follows (and programme available here):

8:45-9:30          Registration

9:30-9:35          Welcome

Jo Boyden, Director, Young Lives

9:35-9:45          Opening remarks

Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor, Uni of Oxford

9:45-9:55          Introduction

Stefan Dercon, Professor of Economic Policy, Blavatnik School of Government

9:55-10:55        Panel: Child Development

Chair: Martin Woodhead, Associate Research Director, Young Lives


  • Rob Hughes, Senior Fellow, Early Child Development, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF)
  • Andrew Dawes, Professor Emeritus, Cape Town University
  • Renu Singh, Country Director, Young Lives (India)

10:55-11:20      Break

11:20-12:20      Panel: Child Protection

Chair: Santiago Cueto, Country Director, Young Lives (Peru)


  • Tanya Barron, CEO, Plan International
  • Alula Pankhurst, Country Director, Young Lives (Ethiopia)
  • Cornelius Williams, Associate Director & Global Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF

12:20-12:30      Round-up remarks, and introduction to interactive discussions

12:30-13:20     Lunch

13:20-15:05      World Café

15:05-15:30      Break

15:30-15:40      Reflections from the World Café

Gordon Alexander, Young Lives International Advisory Board

15:40-16:00      Keynote

AK Shiva Kumar, Co-Chair, Know Violence in Childhood

16:00-16:10      Special Address

Harriett Baldwin, Minister of State, Department for International Development

16:10-17:20     Panel: Child Poverty

Chair: Helen Pearson, Chief Magazine Editor, Nature


  • Jo Boyden, Director, Young Lives
  • Rachel Glennerster, Chief Economist, Department for International Development (DFID)
  • Richard Morgan, Director, Child Poverty Global Theme, Save the Children

 17:20-17:30     Closing Remarks 

Donald Bundy, Professor of Epidemiology and Development, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

17:30-18:30      Drinks reception 



1: Child Development – How can we provide food for life and effective education for all?

This discussion will draw together research and insight on nutrition, health and education – the three founding factors of children’s growth and cognitive development. Panellists will discuss such questions as:

  • How do we address the problems of under-nutrition and over-nutrition within the same contexts?
  • What is the association between child nutrition and growth on the one hand, and school performance and outcomes on the other?
  • How do schools contribute to children’s development and wellbeing, and how effective are they at supporting the most disadvantaged?
2: Child Protection – How do we best support young people in situations of adversity?

Combining the themes of work, violence and marriage, this discussion tackles the complex challenges involved in promoting the rights and well-being of all children to ensure no child is left behind. Questions for the panellists (including Tanya Barron, CEO of Plan International UK) will include:

  • How can we better understand the lived experiences of young people that motivate their daily decision-making as individuals, family members, siblings and in relation to their wider environment?
  • Are we making the right investments in policies and programmes to address gender disparities improve employment opportunities, promote healthy lives, and/or prevent exploitation and violence?
  • What does the evidence say about these issues?
3: Child Poverty – Tracing the consequences and changing the outcomes

The final panel discussion of the day will provide the big picture of research, policy, advocacy and action on childhood poverty. During the first two decades of the 21st century, children’s circumstances have improved across the countries where Young Lives research has taken place, but the poorest, rural children and children in minority groups are much more likely to experience the worst outcomes. In some contexts, social and economic disparities are becoming increasingly entrenched. Helen Pearson, Chief Editor of Nature and author will chair this session, based around the central question for panellists:

  • How can the research, policy and advocacy worlds come together to help break cycles of poverty and inequality and improve lives across generations?


The World Café session format provides a dynamic and interactive experience that is designed to encourage all participants to engage in collaborative dialogue and contribute constructive possibilities for action on addressing childhood poverty.

We will hold several simultaneous discussion groups, which participants can rotate around during the course of this two-hour session. At least two experts will help prompt discussions in each group (or “meeting station”) by presenting their research and insights on the topic, and inviting feedback and comment from other participants. Group leaders will then share some of the key insights from discussions when we reconvene everyone together in the afternoon.

Sessions are based on the following topics:

  • Education
  • Nutrition
  • Gender and adolescence
  • Labour market transitions
  • Role of social protection in child development
  • Child protection (children's experiences of violence and of work)

The event will close with a drinks reception where attendees will be able to engage with interactive data visualisations, explore a themed photo exhibition, and take the opportunity to network and celebrate the work of Young Lives to date.