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August 28, 2015

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August 28, 2015

Development 2.0, the Gift of Doubt and the Mapping of Difference: Welcome to the Future

August 28, 2015
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MapReg3Just came across this great post by the ODI’s Arnaldo Pellini, summarizing a recent talk by Michael Woolcock, the World Bank’s Lead Social Development Specialist. Michael is one of the big brains pushing the ‘Doing Development Differently’ agenda. What struck me in particular is the emphasis on the importance of ‘the mapping of variation’, which goes further than previous stuff I’ve read/talked about on just concentrating on outliers (‘positive deviance’). Such mapping, Woolcock argues, is one of the key roles for outsiders like aid agencies and INGOs. Interesting.

We are entering a new era of development which we can be called Development 2.0. Development 1.0 was concerned with technocratic reforms required to provide access to basic services such as education and health. Most countries (certainly middle income countries) have achieved that and have the infrastructures in place: policies, schools, health centers, textbooks, etc. Development 2.0 is about the state capability to make those systems work, providing good quality public services to citizens. For example, schools have been built, teachers are trained, national policies on salary and curricula are in place. So, why is it that some schools perform well and other do not perform well? Those are the questions that we need to research and answer in Development 2.0.

Development 2.0 is about multiple (and localized) solutions to development problems. A traditional approach in development is to find smart or best practices and scale them up through nation-wide policies. That approach has had mixed results. Development 2.0 is more about mapping out where public services work well and why as well as where service do not work well and why. Smart practice can still emerge but they can be interpreted to provide a variety of policy responses. This will require moving from the technocratic evidence and knowledge central to Development 1.0, to a more multidisciplinary approach to research and multiple types of evidence that can inform policy decisions aimed at improving service delivery.

the first economistMultiple sources of evidence help to deal with diversity of development problems. The new evidence generated by various types of research methods and various types of knowledge (eg, community knowledge) will produce maps of variations in service quality and delivery, which can suggest the need for multiple solutions or interventions and to draw as much as possible on local knowledge, initiatives, and various forms of capital (eg budget, social capital, human capital, etc.).

Development 2.0 is an era where variation and uncertainty have to be accepted and embraced. It is an era where one-size-fits-all solutions will struggle to succeed and where context specific, technically sound and politically feasible solutions can have a greater chance of success.

We, development practitioners and researchers have to learn to become more modest about the extent of what we can learn and, especially, what we can suggest. We can map where bureaucracies struggle and contribute with ideas that can help segments or units of the bureaucracy to provide the services that citizen expect from them. We should avoid the temptation to suggest the solution having mapped with our work only small bits of complex political and institutional realities.

At the end of the meeting I remembered the review written by Malcolm Gladwell about the biography of Albert O. Hirschman, The Gift of Doubt: ‘The economist Albert O. Hirschman […] was a “planner,” the kind of economist who conceives of grand infrastructure projects and bold schemes. But his eye was drawn to the many ways in which plans did not turn out the way they were supposed to—to unintended consequences and perverse outcomes and the puzzling fact that the shortest line between two points is often a dead end. He understood the power of failure and had the gift of doubt.’”

Great stuff, but is it just me, or is talking about 2.0, 3.0 etc itself a bit old hat these days?


1 comment

  1. Hi Duncan,

    Just reading your latest post. Without having read any of the papers underpinning this, I have to say that I am rather unconvinced by this Development 2.0 approach which just seems to me to be a gimmick to get attention for what appear to be some very unoriginal ideas.

    To be a bit controversial here, I’d also say that it seems a very reductive and US-centric approach where the twittering classes like to come up with catchy slogans (e.g. Thinking Fast and Slow) for what are actually complex issues and ideas.

    Plus, since when did the idea that development interventions need to be context specific and modest in their ambitions become a new development paradigm, which is what the authors seem to be suggesting?

    So perhaps instead we should just stick with “Development 1.0″and try to make it work better by looking more carefully at systems and institutions and people and the incentives and constraints they operate under. Here, institutional economics and behavioural economics have a lot of insights to offer I believe.

    Ultimately, it’s more about doing development better (including making aid work better) rather than necessarily doing development differently, but also being willing (and able) to innovate when good new ideas and approaches do come along.

    Alan Harding

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