On this page you will find a selection of videos on Thinking & Working Politically.

Institutions: Can Development Wait that Long? [Panel 1]

On March 2, 2017, Abt Associates hosted a forum — part of the Bold Thinkers Series — to engage international thought leaders in robust discussions on governance, transparency, accountability, and thinking and working politically. This is Panel 1: Thinking and Working Politically: Yin and Yang.

Putting the politics into international public health – Panel Discussion

This event brought together experts from the international health and international development communities to present and discuss work on adaptive programming in the health sector, and in particular the tried and tested approach of ‘quality improvement’.

What institutions do countries really need – keynote and panel discussion

At this event UK Minister of State for International Development, Rory Stewart MP delivers a keynote speech, offering his reflections on the report and how they link to DFID’s latest approaches. This is followed by an overview of the 2017 World Development Report.

Public Administration Reform: Lessons from the World Bank

The World Bank and other international aid agencies have long been engaged in programs to strengthen public administration functions of client country governments across the developing world. Questions about how effective such efforts have been in bolstering public sector performance remain unanswered. And, in a fast-evolving aid environment, the future of donor support for public administration reforms faces a range of challenges. Drawing on decades of cross-regional operational experience, Nunberg’s talk highlights the contextual drivers of these programs, identifies some of the constraints that have inhibited their success, and offers ideas for improving the record going forward.

Daron Acemoglu: Why Nations Fail

Why do some nations rise while others wither? Why have some of the world’s largest empires eventually crumbled? What are the ‘best practices’ that a modern nation should follow if it desires sustainable prosperity for its citizenry? To answer these questions, we welcome MIT professor Doran Acemoglu and co-author of the book Why Nations Fail. His observations? Yes, national prosperity has some correlation to the resources available to the State, but importantly, it’s determined by how those resources are put to productive — and fair — use.

Money, War and the Business of Power in the Horn of Africa

Renewed violence in South Sudan, rising malnutrition in Somalia and a dramatic refugee exodus from Eritrea conspire to undermine sporadic progress in the Horn of Africa. Underlying it all is a political marketplace fueled by money and power. The U.S. Institute of Peace invites you to join regional experts, including Alex de Waal, author of “The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa: Money, War and the Business of Power”, for a panel discussion on January 28 on the complex interplay between politics and money in the region and the implications for the international community.

Thinking and Working Politically (Yangon, October 2016)

On 3-4 October 2016, British Council, Pyoe Pin, The Asia Foundation and UK DFID co-hosted a two day conference on ‘Thinking and Working Politically’ (TWP) for more effective and sustainable development assistance. The event brought together international donors, implementing agencies and local partners. Participants compared experiences on what has worked, where and why – both in Myanmar, and across the world including case studies from Sudan, Zambia and the Philippines.

The Sustainable Development Goals Explained: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

United Nations – Patrick Keuleers, UNDP’s Chief of Profession in Governance and Peacebuilding, talks about what makes a society peaceful, just and inclusive, and how you can make a difference as a citizen to achieve this goal.

Politics in development: Graham Teskey, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia

Political analysis and thinking & working politically.

Development and politics, a new opportunity

On 8 May 2015, the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) hosted its third annual meeting of its Board of Governors, management and institutional partners. The topic of this year’s meeting was “Thinking and Working Politically in Development Post-2015”. The aim of the meeting was to identify the benefits and risks of more politically informed approaches to development and to look into the practical implications of thinking and working politically (TWP) for development agencies and practitioners.

Thinking and Working Politically – David Booth

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. Big steps have been taken to encourage donor agency staff to think politically about the programmes they design and deliver, so that they take proper account of political realities. In DFID, a generation of governance and social development advisers have been trained in what this means. To date, however, fewer economists and sector specialists have been persuaded of the need to step outside their usual ways of thinking about country context. There has been a tendency to see TWP as mostly a matter for governance specialists.

Panel on Political Economy Analysis – Feb 5, 2015 – Verena Fritz

Remarks by Verena Fritz, Senior Public Sector Specialist, The World Bank, at the IFPRI Panel Discussion, “Donor Approaches to Political Economy Analysis,” held in Washington, DC, Feb 5, 2015.

Panel on Political Economy Analysis – Feb 5, 2015 – Laura Pavlovic

Laura Pavlovic, Cross-Sectoral Programs Division Chief, USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance, at the IFPRI Panel Discussion, “Donor Approaches to Political Economy Analysis,” held in Washington, DC, Feb 5, 2015.

Merilee Grindle: Good Enough Governance: A Cautionary Tale

Merilee Grindle ’67, Edward S. Mason Professor of International development, emerita of Harvard Kennedy School, presents during the 2015 Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College.

Politics in development: Duncan Green, Sr. Strategic Adviser, Oxfam UK

This talk by Duncan Green is part of the ECDPM meeting (see above), and here he talks about the importance of being aware of systems of power and how this can shape development outcomes.

Politics in development: Dominique Dellicour, former EU ambassador Senegal

This interview with Dominique Dellicour is part of the ECDPM meeting (see above), and here she talks about how development programs need to move past technical solutions and towards a deeper understanding the complex interests and political powers at play. She touches on where development is at with TWP and how to move forward.

KSI Podcast Series – the Contribution of Research in the Formulation of the Village Law

Published on 11/05/15, this video focuses on policy research, considering what it means to think and work politically as well as what makes this type of research inherently political. It features Arnaldo Pellini who wrote Working Politically: a story of change of the contribution of research evidence to the new Village Law in Indonesia (2014).

David Booth: politically smart development assistance

At the University of Birmingham on 15 October 2015, David Booth discussed whether politically smart development assistance could be done. Dr Booth drew on his experience and research in the Philippines to explore issues and debates introduced in his Professional Development Reading Pack on ‘Thinking and Working Politically.’

Sue Unsworth – How nations succeed: working with the grain

Sue Unsworth, The Policy Practice, speaks at the ODI event ‘How nations succeed: working with the grain.’

Brian Levy – How nations succeed: working with the grain

Brian Levy discusses his new book, Working with the grain, at the ODI event ‘How nations succeed: working with the grain.’ This event questioned how the implications of a ‘good fit’ approach to institutional reform differ in practice from advocacy of ‘best practice’; the timescale on which all countries may be expected to get good governance; whether a simple typology can capture the range of variation across current regimes and countries; how thinking has reached this point – and where it needs to go next.

Pablo Yanguas: new directions in governance

At the recent World Bank / ODI conference ‘New directions in governance’, we spoke to Pablo Yanugas about how organisations need to change internally to work in more politically smart ways.

Asking delivery units to solve “wicked” problems

Over the past decade, developed and developing countries alike have been experimenting with a new way of delivering government services called “deliverology.” This approach facilitates collaboration among people — both inside and outside of government — who normally don’t have to collaborate. Plus it convinces them to do so on a goal that isn’t precisely defined in advance. The JKP recently spoke with an expert on the topic — Charles Sabel, Maurice T. Moore Professor of Law and Social Science, Columbia Law School — to get a sense of how these units are evolving in practice to support economic and development goals. In Part 1 of this series, Sabel contends that advanced countries (like the United States (Maryland) and the United Kingdom) are experimenting with these units mostly to promote inclusion through better social services rather than job creation per se. However, developing countries (like Argentina, Brazil, and Malaysia) tend to target growth and job creation, including by supporting new industries — such as precision agriculture, which demands the same kind of skills and continuous monitoring that is typically associated with advanced manufacturing. In fact, he suggests that “agriculture is the new industry.”

Capability Trapped in a Big Stuck

In many nations today, the state has little capability to carry out even basic functions like security, policing, regulation or core service delivery. Enhancing this capability, especially in fragile states, is a long-term task. In this video, Lant Pritchett uses the example of Haiti and India to highlight administrative capability trapped in a big stuck.

Presentation: Capacity Development as Solving Collective Action Problems – David Booth

Danida Seminar: Capability Traps and Collective Action Problems — New Perspectives on Capacity Development and Reform Challenges. Website:

Nick Manning – CAPE 2013 : How do budget reforms link to development outcomes?

Nick Manning – Head, Governance and Public Sector Management Practice, World Bank – explores how budget reforms are linked to development outcomes. This event – The 2013 CAPE conference: budgeting in the real world – was held on 13-14 November 2013 at ODI offices London.

Matt Andrews: The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development

Matt Andrews – Associate Professor of Public Policy, HKS – discusses his new book ‘The Limits of Institutional Reforms in Development’ and its implications for the theory and practice of reforming public sector institutions in developing countries. The event was held May 21 at the Overseas Development Institute in London.

HKS Library Virtual Book Tour with Professor Merilee Grindle (2012)

HKS Professor Grindle describes her new book, “Jobs for the Boys: Patronage and the State in Comparative Perspective” for the HKS Library Virtual Book Tour. This book was published by Harvard University Press, 2012.

Q&A – The limits of institutional reform in development

Q&A after the event discussing Matt Andrews’ new new book ‘The limits of institutional reforms in development’ and its implications for the theory and practice of reforming public sector institutions in developing countries. The event was held on 21 May 2013 at ODI offices, London.

Daron Acemoglu on “Why Nations Fail” | The Economist

From mercantile Venice to contemporary America, economic success or failure is rooted in the health of political institutions says the co-author of a new book

Daron Acemoglu on Why Nations Fail

It is among the grandest topics in scholarship: Why do some nations, such as the United States, become wealthy and powerful, while others remain stuck in poverty? And why do some of those powers, from ancient Rome to the modern Soviet Union, expand and then collapse? From Adam Smith and Max Weber to the current day, scores of writers have grappled with these questions. Some scholars, like Weber, have argued that religious or cultural differences create vastly different economic outcomes among countries. Others have asserted that a lack of natural resources or technical expertise has prevented poor countries from creating self-sustaining economic growth. Economists Daron Acemoglu of MIT and James Robinson of Harvard University have another answer: Politics makes the difference. Countries that have what they call “inclusive” political governments — those extending political and property rights as broadly as possible, while enforcing laws and providing some public infrastructure — experience the greatest growth over the long run. By contrast, Acemoglu and Robinson assert, countries with “extractive” political systems — in which power is wielded by a small elite — either fail to grow broadly or wither away after short bursts of economic expansion.

Good Governance – Major Trends in Public Service Reform by Prof Tony Dean (University of Toronto)

What does the future of public service delivery look like? Governments in many countries are looking for ways to sustain public services in the face of economic turbulence and shrinking revenues. At the same time they are managing rising expectations of citizens for more and better services. Professor Tony Dean will talk about emerging trends in public service reforms with reference to several countries, including Canada and the UK. He will cover topics such as service integration, new forms of delivery, accountability and the important role of public sector leadership.

Tim Kelsall – Africa Power & Politics Programme

Tim Kelsall, author of ‘Going with the Grain in African Development?’ and Africa Power & Politics Programme Associate- discusses the launch of DPR’s supplement which reflects on aid, institutions and governance and extends the debate on what we know, what gaps remain and what is emerging from current research. This event – Aid, institutions and governance: what have we learned? – was held on the 25th January 2011, from 13.00-14.30, at ODI’s offices in London.

Ashraf Ghani: How to fix broken states

Ashraf Ghani’s passionate and powerful 10-minute talk, emphasizing the necessity of both economic investment and design ingenuity to rebuild broken states, is followed by a conversation with TED curator Chris Anderson on the future of Afghanistan.

Sir Michael Barber—Results and Delivery Unit: Lessons for Canada

Sir Michael Barber set up the original Results and Delivery Unit under Tony Blair’s government. The interviewer asks him about the motivation and impetus for that, how that differed from previous approaches in British governments and other lessons for Canada.