Book Review: Radical Help, by Hilary Cottam

November 23, 2018
Every now and then a conversation, paper or book reminds me that activists in the UK are out there in their  thousands, often working and thinking along parallel lines to their counterparts in Oxfam and around the world. I just finished Radical Help, a wonderful book by Hilary Cottam, for which the tl;dr summary could be ‘Amartya Sen meets the

Internal battles within partner governments are what determine change. That has big implications for aid.

July 4, 2018
Alan Whaites argues that aid workers should abandon their blueprints and focus instead on understanding internal reform battles within governments and trying to help those fighting poverty from within. Recently a line stuck in my mind from one of Duncan’s recent posts about adaptive programmes with developing country partners: `if you introduce donors into that arrangement, ownership is diluted, and

What makes Adaptive Management actually work in practice?

February 27, 2018
This post by Graham Teskey, one of the pioneers of ‘thinking and working politically’, first appeared on the Governance Soapbox blog  It’s striking how important words are. USAID calls it Adaptive Management, DFAT calls it Thinking and Working Politically, DFID calls it Politically Informed Programming, and the World Bank just ignores it altogether. More seriously – what is at issue here? At heart,

How can the Anti-Corruption Movement sharpen up its act?

July 20, 2017
Spent a day earlier this week in a posh, but anonymous (Chatham House Rule) Central London location, discussing the state of the global anti-corruption movement with some of its leaders. The meeting took place in a posh, very high ceilinged room, under the stern gaze of giant portraits of assorted kings, aristos and philosophers. I wondered what they would have

Building State Capability: Review of an important (and practical) new book

April 5, 2017
Jetlag is a book reviewer’s best friend. In the bleary small hours in NZ and now Australia, I have been catching up on my reading. The latest was ‘Building State Capability’, by Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock, which builds brilliantly on Matt’s 2013 book and the subsequent work of all 3 authors in trying to find practical ways

Shakespeare, the Bible, Einstein et al on Doing Development Differently

April 4, 2017
Just finishing ‘Building State Capability’, a wonderful new book from the Doing Development Differently crew. Review on its way tomorrow, but in the meantime, sit  back and enjoy these wonderful epigrams, which open the book: Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons

Doing Problem Driven Work, great new guide for governance reformers and activists

February 24, 2016
One of the criticisms of the big picture discussion on governance  that’s been going on in networks such as Doing Development Differently and Thinking and Working Politically is that it’s all very helicopter-ish. ‘What do I do differently on Monday morning?’, comes the frustrated cry of the practitioner. Now some really useful answers are starting to come onstream, and I’ll

Doing Development Differently: Report back from two mind-blowing days at Harvard

October 28, 2014
Spent an intense two days at Harvard last week, taking part in a ‘Doing Development Differently’ (DDD) seminar, hosted by Matt Andrews, who runs Harvard’s ‘Building State Capability’ programme and ODI. About 40 participants, a mixture of multilaterals and donors (big World Bank contingent), consultants and project design and implementation people, and a couple of (more or less) tame NGO people