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Politics, Economists and the Dangers of Pragmatism: Reflections on DFID's Governance and Conflict Conference

Duncan Green's picture

DFID really is an extraordinary institution. I spent Monday and Tuesday at the annual get together one of its professional cadres – about 200 advisers on governance and conflict. They were bombarded with powerpoints from outside speakers (including me), but still found time for plenty of ‘social loafing’, aka networking with their mates. Some impressions:

They are hugely bright and committed, wrestling to get stuff done in some of the most difficult places on the planet, familiar with all the dilemmas of ‘doing aid’ in complex environments that I talk about endlessly on this blog. A visitor muttered about the quality and nuance of discussion compared to the uncritical can-do hubris of much of what they hear in Washington.
 
In fact, since the Australians and Canadians wound up their development departments, DFID looks pretty well unique in the international scene – heroic keeper of the flame or aid’s Lonesome George heading for species extinction? We’ll find out over the next few years.

DFID is Changing its Approach to Better Address the Underlying Causes of Poverty and Conflict – Can it Work? Guest Post from two DFID Reformers

Duncan Green's picture

Aid donors are often maligned for bureaucratic procedures, a focus on short-term results at the expense of longer-term, riskier institutional change, and a technical, managerial approach to aid with insufficient focus on context, power and politics. Are these institutional barriers insurmountable? Can aid agencies create an enabling environment to think and work politically? 

Tom WingfieldTom Wingfield (top) and Pete Vowles (bottom) from DFID’s new ‘Better Delivery Taskforce’ have been trying to do just that. Here’s where they’ve got to.

For the past year DFID has been focussing on these issues and how we can both guard taxpayer’s money and have transformational impact in the countries where we work. The result has been the introduction of a comprehensive set of reforms targeting our process, capability and culture. Pete VowlesThis is about creating the conditions that allow us to better address the underlying causes of poverty and conflict, and respond effectively to the post-2015 agenda. At the heart of the reform is a revamp of DFID’s operating framework (ie the rules and principles which govern our work). Known as the ‘Smart Rules’, it can be downloaded here.

Like any institutional reform, this is a long term change process.  The next 12 months provide a real opportunity to strengthen our partnerships with a wide range of partners and enhance our collective effectiveness.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Mashable
Mobile Devices will Outnumber People by the End of the Year

“By the end of 2013, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people, a new report suggests.

According to Cisco's Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, consumers' mobile appetite has grown a lot in the past year, and it shows no signs of slowing. In fact, Cisco predicts global mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold by 2017, with more than 10 billion mobile-connected devices by then. It also believes mobile network speeds will grow by seven times what it is now.”  READ MORE

What Do DFID Wonks Think of Oxfam’s Attempt to Measure its Effectiveness?

Duncan Green's picture

More DFIDistas on the blog: this time Nick York, DFID’s top evaluator and Caroline Hoy, who covers NGO evaluation, comment on Oxfam’s publication of a set of 26 warts-and-all programme effectiveness reviews.

Having seen Karl Hughes’s 3ie working paper on process tracing and talked to the team in Oxfam about evaluation approaches, Caroline Hoy (our lead on evaluation for NGOs) and I have been reading with considerable interest the set of papers that Jennie Richmond has shared with us on ‘Tackling the evaluation challenge – how do we know we are effective?’.

From DFID’s perspective, and now 2 years into the challenges of ‘embedding evaluation’ in a serious way into our own work, we know how difficult it often is to find reliable methods to identify what works and measure impact for complex development interventions.  Although it is relatively well understood how to apply standard techniques in some areas – such as health, social protection, water and sanitation and microfinance – there are whole swathes of development where we need to be quite innovative and creative in finding approaches to evaluation that can deal with the complexity of the issues and the nature of the programmes.  Many of these areas are where NGOs such as Oxfam do their best work.

Can Theories of Change Help Researchers (or their funders) Have More Impact?

Duncan Green's picture

Got dragged into DFID this week for yet another session on theories of change. This one was organized by the DFID-funded Research for Development (R4D) project (sorry, ‘portal’). A lot of my previous comments on such sessions apply – in DFID the theories of change agenda seems rather dominated by evaluation and planning (‘logframes on steroids’), whereas in Oxfam, it is mainly used to sharpen our work in programmes and campaigns. But the conversation that jumped out at me was around ‘how do we influence the researchers that we fund to use theories of change (ToCs) to improve the impact of their research?’

It’s risky to generalize about ‘academics’, but I'm going to do it anyway. Let’s apply some ToCs thinking to academia as a target. Applying ToCs to try and understand why academics don't use ToCs may feel a bit weird (like the bit in Being John Malkovich where Malkovich enters his own brain), but bear with me.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Raise Your Voice Edition

“Internet activists in India are fuming over the country’s sweeping new Internet restrictions on objectionable content, and are beginning to take extreme action to combat the law. This week we recognize Aseem Trivedi and Alok Dixit from Save Your Voice, who have begun a hunger strike in protest of the ‘Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules 2011’ which were quietly issued by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in April 2011.

One of the flaws of the new rules is that they mandate that website or domain owners must take down material within 36 hours when a third party issues a complaint, without giving a chance for content owners to defend the material. The Bangalore-based advocacy group Centre for Internet & Society also pointed out that the rule leads to a general chilling effect on freedom of expression over the Internet.”  READ MORE

Au Revoir! CommGAP Says Goodbye

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

That's it - CommGAP is closing shop. October 31 will be the last day of the program. We look back on five years of research, advocacy, capacity building, and operational support in communication for governance reform. And yes, we are a little proud. As a friend of CommGAP told us last week, this end is an occasion to celebrate. And never fear - the blog stays on! The World Bank's External Affairs Operational Communication department will take over, with Sina Odugbemi and Diana Chung at the helm. Look forward to some new bloggers who will share with us new ideas and experiences from new areas of operational communication in development. CommGAP's many resources will remain accessible on our website.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The Economist
The Open Government Partnership

“UGANDA is not best known as a testbed for new ideas in governance. But research there by Jakob Svensson at the University of Stockholm and colleagues suggested that giving people health-care performance data and helping them organise to submit complaints cut the death rate in under-fives by a third. Publishing data on school budgets reduced the misuse of funds and increased enrolment.

Whether dewy-eyed or hard-edged, examples abound of the benefits of open government—the idea that citizens should be able see what the state is up to. Estonians track which bureaucrats have looked at their file. Indians scrutinise officials’ salaries painted on village walls. Russians help redraft laws. Norwegians examine how much tax the oil industry pays. Many see openness as a cure for corruption and incompetence in public administration. The problem is how to turn the fan base into an effective lobby.”  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Research for Development
Rethinking African Governance and Development

“This article draws together the main strands of argument being developed by the Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP), as reflected in this IDS Bulletin special issue. The central question is what kinds of governance arrangements work better to support the provision of the public goods that are essential to sustained and inclusive development in Africa. Evidence at local, sectoral and national levels is pointing to the overall conclusion that what works is often a ‘practical hybrid’, combining authoritative coordination with local problem-solving and constructive borrowing from local cultural repertoires. Consistent with the general idea of ‘going with the grain’, we find that the most likely source of the necessary vertical discipline is a developmental form of neo-patrimonialism, not ‘good governance’, as currently conceived. Similarly, local collective action to address bottlenecks in public goods provision is seldom enhanced by standard donor and NGO approaches to citizen or client empowerment.” READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

One International
Why transparency in the extractive industries matters for women

"Each year around the world, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8, with thousands of events occurring not just on this day, but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

As the world marks this special day ONE spoke to Winnie Ngabiirwe, Chairperson of Publish What You Pay Uganda and Executive Director of Global Rights Alert, on why transparency in the extractives industries will benefit women in Uganda and other countries.

Winnie leads the effort to make sure revenues received for Uganda’s recently discovered oil are not wasted, and are put towards social and economic development programmes."

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