TWP CoP November 2022 Newsletter
Welcome to the November 2022 edition of the TWP CoP newsletter! We bring to you the latest news and updates on all things TWP. Find out more below.
Dear Friends and fellow travellers on all things TWP,
Welcome to the November 2022 edition of the TWP CoP newsletter. This edition outlines upcoming TWP events and features an interview with Professor Heather Marquette on lessons emerging for TWP from research from the Serious Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Evidence Programme (SOC ACE). Chas Cadwell shares with us what he thinks is most exciting about the TWP agenda going forward, and David Jacobstein tells us what he’s been reading. As always, we also bring you the latest publications, events and resources of interest from a TWP perspective.
As a reminder, please open the newsletter directly on your browser (click on the ‘TWP CoP November 2022 Newsletter’ header, at the top of this page) so that you can get full access to all the content.
With all best wishes,
Alina & Graham
For this highlight feature, Heather Marquette (Professor of Development Politics at the University of Birmingham and Senior Research Fellow (Governance & Conflict) at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) tells us about lessons for TWP emerging from research from the FCDO-funded Serious Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Evidence programme (SOC ACE) hosted at the University of Birmingham. She highlights why SOC ACE research is all about thinking and working in politically aware ways as it’s about ‘unlocking the black box of political will’ and developing more politically feasible strategies and approaches to more effectively counter SOC, illicit finance and corruption.
Video length: 24m, 51s.
Read the transcript here or listen to the podcast here.
Since SOC ACE kicked off in June 2021, building on and expanding the original ACE research programmes at SOAS and Global Integrity, the Programme has worked with 12 partner organisations and 44 researchers, and they have produced almost 50 research outputs to date. For those interested in finding out more, it’s worth taking a look at these papers on ‘Moving from political won’t to political will’, ‘Incorporating organised crime into analysis of elite bargains and political settlements’ and ‘Politics, uncertainty and interoperability challenges: the potential for sensemaking to improve multi-agency approaches’. The full breadth of SOC ACE research is available here — though the website is going to be fully revamped in the coming months. SOC ACE has also just got its funding extended until September 2025, so watch this space!
What we’re doing
New webinar in the TWP CoP Global Series
Join us for the next webinar in our series, in partnership with Adapt, RTI International, and the TWP CoP Washington DC Group!
Political Economy Analysis and TWP: Learning from Ten Years of USAID Experience happening on Monday 5 December 9-11am EST / 14:00-16:00pm GMT
We have a stellar line up of speakers who will reflect on ten years of experience with political economy analysis and TWP from the perspective of USAID and implementing partners in countries including Colombia, the Philippines, and Zambia.
TWP Symposium organised by Chemonics
Following on from this, Chemonics are organising a ‘Thinking and Working Politically (TWP) Learning and Futures Symposium’, on December 15 and 16, 8:30am - 12:30pm EST / 1:30pm – 5:30pm UTC. In-person at Chemonics-Washington DC and online.
The TWP Learning and Futures Symposium will share research and lessons from the past five years of Chemonics’ programming and others’ experiences using political economy analysis and savvy, adaptive approaches to improve development effectiveness and sustainability. The Symposium will also explore future uses of TWP, including integration with behaviour science and support to truly locally-led development.
What’s up informal session
Tell us what’s up! The next TWP informal ‘What’s up?’ session will take place on Thursday 8th December at 8-9am EST / 1-2pm GMT. This is an informal drop-in session over Zoom offering an opportunity for members of our community to meet up with fellow TWP-ers and find out what people are working on. If you would like to join, please register through the link below.
Where next with TWP
For this edition of the Newsletter, we also had the pleasure to speak with Chas Cadwell (Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute), who told us what he thinks is most exciting about the TWP agenda going forward. Echoing familiar themes, Chas highlights how there is growing interest around understanding incentives, that more and more people are embedding thinking and working politically into their work, and that TWP can help us think through more feasible strategies to implement change. To illustrate what this might look like in actual practice, he uses a framework developed by colleagues at the Urban Institute designed to facilitate implementation of agricultural policies in Africa (with a blog about it here). Watch the video below to find out more!
Video length: 4m 49s
If you would like to share any TWP-related work to be featured in an upcoming edition of the newsletter, please email us.
What we’re reading
Lena Gutheil and Dirk-Jan Koch (2022) “Civil society organizations and managerialism: On the depoliticization of the adaptive management agenda”. Development Policy Review (March)
By David Jacobstein, Democracy Specialist at Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance Center, USAID (please note that David is writing in his personal capacity, and the views presented here are his own)
This article is about how the managerial tendency to "solve" uncertainty translates efforts to support civil society in politically smart ways into inputs in an apolitical machine that limits adaptation. As someone with a background in civil society strengthening who now works on TWP, I found myself repeatedly exclaiming "yes, that's true" when reading through this piece. The article builds on in-depth interviews with civil society organisations (CSOs) in Vietnam and Uganda funded by the Dutch government to support lobbying and advocacy. In practice, the CSOs involved in the Strategic Dialogue and Dissent programme were selected more on the basis of their ability to meet donor requirements, including in relation to monitoring and reporting, than on their credibility, legitimacy or standing in the eyes of the population, with established national and international CSOs playing lead roles and given flexibility in their approach. Meanwhile, bureaucratic requirements were more onerous on smaller partners, whose campaign roles were partly defined by visions and practices of national or international CSOs.
This resonates with discussions I’ve been involved in through the years around whether donors value civil society intrinsically, or only instrumentally. Donor funding of advocacy campaigns bears the hallmarks of a narrow and instrumentalised approach to civil society, where CSOs matter only in terms of specific contributions they might make to a given policy, and not because, as a matter of principle, a vibrant civil society is valued and CSOs appreciated even if their policy influence is expressed more or less tangibly across time and space.
The interviews in the article with a number of CSO leaders are insightful, revealing how efforts to support an innovative and adaptive programme may or may not have translated across the sets of grantees, subgrantees, and beyond. But perhaps even more fascinating was the way the authors describe a tension between two conflicting logics that helps to explain why, as currently practiced, the adaptive management agenda can become deeply depoliticising. The first logic is narrower and focuses on specific interventions intended to “enhanc[e]... effectiveness, outcomes, and value for money by knowing how to choose the right tools that facilitate evidence-based decision-making". The second, on the other hand, is much more open-ended and gives prevalence to "the social transformative vision of development … proposed by most CSOs, which define development as a political process of changing structural inequalities." As the authors highlight, although the Strategic Dialogue and Dissent programme emphasised adaptive management, it was very much anchored in the first logic of decision-making, rather than in a larger effort at social transformation, and it deployed its adaptive management tools to that effect. Because of the ease with which adaptive management tools can be embedded into processes for organising work, it is all too easy to make them about perfecting the management of a project, say a particular advocacy campaign. This crowds out their alternative use: providing a chance to rethink a broad agenda, such as how to position civil society actors as more effective advocates in a way that takes contextual realities into account. If objectives and project boundaries are pre-determined and rigid, it is likely that the resulting work will fall short of the kind of transformative, power-shifting impact that donors would like to contribute to, even if a given initiative tries to integrate more sources of knowledge to learn and adapt. As the article notes, adaptive management practices (or politically savvy programming) tend to be superimposed on existing processes and systems, and as long as adaptive management principles are understood as purely additive or a “nice to have,” they will not support a reimagining of assistance along more transformational lines.
This has long been one of my frustrations with the discourse around TWP and adaptive management. Despite acknowledging that we are actors in the local system, donors and implementing partners remain fixated on questions like “how should this system look?” rather than “how can I best offer meaningful support?” We rarely imagine a story where local actors envision and drive change; we’re still stuck in the idea that development projects are the engines for transformation, perhaps with local actors implementing and informing them.
How can we as donors and implementing partners address this conundrum? Discussing the limitations of adaptive management as a discourse, and pointing out how it too can become instrumentalised, can be useful of course. But beyond that, I would posit that the most important task for advocates of savvier work is to generate new descriptive waystations that embed other logics of change more fully. If the aim is to enable more robust advocacy by civil society in certain countries, for example, perhaps donors need to think more carefully about what kinds of structural and normative changes are needed to enable civil society actors to become effective advocates in ways that are sustainable over the long term. Funding a particular advocacy campaign this year isn’t necessarily going to build the foundations for more meaningful and sustained transformation over time. Perhaps instead it would be more fruitful to consider how donor support could empower local CSOs to be more credible or more interconnected agents of change, with the kind of “clout” they need to be influential. Such an approach might put less pressure on getting advocacy campaigns done, or fitting networks of subgrantees into designated plans. This in turn could elevate the value of local knowledge and political nous, shifting them from “ways to adapt an advocacy campaign” to “core skills of those CSOs donors should support.”
Let me use the example of Egypt as an illustration. I remember conversations I had during the period when the Arab Spring started to falter there. A common complaint at the time was that it was challenging for pro-democracy NGOs to compete with the Muslim Brotherhood because the latter had spent years contributing to education, health, and security in poor neighbourhoods, building up strong citizen trust as a result. Yet there was relatively little sense that this implied that years of donor support for civil society to, among other things, improve governance had missed the mark, running projects toward specific knowledge or policy deliverables and avoiding broader social entanglements around service provision. An effort to foster a transformative civil society which had eventual prospects of a significant contribution to good governance in Egypt might have meant years of funding small civic groups to walk the elderly home or offer day care services, but this proved literally unimaginable for donors charged with precisely those objectives.
Ultimately, the ability for the various development tools to foster a transformative agenda requires going beyond mere agility in adapting projects to shifting contexts. What is needed is a new articulation of how donor investments and outside support can strengthen systems enabling locally-led development. While we as donors continue to deepen our understanding of how change happens, and have, for example, made conscious efforts to incorporate analysis on elite bargains or norms as central to that process, we still rarely see the funding we provide as a savvy investment that can harness or spur the likelihood of in-country development breakthroughs - we are stuck trying to fund donor-project-driven breakthroughs. Perhaps it is time we turn our gaze inwards and have the courage to re-examine and refine our own practices and mindsets so that we can reimagine international assistance. Our savviest investments might be much more indirect yet much more transformational than present managerial approaches that remain narrowly focused on project delivery.
If you would like to review something for the next ‘what we’re reading’ section, please email us.
Books, Journals and Articles
Elkahlout, G., Milton, S., Yaseen, T., and Raweh, E. (2022) ‘Localisation of humanitarian action in War-torn Countries: The experience of local NGOs in Yemen’. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 75.
This paper explores the meaning of – and challenges to – localisation of humanitarian action through a case-study of local NGOs in Yemen. It analyses the practical, logistical, and political obstacles to the application of localisation and explores the conceptualisations of locally-embedded actors. The paper finds that whilst some progress has been made in terms of technical-operational localisation despite highly challenging conditions, genuine localisation viewed as empowerment that disrupts hierarchical aid relationships has not been actualized. Finally, the paper explores the policy and practice implications of the findings.
Hassan, I., and Hitchen, J. (eds.) (2022) WhatsApp and Everday Life in West Africa; Beyond Fake News. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. (Not open access)
This edited volume examines the impact that WhatsApp, which is the most popular messaging platform across West Africa, has had on information and services in the region. Chapters cover how the application is (mis)used for political mobilisation, how it supports small businesses and other economic interactions, how it helps share knowledge and create communities, and how it brings social organisation more prominently into the digital world.
Nhim, T., and McCloughlin, C. (2022) ‘Local leadership development and WASH system strengthening: insights from Cambodia’. H2Open Journal, 5(3).
Using evidence from the Civic Champions Programme (a leadership development programme in Cambodia), this paper identifies how localisation enhances the effectiveness of leaders in promoting sanitation, including working through and strengthening pre-existing institutional arrangements and adapting promotion strategies to different audiences. The article seeks to show how non-prescriptive programmes that tap into the legitimising potential of local leaders may contribute to addressing sanitation challenges and ultimately to WASH system strengthening.
Turner, M., Kim, J., and Kwon, S. (2022) ‘The Political Economy of E-Government Innovation and Success in Korea’. Journal of Open Innovation, 8(3).
Over the past two decades, Korea has established and maintained itself as one of the world’s leaders in e-government. This study explains why this has happened through 5 key factors: 1) the legacy of the developmental state in defining the government’s role in economic development; 2) the impact of democratization on the nature of e-government services and provision; 3) the shock impact of the Asian Financial Crisis that led to accelerated e-government development; 4) the creation and maintenance of an effective policy process; 5) an effective system of public administration.
Reports, Briefs and Working Papers
Carothers, T., and Press, B. (2022) Understanding and Responding to Global Democratic Backsliding, Carnegie Working Paper. Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
This paper looks closely at three distinct types of democratic backsliding driven by antidemocratic leaders’ motivations: grievance-fuelled illiberalism, opportunistic authoritarianism, and entrenched-interest revanchism. The report argues that although motivations and methods differ across backsliding efforts, a key commonality among them is their relentless focus on undermining countervailing governmental and nongovernmental institutions that are designed to keep them in check. The paper concludes with how international actors should respond.
Laws, E., Sharp, S., and Yanguas, P. (2022) Adapting to fragility; Lessons from Practice. London: ODI.
This report explores practitioners’ perspectives on how adaptive programming can be calibrated to different kinds of fragility and operational factors for helping or hindering such efforts. Through analysing the experience of two adaptive programmes in Libya and Lebanon, the report draws lessons on the importance of flexibility, context sensitivity and systemic learning which can be used to inform future programming in fragile contexts, including Afghanistan.
Lonsdale, J., and Pruden, M. (2022) Guidance Note: Practical Introduction to Adaptive Management. DT Global.
This guidance note draws together lessons in adaptive management from across DT Global’s portfolio of programmes. It outlines their conceptual framework for adaptive management and offers practical guidance on how it can be applied by programme teams. The guidance is designed to help distinguish adaptive management from good (non-adaptive) project management, consider when adaptive management is most useful on a programme, and how adaptive a programme (or part of a programme) should be.
Recrear, Bond, and The Local Trust (2022) What makes a good “locally led” funder?. London: Bond.
This collection of stories provides concrete ideas to help design funding models that are accessible and appropriate for community-led development. It is designed for institutional donors, NGOs, development agencies, foundations, and philanthropies. The report finds that 1) the UK national and international development sector works as a system where everyone has a role to play, from funders to national intermediaries to community activists; 2) in each story told, it was clear that above all else, relationships matter in community-led change; and 3) community-led approaches are more sustainable.
USAID (2022) Local Capacity Strengthening Policy. Washington DC: USAID.
This policy sets out USAID’s vision for local capacity strengthening going forwards, emphasising the importance of ensuring efforts are inclusive and locally led.
USAID (2022) USAID Guide to Countering Corruption Across Sectors. Washington DC: USAID.
This guide argues that addressing corruption is essential to achieve sustainable development outcomes and humanitarian assistance objectives. Recognizing the need to tackle corruption from multiple angles and across all sectors, the guide offers ways to identify and capitalise on opportunities to address corruption through sectoral approaches.
Westminster Foundation for Democracy (2022) WFD’s Strategy 2022-25. London: Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
WFD’s new strategy provides an analysis of the challenge to democracy, and how the UK and other global players can respond. It outlines how WFD itself can contribute to this work, spelling out their mission, vision, values and goals, and how the organisation will achieve them. A 60 second summary can be found here.
Blogs, Podcasts and other opinion pieces
Abbot, R. (2022) ‘‘Shift Power’ to Local Actors? A Collective Action Approach Lets Stakeholders Set Priorities and Take the Lead’, USAID Learning Lab, 12 August.
What can be done to more holistically promote local ownership, leadership, and accountability on complex challenges? Speaking from a USAID perspective, Abbot suggests the answer may lie in collective action; a form of strategic collaboration that takes an intentional and agreed-upon process that engages interested parties to take joint actions in support of shared objectives or a shared issue. Interested? Find out more here.
Alexander, J. (2022) ‘How the humanitarian sector can learn from its past’, The New Humanitarian, 6 October.
This blog highlights how within the humanitarian sector, there is a localization and accountability déjà-vu; findings and recommendations about localisation and accountability to affected people look very similar today as they did 25 years ago, exposing a deep-rooted inertia when it comes to undoing power imbalances. The recommendation? Start small with less ambitious but more focussed technical attempts to change and build from there.
Chumo, I., Conteh, A., Jukur, S., Otiso, L., Saidu, S., and Waldman, L. (2022) ‘The formality of informality’, ARISE blog, 18 October.
Through examples emerging from RISE research, this blog explores how informality, usually perceived negatively, can be a positive force in relation to urban development challenges such as unemployment, housing problems and access to services. The research finds that informal accommodation, governance, and economic processes that happen in these settlements are seldom haphazard, unregulated, and ungoverned.
Dev Intelligence Lab (2022) ‘MAMPU and Nepal Subnational Governance: widely lauded as two of the best projects Australia supports - why?’, Development Intelligence Lab, 3 November.
This short post summarises reasons why these two programmes are deemed to be so successful, largely due to cooperative methods, empowering language, and being open to continuous learning throughout.
Green, D. (2022) ‘What did we learn from six months of training senior Aid people in Influencing?’, From Poverty to Power, October.
This blog summarises lessons from the Global Executive Leadership Initiative’s (GELI) programme on ‘Influencing for Senior Leaders’, run by Duncan Green. Check out his follow-up blog post on ‘Top tips and dilemmas in influencing from seven senior aid leaders’ as well as our podcast with Duncan discussing this programme and the lessons in greater depth!
Green, D. (2022) ‘Why and how the UN and NGOs need to work together at national level’, From Poverty to Power, 5 October.
Effective influencing relies on excellent political analysis and yet all organisations inevitably have glaring blind spots. Based on lessons learned from a simulation during the GELI course, Duncan argues we need to find more ways to jointly strategise, (particularly between national civil society, INGOs and UN agencies) to identify blind spots more clearly, and so test the assumptions we make about how change will occur.
Hendrix-Jenkins, A. (2022) ‘Values - not funding - should be driving the “localisation” discourse in international development’, Medium, 17 October.
This blog argues that ideas of localisation run the risk of being reduced to a single metric; funding shifter from international to ‘local’ organisations. Instead, the author calls for a recognition of biases, and to build on values and principles to co-imagine new relationships that put people — not money — at the centre.
Kendall-Taylor, N., and Pitkin, B. (2022) ‘We need to talk about how we talk about systems change’, The Communications Network (ND).
There is a lot of focus on systems change at the moment. The author argues however, that the more we embrace issues as systemic, the more risk there is that people will think there is nothing they can do to make the situation better. This article explores how we can more effectively communicate systems change by avoiding fatalistic interpretations. It suggests ways of doing this; through storytelling, creating relatable metaphors, and emphasising that systems are built by humans, and humans have agency to change them and create different outcomes.
Proud, E. (2022) ‘Adaptive management and innovation; what can we learn by joining up our thinking?’, Brink Blog, Medium, 30 June.
This blog suggests that another synonym for ‘adaptive management’ emerging in recent years is ‘innovation’; both are grounded in the recognition that we need better (and not necessarily new) solutions to the complex problems in the world. Proud suggests there are benefits to bringing together thinking on innovation and adaptive management; AM could learn from the intentionality of testing, experimenting, and cross-functional teams around a problem, and AM could share lessons on embedding or mainstreaming an approach across an organisation.
Scharbatke-Church, C., and Nash, R. (2022) ‘Unpacking corruption paves the way for social norms analysis’, Corruption, Justice, Legitimacy Blog, 3 October.
This blog summarises research seeking to address how weak governance structures result in decisions by Protected Area Management Boards (PAMB) that may undermine effective conservation of the protected areas in the Philippines. Specifically, by unpacking corruption, it looks at how corruption manifests practically, and how social norms and behaviours may be responsible for corruption.
Vester Haldrup, S., and Tran, S. (2022) ‘Measurement and complexity: why, how and for whom do we measure?’, UNDP Innovation, 22 September.
This blog provides an overview of key take-aways from an event on ‘Measurement and complexity; why, how and for whom do we measure?’ as part of the UNDP Sandbox on M&E innovations. Key messages include 1) What, how, and for whom we measure matters greatly for our ability to learn, adapt, empower those closest to the problems, and achieve impact, 2) many established approaches to measurement focus too heavily on feeding information to managers, 3) measurement is a continuous iterative process requiring reflection and adaption, and 4) we need a more holistic (systems) perspective to measurement.
17 September: Broken Pathways to Politics: Difficulties in moving from grass roots to representative, International Development Department, University of Brimingham
28 September: Reimagining Democracy Assistance: Voices Beyond Washington Panel Discussion, Democracy International
5 October: The Moral Economy of the Global Crowd, University of York
13 October: Sustaining the Momentum: Countering Kleptocracy in Russia and Beyond, International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy
16 November: Introducing the Theory of Change Workbook: A Practical Guide for Making Theories of Change Locally-driven and context specific, Social Impact
Wednesday 30 November - 1 December: 2022 Forum on Countering Corruption Across Sectors, Chemonics International
Wednesday 7 December: Crisis, development and ecologies of the new commons, Insitute of Development Studies
Tuesday 6 - Saturday 10 December: International Anti-Corruption Conference 2022 - Uprooting Corruption, Defending Democratic Values
Training, Learning Opportunities and other Resources
The Policy Practice together with ODI regularly run a Political Economy Analysis in action online training course, which covers adaptive management and other ways to ‘think and work politically’. The next course starts in February 2023 and is comprised of 10 online sessions. The deadline to apply for our next course is 31 January 2023. There is a discount for those who apply in groups or before 16 December. Find out more and apply here.
Winners from USAID’s 2022 CLA case competition have recently been announced! Drawing together USAID and partners’ examples of putting collaborating, learning and adapting (CLA), this is a great resource for those wanting to see evidence of TWP/adaptive management in practice.
The Institute of Development Studies is running a specialist short course on ‘Rethinking Accountability Strategies for a Changing World’ from 23 January 2023 - 20 February 2023. This course aims to help you understand the strategies of citizen-led accountability, and how to improve the design, legitimacy and appeal of your accountability-claiming work in the context of international development. Course cost: £1,150.
For those wanting to find out more about Political Economy Analysis, check out the USAID DRG Center’s online (free) short course; ‘An immersive journey through PEA’.
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