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

Executive Summary of Research Paper 28 - Donors Doing Political Economy Analysis
Jonathan Fisher and Heather Maquette, April 2014
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
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™’,1
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.

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