What I’m reading this month: October 2019 edition

Quick reads for short journeys (blogs/policy briefs/podcasts)

 ENACT, Organised Crime Index Africa

I’m still working my way through this and thinking about the different ways in which it could be used, but this looks like a great initiative from ENACT. I was lucky enough to see Tuesday Reitano present some data at a serious organised crime conference in Istanbul, and two major takeaways for me: 1) the paradox (and significance) of Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa as ‘high resilience, high criminality’ countries; and 2) how we tend to fixate on ‘mafia’ groups but the most harmful grouping looks to be ‘politically embedded’ actors, including politicians basically in the game for the organised corruption opportunities.

org crime index.PNG

Lant Pritchett & Kunal Sen, How (not) to build state capability

A short, punchy blog from perennial DFID favourites. Using Sudan as an example, they argue that pressure from donors and other development actors to ‘do something’ to improve state capability tends to lead to the adoption of formal rules that don’t take into account the weak institutional context. This leads to a paradox: the laws can’t be adhered to, given structural weaknesses, and those who helped to advocate for them don’t want to relax them, so instead relevant actors use ‘fixes’ to work around them, and it’s the fixes that tend to stick.

Delayed trains or heavy traffic (papers/journal articles/longer thought pieces)

Chris Blattman, Horacio Larreguy, Benjamin Marx & Otis Reid, Eat widely, vote wisely? Lessons from a campaign against vote buying in Uganda

This field experiment in Uganda shows how an unprecedented campaign against vote buying in the 2016 election had startling effects but not necessarily the ones predicted in the existing literature. The large campaign aimed to draw a connection in voters’ minds between vote buying and reduced spending on service delivery, and it did shift norms and behaviour. What it didn’t do was reduce the practice of vote buying and, indeed, even increased it by challenger candidates. Instead, they claim, the campaign reduced voter belief in reciprocity, with voters accepting money from a range of candidates while voting for whoever they thought was the best candidate (‘eat widely, but vote wisely’). This is believed to have hurt incumbents, levelling the playing field. It needs follow on research, but the longer-term impact could be good news for governance in Uganda, if candidates eventually believe their money won’t buy votes and if citizens draw the connections with service delivery themselves.

Sian Herbert, Leave No One Behind: perspectives and directions from DFID multi-cadre conferences

I’ve included this fantastic report this month partly because it covers so many important issues that cut across silos (disability inclusion, gender inequality, infrastructure, markets, trade, and supply chains, nutrition & digital development), but it’s also a great innovation in how DFID can better learn as an organisation. Drawing on K4D resources and written by Sian Herbert (who I wrote a paper with on DFID’s approach to political settlements that fed into the Building Stability Framework process, among many other things she’s written!), the report presents learning from two cross-cadre conferences in 2017 and 2018. It’s both a useful internal resource and a global public good. Photos, illustrations, embedded videos, infographics…more learning innovations like this please!

Long-haul flights or weekend/holiday reads (books/longer papers)

BBC Africa Eye, Stealing from the sick

This 53-minute long documentary shines a light on the world of medicine theft in Uganda, a terrible situation affecting the health of millions. It’s also a stark reminder of how dangerous an area this is for whistleblowers and investigative journalists. For more on this, see my paper on bribery reduction in Uganda’s health sector with Caryn Peiffer and Rosita Armytage, and bookmark this RED-funded research project led by Ryan Jablonski on medicine theft in Malawi using an innovative experimental approach. Very much looking forward to their findings when the research is done!

 Heather’s Lost & Found Bin

Dan Honig, Let local actors lead: why donors should create more space for local leadership

 Yuen Yuen Ang, China’s corrupt meritocracy

 Guillermo Vasquez, Central America’s criminal culture: lessons for Mexico

 Jessica Shearer et al, Evidence-informed policymaking and policy innovation in a low-income country: does policy network structure matter?

 Emily Springer, Bureaucratic tools in (gendered) organizations: performance metrics and gender advisors in international development

 Haley J Swedlund, The rise and fall of budget support: ownership, bargaining and donor commitment problems in foreign aid

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