Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Why Development Impact Bonds?

Development Impact Bonds come at a price: private investors provide upfront funding for social interventions and expect a return, including some compensation for the risk they are taking, if outcomes are delivered.  Is that price worth paying?  The second meeting of the CGD and Social Finance Development Impact Bonds Working Group recently considered this question in some detail.

The 2012 Commitment to Development Index

This post is coauthored with Julia Clark. You can listen to the pre-release podcast with David Roodman and Owen Barder.

We're proud to announce the release of the tenth edition of the Commitment to Development Index. Each year since 2003, the CDI has ranked wealthy nations on how much their governments' policies and actions support global prosperity. Nations are linked in many ways: through trade, aid, climate, technology, and more. The CDI assesses policies in all these areas in order to communicate that helping takes more than aid, and to organize a comprehensive agenda for development policy.

Complexity, Adaptation, and Results

In the last of a series of three blog posts looking at the implications of complexity theory for development, Owen Barder and Ben Ramalingam look at the implications of complexity for the trend towards results-based management in development cooperation. They argue that is a common mistake to see a contradiction between recognising complexity and focusing on results: on the contrary, complexity provides a powerful reason for pursuing the results agenda, but it has to be done in ways which reflect the context. In the 2012 Kapuscinski lecture Owen argued that economic and political systems can best be thought of as complex adaptive systems, and that development should be understood as an emergent property of those systems. As explained in detail in Ben’s forthcoming book, these interactive systems are made up of adaptive actors, whose actions are a self-organised search for fitness on a shifting landscape. Systems like this undergo change in dynamic, non-linear ways; characterised by explosive surprises and tipping points as well as periods of relative stability. If development arises from the interactions of a dynamic and unpredictable system, you might draw the conclusion that it makes no sense to try to assess or measure the results of particular development interventions. That would be the wrong conclusion to reach. While the complexity of development implies a different way of thinking about evaluation, accountability and results, it also means that the ‘results agenda’ is more important than ever.

All That Glisters: The Golden Thread and Complexity

David Cameron co-chairs the UN Panel on the future of the development agenda, so his 'golden thread' view of development is likely to have a global impact. In the second of three blog posts looking at development policy through the lens of complexity thinking, Owen Barder asks whether the British government's golden thread is good development policy. He concludes that though it has much to commend it, it also has significant weaknesses.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, wants us to stop talking simply about the quantity of aid we give, and:

“start talking about what I call the ‘golden thread’, which is you only get real long-term development through aid if there is also a golden thread of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law, transparent information.”

This is not a new wheeze: Mr Cameron has been talking about the golden thread since before he became leader of the Conservative party. Given that he is a co-chair of the UN High Level Panel on the global development agenda after 2015, we can expect to see some of this thinking in that panel’s recommendations.

What Is Development?

This is the first of three blog posts looking at the implications of complexity theory for development. These posts draw on a new online lecture by Owen Barder, based on his Kapuscinski Lecture in May 2012 which was sponsored by UNDP and the EU. In this post, Barder explains how complexity science, which is belatedly getting more attention from mainstream economists, gives a new perspective to the meaning of ‘development’.

Time to Take Nyet for an Answer—and Move On

For the third time in recent months, Russia, supported by China, blocked United Nations action to put additional pressure on Bashir Assad and help end the violence in Syria. A UN Security Council resolution is the preferred way to go. But if that is not possible, preemptive contract sanctions can tighten the squeeze on Assad without the cooperation of Russia and China.

What If You Could Invest in Development?

This is a joint post with Rita Perakis

Last week, CGD and Social Finance launched a new high-level Working Group to consider Development Impact Bonds, a new mechanism to enable private investment in development outcomes. Owen Barder and Rita Perakis explain.

There is nothing new about the idea that development assistance is an investment: spending money today in the hope of future benefits. Putting money into immunizing kids or giving them an education is an excellent investment in the future well-being of those people. But if there are financial returns they are often far in the future and cannot be directly linked back to the investment. For many development investments the returns are mainly social, not financial. And the absence of financial returns on a reasonable timescale could be why there is no market for investing in development. There is a small pool of investors who are willing to be paid in good karma; but most would rather be paid in dollars, sterling or euros.

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