Publications

While the main objective of the TWP CoP is to curate, synthesise and share existing knowledge rather than generate new research, on occasion the Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice commissions publications on topics or questions that are at the cutting edge of development policy and practice. Please take a look below to discover a library for TWP CoP commissioned pieces. For a more extensive list of TWP-related resources that have not been produced directly by the TWP CoP, please visit the ‘Useful resources‘ page, and The Policy Practice’s Online Library.  

Thinking and Working Politically: What have we learned since 2013?

Graham Teskey, 2022

The Thinking and Working Politically (TWP) Community of Practice (CoP) was established at a small meeting tacked on at the end of a meeting of Governance Advisers working for the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID) on South and South-East Asian countries, held in Delhi in November 2013. Since then, a number of meetings have been held throughout the world, each addressing different issues; ‘TWP’ has entered the lexicon of mainstream development; the CoP has expanded to more than 300 people; a Washington DC chapter has been established; and the International CoP has been granted modest funding from DFID’s successor, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). It is legitimate to ask, however, what has been achieved operationally: how have the ideas underpinning TWP affected operational practice?

This short paper traces the evolution of the idea and practice of TWP since 2013, and identifies what we have learned. What has been successful, and what has not?

Thinking and Working Politically in Somalia: A case study of the Somalia Stability Fund

Ed Laws, 2018

The Somalia Stability Fund (SSF) is a multi-donor instrument that aims to strengthen local governance and mitigate conflict in Somalia.  From the outset, SSF has been designed to respond flexibly and rapidly to needs on the ground, to experiment and incur higher levels of  programming risk than is normal, and to adapt in response to learning. SSF’s strategy is also problem-driven: rather than providing a detailed description of a desired end state and a sequence of actions to deliver it, it identifies a core problem at the root of instability in Somalia and decides how to address it. Its aim is to generate a sequence of iterative solutions, and to keep adapting and improving. The Fund is also driven by the principle of ‘local ownership first’, based on the belief that for peace to be sustained, it must be home grown, bottom-up and context-specific.

These principles and features of the program resonate strongly with some core ideas and examples being discussed about how to improve development practice through more politically informed and adaptive ways of working. It is clear that SSF has achieved some significant successes in an extremely challenging and dynamic political environment, which does suggest the value of thinking and working politically in this context. This report looks at three success cases: the Fund’s support to the formation of three nascent federal states; infrastructure investment projects in Balanbale and Abudwak; and the reconciliation process between Galmadug State and Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a. This is followed by a discussion of two of the more challenging investment projects that the Fund has engaged in, focusing on the Hirshabelle State Formation process and the construction of the Baraawe airstrip. The report then looks at the Fund’s work on gender equality, reflecting on its progress in achieving greater formal political representation for women in Somalia, but also some of the significant obstacles that remain in shifting entrenched patriarchal norms.

Thinking and Working Politically: Reviewing the Evidence on the integration of politics into development practice over the past decade

Ed Laws and Heather Marquette, 2018

This paper provides a critical review of the evidence on thinking and working politically (TWP) in development. Scholars and practitioners have increasingly recognised that development is a fundamentally political process, and there are concerted efforts underway to develop more politically-informed ways of thinking and working. However, while there are interesting and engaging case studies in the literature, these do not yet constitute a strong evidence base that shows these efforts can be clearly linked to improved development outcomes. Much of the evidence used so far to support more politically-informed approaches is anecdotal, does not meet the highest standards for a robust body of evidence, is not comparative (systematically or otherwise), and draws on a small number of self-selected, relatively well-known success stories written by programme insiders. The paper discusses the most common factors mentioned in the TWP literature as part of the account for why politically-informed programmes are believed to have been able to succeed in areas where more conventional programming approaches may have fallen short. It then looks at the state of the evidence on TWP in three areas: political context, sector, and organisation. The aim is to show where research efforts have been targeted so far and to provide guidance on where to focus next. In the final section, the paper outlines some ways of testing the core assumptions of the TWP agenda more thoroughly.

The Case for Thinking and Working Politically: the case for ‘Doing Development Differently’

Evidence tells us that domestic political factors are usually much more important in determining developmental impact than the scale of aid funding or the technical quality of programming. Although international development organisations have made extensive efforts to improve the technical quality of programs, in many cases, these improvements have not led to greater impact during implementation.