Improving development policy to deliver inclusive growth and reduce poverty

Our research has been used by development agencies to better understand how local political contexts shape development and how we can design more relevant programmes to target growth and poverty reduction. 

Impact highlights

  • International development agencies now better understand how local political contexts shape development. 
  • The research encouraged the UK government to launch new development programmes worth £270 million to promote inclusive economic growth.
  • More than one million people have been impacted by these new development programmes. 

The problem 

Until recently, major development agencies like the World Bank and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) (formerly the Department for International Development) knew that the politics of development mattered but were not often clear on how best to navigate them.

The University's research into the politics of development has ensured that these key agencies have a more specific and research-based understanding of what drives the commitment of political elites and of governments’ capacity to deliver development. This understanding enables them to design more effective aid programmes that support long-term, transformative approaches to development.

Testing new political theories of development 

Professor Sam Hickey

Professor Sam Hickey

Sam Hickey is the Research Director of ESID at The University of Manchester.

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Professors Sam Hickey, Kunal Sen and their colleagues at the Effective States and Inclusive Development (ESID) Research Centre were among the first to propose and test new political theories of development. They set out to answer the question: "what kinds of politics can help to secure inclusive development and how can this be promoted?"

Working with an international network of researchers, ESID identified how governments and political elites become capable of, and committed to, delivering development in: 

  • economic growth 
  • social protection 
  • human development 
  • natural resource governance 
  • gender equity 
  • public sector reform.  

The research highlighted the ‘Three Cs’ of how politics matter to development:

  • Context – how is a county’s political power aligned?
  • Capacity – can the state deliver?
  • Coalitions – how do state and non-state actors overcome constraints together?

Transforming the promotion of economic development and poverty reduction

“The theory that we developed was to adapt political settlement analysis as being a key domain of power, which shapes the extent elites become committed and states become capable of delivering development. ”

Sam Hickey
Research Director
Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre

Our research has transformed how international development agencies understand and promote economic development. The University’s insights encouraged the UK government to launch new, politically-informed programmes worth more than £270 million, impacting the lives of more than one million people.

The programmes promote inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction; help to create thousands of jobs; improve health and education systems; and reduce poverty in developing countries. 

For example, the £100 million Invest in Africa programme aims to encourage £1 billion of foreign direct investment into African manufacturing sectors, helping to kick-start the economic transformation required to sustainably reduce poverty.

In Karamoja, Uganda – the country’s most marginalised region – the research shaped the initial design of a new poverty reduction programme. The Karamoja Nutrition Programme has improved health governance and significantly reduced malnutrition rates in young children.

Embedding political analysis in international development strategies 

The University’s research was incorporated into successive World Bank World Development Reports – on governance in 2017 and on education in 2018 – that have since influenced World Bank initiatives in many countries. The research has also shaped training for UK government advisors in political economy analysis and directly informed country-level strategies on growth, governance and poverty reduction.   

The research project helped ensure that international development policy and practice is better informed by political economy analysis. This has resulted in the adoption of more relevant and feasible approaches to promoting inclusive growth and reducing poverty.

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