New DLP research on the Medellin Miracle

How can political spaces open up in the wake of a crisis of violence? And how can political actors use those spaces to create dramatic change?

Dr Kate Maclean's new paper, The 'Medellín Miracle': The Politics of Crisis, Elites and Coalitions, explores the remarkable case of Colombia's second city. After being named the most violent city in the world, Medellín managed to reduce its homicide rate by 90%, and has become a pioneer of inclusive urban development.

The study draws on interviews with Medellín's political, business and civil society leaders and on a structure-agency analysis. It concludes that formal legislative landmarks, such as Colombia's new constitution, are important, but changes in the 'informal rules of the game' – the social and cultural dynamics that frame the way that coalitions and leaders are formed – are also crucial. Among its findings are the following:

  • Structural factors that enable violent actors to gain power include inequality, exclusion, lack of state monopoly over legitimate use of force, and the blurring of the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate political actors.
  • Factors that enable critical junctures to become progressive spaces include: the presence of external actors and funding; the range of political actors who all perceive they would benefit from a reduction of the threat; and institutional changes at local, national and global level.
  • Political actors can use the spaces created by critical junctures to influence the agenda, gain a seat at the table and collaborate with the 'powers that be' while challenging existing power dynamics.
  • Elites can be motivated to redefine power dynamics that have favoured them if they perceive they would benefit; their agenda and the reform agenda overlap; and if change can be understood as a reaffirmation of their power.

To find out more about the study's findings and implications:

Related items

Yemen - looking beyond counterterrorism

Wednesday 4th May 2016

Today's report by the UK Parliament's International Development Committee on the crisis in Yemen calls for an independent investigation into suspected breaches of international humanitarian law, including by the Saudi-led coalition forces. In her evidence submission, Dr Sarah Phillips drew on research supported by DLP to highlight the risks of an international response to Yemen that focuses on counterterrorism and is dominated by Saudi Arabia.

Read more

Masculinities and femininities in South East Asia

Friday 11th March 2016

Findings from a case study of gender and sexuality confusions and contradictions were presented by DLP research fellow Gillian Fletcher as part of a seminar series at Monash Asia Institute, Melbourne.

Read more

Launch of service delivery and legitimacy research project: Lebanon and Jordan

Thursday 30th July 2015

Can municipal service delivery improve municipal and state legitimacy and foster social cohesion, especially among communities hosting large refugee populations? A new DLP research project working with DFID-assisted programmes in Lebanon and Jordan will explore this question.

Read more

Women's empowerment and conflict in Colombia: new case study

Tuesday 21st July 2015

DLP Senior Research Fellow Alina Rocha Menocal has co-authored a new Development Progress case study from ODI.

Read more

‘If the herd of cows splits up, the tiger can eat them’: civil society and social justice in Myanmar

Friday 10th July 2015

On 10 July DLP Research Fellow Gillian Fletcher brought together a panel of civil society actors from across Myanmar for the Australian Myanmar Institute conference. They discussed how to use a diversity and values framework to promote equality and social justice.

Read more

New DLP research fellows

Thursday 12th March 2015

We are delighted to welcome Tait Brimacombe and Gillian Fletcher to the DLP team at La Trobe University in Melbourne. Their research will explore issues including women's involvement in political processes, and strengthening capacity for development through communication.

Read more

Middle class attitudes and the politics of poverty reduction in India

Monday 26th January 2015

A new DLP research paper asks what makes the middle classes oppose or support initiatives intended to lift people out of poverty, and how the development community can secure their approval of such policies.

Read more

Active citizenship and how change happens

Monday 19th January 2015

Ten Active Citizenship Case Studies and a lessons paper by Duncan Green have just been published by Oxfam. These are part of a research project on 'How change happens', which DLP is supporting.

Read more

Elites in fragile states: from predation to protection

Monday 1st December 2014

On 4 December, Research Fellow Suda Perera will present DLP findings at an expert meeting to help inform Dutch development policy on security and justice.

Read more

Seminars by Duncan Green at La Trobe University

Friday 21st November 2014

On Monday 24 November, Dr Duncan Green will give two public seminars at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Read more

Alina Rocha Menocal joins DLP research team

Thursday 23rd October 2014

We are delighted to welcome Alina Rocha Menocal to DLP to lead our research on elites and political settlements.

Read more

Call for papers: DLP conference on the politics of inequality

Thursday 16th October 2014

How does politics foster or reduce inequalities? We welcome proposals for papers for the 2015 DLP conference.

Read more

Political Settlements: the first of DLP's concept briefs

Monday 6th October 2014

What exactly are 'political settlements'? This Concept Brief, the first of a new series, sets out key elements of this increasingly prominent idea. It suggests why it is important, and what policy implications follow from it.

Read more

Cash transfers: why elites' attitudes matter

Wednesday 24th September 2014

A new DLP Research Paper presents findings from Malawi on elites' attitudes to poverty and their opinions on how to reduce it. The findings question the sustainability of cash transfer programmes beyond donor funding.

Read more

Security and justice: the first in a new series of literature reviews

Monday 21st July 2014

The first of the Developmental Leadership Program's 'State of the Art' papers is now available. Our SOTA series aims to lay the groundwork for future DLP research by setting out what existing research evidence and development practice tell us about the politics of development in key areas.

Read more

DLP's core research themes

Friday 30th May 2014

Five core themes run through the heart of this new-look Developmental Leadership Program website. They are signposts to help visitors explore our research, and they are the building blocks of the new strategy that will guide our work over the next three years.

Read more

New article on international inequality and world poverty

Thursday 27th March 2014

What role does the international system play in producing poverty around the world? In an article in 'New Political Economy', DLP research fellow Niheer Dasandi draws on network analysis to examine this surprisingly neglected question.

Read more

New DLP research on the Medellin Miracle

Tuesday 4th March 2014

From the most murderous city on earth to 'a new global standard for urban policy': Kate Maclean's DLP Research Paper unpacks the politics of change in the wake of crisis.

Read more

New book on social sector policy reform in the Philippines

Tuesday 4th March 2014

'Room For Maneuver' explores the politics of social sector policy reform in the Philippines. The book, co-edited by the late Adrian Leftwich, highlights lessons for reform advocates.

Read more

Adrian Leftwich Memorial Conference

Friday 24th January 2014

We were delighted that over 100 scholars and development practitioners joined us for the Adrian Leftwich Memorial Conference on 24 January. We commemorated DLP's founding Director of Research with a fascinating day of reflection and discussion.

Read more

New Journal Article: Local Energy Efficiency Policy Implementation in China

Wednesday 10th October 2012

According to an IEA estimate, China recently overtook the United States as the world's largest energy consumer. This growth in energy consumption has implications, not just domestically but internationally. But China is beginning to rethink its "growth at any cost" model and is moving towards sustainable growth and energy security. A new paper by Genia Kostka and William Hobbs, based on original DLP research, addresses how Chinese leaders at a sub-national level are 'working politically' to bridge the requirements of the national energy efficiency targets against local interests ? all in the context of increasing international scrutiny of China's consumption levels and their effect on climate change.

Read more

Political Settlements, Elite Pacts and Governments of National Unity

Wednesday 1st August 2012

The concept of the 'political settlement' has become a familiar one in the thinking of the international community and amongst scholars with an interest in the politics of development. But it has been used in a variety of subtly, but significantly, different ways, sometimes interchangeably with notions such as 'elite pacts' or 'peace agreements'. For some, the term encompasses only 'horizontal' agreements between key elites; for others it has been used to refer to the 'vertical' relations between states and societies. Some conceptions point to political settlements as 'one off' events; others suggest that settlements describe the on-going institutional arrangements and political processes that both reflect and shape the (changing) distribution of power in a society.

Read more

Bringing History Back in: Three Big Books

Wednesday 11th July 2012

Are you short on time, but feeling the pressure to keep up with the latest ideas in development theory? If so, you probably won't have had a chance to read fully the three recently published and important books on the politics of development: 'Violence and Social Orders' (by D.C North, J.J. Wallis and B.R. Weingast, 2009); 'The Origins of Political Order' (by Francis Fukuyama, 2011); and, 'Why Nations Fail' (by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, 2012). DLP may be able to help! This paper provides the core summaries of their main arguments and the supporting evidence, accompanied by a brief analysis of some common themes and questions.

Read more

A New Research Paper: Manoeuvres for a Low Carbon State

Monday 18th June 2012

This excellent paper by Tom Harrison and Genia Kostka addresses this question head-on. In a fascinating comparative analysis of China and India, the paper analyses the different political strategies used sub-nationally in the two countries to formulate and implement policies that aim to ensure that emissions reductions targets are met. Given that China and India are the two developing countries with the highest level of CO2 emissions, the authors address the far from straightforward issue of how political and bureaucratic leaderships work locally in very different structural and institutional contexts, pursuing very different political strategies, to bring together competing interests and priorities to try to ensure that mitigation strategies are successful.

Read more

'Reform' Coalitions: A New Concept Paper

Wednesday 9th May 2012

'Reform' coalitions have been noted by many authors in a very diverse range of literatures. But what do we know about them? And should we not understand better their role in the politics of development? What are the circumstances of their provenance, and the political conditions and characteristics of successful ones? Can it be demonstrated that such coalitions have contributed directly to growth and poverty reduction? And, if so, can or should donors work politically to facilitate, encourage and promote their emergence and functioning? In this paper Caryn Peiffer identifies some of the common features of these coalitions and suggests some of the important questions that will be explored by further DLP research.

Read more

Riker in the Tropics: Revisiting the Theory of Political Coalitions (1962)

Wednesday 25th April 2012

As part of DLP's coalitions series, this paper revisits one of the earliest attempts to develop a theory of political coalitions, or perhaps a political theory of coalitions - William Riker's classic account of The Theory of Political Coalitions, first published in the early 1960s. While Riker's account focused essentially on legislative and electoral coalitions in stable institutional environments, many of the insights and questions in the book - such as, size, duration, stability, and coherence of goals - remain relevant for a wide range of reform and developmental coalitions in the politics of developing countries. The paper reviews Riker's theory, assesses its limitations, and suggests a series of important issues that require attention.

Read more

Coalitions in the Politics of Development - A Workshop Report

Wednesday 18th April 2012

'Coalitions' are part and parcel of everyday politics, everywhere, nationally and sub-nationally and in all sectors and issue areas. They are also central to the inner politics that shape political settlements and help solve collective action problems. Yet we know very little about what makes for successful coalitions, or what the international community can do to support the emergence of developmental coalitions. The workshop brought together practitioners, researchers and theorists from developed and developing societies and this report summarises the important continuities, generalizations and messages that we identified. It is the first in a series of papers that seek to clarify this pervasive feature of the politics of development.

Read more

New Paper: Between Hope and Resignation

Monday 27th February 2012

Support for the emergence of democratic processes has been a cardinal aim of the international community for at least two decades. But how do the poor and marginalized perceive the politics of democratic processes, especially in new or born-again democracies? And how do they perceive the performance and behaviour of democratically elected leaderships? This study, supported by GIZ (German International Cooperation), shows that, although they welcome democracy, a sample of urban and rural poor in three Latin American countries regard democratic politics as distant from their preoccupations and are cynical about their elected leaderships. Nonetheless, their daily lives are filled with a variety of community organizations and forms of participation but which they do not conceive of as 'politics', or as being 'political'.

Read more

Coalitions Workshop Sydney 15-16 February 2012

Wednesday 15th February 2012

Despite a potentially huge range of empirical evidence and examples, our understanding of how coalitions are formed, managed and funded, and what makes for successful coalitions remains remarkably limited. The purpose of the workshop is therefore to deepen our understanding of these crucial developmental political processes, to help classify different forms of coalitions, to derive significant policy and programmatic messages, and to formulate guidelines for the international community about how to broker, facilitate and support progressive developmental coalitions across sectors and issue areas. The workshop will draw on the rich experience and thinking of its participants - a mix of distinguished researchers and practitioners from a variety of contexts.

Read more

Princeton University Program: Innovations for Successful Societies

Thursday 6th October 2011

Policy-makers, researchers and practitioners can learn a great deal about the complexity of the politics of reform from the direct experiences of reform leaderships in developing countries. The Innovations for Successful Societies at Princeton University is building a series of case studies and recordings of interviews with developmental leaders from around the world. This rich source of information will be of great value to those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the role which developmental leaderships and coalitions can play in promoting locally appropriate institutional and policy innovation and reform in the diverse contexts of their own countries.

Read more

Working Politically for Pro-Poor Policies in Indonesia

Friday 5th August 2011

This excellent paper by the Asia Foundation explores the politics of local coalitions working to expand coverage of health services for the poor in two municipalities in Central Java, Indonesia - Semarang and Pekalongan. The research, by Laurel MacLaren, Alam Surya Putra and Erman Rahman, shows that facilitating and supporting the emergence and activities of coalitions of leaders and CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) can be a highly effective means of achieving pro-poor policy outcomes in some institutional contexts.

Read more

Examining the Drivers of Change in Yemen - a presentation to Australian Government departments

Monday 18th July 2011

DLP Researcher, Dr Sarah Phillips from the Centre for International Security Studies, University of Sydney, gave a thought-provoking and timely presentation on the 8 June 2011 in AusAID in Canberra, entitled "Examining the Drivers of Change in Yemen: Informal Institutions and Agency". Speaking to an audience of AusAID staff and representatives from various government departments including the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade, and other guests, Dr Phillips provided a unique insight into the Yemeni regime's opaque internal politics, and the nature of the patronage system entrenched by President Ali Abdullah Saleh over the past 32 years.

Read more

A Report on DLP's first Research and Policy Workshop in Frankfurt

Monday 20th June 2011

There is now wide recognition that political processes - and especially the role of leaderships and coalitions - are fundamental in shaping and sustaining the institutional and policy environment that promotes or frustrates sustainable economic growth and inclusive social development. That being so, what is to be done? What does it mean for development policy and practice? In seeking to address some of these issues, the DLP held its first Research and Policy Workshop in Frankfurt in March, 2011. This paper provides a summary of the key findings, insights and initial guidance arising from the workshop and from recent phases of DLP research.

Read more

UN Women International Roundtable in Egypt

Thursday 2nd June 2011

Dr. Mariz Tadros presented the findings from her recent DLP research paper, "Working Politically Behind Red Lines: Structure and agency in a comparative study of women's coalitions in Egypt and Jordan", at the International Roundtable: "Pathways for Women in Democratic Transitions - International Experiences and Lessons Learned", on June 2nd 2011in Cairo. The objective of this Roundtable was to explore paths towards democratic transitions that ensure good governance, gender equality and social justice.

Read more

A New Paper: The Politics of Free Public Services in Indonesia

Wednesday 11th May 2011

What explains the differences in quality and kind of service delivery in sub-national districts which are otherwise very similar? Exploring this question in the context of Indonesian decentralization, this paper found that the nature of district leadership was critical. Where district heads pursued strategies of 'political entrepreneurship', becoming dependent upon their electoral support to remain in power, district governments were more likely to promote free public services than where political leaders focused on consolidating patronage networks. These strategies in turn appear related to the political effects of the personal networks, alliances, informal coalitions and constituencies of local leaders.

Read more

Research and Policy Workshop in Frankfurt

Monday 4th April 2011

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) held its first Research and Policy Workshop in Frankfurt on 10th and 11th March, 2011, facilitated by the GIZ. The focus of the DLP is on the role of developmental leaderships and coalitions in the politics of sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development. The purpose of the workshop was to explore and elaborate the policy, programme and operational implications of the recently completed phase of DLP research and to map the way forward for future research, policy and communications activities.

Read more

New Paper: Working Politically Behind Red Lines: Women's Coalitions in Egypt and Jordan

Wednesday 23rd February 2011

"Engaging politically behind red lines" examines six cases of collective initiatives to advance women's rights in Egypt and Jordan between 2000 and 2010. The study explores what accounts for the emergence, success and failure of women's coalitions in these two countries. Using a case study approach, the study examines the interface between collective agency and structure in two national contexts characterized by authoritarian rule and powerful Islamist movements strongly opposed to any structural transformation of gender hierarchies.

Read more

New Paper: The Politics of a Women's Rights Coalition in South Africa

Wednesday 23rd February 2011

How do women's rights groups campaign for vital institutional reform of archaic laws on sexual violence in new democracies? How can they best 'work politically' to achieve positive outcomes? What lessons are there for donors and supporters? This research paper uses findings from a study of the National Working Group on Sexual Offences to demonstrate how civil society coalitions may draw on and expand their elite networks and exploit political and institutional arrangements to build developmental partnerships.

Read more

A new publication: Higher education and the formation of developmental elites

Monday 21st February 2011

Does higher education have a role in promoting the emergence of developmental leaders and elites? Could higher education play a vital role in producing a pool of people with the capacity and vision to constitute progressive development leadership across sectors? And does higher education contribute to the formation of networks that facilitate the emergence of developmental coalitions? As the first step in a longer program of work to collect the evidence, this research paper surveys the literature on this question and offers a preliminary data analysis.

Read more

A new publication: Working politically for a low carbon state

Tuesday 8th February 2011

Using an approach that explores the relations between structure and agency, new research by Genia Kostka and William Hobbs, commissioned by DLP, analyses how local leaders in sub-national governments in China 'work politically' to achieve nationally determined energy efficiency targets in that complex institutional and political environment. This is the first of two papers for the DLP on the politics of sub-national energy efficiency in China and India.

Read more

New paper on 'Growth Alliances: Insights from Egypt'

Wednesday 5th January 2011

A recent paper in Business and Politics explores the emergence, evolution and forms of 'growth alliances' in Egypt. Professors Abla Abdel-Latif, of the American University in Cairo, and Hubert Schmitz, of the Institute of Development Studies, show how largely informal and politically-negotiated relations helped to shape alliances between some business sectors and key policy-makers without apparently becoming abused for private gain.

Read more

Brown Bag Session at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada

Wednesday 6th October 2010

Professor Genia Kostka gave a brown bag session on her DLP research to the Asia Pacific Foundation. Entitled "China: Bridging the Gap between National Priorities and Local Interests", the research analyzes how leaders in sub-national governments 'work politically' to meet national energy targets at local levels.

Read more

GTZ Brown Bag Lunch

Monday 22nd March 2010

Adrian Leftwich gave a brown bag lunch at GTZ talking on: "Beyond Institutions: Leaders, Elites and Coalitions in the Politics of Development"

Read more

About DLP

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.

Find out more

News

New role for Alina Rocha Menocal

Monday 31st October 2016

After many significant contributions to DLP's research, events and impact, Alina Rocha Menocal is now moving on to take up a USAID Senior Democracy Fellowship. Alina will also continue her role as a Research Fellow in ODI's Politics and Governance Programme, on a part-time basis, and we are delighted that she will retain close links with DLP as a Research Associate.

Read more

2016 Adrian Leftwich Memorial Lecture

Thursday 27th October 2016

The University of Manchester's annual lecture in memory of DLP's founding Director of Research, Adrian Leftwich, will be given this year by Nic van de Walle, Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, on Wednesday, 16 November.

Read more

Follow: @dlprog