Making Politics Practical II: Development Politics and the Changing Aid Environment

Workshop 15th November 2013, University of Birmingham

In January 2007, the PSA Development Politics group and the International Development Department, University of Birmingham co-hosted a workshop on ‘Making Politics Practical’. That event explored how widespread changes within the aid environment, brought about in no small part thanks to the emphasis on governance, opened up space for political scientists to engage with policy makers on the politics of development.

Over five years later, we are reminded everywhere we turn about how central ‘getting politics right’ is for ensuring developmental success. This is particularly the case when it comes to the donor agenda on state-building and fragile states, but also in other areas, such as service delivery, local governance, security sector reform, aid effectiveness and so on. The rise of political analysis tools – discussed in many ways for the first time with an academic audience at the 2007 workshop – has burgeoned into a large industry, which is only now being critically examined by the academic community and where there is a considerable potential research agenda. Finally, in the UK the growing emphasis on evidence and value for money raises significant questions for the future of aid, and the academic community has a great deal to add to this.

The number of academics working in this area has exploded since 2007; however, political scientists continue to have a reputation – deserved or otherwise - for asking lots of questions, but hardly ever seeking solutions; for rarely moving beyond criticism into work that can actually help improve donor practice. This workshop - which was held at the University of Birmingham and co-hosted between IDD and the PSA Development Politics Group - thus took the 2007 event forward and explored the ‘(re)politicisation’ of development studies and the need for constructive, rather than merely critical, engagement with policy makers.

For one participant's reflections on the workshop, see this blog post by Brendan Halloran of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative.

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The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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