Research Paper 28 - Donors Doing Political Economy Analysis: From Process to Product (and Back Again?)

Practitioners and academics are today convinced that 'thinking politically' is important to successful development interventions. Since the early 2000s, attempts to mainstream political thinking in most donor agencies have used a political economy analysis (PEA) approach, and yet this has been largely ineffective. This paper attempts to explain this failure through re-focusing current debate on PEA.

The paper argues that the process of PEA is not fundamentally flawed and indeed agrees, as PEA advocates have consistently argued throughout the 2000s, that success in future development programmes requires a wholesale re-thinking of the relationship between politics and international development.

However, we argue that PEA has today become a tool or product 'sold' to donors and 'done' externally, and it is no longer fit for purpose. We critique this type of 'PEA™', tracing its evolution from a transformative approach to policy-making to a discrete instrument that is applied to specific 'problems', usually by external consultants. We draw attention to the consistently faulty and introspective methodology that has informed the undertaking and application of PEA™.

Our analysis leads us to suggest that throwing away this model and doing something completely different is the only way donors can hope to move forward with the 'thinking politically' agenda.

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.

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News

Doing Development Differently workshop - Jakarta 2017

Thursday 30th March 2017

Putting the concept of Thinking and Working Politically into practice was at the heart of a workshop on 15-16 March attended by more than 200 delegates from the field of international development. Delegates from the government, civil service and local organisations of the host country, Indonesia, were joined by academics, including DLP researchers, and staff from donor organisations and NGOs.

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DLP shares research at FCO Africa Study Day

Monday 27th March 2017

DLP findings on the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the topics discussed with with UK diplomats and civil servants at the FCO's Africa Study Day, held at Sandhurst on 21 March. This year's Foreign and Commonwealth Office event was organised by University of Birmingham's International Development Department, home to DLP.

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