Drivers of Change - DFID (2004)


How can donors improve their knowledge to support effective change in developing countries? This note explains the Drivers of Change approach and its impact on the Department for International Development’s (DFID) policies and programmes. Drivers of Change analysis recognises that institutional performance is important to understanding change processes and how they impact upon the poor. It focuses on formal and informal rules, power structures, vested interests and incentives within institutions. A conceptual model was developed to better understand the interaction between components affecting both positive and negative change. Agents can affect structural features and vice versa. However, the impact of one on the other is mediated through institutions:

  • Agents refers to individuals and organizations pursuing particular interests, including political elites; civil servants; political parties; local government; judiciary; military; faith groups; trade unions; civil society; media; private sector; academics; and donors.
  • Structural features includes the history of state formation; natural and human resources; economic and social structures; demographic change; regional influences and integration; globalisation, trade and investment; and urbanisation. These are deeply embedded and often slow to change.
  • Institutions include the rules governing the behaviour of agents, such as political and public administration processes. They include the informal and formal rules. Institutions are more susceptible to change in the medium term than structural features.

Individual country studies and reports, in addition to a range of services, tools and training courses, have enabled a critical mass of DFID country offices to adopt a Drivers of Change approach. The reported benefits have included:

  • Making explicit and challenging the assumptions behind current programmes.
  • Making clear the extent of ‘political will’ for reform and determining the risk this poses to a programme’s success.
  • Prompting country teams to revise and extend programme timetables to take account of the country context.
  • Identifying the role that non-poor groups have in change processes, including collaboration with non-traditional partners.
  • Prompting a country team not to pursue a programme of work by providing evidence that it is unlikely to succeed at present.
  • Enabling staff from different disciplines and backgrounds to debate and share diverse perspectives. This has contributed to team building and goal sharing and is anticipated to also strengthen the institutional memory of offices.