Dipping into the pile: good reading on aid effectiveness

      If you’re like me, you have a pile of all the reports, articles, and publications that you’re aiming to get to. And from time to time, I take pleasure in dipping in to explore the new thinking or sound practices in international development and aid effectiveness. 

      So I’m sharing twelve papers from my pile, featuring excerpts from the 7th page of each, first three sentences of the second paragraph. Hopefully the exercise will be a fun way to highlight these authors’ insights for how-matters.org readers.

      We’ll see which of these end up on my recommended reading list. That is, if I ever get the time to read more than just the selections below.  

      1) Camfed Governance: Accounting to the Girl: Working Towards a Standard for Governance in the International Development Sector, a report by Linklaters

      “This report explores one NGO’s – Camfed’s – model for governance in the delivery of girls’ education. This model specifically sets out to help those girls who are most vulnerable and powerless, and ensures this help is permanently effective by encouraging systemic (that is, long term and sustainable) change in these girls’ communities. Camfed does this by striving to ensure that accountability for its aid is not limited to accountability to its donor, or to a government, but that Camfed itself is accountable, first and foremost, to the girls its programs are intended to serve.”

      2) Capacity: Helping Countries Lead, from the Ownership in Practice series by Oxfam America

      “To help foreign aid strengthen the government-citizen compact, Oxfam is calling for reforms that let countries know what donors are doing (information), support countries’ own efforts to manage development (capacity), and better respond to country priorities (control), as illustrated in Figure 2. Implicitly, our definition of countries refers to both citizens and governments in those countries. Because development ultimately is about effective governments and active citizens, at minimum donors should support some basic elements on both sides of the compact.”

      3) The Clash of the Counter-bureaucracy and Development, essay by Andrew Natios, Center for Global Development, July 2010

      “The compliance officers often clash with the technical program specialists over attempts to measure and account for everything and avoid risk.  These technical program specialists are experts in the major sector disciplines of development: international health, agriculture, economic (both macro and micro) growth, humanitarian relief, environment, infrastructure, and education.  Undertaking development work in poor countries with weak institutions involves a high degree of uncertainty and risk, and aid agencies are under constant scrutiny by policy makers and bureaucratic regulatory bodies to design systems and measures to reduce that risk.”

      4) Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values, by Tom Crompton, Change Strategist at World Wildlife Fund-UK, September 2010

      “Acknowledgments: The report draws on the confluence of a number of academic disciplines, including political science, social psychology and linguistics. As such it doesn’t fall neatly within a particular area of academic specialism, and a number of academics and practitioners drawn from different disciplines and sectors have advised in the development of particular sections, or have commented on earlier drafts. We are grateful for help from…” (Unexciting excerpt, great paper.)

      5) The Community Builder’s Approach to Theory of Change: A Practical Guide to Theory Development, by Andrea A. Anderson, Ph.D., from The Aspen Institute Roundtable On Community Change

      “While assumptions are often the set of beliefs that guide a group (and often remain unstated until the theory of change process comes to town!), they may also be supported by research, or “best practices,” which can strengthen the case to be made about the plausibility of theory and the likelihood that stated goals will be accomplished. Assumptions answer some of the probing questions that come up when a theory of change is being critiqued. For example, one group we worked with developed a theory largely based on the principles of resident control and empowerment.”

      6) Debunking Accountability to Donors, a white paper by Hildy Gottlieb of the Community-Driven Institute at Help 4 NonProfits

      “Students of logic know that logic does not spring from thin air. Our assumptions create that logic. As we consider the logic leaps noted in the previous examples, therefore, it is not surprising that the assumptions at the heart of the Donor Accountability Movement are also seriously flawed.”

      7) Development cooperation beyond the aid effectiveness paradigm: A women’s rights perspective, preliminary discussion paper submitted for discussion by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) as an input for the women’s groups’ contributions to the BetterAid Coordinating Group (BACG)

      “Most of the critiques by women’s rights organizations and other CSOs, presented in box 3 below, were present in all major venues in the road leading up to the 3rd High Level Forum (HLF3) on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana in September 2008. Some, however, are from after the HLF3.

      “Box 3:  1. Technical: The aid effectiveness agenda is a highly technical process, focused mainly on procedures for aid management and delivery, with insufficient attention to the actual impact aid is having on achieving development goals such as poverty reduction and elimination of gender inequalities.”

      8) Global South Development Magazine #3 July-September 2010

      “Economic Impact leading to cuts in education provision: Millions of children are becoming the victims of the financial crisis with poor countries’ educations budgets being cut by $4.6 billion a year. In the last twelve months Kenya had to delay the provision for free education to 9.7 million children due to budgetary constraints.” from the article, “New report reveals the worst place in the world to be a school child.” 

      9) Monitoring and Evaluating Capacity Building: Is it really that difficult? Praxis Paper 23 by Nigel Simister with Rachel Smith, INTRAC, January 2010

      “There are likely to be competing demands on M&E within and across different organisations. For example, a donor might need information on the short-term results of capacity building efforts in order to be accountable to Parliament or the public. A capacity building provider might want to report results to donors, but may also want to learn in order to improve its services.”

      10) Rethinking Development Assistance: An Approach Based on Autonomy-Respecting Assistance by David Ellerman, World Bank

      “To summarize our results so far, the problem is to scale up successes.  We began by looking at the problem from the viewpoint of knowledge.  In a stable situation appropriate for rational planning and engineering, we could implement a project or program, evaluate the outcomes, and then use the knowledge gleaned from the evaluation to redesign and improve it.  But in the context of the complexities and instabilities of development…”

      See also, “Helping People Help Themselves: Towards a Theory of Autonomy-Compatible Help” a working paper from the World Bank Operations Evaluation Department, 2000 (Thanks to David Week at Architecture for Development for sharing these!)

      11) Working with Grantees: The Keys to Success and Five Program Officers Who Exemplify Them, research report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (See related event on November 9th in San Francisco.)

      “It is important to acknowledge that factors outside program officers’ control can influence their ability to perform well on the items that comprise the Relationships Measure. Program officers need support and resources to be successful, and they do their work within certain structures established by foundation leadership. It is also true that it can be more difficult to form strong relationships with some grantees than others.”

      12) Wholly Living: A new perspective on international development, published by Theos in partnership with CAFOD and Tearfund, 2010

      “The present model of economic globalisation, with its emphasis on financial profit and the pursuit of individual, corporate and national self-interest, has long assumed that the desire for economic growth at any costs eclipses all else. In this scenario, those values deeply held by religious traditions, such as love, justice, equality, shared responsibility and solidarity are viewed as important only within the sphere of family and community. Indeed we have been led to believe they have no place in policies regulating the behaviour of the market or international financial institutions.” (Ok, I confess. I’m cheating here. Page 7 was the contents page, so this is from the 8th page.)

      Happy reading! 


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