Interview with Idayat Hassan on how international support actors engage with democracy.

For the March 2022 newsletter, Alina Rocha Menocal, TWP CoP Director and Principal Research Fellow in Politics and Governance at ODI, had the pleasure to interview Idayat Hassan, Director of the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) on how international support actors engage with democracy. This discussion gives an overview of the work Idayat is pursuing with the CDD in supporting democracy, grappling with the underlying politics and power dynamics and her own experiences of working with international democracy support actors.

Interview with Governance Specialist Wilfred Mwamba on his TWP journey

For the TWP CoP November Newsletter, we had the pleasure of interviewing seasoned governance specialist, Wilfred Mwamba, on his TWP journey. He talked about how his TWP journey began, where he has used TWP in practice in the DRC and Nigeria, areas where TWP has gained most traction in development, and where further TWP uptake is needed.

Should we be TWP-ing about the push to localise aid?

By Chas Cadwell, Institute Fellow, The Urban Institute

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated attention to “localise” aid, ushering much needed reflection about the nature of international development work and the need to act less like modern missionaries and more like partners. There is also a critical need to think about how donors and other organisations in the global North can address various forms of baked-in racism and shift power differentials inherent in aid relationships.

But what does localising aid mean in practice? And how do we avoid painting all aid with a broad localisation brush?

BOND,  a UK network for organisations working in international development, have put their concerns with localisation into proposed action with a 2021 report on “Catalysing Locally-led Development in the UK aid system,” This effort, which focuses mostly on humanitarian aid, looks at efforts by NGOs to localise aid, putting decisions into the hands of local actors. A recent Duncan Green blog about the BOND report argues that it is “really good, drawing on systems thinking and power analysis to try and understand why localisation is not happening, and on positive deviance to identify and learn from some positive outliers”. 

The report reflects issues familiar to TWP-ers. It argues that, to bring about a significant shift in how the international development sector works, you need to:

• Understand the sector as a system

• Learn how the system behaves

• Design effective interventions that address the root causes of problems within this system and connect and support other activities.

The BOND report suggests that game-changing insights will emerge from listening and giving decision-making power to local people. The report does not, however, set out as clearly as it could whose local voices ought to count, or more importantly, which ones will count given underlying power structures and political dynamics.

This is one example of where a politically informed approach can be invaluable. In thinking about localising development, it is essential to consider not only how you shift ownership and power away from international development actors to actors in-country, but also what actors at the domestic level are being more/less empowered, how, why, and to what effect. An injection of TWP can bring a lot to such discussions on localisation.

The international aid business is a diverse enterprise working on different problems in different markets to achieve different ends. There are also differing ideas about how to contribute to shared prosperity and well-being most effectively. This alone should make us wary of generalisations about what “localising” means or what it can accomplish. We also need to think about what kind of “empowerment” is effective in different circumstances.

Here are some questions that the BOND report raises for me: 

·       How should donors and other international development organisations respond to the localising effort?

·       Is the localising effort more relevant in some sectors than in others? Where might localising be a steeper challenge and why?

·       Is, for instance, the challenge different within grants or contracts, and what might be implications for how international actors work with in-country partners? 

·       What are some of the tensions and dilemmas for international development actors to advance their own strategies and goals and and localise at the same time?

·       What is your own organisation doing to address the challenge to localise and decolonise development?

You will have others, and I am interested to hear about your emerging thinking and reflections in these issues. 


The TWP CoP launched a new webinar series in February 2022!

Thursday 17 February: Thinking Politically about Health Systems Resilience in the context of COVID-19

Organised in collaboration with TPP and DAI Global Health

Monday 21/ Tuesday 22 March: Localisation and locally led development: An opportunity for thinking and working politically to deliver?

Organised in collaboration with La Trobe University

Wednesday 30th March: Engaging with Politics: towards smarter international support to revitalise democracy

Organised in collaboration with ODI

June 2022 (TBC): Thinking and Working Politically; what have we learned since 2013?