Development of Government conference, November 3rd

A few months ago I wrote about Samuel Finer’s contribution to our understanding of government. Well, there was a point to it: on November 3rd the University of Manchester is honouring him with a conference on the “Development of Government”, through which we aim to discuss Finer’s lasting relevance for current debates on government retrenchment here in the North, public sector reform in the South, and the role of governance indicators in the new SDG global agenda. I will be a presenter on the PSR panel, flanked by far more eminent people than myself, and the programme promises to deliver an engaging day of actual conversation (how un-academic!). Sign up here if you are interested in attending, and keep an eye on the Effective States blog for further information about Samuel Finer and the conference.

Maybe donors should not settle for Mr Right-Now

I am off to New Orleans in a few days for the International Studies Association, armed with a fun little paper which – as usual –  I uploaded past the official deadline (it would not be a proper conference experience otherwise): “The influence and responsibility of aid in transnational political settlements”, part of a panel on “Fostering inclusive political settlements” which will convene at the ungodly hour of 8:15am on Saturday (expected N: audience < panelists). Forget the cumbersome title: the paper could easily be titled “What works ain’t necesarily what’s right”, or “Why donors should not settle for Mr Right-Now”. Here’s the gist of it. Continue reading Maybe donors should not settle for Mr Right-Now

Political settlements: An American polisci perspective

What is a “political settlement”? Or rather: what is political settlements “thinking”? And is there such a thing as political settlements “hypothesis”? After many private conversations on this question, I have decided to take the central term of much of the politics of development in the DFID ecosystem (including ESID) and I try to match it against the fundamental building blocks of political science as I learned it in a mainstream American polisci department. In turn, I examine political settlements as variable, hypothesis, mechanism, or paradigm. Continue reading Political settlements: An American polisci perspective

Academia should forget artists and embrace artisans

The more I read first drafts of working papers, the more I pick up on scholars’ diverse skills: some authors are really good at coming up with an interesting question; some can really execute a rigorous research design; some have a flare for composing elegant prose; and some are really good at organizing a manuscript. But few – very few!! – are good at all those things combined. In yet another piece in my saga to save academia from itself, I say scrap the expectation that a single scholar must struggle to be a creative, methodologist, writer and editor. An alternative system is possible.

Continue reading Academia should forget artists and embrace artisans

Can games teach us about development theory?

I have been thinking about games a lot recently. Games as in game-theoretical models and generally any sort of spelled-out analytical model; but also games as in real-world, fun-not-work games, whether tabletop or digital. And I am particularly intrigued by the potential of mixing the two together and seeing what comes up; asking if there is anything that we analysts can derive from games (other than fun!). Continue reading Can games teach us about development theory?

Killing conferences to salvage intellectual debate

I have never been a fan of conferences. Perhaps it all goes back to my unreasonable high expectations about intellectual debate, which is only marginally related to professional academic advancement. But stubborn that I am, I still can’t quite accept that our meetings are fated to be so stale, so stagnant, and so other adjectives that begin with “st”. Killing conferences as we know them may be the only way to salvage intellectual debate. Continue reading Killing conferences to salvage intellectual debate