PEA Confessions, part IV: Of floors and ceilings

It’s been a while since I was able to sit down and write – life happens. But today I wanted to resume my PEA Confessions in order to think out loud about how we incorporate political and context analysis in aid/development projects. Back when I joined this community six years ago, one of the most interesting pieces I found was a paper by Heather Marquette and Jonathan Fisher on how to take PEA from product to process. This was before the evolution of the Thinking and Working Politically community of practice that we see today, and before approaches like “everyday political analysis”.

While I subscribe fully to the limitations of PEA reports, I also understand why such products are more frequent than PEA processes: it is easy to draft terms of reference for them, there’s a more or less obvious pool of potential writers, and the deliverables are tangible and easy to measure. Mainstreaming PEA beyond reports is much harder, of course, for a number of reasons: organizational cultures, procurement imperatives, misguided M&E expectations… But at the micro-level – the level of implementation – I am starting to think that a better heuristic for the constrained space for PEA processes would entail talking about floors and ceilings. Continue reading PEA Confessions, part IV: Of floors and ceilings

PEA Confessions, part I: Mainstreaming woes

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

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

Development politics lacks a shared language

The fact that I have written a grand total of 7 posts for my own blog in the entirety of 2017 is a testament to the madness that this year has been. Good madness, I must say. None of that Lovecraftian “things-man-was-never-meant-to-see” stuff. But madness anyway. And as I emerge from a cocoon fashioned out of draft chapters and reports, taking up blogging again seems like the perfect New Year’s Resolution for the month of December.

So I will start with my main takeaway from 2017: writing about the politics of development for different audiences is not an easy thing to do. I have always prided myself in being able to talk politics with almost anyone, anywhere. But writing semi-cogently is a different challenge altogether, as this year has shown me with the clarify of a punch to the face. Here are four translation tasks that I have had to deal with, and the realization that has come out of the experience. Continue reading Development politics lacks a shared language