I recently published the latest paper in AGI’s Art of Delivery series. That paper, Shoulder to Shoulder, outlines how external actors, particularly international partners, can work effectively with developing country governments to help them deliver services while building government capability. I encourage you to read the whole report, but wanted to summarize three crucial ideas for working shoulder to shoulder with governments:
- Let people guide you to unexpected issues. Government ownership in itself is not a new concept, however it’s too frequently missing in reality. Government priorities can be expressed vaguely or contested between Ministries, so focusing on people is crucial for really understanding government’s priorities. We spend months scoping work in new countries in order to understand government priorities or help government officials define them. In Ethiopia, that led us to work with the Industrial Parks Development Corporation, a departure from our normal mode of operation. As we came to understand the Ethiopian government’s industrialization strategy better, we had to be open to working in unexpected ways.
- Support government to navigate political hurdles. Being politically savvy means more than just following government’s lead. It means working proactively with government colleagues to find ways of navigating local politics that support delivery. For example, when we were working to support the Liberian government’s private-sector development strategy, we realized that different key ministries and commissions had developed different strategies that weren’t aligned. Because we had staff working within each institution who were trusted by their government colleagues, we were able to help the institutions work toward compromises.
- Integrate implementation and capacity-building. Capacity-development initiatives that are disconnected from delivery, like trainings abroad, are unlikely to produce desired capacity improvements. At the same time, when international development actors work on implementation, too often they sidestep government and so don’t build local capability. People develop capacity, and institutions development the capability to deliver, by trying new approaches, making mistakes and learning. Thus capacity-development and implementation need to go hand-in-hand.
None of these principles are revolutionary, but we at AGI believe they are essential for achieving better delivery results.
Dan Hymowitz is a Senior Advisor with the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) where he is responsible for thought leadership. Dan’s previous roles with the organization have included serving as Acting Director of Development and External Relations and working alongside the head of the Ebola response in Greater Monrovia, Liberia to help devise and implement a strategy to tackle the final cases of Ebola in the country.
Prior to joining AGI, Dan set up and managed the Philanthropy Secretariat, a unit within the Office of the President of Liberia, which pioneered a new approach to how governments work with international foundations and philanthropists. Dan has a post graduate degree in Public Policy from UC Berkeley and a Bachelors from Tufts University. He is also a Senior Associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).