Recommended reading

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For more case studies and research reports, see our collection of additional resources.

TWP Introduction/Issues

The case for thinking and working politically_Page_1The case for thinking and working politically: The implications of ‘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.
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Thinking and Working Politically. GSDRC Professional Development Reading Pack no. 13 (David Booth, 2015)
Development assistance works best, and is least liable to do harm, when the people designing it are thinking and working politically (TWP). This short reading pack, aimed at development professionals, aims to make what this means more clear.
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Getting real about politics (Alina Rocha Menocal, 2014)
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.
Governance-Notebook1A Governance Practitioner’s Notebook: Alternative Ideas and Approaches (edited by Alan Whaites, Eduardo Gonzalez, Sara Fyson and Graham Teskey, 2015)The Governance Practitioner’s Notebook brings together a collection of specially written notes aimed at those who work as governance practitioners within development agencies.
Carothers Diane.jpgDevelopment Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolutions (Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramont, 2013)
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
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Thinking and Working Politically: From Theory Building to Building an Evidence Base (Niheer Dasandi, Heather Marquette and Mark Robinson, 2016)
This paper discusses the steps required to build a robust evidence base for ‘thinking and working politically’ (TWP) in development. It argues that better understanding what works, when and why is an important step in moving TWP into mainstream development programming.

TWP Design

Booth-Unsworth1.jpgPolitically smart, locally led development (David Booth and Sue Unsworth, 2014)
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’.
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Using Action Research and Learning for Politically Informed Programming
(Michael O’Keefe, John T. Sidel, Heather Marquette, Chris Roche, David Hudson and Niheer Dasandi, 2014)
This paper outlines preliminary findings about the role that action research can play in helping to build more politically informed development programs, especially those that aim to promote and support transformational change.
AnInnovativeApproachtoMonitoringHighlyFlexibleAidPrograms.jpgStrategy Testing: An Innovative Approach to Monitoring Highly Flexible Aid Programs (Debra Ladner, 2015)
Strategy Testing (ST) is a monitoring system that The Asia Foundation (the Foundation) developed specifically to track programs that are addressing complex development problems through a highly iterative,1 adaptive approach.
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Adapting development: Improving services to the poor (Leni Wild, David Booth, Clare Cummings, Marta Foresti, and Joesph Wales, 2015)
This report argues that if we are to avoid reproducing the pattern of uneven progress that has characterised the MDG campaign, there must be more explicit recognition of the political conditions that sometimes enable, but so often obstruct, development progress.The report is aimed at governments, domestic reformers and at the external actors (donor agencies, NGOs and others) that can support them better to do development differently.
M-Andrews-L-Pritchett1.jpgEscaping Capability Traps through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)etting real about politics (Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett, and Michael Woolcock, 2012)
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.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2015: Improving Development Aid Design and Evaluation: Plan for Sailboats, Not Trains (Rachel Kleinfeld, 2015)
This paper looks at the difficulty of using effective measurement programs whilst  engaging with politics and policy. The authors argue  the measurement techniques gaining popularity are those least able to determine how to implement political reforms.
Politically Agile Programming. Paper 1. The logframe and the beautiful game: Project logic v football logic  (Global Partners Governance, 2014)
This paper looks at the disparities between the requirements for donors and implementors in terms of measuring impact. It argues that development projects need to go beyond using a rigid logframe approach, but that there still needs to be a process that works practically for both parties.
Thinking and Working Politically: Are we seeing the emergence of a second orthodoxy?  (Graham Teskey, 2017)
This paper was inspired by a workshop conceived by the Pyoe Pin program in Yangon, Myanmar, in October 2016. The central argument is that a second ‘orthodoxy’ is now emerging, albeit tentatively. The idea is that development programs must be both politically informed in design, as well as politically ‘savvy’ in implementation.

Political Economy Analysis


Can aid bureaucracies think politically? The administrative challenges of political economy analysis (PEA) in DFID and the World Bank (Pablo Yanguas and David Hulme, 2014)
Although politics has become central to international development assistance, the use of political economy analysis (PEA) as a means for greater aid effectiveness remains an aspiring epistemic agenda.
V-Fritz-B-Levy-R-Ort1.jpgProblem-Driven Political Economy Analysis (Verena Fritz, Brian Levy & Rachel Ort, 2014)
Why does development progress in some places but not others? Very often, the distinguishing factor is not a lack of financial resources or of knowledge about the right technical solution. Rather, a crucial distinguishing factor for whether and where progress happens is how incentives and constraints shape the willingness and ability of national or local elites to act in pursuit of development goals.
Governance-1111Mind the gaps: What’s missing in political economy analysis and why it matters (David Hudson and Heather Marquette, 2015)
Why, despite over a decade of sustained and high quality political economy analysis, does it seem that we aren’t getting any closer to politically informed programming being the norm rather than the (notable) exception?
Claire-Mcloughlin1.jpgPolitical Economy Analysis (Claire Mcloughlin, 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. This comprehensive GSDRC Topic Guide provides access to practical examples of PEA as well as other literature.
PO.jpgPolitical Economy Analysis How To Note (DFID, 2009)
Political economy analysis is a powerful tool for improving the effectiveness of aid. Bridging the traditional concerns of politics and economics, it focuses on how power and resources are distributed and contested in different contexts, and the implications for development outcomes.
EPAsmall.jpgEveryday Political Analysis (David Hudson, Heather Marquette, Sam Waldock, 2016)
This short note introduces a framework for thinking about politics and power. Everyday Political Analysis (EPA) is for anyone who is convinced that politics and power matter, but feels less sure of how to work out what they mean for their programs.
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Making political analysis useful: Adjusting and scaling (Pablo Yanguas, 2015)
This briefing encourages aid organisations interested in political analysis to start small and be pragmatic, devoting political-economy expertise to finding the most relevant and rigorous questions, then making them accessible to development practitioners for use in their everyday work
Hudson-Leftwich1.jpgFrom Political Economy to Political Analysis (David Hudson and Adrian Leftwich, 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.