Getting TWP Right

What does development agencies mean with Thinking and Working Politically (TWP)? Is it being political and act accordingly or is it something completely different? In order to understand what TWP is and what its objectives are, politics should be redefined. According to Leftwich(2011), politics is not limited to ‘state-centric’ activities but it is more of wider and general activity to be consisted of pervasive and unavoidable activities of human beings related to conflict, negotiation and compromise. Therefore, politics is not bounded with publicly dominated areas but it can be expanded to non-public context including religious groups or families.

After looking at politics from a different angle, more can be built on the context of TWP. According the to the DLP paper, the core principles of TWP are strong political analysis, detailed appreciate of and response to local context, and flexibility in program design and implantation.

The design and capability of mainstream development projects should be referred on order to understand why TWP started to matter. Development projects are believed to fail because they were designed with a technocratic or a top-down approach. In the beginnings of development discourse with the end of colonialist era, literature at the time urged the need for quick modernization. It was believed that this could be realized through reaching pre-conditions for economic take-off  which would then lead to big push . Japan and Asian Tigers were successful through the implementation of technocratic large scale big push development projects. However, through the end of the millennia, development discourse shifted its orientation from a state-led approach to more neoliberal and pro-Washington Consensus based activities (Popov, 2014) .Although there was a shift in economic ideology, projects designed or proposed remained to be technocratic. It was seen that catchy words put in the development lexicon such as “good governance” were not easy to implement to a real context, despite of the support of major global development initiatives such as Word bank, IMF, and the UN. Therefore, doing development differently is the current slogan. Doing it differently, in the current neoliberal economic ideology.

Is the goal to manage doing development differently feasible? Far more feasible than grand technocratic projects implemented through WB, IMF or UN. In a GSDRC video, David Booth defined TWP as “the trial and error approach” in which small bets had a lower risk compared to the large bets. In order to adapt a TWP approach, there is a certain need for development staff who has enough knowledge about a specific country or region. It is utopic to expect that all development staff from the very hierarchy of the work has broad knowledge to conduct the development projects. Therefore, political economy analysis (PEA) which set the rules of the games were created by analysers and distributed to the development staff in the field. However, later it was realized that notes on the PAEs were not realized due to ad-hoc problems rather than already known structural difficulties. This, led the emergence of second generation PAEs, which focus on a narrowed agenda and specifically on add-hoc problem solving (Fisher and Marquette, 2014). Is this a danger? In the short-term, second generation PAEs are efficient; however, Fisher and Marquette(2014) pointed out that the third generation of PAEs had to be unique but comprehensive in order to be long-lasted.

TWP is not an easy task. Not only the whole literature showed it but also Akaganda case study conducted at class proved this. Although there were similar approaches among three groups for the policy proposals regarding the case problem, differences were more obvious than similarities. Not all the groups had the same TWP agenda but they were all agreed on one thing: the necessity of the ‘right’ policy implementation for success. It showed that TWP means more than destined policy implementation but it is ‘trial and error’ mechanism for success.


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