Change is what development is all about. The hard part, as the well-chosen title of a new World Bank book makes clear, is persuading the right kind of change to put down roots and flourish.
Institutions Taking Root is a collection of success stories about building state capacity in challenging contexts. The common theme of these stories is not success in itself. They move us firmly on from the old ‘cometh the hour, cometh the leader’ cliché. A good harvest takes more than one seed; years of preparation go into the fertile ground that yields it.
The book looks at the committed group of leaders in Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Development who continued to perform key functions during civil conflict. It considers the pool of leaders who have filled key positions inside and outside The Gambia’s Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, and yet have held onto a common and consistent vision of policy and implementation.
I have been somewhat skeptical about the application of impact evaluations to justice reform activities but I’m coming around to their utility for a limited – yet important – set of questions. The basic method behind impact evaluations – establishing a counterfactual in order to attribute net impact – is fairly new to justice so I thought I’d set out some ideas that might be worth considering in developing this nascent field.