Doing development differently

October 2016

Development programmes often have a limited impact, especially when targeting improved governance and service delivery by the state.

New approaches and tools for designing, implementing and evaluating development projects are emerging around several common themes: being problem-driven; iterative with lots of learning; and engaging teams and coalitions, often producing hybrid solutions that are ‘fit to context’ and politically smart. The Doing Development Differently manifesto, signed by over 400 development thinkers and practitioners, outlines this approach.

This page brings together ODI’s work on expanding the evidence base for doing development differently in practice, with examples illustrated through case studies, interviews, videos from our events and commentary.

Case studies

Recent highlights


Thinking and working with political settlements

Briefing papers | January 2016 | Tim Kelsall
This briefing offers advice to development practitioners on the use of Political Settlements Analysis, while drawing links between PSA and Adaptive Development approaches.

Improving the odds for progress in Nigeria

Research reports and studies | March 2015 | Victoria Chambers and Clare Cummings, with David Booth
This policy brief examines the experience of two public sector reform programmes which have made tangible advances in Nigeria - despite challenging political and socio-economic conditions – by utilising innovative working methods.

Thinking and working politically reading pack

Projects | December 2014 to February 2015
A reading pack on 'Thinking and working politically', created as part of a GSDRC series aimed at introducing thought-provoking international issues to DFID advisers and the wider development community.
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Doing development differently: rising to the challenge

Films and videos | November 2014
At the ODI / Harvard Building State Capability programme October 2014 event 'Doing development differently', we spoke to Joel Hellman (World Bank), Tom Murphy (Humanosphere). Andy Ratcliffe (Africa Governance Initiative), Jaime Faustino (The Asia Foundation...
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Doing development differently: what does it look like?

Films and videos | November 2014

At the ODI / Harvard Building State Capability October 2014 event 'Doing development differently', we spoke to Helen Derbyshire (SAVI Nigeria), Andy Ratcliffe (Africa Governance Initiative), Natalia Adler (UNICEF), Duncan Green (Oxfam) and...

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Radically rethinking governance: a manifesto

Opinion | 23 September 2014 | Marta Foresti and Leni Wild
'There has never been a more opportune moment to rethink the way we ‘do governance’ in development. Yet to seize this opportunity, we need to ‘do things differently’ in the governance field itself and to (radically) rethink our own ways of working – something we...
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Politically smart, locally led development

Research reports and studies | September 2014 | David Booth and Sue Unsworth
Aid donors have found it hard to move from thinking politically to working differently, but there is evidence that they can do so and that this improves outcomes. This paper presents seven examples of where adopting a politically smart, locally led approach has led to...

Learning why and how reform works will improve UK aid

Articles and blogs | 11 August 2014 | Leni Wild
'Another week, another review of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID): yet, amongst the scrutiny, not enough attention is paid to ensuring how DFID can learn from why certain approaches work better than others.'
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