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My course at Harvard: See the series of lecture materials here
Post 2015 governance indicators...past blog posts reflecting a variety of thoughts on this topic
Limits book image
'is a landmark analysis that will change the way we both understand and design institutional reform.' Ha-Joon Chang, University of Cambridge, and author of 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

Where you can order the book

Make It Stick: Challenging, informative book on learning. Really got me thinking about how I teach, learn, impart, etc.
READ ABOUT PDIA IDEAS FOR UGANDA: Closing the gap between form and function: a new approach to institutional reform in Uganda
The World Bank doing a version of PDIA in Sierra Leone
This article draws on a variety of theories to discuss productive capabilities. I love the section on the firm, which builds on Penrose: " The firm is a collection of physical and human resources which can be deployed in a variety of ways to provide a variety of productive services. In fact, ‘the services yielded by resources are a function of the way in which they are used – exactly the same resource when used for different purposes or in different ways and in combination with different types or amounts of other resources provides a different service or set of services’ (Penrose 1959: 25). The growth process, in the Penrosian framework, is realized through the firm’s recognition and exploitation of productive opportunities, specifically of ‘all of the productive possibilities that its entrepreneurs see and can take advantage of’ (Penrose, 1959:31). As Best (1999:108) points out, ‘productive opportunities link the firm to the customer in an interactive relationship in which new product concepts are developed. The advances in productive services can extend the firm’s productive opportunities by enlarging the members’ capacity to recognize and respond to new product concept possibilities in the environment’."
Timely fault detection and diagnosis are critical matters for modern chemical plants and refineries. Traditional approaches to fault detection and diagnosis of those complex systems produce centralized models that are very difficult to maintain. In this article, we introduce a biologically inspired multi-agent model which exploits the concept of leadership; that is, when a fault is detected one agent emerges as leader and coordinates the fault classification process. The proposed model is flexible, modular, decentralized, and portable. Our experimental results show that even using simple detection and diagnosis methods, the model can achieve comparable results to those from sophisticated centralized approaches.
Albert Hirschman
Albert O. Hirschman's Hiding Hand: Not new but a great and vital read for anyone in development.
This David Lewis article from 2012 is an interesting read, and emphasizes the fact that innovation is not always needed in development. PDIA is also not always needed. If we know what we are doing and the path to getting it done is clear, we just need to have a really good strategy and a disciplined bureaucratic process of doing it. I would be the first to agree with this. However, many many things in development are not in this category; either we don't really know what to do or the path to do it is unclear and we need to innovate in the politics and management systems to create space for doing even what seems mundane.
I like this article by Steve Denning on 'the golden age of management' ... it discusses the appropriateness of different management modalities given different challenges, etc.
The Challenge of Policy Implementation: A paper on peer learning in the area of vocational training. Loads to think about. See page 13: 'Decades of research into policy making and policy implementation have placed in serious doubt both the presumed rationality as well as the linearity of the process. In the first instance, we learnt that policy making is far from the scientific and rational exercise it is touted to be. With his long experience in educational policy analysis, Ball (1998, p. 126) concludes that most policies are in fact ‘ramshackle, compromise, hit-and-miss affairs that are reworked, tinkered with, nuanced and inflected through complex processes of influence, text production, dissemination and ultimately, recreation in contexts of practice’. Policy making is often complex and messy – a Do-It-Yourself job – with those responsible ending up ‘borrowing and copying bits and pieces of ideas from elsewhere, drawing on and amending locally tried and tested approaches, combining theories, research trends and fashions, and not infrequently flailing around for anything at all that looks as though it might work’ (Ball, 1998, p. 126). The messiness of the policy-making process is heightened by its close, often tense relationship with politics, to the extent that, as Malen (2006) notes, education policies end up embodying ‘highly salient, value-laden issues that cannot be readily, fully or permanently resolved through rational deliberations or unanimous agreements. As a result, these policies tend to be adopted and implemented through political processes that reflect the relative power of contending groups more than the relative merits of policy options’.
Richard Bond's old paper on process approaches in Sri Lanka is one we should be reading as we ponder a world with PDIA and other approaches in play
Iterative and Incremental Development: A Brief History... Iteration is not new...but really important... a good read
I like this article on uncertainty and project management; note the discussion on learning..." In our simple model of projects, learning comes from signals that are incompatible with the project team’s predictions. As project teams monitor their projects, they must recognize that observed signals are incompatible with their model of the world and be willing to change their representation of the world either by updating the partition or the transition mapping." So learning is only possible if we know what our theory of change is (our expectations) and we have information about what is going on to see if reality departs from these expectations, and we actually adjust what we do as a result.
Diagnosing Deep Roots of Development: Johannes W. Fedderke, Robert E. Klitgaard, James P. MacMurray, Valerio Napolioni
"It is argued that in complex settings, performance management may benefit from new ways of carrying out performance management. It is suggested that performance management needs to be more agile, more decentralised and more political."
Imran Rasul and Daniel Rogger looking at infrastructure projects in Nigeria: A really interesting paper...36% of announced projects never start...
Governance ends and means
This paper synthesizes the approach I take to looking at governance in nations states. The approach emphasizes ends as the starting point for any view of governance. (Asking about what governments do rather than how they do them). I also emphasize means; but in thinking about what it takes to produce ends, not as stand-alone factors.
The paper explores what it takes to make change happen in the context of development, and in particular, the role leadership plays in bringing about change. The analysis and findings conclude that leadership manifests itself in different ways in different contexts, depending on readiness, factors that shape change, and leadership opportunities. However, the key characteristics of plurality, functionality, problem orientation, and change space creation are likely to be common to all successful leadership-led change events.
I recently finished reading Bill Easterly's Tyranny of Experts. A very interesting read; provocative and entertaining. It got me thinking a lot abut the role of agency and power in development. Development initiatives give power to experts and assume that top-down leaders are vital to make things happen. What about the poor who are affected by decisions taken by experts and foisted on them by 'the leaders'? The poor are not the only ones left out in this kind of development discourse: what about the distributed agents in government, non profits and struggling small business who have to implement and live with the policies, reforms etc. introduced from above? A good read that still has me asking questions.
Bob Behn's latest book on performance stat was a quick and interesting read, but has details and insights that will keep me coming back for a long time. Bob writes about the performance state movement with first hand knowledge of examples. I was most taken by the views on how this management approach gets adapted to different contexts. A really good read.
Francis Fukuyama's 'Political Order and Political Decay' is a great read. It explores the emergence of states, and the role of states, and the challenges of thinking about state capability, democracy, and more across space and time.
Working with the grain
Brian Levy's new book is full of practical and deep reflections on the real world of politics and development. He contributes to a growing literature stressing the importance of doing development within contexts and offers ways of thinking about the challenges of doing this. Inside these pages you will find Brian's views on 'what matters' in a context, and about how one can assess the space for action and change in a context, and what kinds of reforms might fit what kinds of contextual settings.
Rethinking productive development
Rethinking Productive Investment, by Crespi, Fernandez-Arias, and Stein... I really like this volume. It blends theory and practical cases about the challenges involved in making economic transformation processes work. It is also available free!
A PAST MY BOOK OF THE WEEK: HELEN TILLEY...The Political Economy of Aid and Accountability. If you liked Ferguson's 'The Politics Machine' you should read Helen's book. Dynamic, deep, well researched and illuminating.
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