Thinking and Working Politically: Learning from Practice


The evidence base to justify the thinking and working politically approach remains thin as development agencies have struggled to apply it within development programmes. This article attempts to deliver insight into what thinking and working politically looks like in practice and what it means for development projects. This overview of the Special Issue on Thinking and Working Politically examines a set of initiatives undertaken by both development partners and government departments in Nigeria, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, China and India. It describes each of the four case studies, setting out what each project set out to achieve and whether or not its goals were met. The article highlights five lessons from across the studies: (1) the fundamental importance of undertaking political economy analysis to adapt programmes to their contexts; (2) the importance of having a realistic level of ambition for interventions; (3) the need to support local ownership by generating trust with the key local actors driving change; (4) the need for a more effective set of tools for measuring results in complex programmes that attempt to achieve improvements in long‐run governance; and, (5) the importance of taking into account the political economy of donors as well as that of the local context.