Core Material


Suggested reading for Thinking and Working Politicaly


Development assistance works best, and is least liable to do harm, when the people designing it are thinking and working politically (TWP). This thought has been around for some time, but what it implies in practice has not always been clear.

David Booth, 2015

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Ever since its early years, international development assistance has had an uncertain and uncomfortable relationship with politics. The emergent community of organizations that Western governments set up in the 1950s and 1960s to carry out aid programs in what was then called the Third World embraced a conception of development centered on economic wellbeing and defined their central mission as fostering economic growth

Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramont, 2013

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One of the most important lessons to emerge in international development over the past two decades is that institutions matter, and that behind institutions lie politics. But making this operational has proven much more difficult.

Alina Rocha Menocal, 2014




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Many reform initiatives in developing countries fail to achieve sustained improvements in performance because they are merely isomorphic mimicry—that is, governments and organizations pretend to reform by changing what policies or organizations look like rather than what they actually do

Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett, and Michael Woolcock, 2012



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This paper is a contribution to ongoing debate about the need for donor agencies to think and work more politically. It presents seven cases of aid-funded interventions that show how donors have been able to facilitate developmental change ‘despite the odds’. The central message is that donor staff were successful because they adopted politically smart, locally led approaches, adapting the way they worked in order to support iterative problem-solving and brokering of interests by politically astute local actors.

David Booth and Sue Unsworth, 2014


This paper argues that existing political economy approaches lack the analytical tools needed to grasp the inner politics
of development. Political economy has come to be seen narrowly as the economics of politics – the way incentives shape
behaviour. Much recent political economy work therefore misses what is distinctively political about politics – power,
interests, agency, ideas, the subtleties of building and sustaining coalitions, and the role of contingency

David Hudson and Adrian Leftwich, 2014


Political economy analysis (PEA) aims to situate development interventions within an understanding of the prevailing political and economic processes in society – specifically, the incentives, relationships, distribution, and contestation of power between different groups and individuals. Such an analysis can support more politically feasible and therefore more effective development strategies by setting realistic expectations of what can be achieved, over what timescale, and the risks involved.

Claire Mcloughlin, 2014