Briefing Note Series

Briefing Note Series – Issue 6: Reflections from an Ex-Vice President: The political/civil service divide. By Sandra Naranjo Bautista

The relationship between public servants and ministers is critical to sound, ‘evidence-based’ policy making. Ideally, in a Weberian public service, officials are empowered to speak truth to power, and offer free and frank advice without fear of bullying or other adverse reprisals. Sadly, as we have seen in both the UK and the US recently, this ideal often does not exist. Ministers seem to want advice only if it fits their ideological prejudices, and public servants seem cowed into silence or (reluctant) agreement. This brief is written by a former Acting Vice-President of Ecuador, and summarises her views on the different perspectives of ministers and officials.

Briefing note Issue 6 – The political / civil service divide

Briefing Note Series – Issue 5: Applying Political Economy Thinking to Sector Programming. By Matilda Nash, Lavinia Tyrrel, and Graham Teskey

This brief summarises how the Abt Associates Governance and Development Practice (GDP) has applied Political Economy Approaches (PEA) to education and health sector programming in 13 countries in Asia, the Pacific and Africa; and the key findings from these undertakings.

Briefing Note Series – Issue 4: Building bridges between research, evidence and development practice – are we there yet? By Lavinia Tyrrel and Priya Chattier

This brief examines common challenges and opportunities that development practitioners face when trying to use research and evidence to inform aid policy and programming.

Attention is paid to the organisational and institutional drivers, incentives and ways of working (including agency and collective action) which prevent or enable greater use of research. We also examine an instance where a program (Investing in Women) has been able to use research and evidence effectively to improve decisions regarding budgets, activities, strategy and design. The note concludes with a series of messages for development practitioners and policy makers on how to strategically and substantially invest in research for development impact.

Evidence is this note is drawn from a survey conducted with 80 staff from across four high profile Australian aid projects in the Asia-Pacific, as well as a small number of semi-structured interviews held with senior managers from these programs. This work was undertaken as part of an action research project called ‘Enhancing Research Use in International Development’.

Thirteen organisations – including Abt Associates – are being supported to understand both the nature of the problem (why it is hard to uptake research in programming) and develop ways to promote greater use of research in aid policy and programming.

Briefing Note Series – Issues 2 and 3: By the Papua New Guinea Decentralisation and Citizen Participation Partnership (DCPP)

In development circles around the world, scholars and practitioners have increasingly recognised that development is an inherently political process. This thinking – expressed in the Thinking Working Politically (TWP), Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) and Doing Development Differently (DDD) Communities of Practice – has typically focused on examples from Asia and Africa, with the Pacific receiving scant attention.

However, some of the most intractable policy problems can be found in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where highly diverse ethnic groups jostle for power and resources. It is in this contested, fluid and highly politicised space that this briefing notes series focuses – on the work of the Decentralisation and Citizen Participation Partnership (DCPP).  This series of briefing notes (here and here) introduce the DCPP program, and explores the innovative ways it works in this complex and contested space to achieve better service delivery outcomes.

Briefing Note – Issue 2 – Program history and political change

Briefing Note – Issue 3 – Theory of Change

Briefing Note Series – Issue 1: ‘Operationalising ‘Thinking and Working Politically’ in Facilities: KOMPAK Case Study’. By Lavinia Tyrrel and the KOMPAK Program/ Emma Piper.

This brief, the first in Abt Associates’ Governance Briefing Note Series, summarises how the company is testing and applying a ‘Thinking and Working politically’ (TWP) in its international aid programs, and using the Australian Government-funded KOMPAK program in Indonesia as its example.

Briefing Note – Issue 1 – Abt’s Approach to TWP in KOMPAK