The new Gates Foundation aid report: great at human stories; but where’s the power, politics and mess?

September 29, 2017
I’ve been reading the new Gates Foundation report, The Stories Behind the Data (lots of jazzy webstuff and graphs of bad stuff going down here – and if you dig hard enough, you can even find a good old-fashioned report to read here). On one level it is exemplary, setting out both an optimistic story of progress, and a warning that this could
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Are grassroots faith organizations better at advocacy/making change happen?

September 28, 2017
As part of thinking about how power operates in fragile/conflict states (for the LSE’s new Centre for Public Authority in International Development, CPAID), I’m doing a bit more reading around the role of different kinds of ‘non state actors’. One of the most influential in many fragile/conflict settings are faith organizations, so I finally got round to reading ‘Bridging the
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Legitimacy: the dark matter of international development

September 27, 2017
Guest Post by Aoife McCullough, Research Fellow, ODI Many donors work on the premise that a state can move from fragile to ‘stable’ if its legitimacy is strengthened. Accordingly, there’s a broad donor consensus that interventions in fragile states should include a mix of activities likely to contribute to increased state legitimacy – what the World Development Report 2011 calls
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Should the World Bank become more adaptive by weakening its safeguards?

September 26, 2017
The World Bank wants to become more agile, to speed up its grant/loan-making, be less bureaucratic, leap on the ‘adaptive management’ bandwagon etc. In its rush to change direction, it hasn’t had too many discussions with NGOs, so I thought I’d raise some of the issues on the blog. Perhaps  the lack of discussion is because the Bank sees NGOs
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What does Artificial Intelligence mean for the future of poor countries?

September 22, 2017
What do the multiple overlapping new technologies currently breaking in tsunamis over the world’s economies and societies mean for the future of low and middle income countries (LMICs)? Last week I went along to a seminar (Chatham House Rule, so no names) on this topic, hoping for some interesting, preferably optimistic ideas and examples. I came away deeply, deeply worried.
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Two top authors compared: Hossain on Bangladesh and Ang on China

September 21, 2017
OK, so this week I’ve reviewed the two important new books on the rise of China and Bangladesh. Now for the tricky bit – the comparison. The books are very different in their approach. Where Yuen Yuen Ang focuses on the ‘how’ in China, Naomi Hossain is more interested in the ‘why’ in Bangladesh. Hossain traces the ‘why’ to the
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Book Review: How China Escaped the Poverty Trap, by Yuen Yuen Ang

September 20, 2017
Update: this review is now available in Chinese Following on from yesterday’s book review on an account of Bangladesh’s success, here’s a great book on another developmental superstar – China. The macro-story on China is well known, but always bears repetition. Emerging from the carnage of the Mao era, China in 1980 had a GDP of $193 per capita, lower
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Book Review: The Aid Lab: Understanding Bangladesh’s Unexpected Success, by Naomi Hossain

September 19, 2017
Over the summer I read a few absolutely brilliant books – hence the spate of book reviews. This week I will cover two new studies on development’s biggest recent success stories – China, but first Bangladesh. How did Bangladesh go from being a ‘basket case’ (though ‘not necessarily our basket case’ – Henry Kissinger, 1971) to a development success story,
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Can the UK become a Human Economy?

September 15, 2017
Rising inequality is a global problem. Oxfam inequality guru Deborah Hardoon appraises a new report on its manifestations in the UK. Last week the IPPR, a progressive policy think tank, published a new report, ‘A time for change: A new vision for the British Economy’, which argues that “the economy we have today is creating neither prosperity nor justice. This
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Complexity v Simplicity: the challenge for Campaigners and Reformers

September 14, 2017
Had a few thought-provoking conversations on this last week. I increasingly see most problems (social, political, economic) as complex, i.e. arising from multiple causes in interconnected systems, often highly dependent on the specific context and history of any given place/population. My campaigner friends generally hate such talk, because their gut feeling is that it makes taking action to change the
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Book Review: The Road to Somewhere, by David Goodhart

September 13, 2017
There was a moment a few years ago when I was walking through Brixton with my son, Calum. I was tediously droning on about how much I loved the cultural and ethnic kaleidoscope, compared to the plain vanilla places where I grew up. Calum suddenly turned on me – ‘you’re just a tourist; you visit on Saturdays. It’s different growing
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DFID is 20 years old: has its results agenda gone too far?

September 12, 2017
DFID just turned 20 and Craig Valters (right) and Brendan Whitty (left) have a new paper charting its changing relationship to results  Focusing on results in international development is crucial. At this level of abstraction, how could one argue otherwise? Yet it matters how development agencies are managed for these results. We know that with proper management systems, aid interventions can be very
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