A variety of tools and guidelines have emerged in recent years which provide practical guidance for institutional reform. One can think of the process of institutional reform as a series of steps, starting with political, institutional and organisational appraisals and ending in monitoring and evaluation:
Source: DFID, 2003b
Political economy analysis
Many analytical frameworks for political economic analysis (PEA) and power analysis have been developed. Most of these guide users ‘to investigate how power is exercised, how decisions are made, and how incentives and disincentives are brought to bear on specific organisations and individuals’ (Harris & Booth, 2013, p. 1). PEA can vary in scope and purpose, and by the level of analysis (e.g. issue-specific, sector-level, country and global/regional analysis). Harris (2013) and Fritz et al. (2009) provide frameworks for problem-driven PEA. There are also how-to-notes (DFID, 2009) and sourcebooks (DFID, 2003; World Bank, 2007; Edelmann, 2009; Petit, 2013) that catalogue and review the available frameworks and summarise empirical cases. The GSDRC Topic Guide on Political Economy Analysis provides an overview of PEA tools (Mcloughlin, 2012).
There is substantial guidance on the process of undertaking PEA (Harris & Booth, 2013; Fritz et al., 2009). Key tips are to time the analysis appropriately (with local events and the donor’s organisational cycles), ensure adequate triangulation of information, use the right mix of (international and local) skills and expertise, and collaborate on how to apply the findings.
There has been a lack of systematic evidence on the operational impact of PEAs (Duncan & Williams, 2010). However, case studies are starting to provide evidence of its analytical and operational usefulness (Foresti et al., 2013; Kelsall & Heng, 2014; Yanguas & Hulme, 2014).
Identifying problems and opportunities
The Ishikawa (or fishbone) diagram and the five-way technique can help to deconstruct problems and identify their causes (Andrews, 2013, pp. 142-3; Andrews et al., 2010, pp. 142-147). Leftwich and Wheeler (2011, p. 10) highlight the need to frame an issue or institutional proposal in multiple ways and for different audiences (e.g. to ensure compatibility between international conventions and cultural norms).
The well-developed field of ‘realistic foresight’ offers a variety of tools for spotting and using windows of opportunity (Jones, 2011). For example, horizon scanning and trend/driver analysis aid identification of challenges and opportunities; scenarios and visioning focus on assessing future social, political and economic contexts; roadmaps and ‘backcasting’ help identify ideal actions; and models and simulations help explore the dynamics of future options (Ramalingam & Jones, 2007, cited in Jones, 2011, p. 41-42).
Understanding what reforms are required to resolve problems requires institutional and organisational appraisals. People often confuse the two. Organisational appraisals aim to understand the extent to which formal organisational structures, rules and processes are capable, and where organisational strengths and weaknesses lie. Institutional appraisals, on the other hand, attempt to unpack the root causes of problems that might arise from institutional incentives or norms. For example, a financial management system might be seen as the answer to poor expenditure controls, but if the root cause of the problem is a lack of political will, then reforming financial management systems will not be adequate. Organisational appraisals need to be done in conjunction with institutional appraisals (DFID, 2003b, 9) and are better if carried out in a participatory manner with relevant stakeholders.
There are several toolkits to help in organisational and institutional assessments (World Bank, n. d.; DFID, 2003b). The DFID (2003b) Source Book offers a range of tools for undertaking organisational and institutional appraisals. Such appraisals need to begin with problem identification to anchor analysis in the different dimensions of the problem to be addressed.
Brokering collective action and managing change
Research findings suggest that development processes involve interlinked problems that require collective solutions (Leftwich & Wheeler, 2011, p. 4). According to Ostrom (1997), collective action problems are ‘social dilemma’ situations ‘where the pursuit of short-term self-interested strategies leave everyone worse off than other possible alternatives might do’ (cited in Leftwich & Wheeler, 2011, p. 4) and involve diverse stakeholders (Leftwich & Wheeler, 2011; Booth, 2012).
The focus on collective action problems challenges previous conceptions of accountability relationships between government and citizens. Booth (2012) finds that citizens do not always have a definite and uncomplicated interest in holding government to account for development performance, so reform should not just be about stimulating this ‘demand’. Rather, ‘institutional reform needs to be fundamentally about both sets of actors (government – citizens) finding ways to act collectively in their own best interests’ (p. viii). The Centre for The Future State finds that ‘networks linking public and private actors are critical to shaping public policy, and network structures influence the way they interact with the state’ (Unsworth, 2010, p. 42). The research finds that it is important to facilitate links among existing actors, and between them and agents of the state, and to invest in strengthening networks with a strong vertical reach (from policymakers to the grassroots) (Unsworth, 2010, p. 45).
Davies (2007) finds that Social Network Analysis (SNA) tools provide a range of multi-disciplinary methods for analysing networks, and produce network diagrams and matrices that describe actors and their relationships using clear, verifiable terms. Reference materials include a comprehensive handbook that covers the theory and methodology (Scott & Carrington, 2011); a basic guide by Batchelor (2011) containing examples of SNA used in aid programmes; and guidance by the Word Bank (2007), which includes a case study on multi-stakeholder water governance in Ghana.
Resources on brokering and managing change
- Chambers (2002) provides ideas, activities and tips for anyone working in the field of participatory learning and change.
- The DFID (2003) Sourcebook of Tools and Techniques for institutional and organisational development highlights four process tools: impact analysis (a structured workshop for all stakeholders at the start of a change process); sponsor evaluation (assessing the change sponsor’s attitudes to and readiness for change); change management (elements to take into account in change management and a checklist of activities for a major change programme); and stakeholder management (identifying who will be affected by, or be able to affect, the change process, and developing strategies to manage these stakeholders).
- The European Centre for Development Policy Management’s report on approaches and tools for supporting institutional development lists resources and summarises 22 tools that include techniques for change process management.
- Nauheimer’s (2012) Change Management Toolbook is a collection of more than 120 tools, methods and strategies for different stages of personal, team and organisational development, in training, facilitation and consulting.
- The Brokering Guidebook (Tennyson, 2005) provides a methodology and tools for brokering partnerships.
- UNDP (2006) summarises Tools and Methodologies in Implementation of Change Management, covering two main areas: managing the change environment (creating momentum for change and analysing the context); and executing the change process (building change coalitions and harnessing champions, process consultation, decision-making methods, consensus building, brainstorming, and communications about change).
- The Centre for Development Innovation provides an extensive portal on multi-stakeholder processes, participatory methods and tools.
Monitoring and evaluation
Jones’ (2011b) framework provides guidance on using monitoring to support adaptive responses to complex problems by enabling interventions to respond to emerging lessons. He promotes the use of short feedback loops, autonomy for implementers to shape monitoring and evaluation frameworks, and space for redundancy and variety in the pursuit of innovative service delivery.
Quantitative and mixed method impact evaluations are important for attributing outcomes and understanding causality of reform interventions. There is much guidance available for doing impact evaluations (Khandekar et al., 2010; White, 2009; see also 3ieimpact.org). Participatory and transparent monitoring and evaluation techniques can be important (Jones, 2011b, p. ix). From examples of health reforms in Brazil and Mexico, Unsworth (2010, p. 38) finds that monitoring can provide an opportunity to facilitate collective action, although others point out that the benefits of participatory monitoring and evaluation remain largely unproven (Walton, 2010, p. 2). Fritz et al. (2012, p. 65) recommend broadening monitoring to cover how reform interventions contribute to wider goals such as those of state building and service delivery.
- See Petit and Mejia Acosta (2014) for a review of the strengths of combining the two approaches.
- ‘Backcasting’ involves first defining a desirable future, and then working backwards to identify policies and programs to connect that future to the present.
- These provide examples where social network analysis can: 1) Identify investments in training and enable effective targeting of capacity building; 2) analyse a policy environment for linkages between people and enable targeted interventions; 3) analyse an emerging policy environment and stimulate linkages between different converging sectors; and 4) look back on and understand the flow of ideas, thereby learning about enabling an environment for innovation.
- Andrews, M. (2013). The limits of institutional reform in development. New York: Cambridge University Press. See document online
- Batchelor, S.J. (2011). Learning about analysing networks to support development work? (IDS Practice Paper in Brief 1). Brighton: Institute of Development Studies. See document online
- Booth, D. (2012). Development as a collective action problem: Addressing the real challenges of African governance (Synthesis report of the Africa Power and Politics Programme). London: Overseas Development Institute. See document online
- Davies, R. (2007). Social network analysis as an evaluation tool: Experiences with international development aid programmes. See document online
- DFID. (2003b). Promoting institutional appraisal and development: A sourcebook of tools and techniques. London: Department for International Development. See document online
- Duncan, A., & Williams. G. (2010). Making development assistance more effective by using political economy analysis: What has been done and what have we learned?. (Presentation for Carnegie Endowment, USAID and DAI workshop). London: Policy Practice. See document online
- Edelmann, D. (2009). Analysing and managing the political dynamics of sector reforms: A sourcebook on sector-level political economy approaches (ODI Working Paper 309). London: Overseas Development Institute. See document online
- Foresti, M., O’Neil, T., & Wild, L. (2013). The politics of delivery: Our findings so far. London: Overseas Development Institute. See document online
- Fritz, V., Kaiser, K., & Levy, B. (2009). Problem driven governance and political economy analysis. Washington, D.C.: World Bank. See document online
- Fritz, V., Fialho Lopes, A.P., Hedger, E., Tavakoli, H., & Krause, P. (2012). Public financial management in postconflict countries. Washington D.C.: World Bank. See document online
- Harris, D. (2013). Applied political economy analysis. A problem-driven framework. London: Overseas Development Institute. See document online
- Harris, D., & Booth, D. (2013). Applied political economy analysis: five practical issues. London: Overseas Development Institute. See document online
- Jones, H. (2011). Taking responsibility for complexity: How implementation can achieve results in the face of complex problems. London: Overseas Development Institute. See document online
- Kelsall, T., & Heng, S. (2014). The political economy of inclusive healthcare in Cambodia (ESID Working Paper No. 43). Manchester: ESID. See document online
- Leftwich, A., & Wheeler, C. (2011). Politics, leadership and coalitions in development: Findings, insights and guidance. Developmental Leadership Programme. See document online
- Mcloughlin, C. (2012). Political economy analysis (GSDRC Topic Guide). Birmingham: GSDRC. See document online
- Petit, J. (2013). Power analysis: A practical guide. Stockholm: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). See document online
- Scott, J. & Carrington, P. (Eds.). (2011). The SAGE handbook of social network analysis. SAGE Publications Ltd. More information
- Unsworth, S. (2010). An upside-down view of governance. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies. See document online
- Walton, O. (2010). Participatory M&E and beneficiary feedback (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report). Birmingham: GSDRC. See document online
- White, H. (2009). Of probits and particiaption: The use of mixed methods in quantitative impact evaluation. IDS Bulletin, 39(1), 98-109. See document online
- World Bank. (2007). Tools for institutional, political, and social analysis of policy reform. A sourcebook for development practitioners. Washington, DC: World Bank. See document online
- Yanguas, P. & Hulme, D. (2014). Can aid bureaucracies think politically? The administrative challenges of political economy analysis (PEA) in DFID and the World Bank (ESID Working Paper 33). Manchester: ESID. See document online