What to read on foreign aid

John Gershman offers a reading list on “What to Read on Foreign Aid” in Foreign Affairs.

I’m obviously pleased that my paper, Beyond Planning, and the amazing work of my colleagues at aidinfo, are included in the list.

Does anyone reading this blog have anything to add to or delete from John Gershman’s list?

5 thoughts on “What to read on foreign aid”

  1. Thanks for picking up on this list – I’m always interested to see what recommendations people make, and I like the breakdown into different categories. It’s such a big topic that getting our heads around the whole lot can be pretty difficult.

    I would replace Easterly’s ‘White Man’s Burden’ with his ‘Elusive Quest for Growth’, which I thought was a bit better at exploring the difficulties and frustrations of working in the aid industry, and was generally a better read.

    I would add Gregory Clark’s ‘A Farewell to Alms’ which gives a convincing overview of the economic history of the world. It’s bound to be wrong, at least in parts (what book with such a large scope isn’t?) but understanding where we have come from is really important for getting a framework to think about aid.

    Finally, I would also add David Keen’s ‘Complex Emergencies’. Partly because he taught me, but also because war, famine, crime and natural disasters are a big part of what keeps people poor, and solving and coping with these problems requires us to understand them.

    Would you have added anything to it yourself?

  2. i’d get rid of the stuff that is not about aid, per se, such as the GGD indicators and also Sachs and Easterly. Once you start including readings that are more generally about how the external environment affects (or not) growth and poverty in developing countries, then we’re no longer talking about a reading list on “aid” but rather one on the international political economy of development — of which aid is one, but only one, dimension.

  3. I’d add “The blue sweater” by Jacqueline Novogratz. It’s wholly a different type of book from the others – more of an autobiography – but at its hear it explains how she arrived at the social entrepreneurial approach to aid and development and how that approaches integrates provate sector ideas and tools into development in order to foster greater empowerment and dignity for those that aid is designed to assist.

  4. I would add The World Bank and the Gods of Lending by Steve Berkman. It’s a bit uneven, but it’s a fascinating account of the way in which corruption within aid projects takes place, and the complicity and institutionalization of it within at least one major development organization, the World Bank. Very challenging for many who like to think of corruption as a relatively rare aberration, the price one pays for all the good that aid can do.

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