2016 Organisation and Management of Aid Analysis

Towards an Alternative Development Management Paradigm?

Cathy Shutt

International development cooperation wants to make a difference and for their work to have ‘results’ on the lives of poor or marginalised people. It was this motivation that led to the 2005 Paris Declaration’s focus on results.

Results based management (RBM) was adopted to improve learning about what works to enhance impact and, as a consequence, enable better management decision-making. Despite these good intentions, a growing number of development practitioners have argued that results based approaches, embedded in new public management (NPM) theory, are unfit for the complex global challenges, such as climate change and the refugee crisis, facing the world today.

This report is a guide to debates about alternative approaches to the planning, monitoring, evaluating and contracting of international development cooperation. It is a review of the relevant literature and several key informant interviews. The material analysed includes a range of theoretically and empirically based peer-reviewed articles, opinion pieces published by think tanks and blogs.

The findings were presented during the seminar Beyond the “results agenda” in international development cooperation?

Main findings

  • The kind of change required calls for the re-evaluation of the political ideas and assumptions underpinning aid agency policy and management systems.
  • Focusing and reflecting on what is happening in everyday practice and conversations about means to measure and enhance results is as important as making grand plans for institutional reform.
  • Proposing norm change is likely to involve heated debate amongst partners and colleagues. According to some proponents of complexity thinking, these are the sites of struggle that really matter.

Dr Cathy Shutt, University of Sussex