Chambers, V., Cummings, C. and Nixon, H. (2015) 'Case study: State Partnership for Accountability, Responsiveness and Capability'. London: ODI.


Nigeria’s federal structure directs about half of national public resources to state and local levels, where governance patterns and quality are variable.

• Part of one of DFID’s largest governance portfolios, the State Partnership, Accountability, Responsiveness and Capability (SPARC) programme aimed to work adaptively at the state level to support policy and strategy, public financial management, and public service management. SPARC represented an ambitious and innovative approach to addressing challenging governance issues in varying and complex environments. It had evolved out of a set of experiences of state-level programming in Nigeria and attempted to respond to and combine aspects of this history in a comprehensive framework.

• Support to public sector reform in developing countries is more effective if it takes a flexible, politically informed and locally-led approach, and SPARC’s experience illustrates some challenges and opportunities of operationalising such an approach.

• The programme has innovative features to identify reform priorities with partners and enable flexible allocation of resources, while also revealing potential tensions between donor and local priorities, flexibility and the technical demands of core governance reforms, and specific problem-driven interventions and joining up smaller initiatives.

• SPARC provides lessons for future governance programming, particularly the importance of making assumptions and trade-offs explicit.

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