TWP CoP September Newsletter
Welcome to the new Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice Newsletter! Readers will find a huge range of relevant resources, as well as features on localisation and on Afghanistan.
Dear friends and fellow travellers on all things TWP,
Welcome to the new Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice Newsletter!
We are delighted to launch the first edition of our newsletter.
Our ambition is that this newsletter will bring together a wide range of colleagues - practitioners, policymakers and experts from the research community, civil society, donor organisations, and project/programme implementing organisations - who are now, or may become, interested in efforts to think in more politically aware ways and work differently to encourage more effective practice. Our hope is to provide a space where we can come together, share ideas, influence and shape debates on how change happens and why, and better understand what the implications may be for the work we do. Learning from one another along the way will be central, and we very much hope that you will all make this space your own.
Each newsletter will include a Highlight Feature, as well as upcoming events, training, learning opportunities and other useful resources, recent publications, and a short section on what we are reading.
We welcome all your inputs and ideas, particularly those who are ‘new voices’ in global TWP discussions, and we look forward to your active participation and engagement. If there is anything you would like to share with us, including items to include in future newsletters, please get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please share this newsletter with others who might be interested too, and don’t forget to click the subscribe button (above) if you’re new to the TWP CoP!
With all best wishes,
Alina & Graham
Should we be TWP-ing about the Push to Localise Aid?
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated attention to “localise” aid, ushering much needed reflection about the nature of international development work and the need to act less like modern missionaries and more like partners. There is also a critical need to think about how donors and other organisations in the global North can address various forms of baked-in racism and shift power differentials inherent in aid relationships.
But what does localising aid mean in practice? And how do we avoid painting all aid with a broad localisation brush?
BOND, a UK network for organisations working in international development, have put their concerns with localisation into proposed action with a 2021 report on “Catalysing Locally-led Development in the UK aid system,” This effort, which focuses mostly on humanitarian aid, looks at efforts by NGOs to localise aid, putting decisions into the hands of local actors. A recent Duncan Green blog about the BOND report argues that it is “really good, drawing on systems thinking and power analysis to try and understand why localisation is not happening, and on positive deviance to identify and learn from some positive outliers”.
The report reflects issues familiar to TWP-ers. It argues that, to bring about a significant shift in how the international development sector works, you need to:
• Understand the sector as a system
• Learn how the system behaves
• Design effective interventions that address the root causes of problems within this system and connect and support other activities.
The BOND report suggests that game-changing insights will emerge from listening and giving decision-making power to local people. The report does not, however, set out as clearly as it could whose local voices ought to count, or more importantly, which ones will count given underlying power structures and political dynamics.
This is one example of where a politically informed approach can be invaluable. In thinking about localising development, it is essential to consider not only how you shift ownership and power away from international development actors to actors in-country, but also what actors at the domestic level are being more/less empowered, how, why, and to what effect. An injection of TWP can bring a lot to such discussions on localisation.
The international aid business is a diverse enterprise working on different problems in different markets to achieve different ends. There are also differing ideas about how to contribute to shared prosperity and well-being most effectively. This alone should make us wary of generalisations about what “localising” means or what it can accomplish. We also need to think about what kind of “empowerment” is effective in different circumstances.
Here are some questions that the BOND report raises for me:
· How should donors and other international development organisations respond to the localising effort?
· Is the localising effort more relevant in some sectors than in others? Where might localising be a steeper challenge and why?
· Is, for instance, the challenge different within grants or contracts, and what might be implications for how international actors work with in-country partners?
· What are some of the tensions and dilemmas for international development actors to advance their own strategies and goals and and localise at the same time?
· What is your own organisation doing to address the challenge to localise and decolonise development?
You will have others, and I am interested to hear about your emerging thinking and reflections in these issues.
Wednesday 29 September, 9:00-10:30 (EST): As part of the Targeting Natural Resource Corruption (TNRC) Learning Series, WWF, U4 and USAID are hosting an online event on ‘Framing and implementing effective assessments of corruption for conservation interventions’. Speakers include:
Achibe Gargule, Senior Advisor, U4-CMI & TNRC
Natalia Muñoz Cassolis, Consultant, WWF
Alina Rocha Menocal, Principal Research Fellow, Politics & Governance Programme, ODI & Director, Thinking & Working Politically Community of Practice
Aled Williams, Senior Advisor, U4-CMI & Research Coordinator, TNRC
Elizabeth Hart, Chief of Party, TNRC & WWF (moderator)
Participation is free, and registration is via this link.
The Learning, Evidence and Advocacy Partnership (LEAP) pillar of the FCDO-funded Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), led by ODI in partnership with The Policy Practice, is organising a series of public webinars to share lessons from 20 years of UK governance programmes in Nigeria. Upcoming events include:
Tuesday 5 October, 14:00-15:30 (GMT+1): “How does governance reform happen? Lessons from Nigeria”. Panellists confirmed so far include:
Laure-Hélène Piron, Technical Director, LEAP (PERL) & Director, The Policy Practice
Auwalu Hamza, Partner State Facilitation Manager, PERL (Kano, Nigeria)
Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development
Sam Waldock, Head of Governance, Conflict & Social Development Team, British High Commission, Nigeria
Alina Rocha Menocal, Programme Director, LEAP (PERL), Principal Research Fellow, Politics & Governance Programme, ODI & Director, Thinking & Working Politically Community of Practice (Chair)
Participation is free, and registration is at this link.
Tuesday 12 October, 14:00-15:30 (GMT+1): “Working politically in practice: Lessons from Nigeria”. Panellists confirmed so far include:
Alina Rocha Menocal, Programme Director, LEAP (PERL), Principal Research Fellow, Politics & Governance Programme, ODI & Director, Thinking & Working Politically Community of Practice
Adiya Ode, National Team Leader, Engaged Citizens, PERL
Ifeanyi Peters, National Team Leader, Accountable, Responsive & Capable Government, PERL
Laure-Hélène Piron, Technical Director, LEAP (PERL) & Director, The Policy Practice (Chair)
Participation is free, and registration is at this link.
Tuesday 19 October, 14:00-15:30 (GMT+1): “Does better governance lead to improved health and education? Lessons from Nigeria”. Panellists confirmed so far include:
Gareth Williams, Research Lead, LEAP (PERL) & Director, The Policy Practice
Chris Okeke, Governance Adviser, British High Commission, Nigeria
Myani Bukar, National Team Leader, LEAP (PERL)
Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dahou, Director, Politics & Governance Programme, ODI (Chair)
Participation is free, and registration is at this link.
Training, Learning Opportunities & Resources
The Policy Practice has updated its online library of reports, papers and articles related to political economy analysis and thinking and working politically. Political economy analysis covers an expanding area of development theory and practice drawing on vast and diverse body of literature. As an aid to navigating this wide-ranging subject area, The Policy Practice has developed an updated annotated bibliography of key readings. The aim has been to keep the list short and selective, and to prioritise texts that are written in accessible language, synthesise latest thinking and are freely available on the web.
In addition, The Policy Practice will be starting another flagship online course in Political Economy Analysis in Action in early 2022 (there is a course in progress now). You can view more information about this on their website. Places go quickly so please email email@example.com to secure a spot if you are interested.
And then there is everybody’s favourite, Duncan Green’s FP2P Blog. Recent posts that caught our eye as useful potential inputs into training and learning include: ‘What kinds of ‘Agency’ are emerging as grassroots organizations respond to Covid?’ (18 February 2021); ‘Does Local Advocacy look different in Fragile/Conflict affected places? Summary of new ebook’ (15 April 2021); ‘A top toolkit on adaptive management. But is that a good idea?’ (20 April 2021); and ‘How to do adaptive management in 15 easy steps – from a top new toolkit’ (21 April 2021). The blog has also been highlighting pressing issues around decolonising development, picking on many of the points that Chas Cadwell raises in his feature above. Here is a brief sampling: ‘How to decolonise International Development: some practical suggestions’ (18 December 2020); and ‘Micro, bottom-up research can shed new light on power and politics in fragile places, but it’s REALLY difficult!’ (15 July 2021).
Lastly, Global Integrity Executive Director, Alan Hudson, and his team, have been collating a repository of articles (now at 1,700 and counting) relating to issues around adaptive development and open government. An introduction to these can be found here on the ‘September Reads’ recommendations.
Any other opportunities coming up or relevant resources that you may know about? Please let us know!
Ali Ahmed, Marc Ayoub, Neil McCulloch & Muzna Al-Masri, ‘From dysfunctional to functional corruption: The politics of reform in Lebanon’s electricity sector’, SOAS ACE Working Paper 030, December 2020 (Arabic version available here)
Alina Rocha Menocal, Ed Laws, Jamie Pett & Emma Proud, ‘LearnAdapt: lessons from three years of adaptive management’, ODI Blog series, May 2021
Anna Gilbert, ‘Useful outsiders – how can external actors support authentic locally led development?’, Devpolicy Blog, July 2021
Bruce Byiers, Martin Ronceray & Jean Bossuyt, ‘Applying a political economy approach in Tunisia’, ECDPM Discussion Paper No 230, January 2021
Chris Roche, Graham Brown, Samantha Clune, Nora Shields & Virginia Lewis, ‘Thinking with complexity in evaluation: A case study review’, Evaluation Journal of Australasia, 21(3), April 2021
Claire Mcloughlin, Henry Northover, Tum Nhim & Peter O’Connor, ‘Beyond political will: effective leadership for water and sanitation’, DLP, June 2021
Ed Laws, Jamie Pett, Emma Proud & Alina Rocha Menocal, ‘LearnAdapt: a synthesis of our work on adaptive programming with DFID/FCDO (2017–2020)’, LearnAdapt Briefing Note, ODI, March 2021
Fiona Cece, Nicola Nixon & Stefaan Verhulst, ‘In the wreckage of the pandemic, a hundred questions about data and governance’, The Asia Foundation, March 2021
George Varughese, Bernado Michael, Chris Roche, Lisa Denney, Dinesha Samararatne, Mani Ram Banjade & Hemant Ojha, ‘Reimagining Development: How do practice-based approaches shape the localisation of development?’, UNSW Institute for Global Development, March 2021
Gerald Clarke, ‘“Thinking and Working Politically”: The case of donor-supported reform coalitions in the Philippines’, Development Policy Review, 39(3), May 2021 (firewall)
Graham Teskey, ‘Advancing the UK’s new aid agenda’, DevPolicy Blog, September 2021
Graham Teskey & Lavinia Tyrrel, ‘Implementing adaptive management: A front-line effort Is there an emerging practice?’, Abt Associates Government & Development Practice Working Paper Series, April 2021
Heather Marquette, ‘Doing anti-corruption democratically’, Westminster Foundation for Democracy Anti-Corruption & Integrity Series 2, May 2021
Isaac Odhiambo Abuya, ‘Thinking and Working Politically as a project manager: Engaging with the politics and contestations in Project Management Institute’s Conceptualizations of project and project management’, PM World Journal, X(V), May 2021
Izzy Birch, ‘Thinking and Working Politically on transboundary issues’, K4D Helpdesk Report 949, January 2021
Kayli Wild, Linda Kelly & Chris Roche, ‘“It’s a coffee with a purpose”: perspectives on thinking and working politically in the Pacific’, Development in Practice, August 2021
Kearrin Sims, ‘Risk navigation for Thinking and Working Politically: The work and disappearance of Sombath Somphone’, Development Policy Review, 39(4), July 2021 (firewall)
Marc Ayoub & Neil McCulloch, ‘The economics and politics of integrating renewables into electricity concessions in Lebanon’, SOAS ACE Briefing Paper 16, June 2021
Naomi Hossain, John Agbonifo, Martin Atela, John Gaventa, Euclides Gonçalves, Umair Javed, Neil McCulloch, Davide Natalini, Marjoke Oosterom, Ayobami Ojebode & Alex Shankland, ‘Demanding power: Do protests empower citizens to hold governments accountable over energy?’, IDS Working Paper No 555, September 2021
Neil McCulloch & Michael Ashford, ‘Energy governance in developing countries: a new approach’, Chemonics & The Policy Practice Technical Brief, June 2021
Nicola Nixon, ‘Shifting parameters of civic space in Southeast Asia’, Devpolicy Blog, 9 April 2021
Nicola Nixon, Stefaan Verhulst, Imran Matin & Philips J Vermonte, ‘Exploring a new governance agenda: What are the questions that matter?’ FP2P, 15 September 2021
Pablo Yanguas, ‘What have we learned about learning? Unpacking the relationship between knowledge and organisational change in development agencies’, DiE Discussion Paper No 9/2021, September 2021
Pallavi Roy, ‘Rethinking anti-corruption: The need for politically located data’, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment/SOAS ACE, July 2021
Pilar Domingo, Samuel Sharp & Linn Häggqvist, ‘Politically smart and adaptive approaches to Rule of Law support in situations of conflict and fragility’, ILAC Policy Brief 9, July 2021
Roz Price, ‘Overview of political economy analysis frameworks in the area of climate governance and key issues to consider’, K4D Helpdesk Report 1014, June 2021
Sam Hickey & Badru Bukenya, ‘The politics of promoting social cash transfers in Uganda: The potential and pitfalls of “thinking and working politically’, Development Policy Review, 39(S1), August 2021 (firewall)
Samuel Sharp & Leni Wild, ‘Opportunities and challenges for DAC members in “adapting to context”’, ODI Emerging Analysis & Ideas, March 2021
Tim Kelsall, Ed Laws & Barbara Befani, ‘The ingredients of successful adaptive programming in Tanzania: a QCA analysis’, ODI Research Report, February 2021
What we’re reading
This edition’s ‘Featured Reader’ is Alina Rocha Menocal, TWP CoP Director
What has happened in Afghanistan is likely to be a critical juncture for international development well beyond Afghanistan itself. There are searching questions about the importance, value and relevance of international efforts to promote state-building, peace-building and development and governance more broadly that the situation in Afghanistan has thrown into high relief. There is a simple narrative emerging around 20 years of intervention, trillions of dollars, and very little to show for it, but the reality is that things are much more complex.
This blog by Zenda Ofir on “The Power(lessness) of Evaluation: The case of Afghanistan" is essential reading. It highlights lessons from Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction from their August 20201 Report that highlight why “thinking & working politically” principles are so fundamental to development.
Among the Report’s key messages:
It is essential to understand context (!) and start from there, and not impose agendas and narratives from the outside
Being strategic requires flexibility & adaptability
Institutions are fundamental to development (again ... !)
People with needed resources – namely in terms of skills, networks, local knowledge, and time – are indispensable
Long term engagement over 20 years is not the same as engagement on short-term projects (1-3 years) over 20 years
The fixation with quick and tangible results "to show that things are being done" can lead to perverse incentives to spend and bean count rather than focus on substantive and sustainable change.
These are all lessons that we know well, but as we also know, they have proven extraordinarily hard to get traction on the ground. In the case of Afghanistan, as the author of the blog argues, this has been to devastating effect.
Tell us what you think…we want to hear from you!
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us for your suggestions and ideas for sections of our newsletter. You can do this via:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Twitter (@TWP_Community)
- Or by leaving a comment down below
The TWP Community of Practice is supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.