Publication: The politics of “what works”

Last year the German Institute of Development and Sustainability published my most recent research piece:

The politics of “what works”: evidence incentives and entrepreneurship in development organisations

Abstract: Over the last two decades, national development agencies have committed to results-based approaches and to putting evidence at the centre of their decision-making. For evidence “optimists”, this is a much-needed corrective to past practice; in contrast, “pessimists” worry about ideology masquerading as science, and results-based approaches contributing to the further depoliticisation of development. This paper argues that reality falls somewhere in between these two extreme interpretations, and that the experiences of development organisations are varied enough to warrant further interrogation, not into whether evidence shapes policymaking, but into how it does so, and whose evidence matters most. The paper seeks to address these questions through an analytical framework that highlights the process of contestation between evidence agendas against a backdrop of policy complexity, professional barriers, and organisational incentives. A brief review of evidence from development cooperation agencies – with spotlight cases from Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom – reveals that institutionalisation and entrepreneurship play a critical role in enabling and shaping evidence-based policymaking. This leads to clear implications for practitioners, whose focus should be not only on getting the right kind of evidence, but on getting the politics of evidence right.

You can download the paper here.