Our Own Global Thinkers

November 28, 2011

As we enter the annual list season, I’m thrilled to see four of my CGD colleagues make Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers:


Nancy Birdsall for not just complaining about our broken international aid system but also trying to fix it by inventing cash on delivery (COD) aid. COD Aid can be applied anytime governments and donors commit to achieving a shared, measurable outcome. Nancy launched this idea in her 2010 book, Cash on Delivery, co-authored with William Savedoff. It is already making a difference in the world: Britain's Department for International Development is sponsoring pilot programs for COD aid in Ethiopia and India. A CGD brief outlines the approach, and a CGD Wonkcast with Nancy provides background and an update on recent developments, including the planned Ethiopian pilot.


Lant Pritchett for bringing “isomorphic mimicry” to development economics (or, in English, why everything we think we know about institutions is probably wrong). In his latest work, Lant points out that the basic functions of government continue to fail in many developing countries despite decades of development assistance. He argues that by measuring the development of institutions rather than actual outcomes, international organizations and aid donors have given rise to weak states that merely mimic the institutions of developed countries but fail to function. To reverse this trend, he suggests donors do a better job of measuring outcomes. In the education sector for example, instead of measuring enrollment rates, he suggests more effort to measure how well students are learning. Listen to this CGD Wonkcast to learn more about Lant Pritchett’s work.


Arvind Subramanian for scaring us all about Chinese dominance, but doing so with actual data. In his new book, Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China's Economic Dominance, Arvind takes a fresh look at China’s rise on the world stage, devising an index of economic dominance that includes GDP, trade, and creditor-debtor status, and showing how these three factors have historically determined which countries are in a position to call the shots in global affairs. According to his calculations, even if the United States recovers soon from its current economic and political maladies, China will still surpass the United States in all three measures of economic power by 2030. Listen to his CGD Wonkcast for more on Subramanian’s index on economic dominance.


Andy Sumner for his catchy “new bottom billion,” which means we will never think about the global poor the same again. Just two decades ago, 93 percent of poor people lived in low-income countries. Today 72 percent live in stable, non-fragile middle-income countries. His research signals the need for a radical reshaping of where and how aid is given, which involves everything from new trade deals to revised political partnerships. The focus should be on designing development aid to benefit more poor people, not just poor countries. Listen to Andy Sumner discuss the bottom billion in his CGD Wonkcast.

I think the FP list also tells us that we have been pretty good at picking our Sabot Memorial Lecture honorees – Ken Rogoff (the 2010 speaker), Esther Duflo (2011), and John Githongo (2012) all made the list. Lastly, I was so pleased to see the brave and tenacious Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (CGD board member, 2007 Sabot Lecture honoree, and current Finance Minister of Nigeria) on the list!


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.