Future development agencies

ODI’s Future Development Agencies programme explores the changing development agenda and supports agencies in shaping their strategic, institutional and operational futures.
Accessing credit for food security. Photo: Morgana Wingard

Rapid and fundamental changes in the development landscape, including the new Sustainable Development Goals, financing and climate change commitments, demand that development agencies rethink their policy priorities, financing decisions and delivery approaches.

ODI’s Future Development Agencies programme explores the changing development agenda and supports agencies in shaping their strategic, institutional and operational futures. The programme aims both to be at the forefront of new strategic thinking and analysis, and to form the ‘resource of choice’ for strategists and senior officials in government departments and agencies responsible for international cooperation.

Our research and experience working with established and new bilateral and multilateral agencies put us at the forefront of new strategic thinking and analysis. As a respected and independent facilitator of comparative knowledge and experience, we aim to help development agencies ensure they are effective, relevant and responsive to the changing agenda.

The programme comprises three inter-linked elements:


A core programme of policy-relevant research on the changing context for development cooperation and implications for agencies. Topics include:

  • how prepared and resilient development agencies are for the future agenda
  • how to work and manage risk in difficult environments, including fragile states
  • how to organise whole-of-government approaches to development cooperation
  • how to make strategic and effective use of the multilateral development system
  • how to assess the motivation and role of new and emerging development agencies


An independent space for development agencies to come together among peers to improve their understanding of the changing landscape and the implications for their work. This includes:

  • an annual flagship conference bringing together senior officials of development ministries and agencies, as well as leading thinkers and strategists, to share perspectives on the choices for how to plan and organise development cooperation
  • facilitation of an online forum with curated discussion segments on topical agendas, regular updates and peer-to-peer exchange on new research and policy developments
  • private roundtables for senior strategy officials to discuss specific topics and to identify practical options for agencies drawing on latest research, comparative analysis and leading development agency practice


Customised fact-finding, knowledge transfer and advisory services for specific organisations. These services include:

  • comprehensive diagnostic reviews set against future trends, comparative analysis and benchmarking, ‘deep dives’ into a series of current issues or challenges, with specific follow-up analysis, scenario development and propositions for future positioning
  • topic guides which set out what agency staff need to know in order to carry out their function effectively
  • workshops and seminars to inform stakeholders, and professional development sessions supplemented with more formal training
  • a help-desk facility to provide rapid and seamless access to focused information and knowledge

Since its inception in 2014, ODI’s Future Development Agencies programme has gained worldwide recognition as a practical tool to support development agencies in creating strategies for the future. We have produced a portfolio of research and analysis on the implications of the changing landscape for development agencies, and the features and institutional arrangements that enable them to address new challenges. We have advised new, emerging and established donor governments on future strategic direction. We have built a global community of policy-makers, heads of agencies, senior officials, leading thinkers and academics, and support their peer learning through a virtual partner platform and our annual conference.