How can researchers and activists influence African governments? Advice from an insider

Duncan Green - March 15, 2018

One of the highlights of the Twaweza meeting was hearing from Togolani Mavura (left), the Private Secretary to former President Kikwete (in Tanzania, ex-presidents get a staff for life, not like in the UK where they have to hawk themselves round the after dinner speaking circuit). Togolani has worked across the  various policy levels  of the Tanzanian goverment, and his talk reminded me a similarly witty …

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Where does political will come from?

Duncan Green - March 2, 2018

Claire Mcloughlin and David Hudson from the University of Birmingham’s International Development Department summarise the Developmental Leadership Program’s recent 10 year synthesis report, Inside the Black Box of Political Will.  When reforms fail, people often bemoan a lack of ‘political will’. Whether it’s failure to introduce legislation promoting women’s rights, not getting vital public services to rural communities, or weak implementation of anti-corruption measures, the shorthand …

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The new Gates Foundation aid report: great at human stories; but where’s the power, politics and mess?

Duncan Green - September 29, 2017

I’ve been reading the new Gates Foundation report, The Stories Behind the Data (lots of jazzy webstuff and graphs of bad stuff going down here – and if you dig hard enough, you can even find a good old-fashioned report to read here). On one level it is exemplary, setting out both an optimistic story of progress, and a warning that this could all be in jeopardy, not …

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Book Review: The Road to Somewhere, by David Goodhart

Duncan Green - September 13, 2017

There was a moment a few years ago when I was walking through Brixton with my son, Calum. I was tediously droning on about how much I loved the cultural and ethnic kaleidoscope, compared to the plain vanilla places where I grew up. Calum suddenly turned on me – ‘you’re just a tourist; you visit on Saturdays. It’s different growing up here’ and proceeded to …

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Can Hegel (and Geoff Mulgan) chart a new progressive agenda?

Duncan Green - May 25, 2017

Geoff Mulgan is one of the UK’s most original thinkers about the future of society. He set up the thinktank Demos, advised the early Blair government, and now runs NESTA (an ‘innovation foundation). According to Wikipedia he even trained as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka. I recently came across his essay on a progressive response to Brexit, Trump etc – it’s brilliant, and although …

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The WDR 2017 on Governance and Law: Can it drive a transformation in development practice?

Duncan Green - January 31, 2017

  Stefan Kossoff (DFID’s governance czar) reviews the new WDR, published this week. For those of us working on governance this week’s publication of the 2017 World Development Report on Governance and Law (WDR17) has been hotly awaited. And I’m pleased to say the report–in all its 280 page glory–does not disappoint (there’s a 4 page summary for the time-starved). As Duncan Green, Brian Levy …

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Is the Anti-Politics machine still a good critique of the aid business?

Duncan Green - January 11, 2017

Just been re-reading a great 6 page summary of James Ferguson’s 1994 classic critique of the aid industry, The Anti-Politics Machine. Read this and ask yourself, apart from the grating use of the term ‘Third World’, how much has changed? ‘Any question of the form ‘what is to be done?’ demands first of all an answer to the question, ‘By whom?’ The ‘development’ discourse, and …

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Power, Poverty and Inequality: a ‘love-peeve’ new IDS bulletin

Duncan Green - December 6, 2016

I have something of a love-hate relationship with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Brighton, or more accurately, a love-peeve. I love the topics, the commitment to bottom-up approaches, and the intellectual leadership IDS has shown over the years on a whole range of issues dear to my heart. The peeve stems from its preference for abstruse language and reluctance to commit to the …

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If politics is the problem, how can external actors be part of the solution? New World Bank paper

Duncan Green - August 2, 2016

The new paper comes from Shanta Devarajan, the Bank’s Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region, (recently drafted in to help get the WDR to the finishing line) and Stuti Khemani, Senior Economist at its Development Research Group. The World Bank seems currently to be awash with fascinating reflections and rethinking on politics and power. This one’s big message is perfectly captured …

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The World Bank is having a big internal debate about Power and Governance. Here’s why it matters.

Duncan Green - July 26, 2016

Writing flagship publications in large institutions is a tough job. Everyone wants a piece, as different currents of opinion, ideology or interest slug it out over red lines and key messages. Trying (and failing) to write one for Oxfam once put me in hospital. So no surprise that the flagship of flagships, the World Bank’s annual World Development Report, on Governance and Law, is currently …

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