Suggested reading for Thinking and 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



Development assistance works best, and is least liable to do harm, when the people designing it are thinking and working politically (TWP). This short reading pack, aimed at development professionals, aims to make what this means more clear.

David Booth, 2015



One of the most important lessons to emerge in international development over the past two decades is that institutions matter, and that behind institutions lie politics. But making this operational has proven much more difficult.

Alina Rocha Menocal, 2014



Governance-Notebook1A Governance Practitioner’s Notebook: Alternative Ideas and Approaches

The Governance Practitioner’s Notebook brings together a collection of specially written notes aimed at those who work as governance practitioners within development agencies.

edited by Alan Whaites, Eduardo Gonzalez, Sara Fyson and Graham Teskey, 2015


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’.

David Booth and Sue Unsworth, 2014




This paper discusses the steps required to build a robust evidence base for ‘thinking and working politically’ (TWP) in development. It argues that better understanding what works, when and why is an important step in moving TWP into mainstream development programming

Niheer Dasandi, Heather Marquette and Mark Robinson, 2016



Although politics has become central to international development assistance, the use of political economy analysis (PEA) as a means for greater aid effectiveness remains an aspiring epistemic agenda.

Pablo Yanguas and David Hulme, 2014


Why does development progress in some places but not others? Very often, the distinguishing factor is not a lack of financial resources or of knowledge about the right technical solution. Rather, a crucial distinguishing factor for whether and where progress happens is how incentives and constraints shape the willingness and ability of national or local elites to act in pursuit of development goals.

Verena Fritz, Brian Levy & Rachel Ort, 2014


This paper outlines preliminary findings about the role that action research can play in helping to build more politically informed development programs, especially those that aim to promote and support transformational change.

Michael O’Keefe, John T. Sidel, Heather Marquette, Chris Roche, David Hudson and Niheer Dasandi, 2014


Governance-1111Mind the gaps: What’s missing in political economy analysis and why it matters

Why, despite over a decade of sustained and high quality political economy analysis, does it seem that we aren’t getting any closer to politically informed programming being the norm rather than the (notable) exception?

David Hudson and Heather Marquette, 2015


Political economy analysis (PEA) aims to situate development interventions within an understanding of the prevailing political and economic processes in society – specifically, the incentives, relationships, distribution, and contestation of power between different groups and individuals. This comprehensive GSDRC Topic Guide provides access to practical examples of PEA as well as other literature.

Claire Mcloughlin, 2014



Political economy analysis is a powerful tool for improving the effectiveness of aid. Bridging the traditional concerns of politics and economics, it focuses on how power and resources are distributed and contested in different contexts, and the implications for
development outcomes.

DFID, 2009



Strategy Testing (ST) is a monitoring system that The Asia Foundation (the Foundation) developed specifically to track programs that are addressing complex development problems through a highly iterative,1 adaptive approach

Debra Ladner, 2015



This short note introduces a framework for thinking about politics and power. Everyday Political Analysis (EPA) is for anyone who is convinced that politics and power matter, but feels less sure of how to work out what they mean for their programs.

David Hudson, Heather Marquette, Sam Waldock, 2016




This briefing encourages aid organisations interested in political analysis to start small and be pragmatic, devoting political-economy expertise to finding the most relevant and rigorous questions, then making them accessible to development practitioners for use in their everyday work

Pablo Yanguas, 2015


This paper argues that existing political economy approaches lack the analytical tools needed to grasp the inner politics
of development. Political economy has come to be seen narrowly as the economics of politics – the way incentives shape

David Hudson and Adrian Leftwich, 2014


Carothers Diane.jpg

Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolutions

Ever since its early years, international development assistance has had an uncertain and uncomfortable relationship with politics. The emergent community of organizations that Western governments set up in the 1950s and 1960s to carry out aid programs in
what was then called the Third World embraced a conception of development centered on economic wellbeing and defined their central mission as fostering economic growth

Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramont, 2013



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 sometimes enable, but so often obstruct, development progress.The report is aimed at governments, domestic reformers and at the external actors (donor agencies, NGOs and others) that can support them better to do development differently.

Leni Wild, David Booth, Clare Cummings, Marta Foresti, and Joesph Wales, 2015


M-Andrews-L-Pritchett1.jpgEscaping Capability Traps through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)etting real about politics

Many reform initiatives in developing countries fail to achieve sustained improvements in performance because they are merely isomorphic mimicry—that is, governments and organizations pretend to reform by changing what policies or organizations look like rather than what they actually do

   Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett, and Michael Woolcock, 2012