Community driven development (CDD) has been a key operational strategy supported by the World Bank for more than a decade – averaging about $2 billion in lending every year and now covering more than 80 countries. By emphasizing empowerment and putting resources in the direct control of community groups, CDD’s rapid spread stems from its promise of achieving inclusive and sustainable poverty reduction. Yet despite its popularity, evidence on whether these programs work still remains limited and scattered. Recently, two significant efforts have been made by the Bank to pull together the different strands of evidence there is on CDD and provide a summary picture of what we know and what we don’t (please see What Have Been the Impacts of World Bank Community-Driven Program? and Localizing Development – Does Participation Work?). The reviews find on the positive end that CDD-type programs, when implemented properly, do well on delivering service delivery outcomes in sectors like health and education, improve resource sustainability, and help in constructing lower cost and better quality infrastructure.
A lot has recently been written about “doing development differently” from crowdsourcing the next Millennium Development Goals (a la ONE’s Jamie Drummond) to the Copenhagen Consensus and their 16 investments with the biggest payoffs for development (listed here).
Enter Ha-Joon Chang, a noted Cambridge economist, who sees development as a different game altogether –the analogy he uses is that current development thinking is like “Hamlet without the prince.” According to Duncan Green’s recent blog post, Chang believes that with all the focus on health, education, poverty reduction, we are missing the elephant in the room (the prince): We are missing what poor countries really need, which is “productive capabilities” and an important focus on upgrading skills and industry, which has largely been set aside since the 1980s by donors and international organizations.