5 Responses

  1. Sam Chittick
    Sam Chittick February 19, 2014 at 1:52 am

    Thanks for the post Neil, good to see this publication getting attention a couple of years after it came out. There is a lot to recommend in it, the main attribute being the examination of the way economic policy reforms are actually achieved, as opposed to assumptions of how they’re achieved. These case studies have helped extend the growing body of work around the need for aid agencies to understand how “to think and work in a more politically informed way” into quite practical applications. For example the Asia Foundation subsequently developed and ran ‘development entrepreneur’ training programs, to test the idea that these kinds of actors could be identified, mentored and encouraged in their quest for positive reforms. See here [pdf] for an outline of that.

    In discussions that flowed from these economic reform case studies with the Asia Foundation I raised the question of whether the same ‘basic ingredients’ applied for social sector policy reforms. That is obviously of interest to agencies that invest heavily in ‘reforms’ in education, health, etc. To the credit of the Asia Foundation they took up the challenge to look into that question, and have now completed a second series of case studies examining that question, and the publication (Room for Manuever: Social Sector Policy Reform in the Philippines) will be launched in early March 2014 (full disclosure: these were part funded by Australian Aid Philippines program where I was formerly engaged).

    And to connect to Chris’ comment – Adrian Leftwich, the late Research Director of the DLP Program, was actively involved in these social sector reform case studies and a contributor to the upcoming book.

    I would think under the new focus of the Australian Aid program since the election there would be more scope for this kind of analysis – i.e. attempts to dig deep into the political reality of how change happens in the countries where Australian aid is directed, and use that information to shape partnerships that allow for flexible support to passionate, connected and committed people who have a particular reform or advocacy goal to focus on. The idea of a ‘development entrepreneur’ is a catchy one, and hopefully one that gains momentum.

  2. Tess Newton Cain
    Tess Newton Cain February 13, 2014 at 6:28 am

    I agree with Chris that there are signs of DFAT working with these approaches in the areas that he has referenced. As part of the push for more value for money within the aid programme I would like to see how DFAT can improve its knowledge management practices so that the lessons learned by PLP/DLP (and others many of whom are not ‘in’ the aid programme as such) can be really shared across the programme – putting things on a website is a really good first step but there is much more to be done besides.

  3. Chris Roche
    Chris Roche February 12, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Neil I couldn’t agree more. It strikes me that DFAT are already attempting to do some of this both at a practical level through the Pacific Leadership Program (http://www.plp.org.fj/), and at a research and theory level through the Developmental Leadership Program (http://www.dlprog.org/). Perhaps it could be drawing lessons from these experiences to help shape and inform DFAT’s policy and practice?

  4. Jo Spratt
    Jo Spratt February 12, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Great blog, thanks Neil. (And I hope you got to read the Mockingjay in the end – an excellent read.) Your summary, and Diana’s comment, reminded me of all the work going on in the area of complexity thinking and development.

    Duncan Green had a great presentation at the Development Policy Centre last year, with a good set of slides offering ideas about how to work with complexity.

    And over on the Poverty to Power blog there are regular posts about complexity.

    Lots to think about. Actors seem to play the leading role in the Asia Foundation’s case studies, with a lesser role for ideas. I’m guessing institutions are an important component in the mix, too. We need many more case studies such as those you summarise here. And more conversations about how to actually implement these findings, working with complexity in ways that doesn’t always involve providing money (which has its own impact within a system) and figuring out which actors are the best ones to support – a reason for knowing the history and context as well as possible.

  5. Diana Keating
    Diana Keating February 12, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Neil, thank you for this really helpful summary. Your article, and second (I think most important) point about “development entrepreneurs” reminds me of AusAID’s interest many years ago on the political economy of change. There were reports called “Drivers of Change” which tried to identify how policy change happened – and invariably they pointed to a champion, or a champion organisation, that cajoled, advocated, and acted to make the change happen. My personal experience is likewise that change requires champions, or “development entrepreneurs,” and that we need to follow these champions (requiring flexibility of programming) and support their efforts because ultimately they will be more successful than stand-alone, self-initiated programs. There’s other theory that supports this “follow the champion” approach – “hot hands” is a well known phenomena in the investment community, for example. Of course, sometimes champions will fail (your acceptance of failure point), but their average will be better than otherwise and my experience suggests there is greater potential for real, long-lasting change than may otherwise be the case.

    It’s a shame the system almost mitigates against this approach. I wonder how we could work to address this?

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