By Craig Valters
The Theory of Change approach is becoming a pervasive part of development practice: as an artefact, as a management tool, and increasingly as a common discourse which implementers use to explain and explore their interventions. My new JSRP paper, ‘Theories of Change in international development: communication, learning or accountability?’ seeks to address a critical gap in understanding the actual effects of using a Theory of Change approach in international development work and considers how the approach may be better understood, if its aim is to improve development policy and practice. It does so through an analysis of the emerging findings of a collaboration between the JSRP and The Asia Foundation. Six key findings have emerged from this research:
- A Theory of Change approach can create space for critical reflection, but there is a danger that this is an illusory process.
Many have welcomed the introduction of a Theory of Change approach, specifically because it provides space for reflection on their assumptions and the context in which they work, particularly in comparison to logframes. Such attempts to situate programmes in larger ecosystems of social change should be applauded, not dismissed. Yet a Theory of Change approach can also create an illusion of serious reflection by being a superficial process of critical thought, where people who engage with the theories (donors as well as implementers) do not actually reflect sufficiently on how power dynamics change in practice and how local people see change happen. Continue reading
In a new article published in African Affairs, Alex de Waal argues that South Sudan obtained independence in July 2011 as a kleptocracy – a militarized, corrupt neo-patrimonial system of governance. By the time of independence, the South Sudanese ‘political marketplace’ was so expensive that the country’s comparatively copious revenue was consumed by the military-political patronage system, with almost nothing left for public services, development or institution building. The efforts of national technocrats and foreign donors produced bubbles of institutional integrity but the system as a whole was entirely resistant to reform. The January 2012 shutdown of oil production bankrupted the system. Even an experienced and talented political business manager would have struggled, and President Salva Kiir did not display the required skills. No sooner had shots been fired than the compact holding the SPLA together fell apart and civil war ensued. Drawing upon long-term observation of elite politics in South Sudan, this article explains both the roots of kleptocratic government and its dire consequences.
By Tom Kirk and Andy Sumner
This piece originally appeared on the Global Policy blog and is drawn from the final chapter of the Global Policy e-book ‘The Donors’ Dilemma: emergence, convergence and the future of aid’ by Andy Sumner and Tom Kirk (eds). Tom Kirk is a researcher with the JSRP with a particular interest in issues of security and public authority. Andy Sumner is Co-Director of the International Development Institute at King’s College London. Join the debate on Twitter at #GPfuture of aid.
The challenge laid down to contributors to Global Policy’s first e-book began, in the editor’s introduction, with an optimistic observation that the number of aid dependent countries is falling and that aid, as a portion of recipients’ GDP, may be becoming less and less relevant. Furthermore, it was speculated the potential post-2015 development goal of ending extreme poverty, however defined, could be a reality by 2030 if not before. At the same time, however, it was noted that such trends leave aid donors with a double dilemma: what do donors do if the remaining poor are left in countries in which aid is insignificant compared to GDP, such as India or Indonesia, or in weak states within which the use of aid in meaningful and productive ways is a tough call, such as Afghanistan or DRC.
How did commentators respond? The e-book’s contributors chose to emphasise the context in which these changes are taking place, the cooperative mind-sets required to address issues that transcend borders, and the practices that are already being explored to keep aid, or development cooperation more broadly, relevant in the face of such changes. Nonetheless there was a discernible sense that aid, if it even makes sense to continue to call it ‘aid’, will have to work on two interconnected levels. The first is concerned with global threats that affect everyone regardless of where the risk originates; the second is at the local level within countries that are likely to remain poor for the foreseeable future, such as conflict-affected countries, or those that, despite great advances, face rising inequalities. In what follows we explore the ways in which the distinguished and diverse contributors suggest that aid may be able to work at these levels. Continue reading
In an interview with The Economist‘s Prospero blog, JSRP Research Director Tim Allen underlines the crucial role serious fieldwork should play in underpinning international development policy and practice, arguing that: “There are systems of scholarship and discourses of power that are grounded in ignorance”, but ultimately concluding that “it’s possible to change things by bringing evidence from the ground”.
Read the full interview here.
By David Marshall
Ahead of its LSE launch on Thursday 26th June (6-7.30pm, Room 1.04, New Academic Building, free and open to all), editor David Marshall introduces The International Rule of Law Movement: A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward, which includes a new chapter by JSRP researcher Mareike Schomerus.
In 2011–2012, I was deployed to South Sudan to lead the United Nations’ development of the country’s justice and prisons system. It was a startling experience. Though the international community has been engaged in rule of law reform since 2005, there was a profound knowledge deficit regarding the justice “system,” its actors, and its processes. Moreover, there appeared to be little interest in understanding, or learning from, years of international rule of law programming in the country—what worked, what did not, and why—or in applying lessons learned from similar contexts. Much of the assistance focused on “law and order” issues, with most support going to police and prisons. The international community’s rule of law assistance seemed trapped in an “impoverished” view of the rule of law and appeared to have little, if any, impact in actually addressing injustices in the country. Continue reading
Can Politics and Evidence Work Together in International Development? Insights from Security and Justice Programmes in Conflict-Affected Areas
1.30 – 6.30, Tuesday July 1st 2014, Room 4.02, Clement House, LSE
‘Working politically’ and ‘evidence-based policy’ often co-exist as buzzwords within development discourse and policy documents, but can they genuinely complement each other in practice, since the requirements, and timelines, of rigorous evidence production would seem to run counter to the notion of political agility? An emphasis on research and evidence implies a degree of openness, whereas working politically may necessitate a lack of transparency for practitioners. How can these two approaches work together, especially in conflict-affected regions where the tensions and trade-offs involved are likely to be heightened? How can we know whether programmes, particularly those on justice and security, have had a positive political impact?
|13.30 – 15.00
||Are the agendas on ‘working politically’ and ‘evidence-based policy’ compatible? Chair: Mary Kaldor, LSE/JSRP
||Rosalind Eyben (IDS), Duncan Green (Oxfam), Stephen Rood (TAF)
|15.00 – 15.45
||Coffee and breakout discussions:
- How can we measure success in political development engagement?
- What kind of evidence is relevant to practice that works politically?
- How do we balance a quest for research transparency with the need for political work to happen quietly outside the spotlight?
- ‘There is no difference between the current push to work politically and previous practice.’ So how can we make the current trend in the debate useful for research and practice?
|Facilitators:Jaime Chua (TAF), Susan Marx (TAF),
Craig Valters (ODI),
George Varughese (TAF)
|15.45 – 16.45
||Security in conflict-affected contexts. Chair: Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic, JSRP
||Freddie Carver, (Stabilisation Unit), Mareike Schomerus (JSRP),
John Sidel (LSE),
Thomas Wheeler (Saferworld)
|16.45 – 17.45
||Justice in conflict-affected contexts. Chair: Tim Allen, LSE/JSRP
||Lisa Denney (ODI), Macha Farrant (DfID CHASE),
Rachel Ibreck (Justice Africa),
Barbara Smith (TAF)
|17.45 – 18.30
||How to work politically with better evidence: concluding remarks and lessons learnt
||Patrick Barron (TAF),
Mary Kaldor (JSRP),
Iain King (DFID)
By Mareike Schomerus
This piece originally appeared as part of ODI’s Development Progress series ‘What role for security in development progress?’.
It’s an easy point to make: current programmes on security and development do not pay enough attention to context. I myself have tried to land that punch during past discussions. Now I cringe when I hear about ‘context-sensitivity’ because it implies that understanding and recording ‘context’ is both achievable and measurable. It also suggests that ‘context’ can be taken into account when planning policies to improve security for those caught up in conflict or violence.
I am not advocating ignorance of what actually happens where the population faces severe challenges to their security. Instead I propose that if we want to measure progress in security, we need to find better ways to work with the notion of ‘context.’ Continue reading