Deep dive into our world.
Our philosophy and work are influenced by the latest research on development assistance and change in public organisations. How we work is inspired by development-focused approaches such as Doing Development Differently and Adaptive Management, but also borrows a lot from the Organisational Change Management and public sector performance improvement literature.
On this page you can find an overview of what we consider some key approaches, and resources to learn more about each of them.
Doing Development Differently
Doing Development Differently represents a shift in how development practitioners think about achieving change. An umbrella term that some say describes several, overlapping approaches, collectively it emphasises the importance of solving concrete local problems, recognising and working with (as opposed to against) the local context, and embracing a flexible and adaptive project or programme design.
Problem-driven Iterative Adaptation
Problem-driven Iterative Adaptation is an approach developed by Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett, and Michael Woolcock. In their ground-breaking book from 2017, they summarise it as follows:
“[…] we propose strategies that begin with generating locally nominated and prioritized problems, and that work iteratively to identify customized “best fit” responses (sometimes by exploiting the existing variation in implementation outcomes), in the process working with an expanding community of practice to share and learn at scale.” (Andrews et al., 2017, p.5)
- Andrews et al. (2017) ”Building State Capabilities”
- Andrews et al. (2012) “Escaping Capability Traps through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)”
- Andrews et al. (2016) “Scaling PDIA Solutions through Broad Agency, and Your Role”
- Andrews et al. (2015) “Doing Problem Driven Work”
- Andrews et al. (2016) “Doing Iterative and Adaptive Work”
- Andrews et al. (2016) “Managing Your Authorizing Environment in a PDIA Process.”
- Rao (2014) “Problem-driven iterative approaches and wider governance reform”
- Building State Capability (2018) PDIA Toolkit
- Parramore, S. (2017) “Overcoming Obstacles to Land Registration Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation.”
- Lawson, A. (2020) “Interim Evaluation of the CABRI Building PFM Capabilities programme – applying PDIA techniques to PFM problems in African Countries”
Originally, Systems Thinking was developed as a tool to understand, analyse and impact on how complex systems work. In recent times, development practitioners have shown increasing interest in utilising Systems Thinking to inform projects and programmes. Though this process of translating Systems Thinking into practice is still in its early stages, some promising practical approaches have already been developed, such as the market systems approach (SIDA, 2018), Systemcraft (Wasafiri, 2022), or System-led Thinking, by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO, 2020).
- da Costa Junior et al. (2018) “A framework for a systems design approach to complex societal problems”
- Morgan, P. (2005) “The idea and practice of systems thinking and their relevance for capacity development.”
- Sida (2018) “Evaluation of the market systems development approach”
- Wasafiri (2022) Systemcraft
Thinking and Working Politically
Thinking and Working Politically emphasises the need to recognise the relevance of context-specific political structures and processes for development cooperation. As such, development programmes are encouraged to understand and respond to these structures – and engage with them as political actors themselves. The approach places a strong focus on political analysis (often in the form of political economy analysis), an enhanced awareness of and interaction with local political structures and actors, and an improved capacity to be flexible and adaptable in programme design and implementation.
- Laws, E., & Marquette, H. (2018). Thinking and Working Politically: Reviewing the Evidence on the Integration of Politics into Development Practice Over the Past Decade. University of Birmingham: Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice.
- Teskey, G. (2017). Thinking and Working Politically: Are We Seeing the Emergence of a Second Orthodoxy? ABT Associates: Governance Working Paper Series.
- Wild et al. (2021) ““It’s a coffee with a purpose”: perspectives on thinking and working politically in the Pacific.”
- Dasandi et al. (2016) “Thinking and Working Politically: From Theory Building to Building an Evidence Base”
- Dasandi, N., Laws, E., Marquette, H. & Robinson, M. (2019). ‘What Does the Evidence Tell Us about ‘Thinking and Working Politically’ in Development Assistance?’, Politics and Governance, 7(2), 155-168.
- Denney & McLaren (2016) “Thinking and Working Politically to Support Developmental Leadership and Coalitions: The Pacific Leadership Program.”
- Lucia, L. E., Buckley, J., Marquette, H. & McCulloch, N. (2017), Thinking and Working Politically: Lessons from FOSTER in Nigeria. Development Leadership Program.
- McCulloch, N. & Piron, L.H. (2019) “Thinking and Working Politically: Learning from practice. Overview to Special Issue.”
Pockets of Effectiveness
In short, Pockets of Effectiveness are “[…] …public organisations that are relatively effective in providing public goods and services that the organisation is officially mandated to provide, despite operating in an environment in which effective public service delivery is not the norm” (Roll, 2014, p.24). From a practitioner standpoint, we think Pockets of Effectiveness are of interest for two big reasons. First, given their relative effectiveness, these public organisations might represent suitable partners for co-designing and co-implementing projects and programmes with a comparatively higher chances of impact. Secondly, a core assumption of this school of thought – which we believe in – is that pockets of effectiveness can spillover to other parts of the public sector, helping diffuse the drive and effectiveness seen in the first ‘pocket’.
- Hickey (2019) “The politics of state capacity and development in Africa: Reframing and researching ‘pockets of effectiveness’”
- Leonard, D.K. (2008) “Where Are ‘Pockets’ of Effective Agencies Likely in Weak Governance States and Why? A Propositional Inventory”
- McDonnell, E.M. (2020) “Patchwork Leviathan: Pockets of Bureaucratic Effectiveness in Developing States.” (pay-to-read book)
- Peiffer, C. & Armytage, R. (2019) ”Searching for success: A mixed methods approach to identifying and examining positive outliers in development outcomes”
- Roll, M. (2014) “The Politics of Public Sector Performance: Pockets of Effectiveness in Developing Countries.” (pay-to-read book)
Spearheaded by Dan Honig, the concept of Mission-driven Bureaucrats advocates for a more flexible, trust-based, and supportive style of bureaucratic oversight, based on the intrinsic motivation of public servants to help people through the positions they fill. As such, the concept implies a change in basic understanding of the nature of public servants who predominantly seek to assist people and execute their roles faithfully – rather than being lazy and corruptible. With its novel understanding of bureaucratic systems and public servants, the concept of Mission-driven Bureaucrats can improve the effectiveness of governance assistance.
- Honig, D. (2020) “Supportive management practice and intrinsic motivation go together in the public service.”
- Honig, D. & Pritchett, L. (2019) “The Limits of Accounting-Based Accountability in Education (and Far Beyond): Why More Accounting Will Rarely Solve Accountability Problems”
- Sharp, S. (2021) “Adaptive bureaucracies? Enabling adaptation in public bureaucracies.”
Adaptive Management and the concept of Mission-driven Bureaucrats seek to challenge the common perceptions that bureaucratic systems inherently require rigid and static mechanisms of accountability and control. Instead, their proponents advocate for a more flexible, trust-based, and supportive style of bureaucratic oversight, which harvests the intrinsic motivation of public servants to help people through the positions they fill. In governance assistance, it provides utility for two central aspects of the work. First, using theories and principles of Adaptive Management can critically inform the desired outcomes of projects and programmes, when working with public organisations. In this sense, it yields a similar perspective as Mission-driven Bureaucrats. Second, the design of the project or programme structures themselves can be improved by considering Adaptive Management.
- Honig, D. (2018) “Navigation by Judgment: Why and When Top Down Management of Foreign Aid Doesn’t Work.” (link to online book, pay-to-read)
- Gutheil, L (2020) “Adaptive project management for the civil society sector: towards an academic research agenda”
- Desai et al. (2018) “Managing to Adapt: Analysing adaptive management for planning, monitoring, evaluation, and learning.”