TWP Community of Practice meeting, Washington DC, 29 February 2016

Agenda: Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice . Feb 29, 2016

Hosted by: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036


Time Title Description
9:00-9:10 Welcome and quick round the table introductions
9:10-10:40 Agency / organisation updates Report from USAID on their Feb 3 PEA workshop.

DFAT’s recent experience of TWP in large mainstream programs

Then a quick round-table with members of the CoP highlighting initiatives, breakthroughs, setbacks, innovations or general points of interest to other CoPpers

10:40-11:00 Pacific Research Informal mediation in Urban PNG: an institutional approach to TWP

Three dimensions of institutional capability are considered, i) efficiency (accessibility, affordability, timeliness and sustainability), ii) power and authority, and iii) outcomes and legitimacy

11:00-11:30 Tea, coffee
11:30-1:00 WDR 2017 Law and Governance How is the WDR planning to frame governance, PEA and the TWP / DDD / PDIA ‘movement’?
1:00-2:00 Lunch
2:00-3.00 Plan for Sailboats, not Trains: Designing and Evaluating Adaptive, Power-Savvy Interventions Adaptive Programming

How to open space in the programming process for its staff to design and manage programs in more adaptive and flexible ways.

3:00-3:45 TWP and FC&V (1) How TWP/DDD is being applied across large statebuilding or service delivery programs in fragile and conflict-affected states – and where are the critical gaps in current practice and policy

(2) Need to draw fragility-conflict policy people into TWP discussions, particularly at the policy level

(3) Challenges with PSG1 (legitimate politics) implementation, and the dilemmas of pursuing overtly political goals

3:45 – 4:30 AoB



Jairo Acuna-Alfaro, UNDP New York

Saku Akmeemana, World Bank

Patrick Barron, ODI

 Taylor Brown, Palladium

Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Sam Chittick, World Bank

Bill Cole, The Asia Foundation

 Larry Garber, USAID / NDU

Aditi Hate, UNDP New York

 Alan Hudson, Global Integrity

Debbie Isser, World Bank

Rachel Kleinfeld, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

 Bryony Lau, The Asia Foundation

Neil Levine, USAID

Heather Marquette, University of Birmingham / Developmental Leadership Program

 Alina Rocha-Menocal, University of Birmingham / Developmental Leadership Program

 Tom Parks, DFAT Bangkok

Doug Porter, World Bank

 Mark Robinson, World Resources Institute

 Steve Rood, The Asia Foundation

 Mark Segal, DFID

 Matt Stephens, World Bank

Graham Teskey, Abt JTA Australia

George Varughese, The Asia Foundation

Leni Wild, ODI

 Lisa Williams, USAID

Michael Wilson, DFAT Canberra




OECD TWP Workshop, Paris, December 2015

Summary (to be added)


Tuesday, 8th December 2015

The main purpose of this workshop will be:

  • To introduce the concept and the rationale for thinking and working more politically within development
  • To explore what it means in practice, highlighting the benefits and challenges of the approach
  • To identify future research and evidence needs for taking this approach forward
10.30 – 10.45 1. Opening and Welcome

  • Brenda Killen, Deputy Director, Development Cooperation Directorate, OECD
  • David Yang (USAID) & Kirsten Bishop (DFAT, Australia), Co-Chairs of the Governance Network
10.45 – 12.00 2. Why Politics Matters! Doing Development Differently

A growing body of evidence tells us that development programmes focused exclusively on providing financial and technical solutions to problems often fail to deliver development results because the programme did not take sufficient account of political dynamics. This session will make the case for why it is important for practitioners to take better account of political factors in partner countries be they fragile or non-fragile. It will also outline what this means in practice: undertaking political economic analysis; initiating more flexible, problem-driven and adaptive programming that responds to changing political-economic contexts, and conducting programming that explicitly challenges existing power relationships in the political and economic spheres.


  • Graham Teskey, Principal Technical Lead – Governance, Abt JTA


  • David Booth, Senior Research Fellow, Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
  • Heather Marquette, Director of the Development Leadership Programme, University of Birmingham
12.30 -14.00   Lunch and networking
14.00 – 15.30 3. Looking at the Evidence: Understanding the Benefits and Challenges of Thinking and Working Politically

This session will hear from a range of experts and practitioners on their experiences of putting ‘Thinking and Working Politically’ into action. It will seek to explore what benefits this approach has delivered in terms of programming impact and effectiveness across different sectors and across different types of countries and what challenges practitioners faced when adopting this approach.

Moderator: Kirsten Bishop (DFAT, Australia)


  • Laure-Helene Piron (DFID) on the emerging findings of DFID’s on-going review on political economy analysis
  • Verena Fritz, Senior Public Sector Governance Specialist, World Bank
  • Debra Ladner, Director, Program Strategy, Innovation and Learning, The Asia Foundation
15.30 – 15.45 4. Coffee Break
15.45 –


5. Doing and using everyday Political Analysis

At present most development administrations undertake country-level political analysis on an annual basis, outlining the major political trends in their partner countries. In addition, when projects start to fail or get into difficulties programme managers tend to carry out some sort of problem-driven political analysis. However, currently there is no tool for undertaking quick and easy political analysis on a more regular basis in order to get real-time information. This session unpacks what an everyday political analysis toolkit would look like, how it incorporates economic analysis, and how it can be used in practice.


  • Sam Waldock, DFID governance advisor (TBC)
  • David Hudson, Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science, UCL and Deputy Director of the Developmental Leadership Programme, University of Birmingham
16.15 – 17.10 6. Putting Political Analysis into Practice

Participants will breakout into discussion groups and undertake an exercise in which they will seek to apply the ‘every day political analysis tool kit’ to a programme case study. The session will seek to identify what kind of question advisors need to start asking? Who do you need to be talking to? And, what changes are required to donors’ internal administrations to enable this approach to programming? How do we stop this becoming too clinical and keep it practical for programme management and action?

The session will finish with reflections donors’ experience of putting political analysis into practice.


  • Per Nordlund, Lead Policy Specialist, Democracy and Human Right, SIDA
  • Meghan Watkinson, Deputy Director, FATD, Canada (TBC)
17.10 – 18.00 7. Moving Forward: Research and Evidence Needs

Can we prove   that it works, and how do we convince others that TWP can make a difference?   What evidence do we need and how should we get it?

Moderator:Graham Teskey, Principal Technical Lead – Governance, Abt JTA


  • Heather Marquette – Development Leadership Programme’s research plans
  • David Booth – Overseas Development Institute’s research plans
  • Pablo Yanguas – Effective States and Inclusive Development (ESID) research centres plans (TBC by skype) 

Documentation and presentations

Working Politically in Practice: The Asia Foundation’s Experience – Debra Ladner

Thinking and Working Politically: A story of seven propositions – David Booth

World Bank Experience with Political Economy Analysis – Verena Fritz

Rakhine Fisheries Partnership Short Documentary Film

Strengthening Accountable Citizen-State Relations in Myanmar Using an Issue

In October 2014, the Rakhine State Parliament passed a new Freshwater Fisheries Law. It is the culmination of a two-year collaborative process initiated and supported by Pyoe Pin and is a strong demonstration of the strengths of Thinking and Working Politically.

The Rakhine Fisheries Partnership facilitated the new law by bringing fisher communities, businesses, civil society and government to work together for the first time. The legislation safeguards fairer access to resources with community fishery associations. Through piloting, the law provides a framework to improve sustainability, increase revenues and support livelihoods development in the state. The law is now being fully enacted with support from six multi-stakeholder task forces.

In Rakhine, conflict and exclusion have been prevalent in recent years. The collaborative process has brokered improved relations between diverse communities as well as with policy makers and elected representatives. It has developed a rules-based system for the fisheries sector that commits Rakhine to more equitable access to, and sharing of, resources. In particular, economic opportunity for the poor. By working with a range of partners, aligning common interests, it has also helped reduce conflict by inspiring greater unity in Rakhine’s currently divided society.

Sensitive resource sharing and land reform are central to alleviating conflict and building confidence in Rakhine. It has already been replicated at both state and national level and is also the basis for a model to support Myanmar’s wider peace process.

TWP Community of Practice, Bangkok, June 2015


Summary of meeting Bangkok June 2015


Day 1: Monday 15th June
8:00 – 8:30 Pre workshop coffee/tea
8:30 – 9:10 Welcome and introduction: Graham Teskey, DFAT

9:10 – 9:40



9:40 – 10:00



10:00 – 10:20

Agenda item 1: Setting the scene Chair: Sandra Kraushaar, DFAT

(a) What is TWP? Tom Parks, DFAT

Politically-smart, iterative programming in practice: revisiting and reflecting on the core principles of the TWP agenda – strong political analysis, insight and understanding; detailed appreciation of and response to the local context; and flexibility and adaptability in program design and implementation.

(b) Why are we bringing gender into the TWP agenda? Sally Moyle, DFAT

A brief exploration of gender and power, experience and practice from the women’s movement, and how this might inform and enhance TWP concepts and approaches.

Open discussion/Q&A

Session outcome: Shared understanding of the meeting objectives (i.e. exploring the practicalities of working within donor development programs, testing assumptions about how to do this, and extending the knowledge base of what is currently working in different geographical regions), as well as key TWP and gender concepts and issues, as a basis for discussions over the two days.

10:20 – 10.35 Tea / Coffee
10:35 – 11:30 Agenda item 2: Is TWP really gender blind? Chair: Heather Marquette, DLP

We will investigate TWP approaches, with and without gender analysis, opening discussion on the merits and pitfalls of not including gender in political and economic power analytics. We will consider how TWP approaches might help gender focused programs and reform efforts have more impact. What are the entry points? And why is this so hard?

Reflections: Nadine Ragonjan, TAF and Saku Akmeemana, World Bank (7 minutes each)

Session outcome: Consideration of whether TWP actually is gender blind and, if so, why, and what can we do about it.

11:30 – 12:30 Agenda item 3: What does a gendered TWP approach look like in action? Chair: Sarah Goulding, DFAT

In this session, we will consider how programming might look different with a gendered TWP approach, with consideration of both gender focused programs/activities and programs where gender is mainstreamed.

Case studies on what a gendered TWP approach looks like in reality (7 minutes for each)

1)     Peni Tawake, Pacific Leadership Program/ Michael O’Keefe, La Trobe University

2)     Tam O’Neil, ODI

3)     Gillian Fletcher, DLP

4)     Nicola Nixon/ Vanya Abuthan/ Andini Mulyawati, DFAT Jakarta Post

Session outcome: Common principles applicable to TWP and gender-sensitive approaches identified.

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch
13:30 – 14:30 Agenda item 3 contd.
14:30 – 14:40 Tea / Coffee (short break!)
14:40 – 16:30 Agenda item 4: Mapping gender dynamics across the TWP narrative and aid programming cycle
Chair: Chris Roche, DLPIn this session we will investigate the practical implications of ‘genderising’ TWP, including what revisions may be necessary to the TWP narrative to include gender power analysis, and how a gendered TWP approach might be applied across the aid programming cycle.(Break out groups, 10-12 per group, mixing TWP COP and DFAT programmers)Session outcome: TWP narrative revisited and practical options for donor policy and programs identified.
16:30 – 17:00 Rounding off the day: where have we got to and next steps Chair: Alan Whaites, OECD

1)     Policy leadership – OECD GovNET/GenderNET/INCAF: Sally Moyle, DFAT (10 minutes)

2)     Programming for TWP and Gender Equality: Aislin Baker, DFID (10 minutes)

Day2: Tuesday 16th June
8:00 – 8:30 Pre workshop coffee/tea
08:30 – 9:00 Recap on day 1: David Hudson, DLP
9:00 – 9:30 Setting the scene: Graham Teskey, DFAT

COP Discussion to date has been focused on smaller more agile programs that are able to adapt and reflect current realities.   However, large, complex, logframe and outputs-oriented programs constitute the majority of donor programming for various reasons (efficiencies, risk and financial management, etc.). How can we use TWP principles and lessons in these programs?

9:30 – 11:00 Agenda item 5: Can large, traditional aid programs be politically smart and adaptive?

Chair: Kirsten Bishop, DFAT

1)     Presentation and case study examples on how some DFAT rural development programs have become more adaptive and politically smart: Tom Parks/ Mark Taylor DFAT (15 minutes)

2)     Other donor experiences: Saku Akmeemana, World Bank (10 minutes)

3)     Challenge from a non-donor perspective on the major obstacles to TWP in large programs:
Gerry Fox, Pyoe Pin and Jaime Faustino, TAF (10 minutes)

4)     Open discussion.

Session outcome: Major obstacles for large programs to be more politically smart and adaptive identified; consideration of some useful examples of large programs that have managed this efficiently.

11:00 – 11:20 Tea / Coffee
11:20 – 13:00 Agenda item 6: How can we move large programs in the evolutionary direction?

Chair: Richard Butterworth, DFID

In this session we will explore the following key questions: What are the major structural/policy impediments to greater adoption of flexible, politically smart programming in large aid programs? What would progress look like? What can be done within donors to make progress in this area? How can implementing partners and researchers encourage greater use of TWP in large programs?

Session outcome: Strategies and key reforms needed for donors to expand the space for large programs to use TWP approaches identified; ideas developed for the CoP to collectively encourage more TWP approaches in large programs; consideration of what ‘results’ at a country level might look like.

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 16:00 Agenda item 7: How to apply TWP across a country-level development portfolio

Chair: Heather Marquette, DLP

In this session we will compare typical, conventional approaches to development with a TWP approach to a country portfolio. TWP approaches are more likely to be effective in smaller, more flexible programs that can adapt quickly.   The morning sessions focused on the challenges of working with large donor programs using TWP approaches.   This session looks at how to apply TWP approaches across a country portfolio, attempting to answer some questions about what would this look like, what would you spend your money on, how would you measure results?

Case studies (10 minutes each)

1)     DFAT’s approach in Indonesia: Nicola Nixon, DFAT Jakarta

2)     DFAT’s Philippines portfolio and Coalitions for Change: Geoff King and Paul Hutchcroft, DFAT Manila

3)     Open discussion

Session outcome: Challenges and strategies to apply TWP to country portfolios identified.

  Tea / Coffee
16:00 – 17:00 TWP – key gaps/the big challenges…

Chair: Graham Teskey, DFAT

·       Results and evidence

·       Donor internal incentives

·       Embracing and managing risk

Documentation from the event.

Graham Teskey’s Day one intro

Graham Teskey’s Day two intro

Graham Teskey’s closing remarks

Rakhine Fisheries Partnership Short Documentary Film

David Hudson’s DLP presentation


Photos from top left. (1) L to R. Saku Akmeemana, Lisa Denney, Nadine Ragonjan. (2) Jaime Faustino, Charlotte Blundell, Dilhara Goonewardena. (3) Graham Teskey. (4+5) Michael O’Keefe, Peni Tawake, Sarah Goulding, Nicola Nixon, Gillian Fletcher, Tam O’Neil. (6) Jennifer Kalpokas. (7) Graham Teskey, David Hudson. (8) Suda Perera, Alan Whaites, Clyde Hamilton. (9) Clyde Hamilton, Heather Lyne de Ver, Declan Magee. (10) Sally Moyle, Alan Whaites, Aislin Baker.

Photography by Siân Herbert


The case for thinking & working politically

Evidence tells us that domestic political factors are usually much more important in determining developmental impact than the scale of aid funding or the technical quality of programming.
Although international development organisations have made extensive efforts to improve the technical quality of programs, in many cases, these improvements have not led to greater impact during implementation. Successful implementation usually happens when programs are aligned with a domestic support base that is influential enough to generate reform momentum, and overcome the resistance of those benefitting from the status quo. Too many times over the past few decades, we have seen projects fail because they demand changes that are not politically feasible.

These findings demonstrate that an understanding of political dynamics is frequently the critical missing ingredient in project design and implementation. Many influential thinkers[2] have looked at the difference between success and failure in development, and all point to the centrality of domestic politics. Admittedly, this conclusion does not necessarily help to predict how developmental change will unfold in different contexts, and it directly confronts the notion that some institutional models will always work better than others. However, we have learned that progressive change usually involves local political processes of contestation and bargaining among interest groups, and that development programs can significantly improve their impact by understanding and responding to these dynamics. Recent evidence indicates the importance of reform-oriented leaders, who find ways to make progress by facilitating local problem-solving and collaboration among wide-ranging interest groups.

History teaches us that politics is intimately tied to inclusive economic growth, and as such, a major factor in poverty reduction. Meaningful and sustainable poverty reduction requires changes in social structures and in political institutions – changes that will be contested at every step. Every country has to find its own way to translate political power into change for the public good. This is true of all polities. A critical part of this process is the routine, daily struggle over ‘the rules of the game’, which are shaped by emerging coalitions, political mediation, negotiation and compromise, and innumerable calculations of political risk and opportunity.

Meanwhile, traditional ‘gap-filling’ Official Development Assistance (ODA) is fast becoming out-dated. With the emergence of significant new resources from non-OECD donors, the private sector and philanthropists, aid ‘recipient’ countries have many more options than hitherto available for development financing and technical assistance. The influence that donors once sought to wield through conditionality and policy dialogue has largely diminished. Many partner governments are now far more assertive and sophisticated than in the past, in-part bolstered by the Paris, Accra and Busan agendas. Furthermore, with more than 50 per cent of the world’s poor now living in lower middle-income countries, the critical development challenges for poverty alleviation are more than ever a result of domestic policy change and institutional reform rather than small sums of money to fill perceived capital ‘gaps’. While technical knowledge and financing for development are rarely the key bottlenecks to development progress, these are precisely what traditional aid programs are designed to provide.

Over the past decade, development donors have increasingly acknowledged the role of politics, but mainstream operations are only now beginning to change. In the past few years there has been a step-change in the number of donor agencies undertaking analysis of political context and processes, and some adjustment to aid practices to reflect the need to be more responsive to local political economy dynamics. A growing number of donor policy statements clearly situate politics as a critical factor in developmental progress, and commit to programs that are more politically aware. However, the process of translating these insights and commitments into changes in mainstream development practice has been slow and contested. Despite the growing accumulation of evidence and bitter lessons, the majority of development programs continue to use traditional approaches.

However, there are now several efforts underway within the international development community advocating for fundamental changes to the way development assistance is conceived and implemented. Since 2013, there have been a number of new initiatives involving many of the leading thinkers, influential policy-makers, donors and practitioners. In October 2014, Harvard University hosted a meeting to consider ways of ‘doing development differently’. The consensus document produced at this meeting – the DDD consensus or more affectionately, the ‘Harvard Manifesto’ – has been widely circulated, and many development leaders have publically endorsed it.[3] Similarly, since November 2013, a group of senior officials from major donors, along with a few leading thinkers and researchers, have been working together to promote thinking and working politically (TWP) in development, with a particular focus on what donors can do to allow this to happen.[4]

Notwithstanding this progress, changing aid practices has proven much more difficult than raising levels of knowledge and awareness among donor staff, undertaking ‘set-piece’ political-economy analysis, and drafting more nuanced policy statements. The dramatic expansion of political-economy analysis over the past decade has not transformed the delivery of development programs, and has had a limited effect on development impact. This is probably due to the fact that much aid remains predominantly technocratic, inflexible, and averse to the types of operating approaches that could translate political-economy findings into more effective development practice.[5] In-country front-line program staff are obliged to follow the (legitimate) rules and regulations of their parent departments – which rarely admit flexible and responsive disbursement of funds. Logical frameworks (the predominant management tool for program implementation) generally incentivise rigid, linear program logic, which does not reflect reality in developing countries and makes it difficult for program managers to adapt to changing circumstances. Collectively, these factors reinforce traditional development approaches, and create obstacles for development professionals attempting to do development differently.

So what does a ‘doing development differently’ agenda look like? The outline of what such approaches may look like is now becoming clearer. The aim of the Harvard meeting and the TWP initiative has been, in some ways, to formalise the progress being made, incrementally, donor by donor, country by country, project by project. The TWP and DDD agendas are driven by three core principles:

  • strong political analysis, insight and understanding;
  • detailed appreciation of, and response to, the local context; and,
  • flexibility and adaptability in program design and implementation.
Principle Characteristics
1.     ANALYSIS: Political insight and understanding ·       Interrogate the project, and the sector with a relentless focus on power dynamics, interests, incentives, and institutions.·       Be frank about where power resides and on whose behalf it is being used.

·       Move away from idealised models of development change, and start with contextual realities.

·       Recognise the multiple (and potentially contradictory) nature of interests at play.

·       Focus on problems identified and articulated by local actors, not outsiders.

·       Ensure (as far as possible) that locally-defined problems and proposed solutions are accepted as legitimate by all relevant stakeholders, thereby ensuring ownership.

2.     CONTEXT: Responsiveness to domestic environment ·       Work with and through domestic stakeholders, convenors and power-brokers (also referred to as ‘arm’s length’ aid).·       Understand the network of stakeholders involved and facilitate coalitions of different interests, rather than relying on a ‘principal-agent’ relationship with one Ministry / Minister.
3.     DESIGN: Flexibility and adaptability in design and implementation  ·       Be guided by the program goal, and do not be overly prescriptive in how to achieve it. Strategy should set a clear goal, allowing for significant flexibility and iteration in the day-to-day efforts to make progress towards these goals. Clear goals should not translate into rigid project frameworks – they represent an understanding of what changes you are hoping to promote.·       Recognise that politics are not static – continue to assess the local context, test original assumptions, and adapt programs based on new information and opportunities.

·       Merge design and implementation with a focus on a series of small ‘experimental’ or ‘incremental’ steps and monitor results. In this way, implementation and monitoring & evaluation become one concurrent process.

·       Periodically engage in ‘review and reflection’ exercises to critique and understand what is working and what is not – and stop doing what does not work.

·       Understand your own agency’s political-economy – which issues can be negotiated and which ones cannot.

‘Politically smart’ development assistance combines political-economy knowledge with more responsive, adaptable and contextually relevant operations. These approaches are grounded in a growing body of research and experience (see page 1). There is less reliance on aid conditionality and comprehensive institutional reform, and more emphasis on the need to build on local motivation and capacity, responding flexibly to events and opportunities as they arise. This includes removing any design `straight-jacket’ stemming from program design tools that encourage prescriptive approaches.

Thinking and working politically’  is neither a silver bullet nor a passing fad; it reflects a new resolve to learn from years of well-intentioned but often unsatisfactory aid practice, grounded in mistaken assumptions about the ability of external actors to drive complex processes of change by supplying finance and technical advice. The ambition should be to tailor aid programs to the growing body of evidence about how change happens and what kind of approaches work, and to strengthen the evidence base through better piloting, monitoring and evaluation.

Progress is needed across the broad spectrum of aid programs – from large ‘traditional’ sector programs, to small and nimble reform initiatives. The next critical challenge is to influence the practice of larger-scale programs that necessarily require greater structure and planning. This means integrating a political lens, allowing greater room for manoeuvre during implementation, and consideration of governance constraints in all development assistance programs – from health and education, to infrastructure and climate change.

Our goal should be to encourage political awareness in all aid programs, while creating space for a significant expansion of explicitly TWP (and DDD) programs. Indeed, it is probable that only a modest percentage of ODA funded initiatives will be fully iterative, adaptive and flexible – and these initiatives will be mainly in areas of policy, institutional or governance reform. However, TWP is not a ‘governance’ solution to be applied only to a narrow set of institutional issues (public financial management or civil service reform for example). On the contrary, TWP is an approach to improve delivery of any aid program that involves reform and behavioural change – it is as relevant to better delivery of health services or economic policy reform as it is to an anti-corruption initiative. TWP takes the naivety out of institutional relationships by understanding that change happens as a result of decisions that invariably have a political dimension.



[1] Contributors to this note include (in alphabetical order): Sakuntala Akmeemana, David Booth, Deryck Brown, Diana Cammack, Marta Foresti, Lawrence Garber, Duncan Green, David Hudson, Stefan Kossof, Heather Marquette, Neil McCulloch, Alina Rocha Menocal, Michael O’Keefe, Thomas Parks, Graham Teskey, Sue Unsworth, Alan Whaites, Lisa Williams.

[2] See for example: Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (2012) ‘Why Nations Fail’. New York: Crown Books; Matt Andrews (2013) ‘The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development’, New York, Cambridge University Press; Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramont (2013) ‘Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution’, Washington DC, Carnegie Endowment; Francis Fukuyama (2012) ‘The Origins of Political Order’, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Francis Fukuyama (2014) ‘Political Order and Political Decay’, New York. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Douglas North, John Wallis and Barry Weingast (2009) ‘Violence and Social Orders’, New York, Cambridge University Press; and Dani Rodrik (2007) ‘One Economics, Many Recipes’, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.



[5] Carothers and de Gramont, cited above, make a particularly strong argument on this point.

Adapting development: Improving services to the poor

This ODI report (2015) argues that if we are to avoid reproducing the pattern of uneven progress that has characterised the MDG campaign, there must be more explicit recognition of the political conditions that enable or obstruct development progress. Domestic reformers and their international partners must pursue innovative and politically smart ways to tackle the most intractable problems.


Authors: Leni Wild, David Booth, Clare Cummings, Marta Foresti, Joesph Wales
Published: 2015
Organisation: ODI
See multimedia resources and report PDF

On current trends, it will take decades – if not longer – to bring basic services of adequate quality to the world’s most disadvantaged people. Meeting this challenge demands a radical departure from the MDG approach: extra funding will not be enough, and broad calls for ‘good governance’ or ‘inclusive institutions’ will miss the point.

This report argues that if we are to avoid reproducing the pattern of uneven progress that has characterised the MDG campaign, there must be more explicit recognition of the political conditions that enable or obstruct development progress. In this context, domestic reformers and their international partners must pursue innovative and politically smart ways to tackle the most intractable problems. The report is, therefore, aimed at governments, domestic reformers and at the external actors (donor agencies, NGOs and others) that can support them to do development differently.

Politically smart, locally led development

This ODI discussion paper (2014) presents seven cases of aid-funded interventions that show how donors have been able to facilitate developmental change ‘despite the odds’. The central message is that donor staff were successful because they adopted politically smart, locally led approaches, adapting the way they worked to support iterative problem-solving and brokering of interests by politically astute local actors.


Authors: David Booth and Sue Unsworth
Published: 2014
Organisation: ODI

This paper is a contribution to ongoing debate about the need for donor agencies to think and work more politically. It presents seven cases of aid-funded interventions that show how donors have been able to facilitate developmental change ‘despite the odds’. The central message is that donor staff were successful because they adopted politically smart, locally led approaches, adapting the way they worked in order to support iterative problem-solving and brokering of interests by politically astute local actors. The seven cases addressed different types of problems, in different contexts. All the interventions resulted in some tangible, short- or medium-term benefits for poor people. In all cases, there is evidence to suggest that the approach adopted was the critical factor in achieving these results. The interventions were also demonstrably more effective than comparable efforts to address similar problems in similar circumstances.

Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution

This book from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2013) assesses the progress and pitfalls of the attempted politics revolution in development aid and charts a constructive way forward.

Authors: Thomas Carothers, Diane De Gramont
Published: 2013
Organisation: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
See a sample chapter on the publisher’s website

A new lens on development is changing the world of international aid. The overdue recognition that development in all sectors is an inherently political process is driving aid providers to try to learn how to think and act politically.

Major donors are pursuing explicitly political goals alongside their traditional socioeconomic aims and introducing more politically informed methods throughout their work. Yet these changes face an array of external and internal obstacles, from heightened sensitivity on the part of many aid-receiving governments about foreign political interventionism to inflexible aid delivery mechanisms and entrenched technocratic preferences within many aid organizations.

This pathbreaking book assesses the progress and pitfalls of the attempted politics revolution in development aid and charts a constructive way forward.

TWP Community of Practice, London, September 2014

Summary of meeting London Sept 2014



Monday 15th September
8:30 – 9:00 Pre workshop coffee/tea
9:00 – 9.30 Welcome and introduction. Graham Teskey, DFAT

Introduction of participants

Summary of November Delhi and January London meetings; TWP vs traditional approaches

Rules of the game: no repetition, hesitation or deviation

Agenda and Objectives for this workshop

1.     What do we all want from the TWP agenda?

In short – a summary of where each agency is and where they aspire to going

2.     Defining the essence of TWP

Clarifying the questions and moving toward some sort of template for TWP

3.     Strategy for taking TWP forward

09:30 – 11:00


Agenda item (1) What do we all want from the TWP agenda?

·       Donors (WB, DFID, DFAT, USAID, UNDP, DANIDA)

·       Think tanks, researchers, consultants (OECD, TAF, ECDPM, UoB, ODI, OPM, October Gallery)

Session structure: Chair: Tom Parks

Discussion: each participant summarizes what they want from this agenda: picking up one or two key issues from the following:

·       What makes a program politically savvy?

·       What constitutes success in a TWP approach?

·       What does a TWP approach say about the ToC?

·       How do we know if accounts of TWP are spin and stories, or a real break from traditional practice?

·       What are the factors behind any success in your organisations (risk-takers, mavericks or something more systematic?

Some of this will be about flexibility, non-linearity, and shaping the modalities and incentives for aid programs. But an essential part of this will be about strategy and sophistication in terms of understanding the context, orientation to political forces, and theory of change.

Each agency come prepared to say clearly what they have been doing with TWP in their own agencies, what they want from this meeting, and what their thinking is on next steps (session 3 tomorrow).

Short (4-5 min) statements, bullet points, no presentations. It would be excellent if colleagues could come with a one pager for circulation answering these questions.

Output: Collective awareness of different agendas

11:00 – 11:20 Tea / Coffee
11:20 – 13:00 Agenda item (2) Defining the essence of TWP

This session should attempt to answer the question “how have TWP projects been structured in practice?”


  • What were the critical elements within the TWP approach – flexibility, adaptiveness, non-prescription, partners, alignment with political forces, etc. etc.? In other words, what made the program different from traditional programs working on the same issues?
  • Were the TWP elements designed from the outset (i.e., explicitly built into), or did they emerge organically?
  • Does the program demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of political dynamics in the local context, and appropriate strategies that reflect this understanding in order to maximize impact?
  • Was the ToC (explicit or implicit) based on a sound understanding of plausible change scenarios?

(b)    Then some questions on MANAGING TWP PROGRAMS?

  • What role did the donor play……hands-on or arm’s length?
  • How were results described ex ante? Was there adequate flexibility to allow for unexpected outcomes?
  • How prescriptive were inputs and expected outputs?
  • How was risk managed? What risks were identified?
  • What was the overall management regime …… how did the donor know when to push and when to pull back? What admin arrangements were in place?
  • How did the donor respond when stuff happened and program direction changed?

Session structure: Chair: Neil McCulloch

Introduction from Tom Parks (introducing the above framing – power point)

Short 2-3 minute reflections from USAID (tbd), DFID (tbd), WB (Verena Fritz/Deryck Brown), NORAD / DANIDA (tbd) and DFAT (Graham Teskey), approach and interpretation of the above.


Output: Agreement on critical features of what it means to be TWP

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:45 Agenda item (2) Defining the essence of TWP (cont)

This session will consider what we are learning from current action research and other initiatives

Chair: Michael O’Keefe

Presentation: Sue Unsworth (October Gallery): ‘Politically smart, locally led development’ and Heather Marquette,(DLP) Action Research


Output: Agreement on next steps

15:45 – 16:00 Tea / Coffee
16:00 – 17:00 Agenda item (2) Defining the essence of TWP (cont)

This session will discuss the proposed guidance ‘template’

Chair Alan Whaites

Introduction from Sue Unsworth / Graham Teskey


Output: Agreement on outline format for guidance and next steps

17:00 – 17:15 Rounding off the day: where have we got to?

Chair: Tom Wingfield

Tuesday 16th September
09:00 – 09:30 TWP: “Flagship” Proposal: Neil McCulloch (OPM)


Outputs: decision on if / how to proceed

09:30 – 11:00 Agenda item (3): Strategy for taking TWP forward

The purpose of this session is to consider ways to persuade the 95% of donor agency staff that have no interest in, or incentive to, TWP, as well as how to frame the issue for skeptical and hard-to-change donor organisations.

Chair: Heather Marquette

Presentation of thoughts and reflections: WB, DFID, DFAT, UNDP, DAC

11:00 – 11:15 Tea / Coffee
11:15 – 12:30 Open discussion: where next for the CoP?

Chair: Graham Teskey