10 top thinkers on Development, summarized in 700 words by Stefan Dercon

January 10, 2018
One of the treats of my role at LSE is luring in some great development thinkers to lecture on Friday afternoons, and then sitting in to enjoy the show. Stefan Dercon came in just before the Christmas break and was typically brilliant, witty and waspish. Particularly enjoyable from an outgoing DFID chief economist (as well as Prof at the Blavatnik

Thinking and Working Politically: where have we got to?

June 13, 2017
Spent a day with the TWP crew recently. Chatham House Rules, so no names. Like its close relative and overlapping network, ‘Doing Development Differently’, TWP urges aid organizations to stop trying to impose rigid blueprint/’best practice’ approaches, paying far more attention to issues of power, politics and local context. The driving force has mainly been staff in bilateral and multilateral

So is ‘Doing Development Differently’ a movement now? And if so, where’s it going?

March 30, 2017
Guest post by Graham Teskey, Principal Global Lead for Governance, Abt JTA, Australia and all round aid guru The fourth meeting of the ‘Doing Development Differently’ movement (as one of its founders, Michael Woolcock, calls it) was held over two days in Jakarta a couple of weeks ago. Jointly hosted by the Government of Indonesia, the World Bank and Australia’s

WDR 2017 on Governance and Law: great content, terrible comms, and a big moral dilemma on rights and democracy

March 2, 2017
Spoke yesterday at the London launch of the 2017 World Development Report on Governance and The Law. Although Stefan Kossoff did a great job in summarizing the report on this blog a few weeks ago, I thought I’d add a few thoughts from the discussion. The current debates on governance, of which the WDR is part, bear some of the hallmarks

Why aren’t ‘Diaries of the Poor’ a standard research tool?

November 2, 2016
I’ve been having lots of buzzy conversations about diaries recently. Not my own (haven’t done that since I was a teenager), but diaries as a research method. The initial idea came from one of my all-time favourite bits of bottom-up research, the book Portfolios of the Poor. Here are the relevant paras from my review: ‘A financial fly-on-the-wall account of

If politics is the problem, how can external actors be part of the solution? New World Bank paper

August 2, 2016
The new paper comes from Shanta Devarajan, the Bank’s Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region, (recently drafted in to help get the WDR to the finishing line) and Stuti Khemani, Senior Economist at its Development Research Group. The World Bank seems currently to be awash with fascinating reflections and rethinking on politics and power. This one’s

The art of delivery – lessons from working with African governments

March 2, 2016
Dan Hymowitz (@dhymowit), Acting Director of Development and External Relations for the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), reflects on what they’re learning about the development trend of ‘delivery’. I remember the first time I started to think seriously about delivery: it was just over five years ago sitting in a conference room in Liberia. At the time, I was working with

You say you want a Revolution? The Beatles on How Change Happens

February 5, 2016
Blog break over – did you miss me? Thought not. After a month in writing purdah, I sent off the How Change Happens manuscript to OUP last week, so it is now their problem (for a couple of months at least). So let’s get restarted with a spot of whimsy. One of the ideas that never made it into the final draft

Politics, economists and the dangers of pragmatism: reflections on DFID’s governance and conflict conference

November 14, 2014
DFID really is an extraordinary institution. I spent Monday and Tuesday at the annual get together one of its tribes professional cadres – about 200 advisers on governance and conflict. They were bombarded with powerpoints from outside speakers (including me), but still found time for plenty of ‘social loafing’, aka networking with their mates. Some impressions: They are hugely bright and

Thinking and Working Politically: an exciting new aid initiative

November 27, 2013
Gosh I love my job. Last week I attended a workshop in Delhi to discuss ‘thinking and working politically’. A bunch of donors, academics, NGOs and others (Chatham House rules, alas, so no names or institutions) taking stock on how they can move from talk to walk in applying more politically informed thinking to their work. That means both trying

Why is football such a successful (and replicable) institution?

September 16, 2013
My visit to Australia and New Zealand has been full of discussion of fragile states – how might durable, effective, accountable institutions emerge in the Pacific islands that are the focus of much of the aid (and thinking) here? I’ll need time to process those conversations, but in the meantime, here’s a more immediate question, raised in a conversation with

Is power and politics a massive distraction? Crossing swords with the World Bank.

May 8, 2013
This post is written on the hoof, dashing between presentations, so please pardon the rough edges. Yesterday I shared a platform with Marcelo Giugale, the World Bank’s Africa Director for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (right). We were coming from very different places, some might say different planets, which is always stimulating. I did my standard power and politics spiel,