1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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In Memory of Bob Deacon - A Letter from Isabel Ortiz

6 Oct 2017

  • Author(s): Isabel Ortiz

In Memory of Bob Deacon - A Letter from Isabel Ortiz
Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that Bob Deacon, Honorary Professor of Global Social Policy at the University of York, and Emeritus Professor of International Social Policy at the University of Sheffield, died on Sunday October 1st.

Bob was a giant of social policy - without him, the world is a lonelier and emptier place. He influenced many debates in academia, the UN, ILO, UNICEF and UNRISD, as well as in transition economies and developing countries.

In the 1980s, he became a strong voice of critical social policy. In the last 20 years, he focused on globalisation and social policy, starting with the creation of the Finnish-funded Globalism and Social Policy Programme (GASPP) in 1997.

He has a long list of publications and research projects available here. Recently, you may recall the volumes Global Social Policy and Governance (2007) and Global Social Policy in the Making (2013), the latest focused on the social protection floor.

His appreciated (and feared) "Global Social Policy Digest" has shaped a generation, identifying the “heroes and villains” of social policies in the making, criticizing those who hamper social progress, and praising those who advanced universalism, redistribution, regulation and rights.

He explored new territories of knowledge, and encouraged others to do so. I recall once in UNICEF, when the institution was struggling with the IFIs, Bob stood up: “Now what is required is a reverse mission creep of the social agencies into the territory of the economic. Conventional pure economic analysis and forecasting and modeling have been found wanting. Debates about alternatives are now the order of the day. The UN and UNICEF have a long and honorable tradition in this regard.”

Bob died with his boots on. His death has caught us by surprise. He knew he had terminal cancer, but he was preparing a conference in St Petersburg, taking airplanes and writing blogs. At age 73, he still was so full of life.

It is a tragedy that Bob has left us, but his free and inquisitive spirit will not be forgotten.

He will be missed by many. In memoriam, I invite you to "become" Bob Deacon: confront all that hampers social progress, and support all that advances social justice.


Isabel Ortiz
Director Social Protection
International Labour Organization (ILO)

Friends and colleagues have created a page "In Memoriam". If you wish to send a note, write to: inmemoriambobdeacon[at]gmail[dot]com.

This letter, reproduced with permission, was originally posted to the Recovery with a Human Face listserv.