July 1, 2019
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Fragile States

O. Fiona Yap (Journal of Public Policy / SSRN 2019)

How does political trust affect the competing pressures of policy versus political performance in emergent democracies? Studies suggest that political trust buffers against these pressures, but empirical evidence is lacking in regard to if or how, given the focus in the literature on mature democracies where democratic institutions and practices are unlikely to be upended by either policy or political underperformance. However, in emergent democracies where the risks of democratic reversal loom large, the distinction is highly relevant. This article investigates how political trust matters in emergent democracies, specifically, if political trust buffers against public pressures, and whether it is system-directed versus incumbent-directed, for East and Southeast Asia. The evidence from multiple waves of survey data provides three useful insights: first, it shows that political trust supersedes economic expectations in support for the democratizing system; this supports political trust as a buffer for the political system and is system-directed. Second, political trust goes hand-in-hand with economic performance to explain support for the incumbent government. This finding clarifies that political trust does not buffer the government against public pressure for performance. Third, taken together, the results show that economic growth may keep a government in office, but institution-building leads to political trust that undergirds the political system, so that institution-building is a priority for stability in emergent democracies. These results expand the political trust literature to underpin democratic progression and consolidation issues that are unique to emergent democracies.

O. Fiona Yap (Economic and Political Studies/SSRN 2019)

What are the effects of weak economic performance in East and Southeast Asia? In particular, does weak performance lead to citizens’ dissatisfaction and, correspondingly, increase preference for stronger governments who may achieve economic targets more quickly? Recent elections in less-democratic nations and emergent democracies of East and Southeast Asia suggest growing support for political parties carries over from previous authorities. And, governments are harking back to policies of the past that emphasize economic performance over political development in order to motivate political support. However, few studies systematically assess how weak economic performance affects citizens’ political support. This paper addresses this neglect. Using public opinion surveys from the Asian Barometer, we track how economic performance affects political support over time in countries with a multiparty system. The results offer two useful insights. First, economic performance is robustly and positively related to government approval. Thus, strong economic performance corresponds with strong support for government while weak performance yields weak support. Importantly, this finding is consistent with the large amount of literature on economic voting. Second, economic performance is not consistently related to democratic support; instead, political influence plays an intervening role in how economic performance affects democratic support. This underlines the significance of institution-building for political stability and political development in the region. Equally important, the results tie to the literature on political institutionalization and democratic support. In conjunction, the results embrace East and Southeast Asia into the broader disciplinary research of motivation theory-building and empirical studies.

Yong-Shik Lee (Law and Development Review, 12: 3 / SSRN, 2019)

Political stability is an important precondition for economic development. While political stability cannot be created by laws alone, an effective legal framework for political governance, such as a constitution, can facilitate political stability. It is noted that political stability is not synonymous with democracy; while civil liberty has been considered a key ingredient for prosperity, it has been historically observed that promotion of democracy, while an important value, does not necessarily lead to economic development. Successful economic developments in South Korea from the 60s to the 80s and in contemporary China show the importance of political stability albeit with certain democratic deficits. The system of political governance that creates political stability may differ from one place to another, depending upon political needs, cultural priorities, historical contexts, and popular aspirations. This paper considers these elements and also examines, based on local conditions and priorities, the political leadership that have brought political stability and economic development, the question of democracy, and the legal frameworks conducive to sustaining political stability.

DRG Primers

DRG Center has prepared a series of primers that synthesize evidence on key issues, including defining democracy, democratic political culture, democratic transitions, economic and social requisites for democracy, links between economic growth and conflict, resilience of authoritarian regimes, and the benefits of democracy. These primers serve as quick references for USAID staff seeking to better integrate DRG programming into broader U.S. development work. A series of accompanying short videos is also in development. Each primer is laid out with an overview, key takeaways, and an in-depth analysis of the primer topic. Below is a link to each primer.

What is Democracy?

Political Culture and Democracy

Democratic Transitions

Economic and Social Requisites of Democracy

Democracy and Economic Growth

Explaining the Persistence of Authoritarian Rule

Democracy, Peace and Conflict

Why Prefer Democracy?

Haemin Jee, Hans Lueders & Rachel Myrick (SSRN 2019)

Across the world, multiple democracies have recently experienced an erosion of their democratic institutions. To date, however, we lack a shared understanding of the concept of "democratic backsliding" in theory and practice. While the term is ubiquitous in scholarly work and public discourse, how backsliding is conceptualized and measured varies widely. This paper provides a framework to distinguish between processes of backsliding across three arenas of democratic politics derived from foundational goals of democratic governance: freedom of choice, freedom from tyranny, and equality in freedom. We illustrate the usefulness of this framework with application to contemporary cases of democratic decline in the United States, Hungary, and Mexico. Overall, we argue that a common conceptual understanding of backsliding is critical to building cumulative knowledge about its causes and consequences. Our framework enables scholars to identify and explain cases of democratic backsliding in a systematic and explicitly comparative way.

Richard Morgan, Andreas Beger, & Adam Glynn (V-Dem WP 2019)

This article introduces the V-Forecast project, the forecasting intuitive of the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) institute. In this the initial year of the V-Forecast project, we provide two-year ahead forecasts of the risk of adverse regime transitions (ARTs) for 169 countries. ARTs are substantial movements of a country's regime towards more authoritarian governance, whether authoritarian reversals in a democracy, or further autocratization in an already nondemocratic country. Examples include Hungary and Poland over the past few years, which are prominent cases in a more widespread and worrying global trend over that effects a significant fraction of the world's population. Yet so far, there has been no public forecasting system for anticipating new ARTs and identifying countries most at risk. We describe an effort that forecasts ARTs - operationalized using the Regimes of the World (RoW) categorization - with an ensemble model that leverages V-Dem and several additional external data sources. Despite being rare events with a roughly four percent baseline chance over any two-year period, in test forecasts the model is able to achieve good accuracy.

Civic Space

Hossain, Khurana, Nazneen, et. al. (IDS 2019)

This report analyses the implications for development of the recent wave of closures of civic space that has primarily affected human rights-based and liberal democratic organizations – non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs) and the media – in countries around the world. This synthesis report summarizes the findings of a larger study funded by the ACT Alliance, which includes a literature review, 12 desk-based country studies, and four country case studies.

The Implications of Closing Civic Space for Sustainable Development:





Tony Roberts (IDS 2019)

This case study of Ethiopia was a rapid exercise to test an approach to measuring the relationship between closures of civic space and development outcomes by tracing the implications of restrictions on NGO activities in relation to poverty, hunger and food insecurity, gender equality, with a focus on efforts to reach the poorest and most marginalized populations. The research involved gathering multiple sources of data, published and grey literature, and interview material, and analyzing it in relation to a conceptual framework proposing mechanisms through which closing civic space impacts on development outcomes. The paper concludes that there are good reasons to believe that recent restrictions on civil society, and in particular on NGO activities, have played or have the potential to play a clear and adverse role in Ethiopia’s development, and specifically to the extent that it is inclusive, equitable, and ‘leaves no one behind’. NGO service delivery capacity has been severely reduced in key areas by the closing of civic space in Ethiopia. Effects include that legal aid and advocacy for women and children is no longer widely available, while 1,741 NGOs were closed down completely; many of the remaining NGOs now have significantly reduced service delivery capacity, especially in the areas of advocacy for gender, ethnic and minority rights.

Foreign Aid

Vincent Tawiah, Barnes Evans, & Abdulrasheed Zakari (International Economic Journal, 33:2 / SSRN 2019)

Despite the extensive empirical literature on aid effectiveness, existing studies have not addressed directly how political ideology affects the use of foreign aid in the recipient country. This study, therefore, uses a unique dataset of 12 democratic countries in Africa to investigate the impact of political ideologies on aid effectiveness. Our results indicate that each political party uses aid differently in peruse of their political, ideological orientation. Further analyses suggest that rightist capitalist parties are likely to use aid to improve the private sector environment. Leftist socialist on the other hand, use aid effectively on pro-poor projects such as short-term poverty reduction, mass education and health services. Our additional analysis on the lines of colonialization shows that the difference in the use of aid by political parties is much stronger in French colonies than Britain colonies. The study provides insight on how the recipient government are likely to use foreign aid.

Fragile States

Alex Thier (IDS, 2019)

After a historic period that brought a decrease in conflict and dramatic improvements in human development, fragility is on the rise, bringing enormous human, political, economic and environmental costs. While collective action is urgently needed to deal with the challenges resulting from fragility, the international consensus and machinery for addressing these challenges is frayed and outmoded, and the unattended impacts of these crises are roiling political systems on every continent, contributing to the greatest period of uncertainty since the creation of the modern international system, and challenging the credibility of multilateral institutions. A group of world leaders, including the late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came together with experts under the leadership of ODI, The Rockefeller Foundation and the US Institute of Peace to draft a set of principles and approaches to catalyze change. At their core is a simple but powerful idea: the challenges of fragile states are inherently political, and therefore the starting point must be to keep politics at the center of approaches to address them. These principles and approaches form the Bellagio Consensus, which seeks to bring together local leaders responsible for change in fragile environments and international institutions charged with supporting them. This paper expands on these critical ideas and serves as a call to action for all those seeking a more peaceful world.

Annex | The Bellagio Consensus: Final Outcome Document

Alina Rocha Menocal, Greg Power and Olivia Kaye (Journal of Peacebuilding and Development, 2019)

Governance systems and political processes that are more inclusive and representative have emerged as a leading priority in international development to foster more peaceful and resilient states and societies. However, how to do so remains a considerable challenge, especially for international development actors. Over the past two decades, there has been growing recognition amongst international development practitioners that development is not only technical but also deeply political in nature. Despite this recognition, donors continue to rely on approaches to governance support that are overly technical, insufficiently differentiated and focused on formal reforms on paper, without recognizing how informal institutions and power dynamics shape the way reforms are implemented in practice. This article explores how the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Dialogue (NIMD)’s Dialogue for Stability (DfS) program is bucking this trend – attempting a more creative, politically smart approach to institution-building. DfS is a 5-year program (2016–2020) intended to foster inclusive and legitimate political systems in five fragile and conflict-affected settings: Burundi, Colombia, Jordan, Tunisia and Ukraine.

Countering Violent Extremism/Peacebuilding

Daniel Rothbart & Susan H Allen (Conflict Resolution Quarterly / SSRN 2019)

More than an individual emotion experienced by conflict resolution practitioners, compassion constitutes a primary norm of the field of peacebuilding. Three domains of peacebuilding practice are showcased: first, the human rights agenda of the United Nations, second, the practices of everyday peace, and third, the strategies among professionals of interactive conflict resolution. Motivated by the compassion‐related programs in these domains, we propose that peacebuilders develop strategies that are intended to foster compassion among the conflict parties. The notion of systemic compassion is introduced and illustrated with examples within current practice.


Mariz Tadros & Ayesha Khan (IDS 2019)

In a global context of deep ideological, political, social and economic polarizations, it is unsurprising that fault lines exist in Western aid circles on how to engage with the role of religion in relation to gender equality. The question remains pertinent as ever: how can external actors support local actors in their struggles for gender justice and women’s rights in countries where religion and tradition are instrumentalized for political agendas?

Human Rights/Rule of Law

Jeremy Waldron (SSRN 2019)

Commentators working in the law-and-development field distinguish between the rule of law and "rule by law," with the latter being treated as an authoritarian caricature of the former. Under "rule by law" a regime may use law and legal institutions to control its population, but it will not allow law to be used to control the regime. There are also a number of other understandings of "rule by law," most notably a conception that associates ideologically it with enacted law, as opposed to autonomous law. This paper re-examines the idea of rule by law and suggests that if it is taken at face value it involves the admirable willingness of a regime to submit itself to the discipline of legality. It should not be disparaged, and indeed (like the rule of law itself) it admits of a spectrum of applications, some of them quite demanding.

Frank Munger, Peerawich Thoviriyavej & Vorapitchaya Rabiablok (SSRN 2019)

New courts in Asia’s rapidly developing states offer an opportunity to understand how a court system takes root in a society. This article presents a case study of the development of administrative court structure, functions, and practice in Thailand: Southeast Asia’s newest system of administrative courts. The study examines why courts made sense to those who established them and how the courts’ authority is being utilized. For relatively powerless and resource-poor litigants, barriers to litigation may be many, but when these barriers are overcome, administrative courts exercise extraordinary influence, even when they fail to render a decision fully vindicating a plaintiff’s legal rights. Thailand lacks many of the supporting institutions and practices typical of developed Western democracies, such as a politically savvy and powerful legal profession, a rights-conscious judiciary, influential public and private organizations supporting litigation for rights, and public consciousness of rights. Yet following constitutional reform, rights-oriented litigation emerged in the administrative courts through the efforts of a small, self-sustaining community of activist attorneys. In the second part of the article we describe the career of a leading environmental litigator and his network and the mutually constructive effects of the outcomes of this litigation on the support structures for the courts.

Sandra Babcock (Northwestern University Journal of International Human Rights, 17:1 / SSRN 2019)

Human rights advocacy in foreign countries raises complex ethical, moral, and political questions. Legal scholars have challenged the legitimacy and accountability of international human rights activists that impose foreign agendas on local partners in the Global South. Development economists have raised related concerns about the impact of foreign assistance on government accountability. In this article, I use narrative storytelling techniques to illustrate the fraught strategic judgments and moral choices that permeate human rights advocacy. These narratives are drawn from my international human rights clinic’s twelve-year engagement in justice reform work in Malawi, where my students and I have been instrumental in the release of nearly 300 prisoners from Malawian prisons. Over more than a decade, we have periodically fallen prey to cultural misperceptions and ethical dilemmas that threatened to derail our success. The lessons derived from these experiences underscore the value of a long-term, incremental approach to human rights advocacy that prioritizes deep collaboration over short-term success.

(WJP, 2019)

An estimated 5 billion people have unmet justice needs globally, including people who cannot obtain justice for everyday problems, people who are excluded from the opportunity the law provides, and people who live in extreme conditions of injustice. This justice gap underscores the urgency of realizing justice for all and demonstrates unacceptable levels of exclusion from justice. The Measuring the Justice Gap report describes the development process, measurement approach, and progress being made to estimate the scale and impact of the justice gap.


Prabha Kotiswaran (SSRN 2019)

Almost twenty years since the adoption of the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking, anti-trafficking law and discourse continue to be in a state of tremendous flux and dynamic evolution. While the efficacy of using criminal law to tackle an irreducibly socioeconomic problem of labor exploitation was always suspect, scholars and activists alike sought to remedy the excesses of a criminal justice approach by articulating a human rights approach to trafficking. Arguing that this did not go far enough, labor law scholars called for a labor approach to trafficking in order to forefront the role that a redistributive mechanism like labor law could perform in supporting the agency of workers to counter vulnerability to trafficking. Since then, trafficking has evolved into a development issue with the articulation of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 around which international organizations have mobilized considerable resources. Influential actors believe that bringing development to countries of the Global South will help them eliminate 'modern slavery'. My paper instead builds on the critique of the developmental project to elaborate on the key elements of a development approach to trafficking, one which is rooted in the realities of the developing world and which recognizes the fundamentally different configurations of the state, market, civil society and legal system in the Global South. Using the example of India, I argue that conventional regulatory responses to 'trafficking' and 'modern slavery' must be fundamentally rethought and that an uncritical reliance on a criminal law approach to trafficking must be replaced by efforts to implement domestic labor and social welfare laws which are themselves the result of long-term struggles for decent work and against extreme exploitation.


Executive/Public Administration/Regulatory Agencies

Gauri, Jamison, Mazar, and Ozier (SSRN 2019)

Bureaucratic performance is a crucial determinant of economic growth, but little real-world evidence exists on how to improve it, especially in resource-constrained settings. We conducted a field experiment of a social recognition intervention to improve record keeping in health facilities in two Nigerian states, replicating the intervention - implemented by a single organization - on bureaucrats performing identical tasks. Social recognition improved performance in one state but had no effect in the other, highlighting both the potential benefits and also the sometimes-limited generalizability of behavioral interventions. Furthermore, differences in facility-level observables did not explain cross-state differences in impacts, suggesting that it may often be difficult to predict external validity.


(NDI 2019)

Internet access and powerful communication technologies are spreading around the world at an extraordinary rate, transforming the way citizens live and interact with each other. Social media drives a global conversation of ideas. Smartphone cameras produce on-the-scene reporting of events that can be put up for international analysis. Massive amounts of data are collected and made accessible in compelling visualizations. With the many benefits that citizens experience from these advanced technologies, there is also the expectation that leaders in government, civil society, and politics will keep up and meet them where they are – online. DemTools harnesses the power of free, open-source software to provide civic organizations, legislatures, and political parties with the capabilities to effectively engage 21st-century citizens and build better democracies.

Elections and Political Parties

Torsten Jochem, Ilia Murtazashvili, & Jennifer Murtazashvili (Journal of Global Security Studies / SSRN 2019)

Liberal peacebuilding efforts in fragile states often suffer from low levels of public support for democracy. This paper explores whether changes in the design of electoral institutions improves perceptions of democracy in states seeking to transition from conflict to a democratic order. We do so by embedding a vignette experiment in a nationally representative survey of households in Afghanistan. Our experiment varies the method of selecting members to the national legislature, which allows us to examine how changes to status quo electoral institutions influence perceptions of democracy. We find that support for democracy depends on the choice of electoral institutions, particularly among those respondents who express sympathy for the Taliban insurgency. These results show how electoral system design shapes citizen support for democracy and helps explain why democracy struggles to live up to its promise in these challenging contexts.

(NDI 2019)

Over the past two years, through its No Party to Violence initiative, NDI conducted research with 25 political parties in Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Tanzania, and Tunisia. Compiled in collaboration with one of the leading experts on violence targeting politically active women, Dr. Mona Lena Krook, this compendium report offers the first ever systematic data and analysis of the types, levels, and impact of violence against women within these institutions. The report confirms the discouraging impact on women’s political leadership ambitions that such violence has, robbing parties and politics of a key resource, underscoring the urgent need to address the issue.


Thinking and Working Politically/Politically Engaged Programming/Politically Adaptive Programming

Niheer Dasandi, Ed Laws, Heather Marquette and Mark Robinson (Politics and Governance 7(2), 2019)

This article provides a critical review of the evidence on ‘thinking and working politically’ (TWP) in development. The article discusses the factors identified in the TWP literature that are said to enable politically informed programs to increase aid effectiveness. It then looks at the state of the evidence on TWP in three areas: political context, sector and organization. The aim is to show where research efforts have been targeted so far and to provide guidance on where the field might focus next. In the final section, the article outlines some ways of testing the core assumptions of the TWP agenda more thoroughly, to provide a clearer sense of the contribution it can make to aid effectiveness.

Sarah Opitz-Stapleton, Rebecca Nadin, Jan Kellett, et.al (ODI 2019)

Risk-informed development is a risk-based decision process that enables development to become more sustainable and resilient. It pushes development decision-makers to understand and acknowledge that all development choices involve the creation of uncertain risks, as well as opportunities. This report highlights the need for: (i) a move away from single hazard risk analysis to an explicit acknowledgement of the interactions between multiple threats, including economic and financial instability, geopolitical volatility, natural hazards and climate change; (ii) systematic assessments of complex threats and risks, opportunities, uncertainties, risk tolerances, perceptions and options to ensure that development is sustainable and resilient; (iii) identifying who has responsibility to act upon risk management, with what resources, by when and how those actions are to be monitored; (iv) analysis of the potential trade-offs of development policies and investment actions, including social and environmental impacts, feasibility and cultural and ethical outcomes; (v) the provision to policy-makers of a robust evidence base around the role that unsustainable development plays in creating risk; and (vi) understanding and acknowledging that all development and investment choices involve trade-offs.

Change Management

Vincent Petit & Tamar Naomi Zalk (UNICEF/Communications Network 2019)

When collective practices are partly driven by informal rules of behavior in a group - social norms - they warrant very specific interventions. This guide from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) explores this specificity. Originally published in 2018, it provides information on social norms, the role they play in perpetuating or changing harmful behaviors, and best practices for programming. The elements provided can, for instance, serve as methodological support during workshops and trainings organized with partners engaged in social and behavior change (SBC) endeavors to collectively explore and learn how to characterize, leverage, and change norms. According to UNICEF, social expectations play a significant role in perpetuating harmful behaviors that stand in the way of realizing human rights, especially in areas such as child protection, early childhood development, adolescent development, and gender equity. Even though the development community at large may recognize that programming focused on changing individuals is not sufficient, several challenges have impeded progress on attention to SBC to date, including: hesitancy to engage in a field perceived as theoretically complex and hard to master; sensitivities related to the ethics of shifting norms that are inextricably tied to cultural and social identity; difficulty in planning and resources for SBC activities; lack of data that properly inform and measure the main drivers of behavior; lack of support to integrate social norms theories into practical application on the ground; and a general lack of knowledge around the importance of social norms. This publication is meant to help overcome these challenges. The guide gathers 24 tools and provides concrete examples, step-by-step instructions, tips, and techniques that have been used in real-world settings. It is adaptable across a wide range of contexts and topics.

Assessment Tools and Strategies

Paige Bollen, Andrew Halterman, & Blair Read (SSRN 2019)

Do citizens' evaluation of government services accord with actual service provision by the government? Some argue that citizens are able to reward or sanction politicians on the basis of service provision and governance quality. Known as retrospective voting, this theory allows even uninformed voters to evaluate politicians while still not following politics or party platforms. Many authors, however, have questioned the core assumption of retrospective voting theories: that citizens are even capable of accurately evaluating service provision. When faced with the same objective level of service provision, two voters may evaluate that service differently, leading to a "perception gap" in evaluating services. This project investigates the perception gap, using a finite mixture model to test competing explanations for why citizens might mis-evaluate government service provision. We find that while the presence of the perception gap is difficult to predict, the direction of mis-evaluation is explained by sociotropic effects more than respondent identity or respondent engagement, though with major inter- and intra-country heterogeneity.

(Pact 2019)

This Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) handbook is the third module in Pact’s Network Strengthening Toolkit series, a set of educational publications that explores the theories, approaches, and step-by-step techniques for analyzing and strengthening networks.

(Pact, 2019)

This handbook provides practical guidance to human rights practitioners and campaigners on how to integrate Applied Political Economy Analysis (APEA) into their activities. It provides a succinct description of APEA and discusses how the methodology supports human rights programs. It also outlines clear but flexible steps for carrying out APEA studies, as well as embedding ongoing APEA into the management of human rights programs and campaigns. The document also includes a number of annexes that provide practical resources for carrying out APEA and related contextual analysis.

Measurement, Evaluation & Learning

Diana Cammack (USAID Learning Lab, 2016)

The Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning Guide (A Guide to the MEAL DPro) provides an introductory, independent exploration of MEAL within the context of the development and relief sector. The MEAL DPro initiative is designed for and by leaders in the international relief and development sector. It is intended for an audience that includes: Project Managers and team members who support MEAL in projects; Entry-level MEAL specialists who are new to their positions; Development and relief sector professionals who intend to establish a shared culture of MEAL in their programs; Students who are interested in developing a career in the development sector or project management; and Consultants/contract staff operating in the development and relief sector.

(UNDP, 2016)

‘The M&E Universe,’ provides step-by-step guidance for development practitioners to leverage new sources of data. The Guide builds on successful case trials and provides practical guidance for jump-starting a data innovation project, from the design phase through the creation of a proof-of-concept. The guide is structured into three sections - (I) Explore the Problem & System, (II) Assemble the Team and (III) Create the Workplan. Each of the sections comprises of a series of tools for completing the steps needed to initiate and design a data innovation project, to engage the right partners and to make sure that adequate privacy and protection mechanisms are applied.

Ben Ramalingam, Leni Wild & Anne Buffardi (ODI 2019)

Core development and humanitarian challenges are complex, and require processes of testing, learning and iteration to find solutions – adaptive management offers one approach for this. Yet large bureaucracies and development organizations can have low tolerance for experimentation and learning, and adaptive management can be viewed as an excuse for ‘making things up as you go along’. This briefing argues that adaptive program can be accountable, rigorous and high quality in how they use evidence – but this requires rethinking some key assumptions about how they are practiced. The paper sets out three key elements of an ‘adaptive rigor’ approach: (i) Strengthening the quality of monitoring, evaluation and learning data and systems; (ii) Ensuring appropriate investment in monitoring, evaluation and learning across the programme cycle; and (iii) Strengthening capacities and incentives to ensure the effective use of evidence and learning as part of decision-making, leading ultimately to improved effectiveness.

Tara Davda & Lavinia Tyrrel (Abt Assoc., 2019)

Surprisingly little has been written about the experience of monitoring, evaluation and learning for complex programs in complex contexts. While there is a growing body of evidence about how to establish teams, budgets and partnerships to ‘think and work politically’ (TWP), there is limited guidance on what it takes to establish Monitoring Evaluation and Learning Frameworks (MELFs) for these sorts of programs. Further, where evidence does exist, it focuses on single sector projects – not MEL for complex portfolios using a range of modalities, targeting a variety of development problems. This knowledge gap has specific implications for the high-value, multi-sector ‘Facilities’ that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) funds in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste, and Abt Associates manages. The findings in this paper are based on a study of these three Facilities. The paper identifies seven areas where lessons have emerged, or deviation from more conventionally designed and implemented MELFs has been required. These differences emerge at all stages of implementation. They include: i. clarifying the Facility’s strategic intent, overall-theory of change (i.e. not just a theory of action) and an agreed strategic plan which would then guide the development of a MELF; ii. designing MELFs to meet multiple, sometimes competing demands regarding accountability, public diplomacy/ communication, evaluation and internal learning; iii. finding ways to explain what the Facility is achieving, without simply aggregating results up from one level of the project frame to the next; iv. the challenge of setting facility-wide indicators and telling a persuasive contribution story; v. the challenge of setting baselines across such large, constantly changing, portfolios of work in data-poor country contexts; vi. developing systems to embed learning into programming, and; vii. finding staff who can apply MEL to projects working in adaptive and politically-informed ways, and quarantining budgets for this.

Anne Buffardi, Paige Mason, Claire Hutchings and Samuel Sharp (ODI 2019)

Most measurement and adaptive management approaches were developed for and from individual projects. This briefing aims to guide measurement and management of country-level portfolios of work. It identifies potential purposes portfolio-level analyses can fulfil, types of adaptation, and the relative role of monitoring, learning and evaluation (MEL). Drawing on reviews of practice from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), guidance notes, and experiences of members of the Global Learning for Adaptive Management (GLAM) initiative, it offers recommendations and considerations that are particularly relevant for this level of analysis and management. Key messages: (i) Portfolio-level analyses can serve eight potential purposes, each of which answers different questions, involves adaptation at different times and levels, and requires different types of evidence. Identifying the purpose(s) and how the component parts relate to each other should guide the development of monitoring and learning systems; (ii) Portfolios are oriented more towards breadth than depth, involve more people with different perspectives, and draw on multiple sources of evidence with potentially greater variation in quality; (iii) In practice, four activities appear to be applied most frequently at a portfolio level: alignment of indicators and aggregation of monitoring data; synthesis of multiple sources and types of information to provide a summary of outputs, outcomes, common observations and trends; periodic review and reflection sessions; and strategic planning, design or refresh of the portfolio strategy; and (iv) The extent to which evidence-informed portfolio management is facilitating learning and adaptation has not been well documented to date.

Message from the Editor

SUNY/CID welcomes new and continuing readers to its Governance Information Bulletin (GIB) which highlights recent articles of interest for development practitioners and scholars in the area of democracy and governance. Areas of attention include: (1) development and international foreign aid, including strategies of democracy and governance assistance; (2) development and political institutions including legislative development; local governance and devolution; and public sector performance improvement and (3) program design, measurement and evaluation.

In addition, all previous issues can be found at the SUNY/CID website here.

We welcome all questions, comments and suggestions at cidgib@albany.edu.

In This Issue

* How Political Trust Matters in Emergent Democracies: Evidence from East and Southeast Asia

* Effects of Weak Performance on Political System Support in East and Southeast Asia

* Political Governance, Law, and Economic Development

* DRG Primers

* Towards a Unified Concept of Democratic Backsliding

* Varieties of Forecasts: Predicting Adverse Regime Transitions

* Development Needs Society – The Implications of Civic Space for the Sustainable Development Goals

* The Implications of Closing Civic Space for Sustainable Development

* Closing Civic Space and Inclusive Development in Ethiopia

* Does Aid Effectiveness Differ per Political Ideologies?

* Transforming Fragile States: Forging a New Consensus

* Promoting Inclusive Governance More Effectively: Lessons from the Dialogue for Stability Programme

* Building Peace Through Systemic Compassion

* Beyond the Religious/Secular Binary Trap: Keeping the Focus on Gender Equality

* Rule by Law: A Much Maligned Preposition

* An Alternative Path to Rule of Law? Thailand’s Twenty-First Century Administrative Courts

* Navigating the Moral Minefields of Human Rights Advocacy in the Global South

* Measuring the Justice Gap : A People-Centered Assessment of Unmet Justice Needs Around the World

* Trafficking: A Development Approach

* Motivating Bureaucrats Through Social Recognition: External Validity — A Tale of Two States

* DemTools 3.0 Guidebook

* Can the Design of Electoral Institutions Improve Perceptions of Democracy in Fragile States? Evidence from Afghanistan

* No Party to Violence Compendium Report: Analyzing Violence Against Women in Political Parties in Côte d'Ivoire, Honduras, Tanzania, and Tunisia

* What Does the Evidence Tell Us About ‘Thinking and Working Politically’ in Development Assistance?

* Risk-Informed Development: From Crisis to Resilience

* Everybody Wants to Belong: A Practical Guide to Tackling and Leveraging Social Norms in Behavior Change Programming

* Do Perceptions Match Provision? Investigating the Gap between Levels of Service Provision and Citizen Perceptions in Sub-Saharan Africa

* Organizational Network Analysis for Human Rights Programs and Campaigns

* Applied Political Economy Analysis For Human Rights Programs And Campaigns

* MEAL DPro Guide

* The M&E Universe

* Making Adaptive Rigor Work: Principles and Practices for Strengthening MEL for Adaptive Management

* Monitoring, Evaluating and Learning for Complex Programs in Complex Contexts: Three Facility Case Studies

* Monitoring and Learning for Country-Level Portfolio Decision-Making and Adaptation

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