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political economy analysis

Can Aid Donors Really 'Think and Work Politically'? Plus the Dangers of 'Big Man' Thinking, and the Horrors of Political Science-Speak

Duncan Green's picture

Spent an enjoyable couple of days last week with the ‘thinking and working politically’ (TWP) crew, first at a follow up to the Delhi meeting (nothing earth shattering to report, but a research agenda is on the way – I’ll keep you posted), and then at a very moving memorial conference for the late Adrian Leftwich (right), who is something of a founding father to this current of thought.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of this line of thinking: understanding and engaging with the underlying issues of power and politics should be the heart of any serious work on development.

But based on last weeks exchanges, I’ve got some concerns too – here are some reflections:

First some choice quotes:
 

The Evidence Debate Continues: Chris Whitty and Stefan Dercon Respond from DFID

Duncan Green's picture

Yesterday Chris Roche and Rosalind Eyben set out their concerns over the results agenda. Today Chris Whitty (left), DFID’s Director of Research and Evidence and Chief Scientific Adviser and Stefan Dercon (right), its Chief Economist, respond.

It is common ground that “No-one really believes that it is feasible for external development assistance to consist purely of ‘technical’ interventions.” Neither would anyone argue that power, politics and ideology are not central to policy and indeed day-to-day decisions. Much of the rest of yesterday’s passionate blog by Rosalind Eyben and Chris Roche sets up a series of straw men, presenting a supposed case for evidence-based approaches that is far removed from reality and in places borders on the sinister, with its implication that this is some coming together of scientists in laboratories experimenting on Africans, 1930s colonialism, and money-pinching government truth-junkies. Whilst this may work as polemic, the logical and factual base of the blog is less strong.

Rosalind and Chris start with evidence-based medicine, so let’s start in the same place. One of us (CW) started training as the last senior doctors to oppose evidence-based medicine were nearing retirement. ‘My boy’ they would say, generally with a slightly patronising pat on the arm, ‘this evidence-based medicine fad won’t last. Every patient is different, every family situation is unique; how can you generalise from a mass of data to the complexity of the human situation.” Fortunately they lost that argument. As evidence-informed approaches supplanted expert opinion the likelihood of dying from a heart attack dropped by 40% over 10 years, and the research tools which achieved this (of which randomised trials are only one) are now being used to address the problems of health and poverty in Africa and Asia.

Call for Applications: 2012 Summer Institute in Communication and Governance Reform

Johanna Martinsson's picture

The World Bank’s External Affairs Operational Communications Department, the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice, the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California are currently accepting applications for the 2012 Summer Institute in Communication and Governance Reform, to be held from June 16 to 27, 2012, at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

The 12-day course will equip participants with knowledge about the most recent advances in communication and proven techniques in reform implementation. Participants will develop core competencies essential to bringing about real change, leading to development results in a wide range of sectors.  The course seeks to impart critical skills in the following key areas:

The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action - Final Report

Antonio Lambino's picture

We have reported on this blog that the Communication for Governance  and Accountability Program (CommGAP) and the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice (WBIGV) jointly organized a two-day workshop entitled “The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action”.  Held in Washington, D.C. a few months ago, the workshop sought to explore the role that Political Economy Analysis (PEA) can play in supporting and informing real-world reform efforts.  The event brought together more than fifty participants from various sectors: representatives of donor organizations, senior journalists, private firms active in development policy and practice, academics and applied researchers, and World Bank senior operational staff. 

Five Key Networks You Will Find Everywhere

Antonio Lambino's picture

 

The video posted above is the second in a series we are featuring on this blog.  The interview was conducted last June, during a learning event jointly organized by the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice and CommGAP entitled “The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action.” The event’s primary objective was to bring together relevant expertise and take stock of experiences from around the world on the ways in which political economy analyses have been and can be made more operationally relevant.  Featured in the video is Rakesh Rajani, head and founder of Twaweza (“we can make it happen” in Swahili), a “citizen-centered initiative, focusing on large-scale change in East Africa.”  From years of experience working in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, Rajani describes five local networks that he has found exist everywhere in these countries:

They are organic.  They are powerful.  They go to scale.  They matter to people’s lives.  People invest in those networks.  And they would be there even if every aid dollar dried up tomorrow… And you’ll notice that those five are typically not the organizations or the institutions that development actors work with.

Political vs. Technical: A False Dichotomy

Antonio Lambino's picture

 

The interview posted above was conducted last June, during a learning event jointly organized by the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice and CommGAP entitled “The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action.”  The event’s primary objective was to bring together relevant expertise and take stock of experiences from around the world on the ways in which political economy analyses have been and can be made more operationally relevant.  In the interview, Claudia Melim-McLeod of the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre starts off with highlighting a critical issue in supporting change agents on the ground:

Technical assistance, although important, is not enough… we have to be politically savvy to be able to deliver results not only in terms of development effectiveness, but also in terms of what our partners expect us to do.

Donor Bureaucrats As Obstacles To Reform Initiatives

Sina Odugbemi's picture

For two days last month (June 21-22) CommGAP and the Governance Practice in the World Bank Institute organized a workshop on the theme: The Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action. In attendance were practitioners and academics from around the world, including several leading donor agencies. While the insights from the very productive workshop are being organized - they will be made available as soon as they are ready - I want to share this report regarding an unanticipated leitmotif of the meeting.

Without prompting, several donor agency officials, and they were senior ones, turned their attention to the challenges posed to reform efforts by the behavior of donor bureaucrats. I have just been through the notes I took during the meeting, and what follows are some of the  comments that were made. The meeting took place under Chatham House rules, so no names will be mentioned here:

Village Intelligence: There Are No Obvious Solutions

Naniette Coleman's picture

The story was told to me and so I will tell it to you. No, it was not passed down to me by my father or my father’s father but I still think it is a great story. A known story amongst international volunteer corps, it is whispered between friends with wistful eyes and knowing glances. 

 

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