The roots of the Banyan Forest

Is ‘the struggle’ the baby or the bathwater?

If there is value in the process of iteration and adaptation that people and organisations go through, then might development cooperation which tries to bypass that struggle do more harm than good? Read the full post »
Details of an oil painting showing brushstrokes

Ten broad brushstrokes about development cooperation

I am discussing the the future of development cooperation, and the role of Northern NGOs,, with the policy, advocacy and campaigns team at ActionAid UK this morning.  Powerpoint is forbidden.  I'm going to paint ten broad brushstrokes about the future of development cooperation: Read the full post »
Photo of representatives at the Central African Republic Development Partners Round Table

Coordination doesn’t happen by magic

letter in today's Financial Times by Caroline FiennesDavid Hall MatthewsFran PerrinVij Ramachandran and me argues that relief efforts could be more effective if humanitarian aid agencies published details of what they are doing Read the full post »
Screenshot of Development Tracker

Dogfood and disruption

The new "Development Tracker" website launched in beta by DFID is disruptive in two important ways: one which will appeal especially to open data geeks, and one which will appeal to development geeks. (I am proud to call myself both.)

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Development Impact Bonds: what do YOU think?

The Center for Global Development and our partner Social Finance has just published a big new report on Development Impact Bonds. The Working Group invites comments on the draft report over the next six weeks.

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Acemoglu and Robinson

It’s the politics, stupid

One thing that the public knows, which many development experts apparently do not, is that poor countries are poor because they are badly governed and have institutions which prevent growth and permit a small elite to capture the nation's wealth. According to Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoğlu and Jim Robinson, the public is (as usual) basically right.

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Food recycling facility

Waste not, want not

In which I am sceptical about a proposed new public-private partnership to tackle hunger.

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Duncan Green

From poverty to power – Duncan Green on Development Drums

In the second of a series of three Development Drums podcasts about the relationship between citizens, states and development, Duncan Green talks about effective states and active citizens. Duncan is widely known for his terrific development blog; he is also the author of an ambitious book, From Poverty to Power, which is now out in its second edition.

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Next steps in aid transparency a game changer?

I'm quoted in a blog post at the Economist today about aid transparency:

Ms Greening’s strategy is the requirement that any organisation receiving DfID funds publish clear information about where the money is going. This far-reaching transparency initiative is potentially a “game-changer”, says Owen Barder, a senior fellow and director for Europe at the Center for Global Development, a Washington, DC-based think tank.

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Indian schoolchildren

Development policy at the fin de siècle

In an article for the Guardian's (new) Global Development Professionals Network I argue that development policy in the 21st century needs be about more than administering aid.

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MDG : role of NGOs in development and poverty reduction : Oxfam advert in underground

Are NGOs too focused on aid?

A blog post linking to an article by Mark Tran in the Guardian. The article quotes me saying: "The risk is that the G8 will think that they can address these issues by earmarking some of their aid programmes and they will not feel under pressure to make the systemic changes which only they can make."

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hunger summit

Tough on hunger, tough on the causes of hunger?

Two reasons why I am concerned about plans for a big campaign in 2013 on food, agriculture, hunger, food security and nutrition.

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Global integrity is hiring

If you read this blog, you might be interested in this job with the good people at Global Integrity. The post is based in Washington DC:

Project Manager – This position will play a key role in managing and

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How can the aid system be overhauled?

Two interesting new articles start with the premise that the aid system needs to be overhauled, and then reach radically different conclusions about what this means in practice.

First up, Roger Riddell says we need a radical rethink of … Go to to read the rest

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Aid in the 21st Century – Oxfam paper

A new Oxfam paper, written by the excellent Jasmine Burnley, looks at 21st Century aid. Here is a good summary paragraph:

“We are now at a crossroads. On the one side, is politically motivated or ineffective aid – much

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Variation and selection: improving the development system

All effective complex systems got that way by a process of evolution. Evolution requires both variation and selection. The development industry has quite a lot of variation, but not enough selection. Better selection is not just a matter of more rigorous top-down evaluation, but also bottom up pressure from the intended beneficiaries. Read the full post »

Faith based aid organisations

Nick Kristof writes approvingly in the New York Times about faith based aid organisations:

Some liberals are pushing to end the longtime practice (it’s a myth that this started with President George W. Bush) of channeling American aid through faith-based

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Markets and aid

I am grateful to Oxfam’s Duncan Green for his fair and thoughtful review of my paper about improving aid, Beyond Planning: Markets and Networks for Better Aid.

I’m glad that Duncan and Chris, his Oxfam colleague,  endorse a key … Go to to read the rest

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