Seminars Archive


Development as a collective action problem: Addressing the real challenges of African governance

Is the current model of African democracy bad for growth/good public services?

Conclusion from 5yr African governance study

The Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP) set out to tackle one of the most important and challenging development questions of the early 21st century – what sort of governance does Africa really need and how is it going to get it? It aimed to do so by generating a new body of comparative research findings and empirically-grounded theory.

Governance for development in Africa: building on what works

The starting point was the realization that the concept of good governance is insufficient and questionable in the face of African realities and the continent´s challenges for economic transformation. Solutions need to be realistic about material and social constraints and build on local arrangements that are known to work.

The currently emerging “good fit” approach is seen as a useful step forward, but much of the new context-sensitive governance programming continues to look much like the old kind. Confined by principal-agent thinking, governance reforms continue to be perceived in terms of an unhelpful demand and supply metaphor.

The real challenges for governance in Africa lie, according to the APPP, in overcoming institutional blockages underpinned by collective action problems. Against the background of the identified shortcomings, what would an alternative reform agenda look like and what does that mean for African reformers and the global agenda?

The report is available online:


This report disagrees with this framing of the choices facing governance reformers. It argues that governance challenges in Africa are not fundamentally about one set of people getting another set of people to behave better. They are fundamentally about both sets of people finding ways to act collectively in their own best interests.

The report appeals for more recognition of the coordination challenges and collective action problems that prevent both governments and groups of citizens from acting consistently as ‘principals’ in dynamic development processes. Domestic reformers and external actors alike have something useful to contribute to improving governance in Africa, but only if they appreciate better the nature of the challenge.

The main elements of this argument are strongly supported by a significant body of existing research evidence and practical learning, including the experience of many practitioners who consciously or otherwise remain within the principal-agent straitjacket. The APPP research assembled here organises, complements and elaborates this evidence. The argument is developed over seven chapters that show its relevance to each of the particular topics in the bullet list above.

Ministers, parliaments and voting publics at both ends of the development assistance relationship need to be convinced that development progress is about overcoming institutional blockages, usually underpinned by collective action problems. It is not, for the most part, about resource shortages or funding gaps. Indeed, under certain quite common conditions, direct funding of development initiatives is harmful. On the other hand, institutional blockages can be overcome, and external actors may be able to make a positive contribution. But this is difficult work, especially for staff of official agencies with diplomatic or quasi-diplomatic responsibilities. It requires the intensive use of skilled labour and calls for exceptional local knowledge and learning capabilities. It may well call for greater use of ‘arm’s length’ forms of development cooperation, delivered by organisations that can work in ways that are more embedded and adaptive.

Ministers, parliaments and voting publics … need to be convinced that development progress is about overcoming institutional blockages, usually underpinned by collective action problems.

Questions and discussion: Report launch at ODI

Presentation of the APPP Synthesis Report in Berlin

Expert Discussion with Dr. David Booth (former Director of the Africa Power and Politics Programme 2007-2012)
The main findings of the APPP research programme will be presented and discussed, including the question of necessary new modalities for aid in African governance reforms and respective implications for the aid industry.
Discussant: Dr. Julia Leininger (German Development Institute, DIE)
Chair: René Gradwohl (INISA e.V.)
Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 14.30-17.00
at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Hiroshimastr. 17, 10785 Berlin)


Rethinking Reforms: How Latin America and the Caribbean Can Escape Suppressed World Growth | IDB Report 2013

2013 Latin American and Caribbean Macroeconomic Report
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) invites you to participate in a panel discussion of its 2013 Latin American and Caribbean Macroeconomic Report: Rethinking Reforms: How Latin America and the Caribbean Can Escape Suppressed World Growth. Michael Gavin (Barclays Capital), Andrew Powell (IDB), José Juan Ruiz Gómez (IDB), and Angel Ubide (Peterson Institute) will discuss which reforms could achieve the goal of unhindered growth.

Global growth projections have waned since last year and growth may be suppressed below potential for several years to come. Lower global growth will, all things being equal, imply lower growth in Latin America and the Caribbean. At the same time, clear limits to the potential use of monetary and fiscal policy measures pose another constraint. Consequently, countries should consider further structural reform measures to enhance economic prospects and to escape suppressed global growth. If all countries pursue reforms to enable growth to accelerate by 1.5% on average, then the effect on the region as a whole may reach 2.3% additional growth per annum.

Tuesday, April 9 at 11:30 a.m.
IDB Headquarters, Andrés Bello I Conference Room, 9th Floor
1300 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20577
Webcast: Available only the day of the event through this link


Slavoj Zizek on the ethical implications of charitable giving

In this short RSA Animate, renowned philosopher Slavoj Zizek investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving.

Slavoj Zizek, one of the world’s most influential living philosophers, visits the RSA to discuss capitalism’s flawed priorities.

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce): an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges.

Don’t watch the original lecture on RSA Vision.


European Development Days Brussels, 16-17 October 2012

The 2012 edition of the European Development Days will take place in Brussels, Belgium on 16-17 October 2012. The draft programme overview has been online for two weeks now and the more detailed version of the programme is also available. There will be about 50 events during the seventh edition of the European Development Days, including 22 High Level Panels.

The aim of the meeting is a presentation of High Level Panels by theorganisers according to the following thematic clusters of the seventhedition of the European Development Days:

– Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Resilience
– Engaging the Private Sector for Development
– Empowering People for Inclusive Growth

To register for the EDD 2012, please click here.


Free e-learning on Development Evaluation at My M&E

Introductory e-learning on: DEVELOPMENT EVALUATIONS
Available at
Where: in front of your personal or work computer anywhere in the world
Cost: free, no fees to pay


UNICEF, Claremont Graduate University and IOCE, under the EvalPartners initiative, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and in partnership with UN Women, are pleased to announce a new introductory e-Learning programme on Development Evaluation.

The e-learning is composed of the following three courses:

– Equity-focused evaluations (from 10th September 2012 to 16th December 2012)
– National Evaluation Capacity Development for Country-led Monitoring and Evaluation Systems (from 14th January 2013 to 24th March 2013)
– Emerging Practices in Development Evaluation (from 25th March 2013 to 12th May 2013)

The e-learning is free and open to all interested evaluators. You may attend virtually from your personal or work computer anywhere in the world, and at your pace. The course includes on-line lectures, reading material and tests. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in an on-line forum, and on successful completion of the e-learning course will be able to print out a certificate of virtual attendance.