Thinking and Working Politically: Learning from Practice. Overview to Special Issue.

Over the last 15 years, a set of ideas now referred to as “thinking and working politically” (TWP) has coalesced into a “second orthodoxy” about how to take context into account when implementing development interventions. This approach stresses the importance of obtaining a better understanding of the local context (“thinking politically”) in order to support local actors to bring about sustainable developmental change (“working politically”). However, the evidence base to justify this new approach remains thin, despite a growing number of programmes which purport to be implementing it. Officials in development agencies struggle with putting it into practice and it is unclear how TWP differs—or not—from similar approaches, such as Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) and Doing Development Differently (DDD). This Special Issue sheds light on what TWP means in practice by examining a set of initiatives undertaken by both development partners and government departments in Nigeria, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, China and India. This overview article outlines, in brief, each of the Special Issue’s four papers and then draws out five lessons—for funders and for practitioners—from across all the papers.

Licence Information:

Open access. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

McCulloch, N. and Piron, L-H (2019) 'Thinking and Working Politically: Learning from practice. Overview to Special Issue', Development Policy Review 37.S1: O1-O15

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