The Chief Economist of the World Bank, Pinelopi Goldberg, recently called out the need for a “new vision in development.”
We may not yet have a clear new vision, but thanks to three recent publications, we know some of the components. Raj Kumar’s “The Business of Changing the World” contrasts “new aid” with “old aid” and is built on examples of new modes of finance and innovative implementation. Last month, Kristin Lord and I released “Global Development Disrupted,” which provides highlights from a survey of 94 development leaders on how they see the development landscape changing and presents a range of perspectives from the global political environment to how development activities are funded and implemented. Late in 2018, Ann Mei Chang published “Lean Impact,” which draws from interviews with over 200 organizations as well as her careers in the tech industry, government, and civil society to drill down into how both funders and NGOs (domestic and international) can be more impactful—it is a how-to guide.
Each publication takes a different tack, but they all present how the approach to development is, or should be, advancing. Viewed together, they create insights into where the field may be headed.
PROLIFERATION OF ACTORS
A striking feature that is already disrupting the development landscape is the expansion in the number and diversity of development actors. This was a prime finding in the “Global Development Disrupted” survey, with respondents noting that middle-income countries are increasingly taking control of their own development; the expansion of donor governments to China, the other BRIC countries, and Middle Eastern countries; growth in number of foundations and high-wealth philanthropists; and the entry of corporations into the development arena. Raj Kumar characterizes this phenomenon as a change in the marketplace, a move away from a few dominant large foreign aid donors and foundations to “more open competition,” producing greater diversity in approaches.
The reports deal with financing development differently and together show the traditional grant model being challenged.
The number one response to the “Global Development Disrupted” survey was on funding. No one is happy with the dominant model of short-term projects and siloed funding. Respondents are concerned that donor funding is stagnating and the uncertainty of whether funding will continue to be available for development organizations. They are seeking ways to diversify sources of revenues, with interest and experimentation in innovative types of finance, such as earned income, impact bonds, impact investing, blended finance, and social enterprises, but frustrated with how to access that finance. Some see cash directly to beneficiaries as a promising approach. The respondents are encouraged by the expansion of resources within countries, with the growth of domestic resource mobilization (DRM) and private finance, and concerned by the lack of funding for the poorest and fragile countries. Foundations are searching for ways to leverage their resources and a few are seeking to reduce the burden on recipients by applying identical terms and reporting requirements.