Useful Resources

The Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice has evolved a lot over the years, and so too has the website. Our aim is to keep the website as relevant and up-to-date as possible with our most recent and upcoming work. There is a wealth of other useful material and resources on Thinking and Working Politically which we would like to highlight in this section, which may be of particular use for those new to TWP and wishing to explore its theory and application in greater detail. This page provides an overview of useful websites to explore, and ‘must read’ publications. 

Websites of interest to TWP:

The Policy Practice Online Library – The Policy Practice curates and maintains an extensive library of the most crucial publications dedicated to Thinking and Working Politically. We highly recommend exploring this resource if you would like to find out more about what TWP is, and how to apply it in practice.

Development Leadership Programme – The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development. It features multiple projects and publications that take a TWP and Political Economy Approach. 

Building State Capability – Based at Harvard’s Center for International Development, the Building State Capability Programme uses the Problem Driver Iterative Adaption Approach to build the capability of organisations to executive and implement development programmes. It curates blog posts and material on how to ‘do development differently’ from a politically informed perspective. 

Duncan Green’s From Poverty to Power Blog – This is a conversational blog written and maintained by Duncan Green, who is strategic adviser for Oxfam GB and author of ‘From Poverty to Power’ and ‘How Change Happens’. The blog site is intended as personal reflection and often includes blogs (by Duncan and other invited guests) on debates around political economy and thinking and working politically/doing development differently,

USAID’s Collaborating, Learning and Adapting Initiative – Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) is a set of practices that help improve development effectiveness. Learning has always been part of USAID’s work, and most USAID missions and implementing partners are already practicing CLA in some way. This initiative aims to make CLA more systematic and intentional throughout the Program Cycle, and to dedicate the resources necessary to make it happen.

Alan Hudson’s Library – Alan is Executive Director at Global Integrity, where the focus of work is on supporting partners around the world to address corruption and improve the use of public resources, to improve people’s lives. This is done by supporting locally-led cycles of politically-engaged action, learning and adaptation at local, national and international levels. Alan curates an up-to-date library of all his work on this – a great resource for those interested in TWP. 

The Adaptive Development #adaptdev Google Group –  Alan also manages this google group, which is a listserv for connecting the people and organizations who are promoting more adaptive methods across the international aid, development, and governance sectors. Please do join the group to receive the latest information from like-minded TWP-ers. 

The Policy Practice – The Policy Practice applies a political economy approach to supporting positive change in developing countries. The organisation undertakes strategic and policy work in developing countries, including political economy analysis, programme designs, reviews, and evaluations. They also run a flagship training course on political economy analysis and provide bespoke training for a wide variety of clients.

TWP at Abt Associates – Abt Associates recognises that effective development requires local solutions to local problems and applies a governance lens to all programmes in order to understand where power lies, what interests are at stake, and to identify solutions that are politically feasible as well as technically appropriate. Abt Associates uses contextual knowledge to judge what coalitions or networks can be supported to further and deepen policy and institutional reform. Understanding the institutional context and the range of actors involved are critical to success.

Politics and Governance at ODI – ODI’s research and advisory work addresses how politics and power shape policies, how services are delivered, and how institutions work. Much of ODI’s work focusses on adaptive management, doing development differently, and governance issues. 

The Asia Foundation – The Asia Foundation is a non-profit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Work focusses on good governance, women’s empowerment and gender equality, inclusive economic growth, environment and climate action, and regional and international relations. The foundation’s approach to good governance addresses local, contextually specific problems within an overall framework of international standards and goals. The organisation seeks to advance governance in Asia that is fair and just, transparent and accountable, efficient and effective, and inclusive and participatory. Foundation governance programs achieve these goals by working in close collaboration with local partners in ways that are problem-driven, adaptive, and politically informed.

ECDPM – ECDPM is a leading independent think tank that wants to make policies in Europe and Africa work for sustainable and inclusive development.

World Bank Governance – The World Bank emphasises the importance of governance for achieving development outcomes on the ground. Cross-cutting areas of work focus on GovTech, anti-corruption, openness and transparency, procurement for development, and political economy analysis. 

OECD – The OECD focusses much of its work on governance. Their work on open government, gender mainstreaming and anti-corruption is particularly relevant for those interested in TWP. 

TWP ‘Must Reads’:

As well as the materials found in our publications, and those in the Policy Practice’s Online Library, we highly recommend the following publications for those interested in TWP:

Thinking and Working Politically: Lessons from Diverse and Inclusive Applied Political Economy Analysis, Lisa McGregor, Sarah Fraser, Derick Brinkerhoff (2020)

Overview: Political economy analysis (PEA) has emerged as a valuable approach for assessing context and the local systems where international development actors seek to intervene. PEA approaches and tools have grown and adapted over the last 40 years through innovations by donor agencies and practitioners. Our analysis of nine PEAs reveals the following findings: PEAs can make positive contributions to technical interventions; engaging project staff in PEAs increases the likelihood that they will be open to a thinking and working politically mindset and approach; inclusion of gender equity and social inclusion (GESI) in PEAs helps to uncover and address hidden power dynamics; and explicitly connecting PEA findings to project implementation facilitates adaptive management. Implementation lessons learned include careful consideration of logistics, timing, and team members. Our experience and research suggest applied PEAs provide valuable evidence for strengthening evidence-based, adaptive, international development programming. The findings highlight the promise of PEA as well as the need for ongoing learning and research to address continued challenges.

Thinking and Working Politically through Applied Political Economy Analysis, Alina Rocha Menocal, Marc Cassidy, Sarah Swift, David Jacobstein, Corinne Rothblum, Ilona Tservil (USAID) 2018:

Overview: This guidance provides information on how USAID can think and work in ways that are more politically aware — an approach known as “thinking and working politically” (TWP) — through the use of applied political economy analysis. PEA is a structured approach to examining power dynamics and economic and social forces that influence development. Through programming that seeks to more rigorously respond and adapt to these realities, USAID is working to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of its international development efforts. PEA can help to operationalize the process of thinking politically, while USAID’s initiative on Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA), described later in this guide, supports the operationalization of working politically. Together, they can add significant value to a mission’s strategy, projects and activities — offering the potential to address development challenges in all sectors. This guide follows the definition of politics as the process of determining “who gets what, when and how.”

What makes adaptive management actually work in practice? Graham Teskey, 2018.

Overview: It is the flexibility of TWP-informed programming that usually attracts most attention. Many words are used interchangeably and uncritically: flexible, responsive, adaptive, agile, nimble etc. TWP emphasises responsiveness and adaptation. In the programs that I have worked on recently, it is adaptation that poses the major challenges to TWP: the ability to change course as implementation proceeds.

Everyday Political Analysis, David Hudson, Heather Marquette and Sam Waldock, 2016.

Overview: This short note introduces a stripped-back political analysis framework designed to help frontline development practitioners make quick but politically-informed decisions. It aims to complement more in-depth political analysis by helping programming staff to develop the ‘craft’ of political thinking in away that fits their everyday working practices. Everyday Political Analysis involves two steps:

  1. Understanding interests: What makes people tick?
  2. Understanding change: What space and capacity do people have to effect change?

For each step five questions, accompanied by prompts, aim to help staff to conduct quick political analysis. The EPA framework can be used at any stage of the aid management cycle, and can help users to respond rapidly to unexpected change.

Promoting Social Stability and Legitimacy in Lebanon: Can Service Delivery Make a Difference? Exploring the Contributions of the Lebanese Host Communities Support Programme, Alina Rocha Menocal, Suda Perera and Claire McLoughlin, 2016.


This report draws on fieldwork carried out in Lebanon in October 2015 as part of a research on “Service delivery and social stability in Lebanon and Jordan”. It focuses on a particular donor-support initiative, The Lebanon Host Communities Support Project (LHSP) which aims to analyse whether improved social service delivery can promote social stability and legitimacy in conflict-afflicted contexts, and to assess the extent to which the LHSP has adopted a ‘thinking and working politically’ approach in its programmes. The report findings suggest that the process, or how services are delivered, is likely to be more significant than outcomes, or what services are actually provided. However, in the case of Lebanon, enhanced stability and legitimacy at the local level has not accrued to higher levels of state authority.

Working with the grain, Brian Levy, 2014.

Overview: ‘Good governance’ has failed as a prescription for addressing development challenges. This book proposes an innovative ‘with-the-grain’ alternative – as a constructive, hopeful way of engaging the challenging governance ambiguities of our early 21st century world. Low-income democracies confront a very distinctive set of institutional challenges, which conventional approaches to governance reform do not adequately address. In low-income democracies, better development results will be achieved by efforts to nurture ‘islands of effectiveness’, underpinned by participatory engagement of multiple stakeholders – rather than by attempting top-down initiatives to improve public sector governance, which cannot be implemented effectively in these settings. In settings where rapid inclusive economic growth is underway, reformers need to learn to live with imperfection. In these settings, a seeming excess or order, or a seeming excess of chaos may be less a signal that a country is off-track than part of the medium-term nature of things.

Getting Real About Politics: from thinking politically to working differently, Alina Rocha Menocal, 2014.

Overview: 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. What is needed is a shift not only to think politically but also to work differently. This means asking hard-hitting questions about how change happens; the role external actors play in supporting that change; and what sorts of programme approaches, funding and staffing are needed as a result. There are encouraging signs that suggest that progress is possible – as long as development actors are willing to radically rethink the way they work.