Whenever I am in writing mode my mind makes strange leaps to justify a connection between work and fun. Take these two things: my fondness for DC Comics superheroes, and my work in international development. And here’s the leap: in this (recycled) post I argue – in a totally unscientific manner – that the international development community can reflect on its own potential and shortcomings through the lens of super-powered humans. Let me tell you how it works. Continue reading Is foreign aid more like Superman or Batman?
I have written things you wouldn’t believe. Country assessment frameworks for social accountability organizations. I watched donors try to coordinate in a small Central American country. All those reports will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
It’s Part Deux of PEA confessions! This time I want to discuss one of my favourite pet peeves: PEA reports. In this case I will refer back to some of the themes covered in Why We Lie About Aid, and in particular to a 2015 ESID briefing that I wrote: “Making political analysis useful: Adjusting and scaling”. Again, the goal here is to see if prior insights hold true in light of more practical experience as a PEA consultant. Continue reading PEA Confessions, part II: Report rapport
Four years ago I published a research paper and policy briefing at ESID that focused on the barriers to political-economy analysis (PEA) in donor agencies. I thought our research gave me a pretty good grasp of the promises and pitfalls of PEA in the aid community. After two-and-a-half years of working as a PEA consultant, the time has come for some self-imposed accountability. This is part I of a new series of posts dramatically called “PEA Confessions”.
I want to begin with ESID Briefing Paper 5: “Mainstreaming political economy analysis (PEA) in donor agencies”. It is not my most inspired writing, but at the time it felt like a very clever contribution. Having found – with David Hulme – how organizational dynamics made the use of political analysis by DFID and the World Bank very inconsistent, I thought I needed to devote some thinking to the “so what” question and come up with some semi-coherent recommendations. Continue reading PEA Confessions, part I: Mainstreaming woes
It hasn’t been a great year for aid charities so far. Public outcry about abuse and unethical behaviour in the high profile examples of Oxfam and Save the Children has been inflamed by opportunists, who have tapped into a constituency of popular disdain for the aid industry, and a certain resentment towards the holier-than-thou language and attitudes of the charity world.
This crisis of confidence arising from the scandals has led to apologies from many in the sector and some tangible commitment to change. But without a change in the underlying strategy and messaging of aid, there is zero guarantee that good intentions and gestures alone will forestall future attacks.
I have long been very curious about foreign aid in Spain. Though virtually all my academic and professional exchanges about aid have happened in the DFID ecosystem, with brief stops in the World Bank, a lot of my foundational biases about the aid system and the ethos of development cooperation come from Spain. That is why I tried really hard to add a sliver of the Spanish aid experience to Why We Lie About Aid.
I hoped that some people back there would find the book interesting, a new tool in their ongoing struggle to improve Spain’s aid system. So I decided to send a few copies to the old country, including to Gonzalo Fanjul, one of the most passionate and articulate Spanish voices on humanitarianism and aid. Yesterday he published a post/review of the book in his 3500 Millones blog for major left-of-centre newspaper El País, under the apt title “Orphan aid“. Continue reading ‘Orphan Aid’: Review of WWLAA in El País