About Development Progress

A five year research project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It aimed to measure, understand and communicate where and how development progress has happened.
Lifting women out of poverty. Flickr, The Gates Foundation

‘The rise of the South is unprecedented in its speed and scale. Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.’ Human Development Report, 2013

A five year research project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It aimed to measure, understand and communicate where and how development progress has happened.

Why explore progress?
Negative news about development often crowds out the positive. And yet despite serious challenges – including the rising impact of climate change and high levels of inequality – we are living in an age when more progress has been made than at any other time in history.

Worldwide, the proportion of people living in extreme income poverty has almost halved, falling from 43% to 22% between 1990 and 2008. Major strides have been made in Africa in particular: six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies between 2001 and 2010 were African.

Whilst all regions have made progress, not all countries or people have: that’s why we need a better evidence-based understanding of where, how and why progress is happening. Understanding what has made life better in some countries can help support further progress, both there and elsewhere.

The project built on an initial phase which concluded in 2011 with a set of 24 country case studies and a report card assessing how countries have performed against the Millennium Development Goals. This second phase includes an additional set of 25+ case studies and further explored five key areas:

  1. Measuring Progress: employed a range of methodologies and statistical analysis for measuring progress, looked at how equitable progress has been and to what extent it has been sustained over time.
  2. Explaining Progress: explored where and how progress has happened, analysed the social, economic and political drivers of progress amongst some of the leading performers.
  3. Financing Progress: analysed of how progress has been financed, looked at the mix of domestic, international, public, private and other types of sources, along with mechanisms of delivery.
  4. Valuing progress: piloted different approaches for how to better incorporate poor people's perspectives on development efforts into decisions on resource allocation.
  5. Common Agricultural Policy and Aid for Trade: researched the role of global institutions and trade in facilitating progress.

The research team undertook broad analysis within and across these areas, produced a series of thematic, case study and synthesis papers over the project period. Alongside these five areas sits a focus on global goals and targets, relating our research findings to progress against the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda.

We measured progress across eight dimensions of wellbeing to frame our analysis:

  • Material wellbeing
  • Health
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Employment
  • Political voice
  • Social cohesion
  • Security

An external review panel was engaged with the project. Panel members included:

  • Paul Engel - Director of European Centre for Development Policy Management
  • Alison Evans – Former Director of ODI
  • Merilee Grindle - Professor of International Development and Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University
  • Paul Isenman - Senior Independent Consultant
  • Homi Kharas - Senior Fellow and Deputy Director for the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings
  • Dirk Messner - Director of DIE (German Development institute)
  • Renosi Mokate – Executive Director at the World bank
  • Sarah Ssewanyana -  Executive Director of Economic Policy and Research Centre, Uganda
  • Euston Quah - Head of the Economics Division and former Chair of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
  • Richard Youngs - Director General of FRIDE

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