Is there a better response to our public support crisis?

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.

Continue reading on Bond’s website…

‘Orphan Aid’: Review of WWLAA in El País

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

3 concepts that should change how we do political analysis in development

This has been my third year teaching political analysis of development policy at Manchester GDI. Strangely, I have never used any of the donor-produced PEA frameworks in my course materials or lectures. The reason lies partly in the fact that commonly employed PEA frameworks – like most social science – are better at identifying structures than theorizing change; to my mind, this was true of Drivers of Change, SGACA, and the World Bank’s Problem-Driven PEA. So if you are interested in change – which is what development actors do – then you need a different set of tools. With that in mind, here are three intuitive but subversive conceptual tools that I introduce in Why We Lie About Aid. Continue reading 3 concepts that should change how we do political analysis in development

Going rogue

I first joined the Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre (ESID) in January 2013. Since then, David Hulme, Sam Hickey and Kunal Sen have empowered and encouraged me to pursue policy-oriented research and ask sweeping theoretical questions about development politics. They also introduced me to fascinating and generous scholars, like Merilee Grindle, Brian Levy, or David Booth. Above all, they allowed me to find my own identity in a tiny corner of the UK-based development studies community. So it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to leave ESID this summer. Continue reading Going rogue

Op-ed in openDemocracy’s Transformation site

Provocative title: “Foreign aid is a waste of money–unless it’s used for transformation“. Provocative strapline: “Simplistic stories of saving children trap aid agencies inside a self-defeating logic”. And a nice theme from the book: local reformers as the unsung heroes of foreign aid.

The ongoing outcry about sexual misconduct in charities and international organisations is breathing much needed fresh air into the global aid community. However, there’s little indication that this particular scandal will have a meaningful impact on how foreign aid supports development and social change.

After all, there have been plenty of aid scandals in the past, but instead of helping donor publics to develop a better grasp of the challenges involved they’ve reinforced a survival logic that focuses on quick wins instead of longer-term institutional, economic and social transformation.

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