Topic: Book Reviews

Politically smart aid? Of course! Political aid? Not so sure. Guest post by Tom Carothers and Diane de Gramont

Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramont summarize the arguments of their new book on aid and politics How political is development assistance? How political should it be? These questions provoke divergent reactions within the aid community. For some, being political means using aid to advance geopolitical interests aside from development. Others emphasize the far-reaching political […]

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Is it just me, or is it getting harder to read books on development?

I just spent four hours reading a book. Well, a third of a book – I’m a slow reader. It’s the galleys for ‘Aid on the Edge of Chaos’, by Ben Ramalingam, due out this October. I’ll review it when it’s published, but reading it made me think about books in general, and how hard […]

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Citizens Against Corruption: What Works? Findings from 200 projects in 53 Countries

I attended a panel + booklaunch on the theme of ‘Citizens Against Corruption’ at the ODI last week. After all the recent agonizing and self-doubt of the results debate (‘really, do we know anything about the impact of our work? How can we be sure?’), it was refreshing to be carried away on a wave of […]

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The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development: a big new book by Matt Andrews

There’s nothing like an impending meeting with the author to make you dig out your scrounged review copy of his book. So I spent my flight to Boston last week reading Limits (sorry the full title is just too clunky).  And luckily for the dinner conversation, I loved it. Limits is about why change doesn’t […]

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Are global gender norms shifting? Fascinating new research from World Bank

I’ve been thinking a bit about norms recently – how do the unwritten rules that guide so much of our behaviour and understanding of what is acceptable/right/normal etc evolve over time? Because they undoubtedly do – look at attitudes to slavery, women’s votes, racial equality or more recently child rights. So in advance of International […]

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What do 6,000 people on the receiving end of aid think of the system? Important new book

Just finished Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid, by Mary B. Anderson, Dayna Brown and Isabella Jean. It’s published by CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, a non-profit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The book reminds me of the World Bank’s great Voices of the Poor study, only this time it’s ‘Voices […]

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Book Review: Knowledge, Policy and Power in International Development: A Practical Guide

This review appears in the Evidence and Policy journal, where it is now available free online (after I protested about the scandalous, rip-off $30 they were charging). Or you can just read it here. Note to self: in future, I will not write anything for journals that are not open access (thanks to Owen Barder for that suggestion). […]

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Why ‘Why Nations Fail’ Fails (mostly): review of Acemoglu and Robinson – 2012’s big development book

Every now and then, a ‘Big Book on Development’ comes along that triggers a storm of arguments in my head (it’s a rather disturbing experience). One such is Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu (MIT) and James Robinson (Harvard). Judging by the proliferation of reviews and debates the book has provoked, my experience is widely shared. […]

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Lost in translation: the alienation of the development worker

I’m writing this flying over Afghanistan, on my way back from India (blog flurry to follow). The air is extraordinarily clear, so that even from 30,000 feet, I can make out individual fields, clusters of mud-coloured houses, nestling among the serrated, snow-topped mountains and winding river courses. At the same time, I’m reading ‘Lost in […]

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Can you help promote 'From Poverty to Power'? This won't take long…..

OK, out of consideration for your sensitivities, I’m going to try and condense all the humiliating, grovelling self promotional authorial thing into a single post (OK, I’m lying, but the other promo will be less blatant). The second edition of From Poverty to Power is published on the 23rd October, and as you doubtless know, […]

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Tackling the jobs crisis: new thinking from the World Bank and UNESCO

Oxfam’s head of research, Ricardo Fuentes (right) reviews two big reports on jobs from the World Bank and UNESCO Youth unemployment is making headlines everywhere – and with good reason. One in eight people between 15 and 24 are unemployed and the problem affects rich and poor countries alike. In Spain, almost half of young […]

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Robert Chambers – why don't all development organizations do immersions?

Following on my review of Robert Chambers’ new(ish) book, ‘Provocations for Development’, I’m posting a couple of edited-down excerpts that caught my eye. Today, immersions –  written in 2007 and a nice illustration of how Robert combines both the politics and practicalities of aid work. Immersions can take many forms, but an almost universal feature […]

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