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How nations succeed: working with the grain

Time (GMT +00) 17:00 18:30


Brian Levy, Johns Hopkins University and University of Capetown


Robert Wade, Department of International Development, London School of Economics

Sue Unsworth, The Policy Practice


David Booth, Politics and Governance Programme at the Overseas Development Institute


​According to a view that has recently regained influence, nations fail for a standard set of reasons – they go wrong when they do not adopt best-practice institutions that are open and inclusive. Brian Levy prefers to emphasise the multiple pathways by which countries across the world have achieved significant, and often unprecedented, progress in economic, social and political domains. His new book argues for the importance of understanding which trajectory of possible progress a country is on, and tailoring any proposals on governance reform and economic growth strategy to the corresponding needs and possibilities – thereby ‘working with the grain’. The book sets out a typology of development trajectories that is already framing original research on the politics of growth. It also contains a wealth of reflection on the way ideas about governance for development have mutated and evolved over the last 15 years, especially in and around the World Bank, a process of intellectual development in which Brian was one of the leading figures.

This event will question how the implications of a ‘good fit’ approach to institutional reform differ in practice from advocacy of ‘best practice’; the timescale on which all countries may be expected to get good governance; whether a simple typology can capture the range of variation across current regimes and countries; how thinking has reached this point – and where it needs to go next.