From ‘best practice’ to ‘good fit’

(extracts from pp. 27; 150-1; 155)

“….A central goal of this book is to provide a conceptual platform for a ‘good fit’ approach to development policymaking that stakes out the middle ground between ‘one-size-fits-all’ best practices on the one hand, and ‘every country is unique’ on the other. The country typology laid out in the book addresses part of that challenge. It highlights some key characteristics that are shared in common among some sub-groups of countries but not others – and used the contrasts to facilitate more effective comparison of ‘like with like’, and thereby be more targeted and effective in identifying feasible options for moving forward……….

“The principle of Occam’s razor nicely captures the challenge of building a useful [country] typology: what framework is both as simple as possible, and capable of capturing the core complexities of the problem at hand? If the distinctions are made too finely, then the framework is more likely to obscure, to be weighed down by the burden of excess analytical complexity, than to shed light. But with too few distinctions, the effort to bring analytical order will end up with unhelpful, cartoonish oversimplifications. The aim is to delineate a small number of ‘ideal types’ which are each very different from one another, with each capturing a distinctive set of characteristics which resonate with a subset of actual country cases — and which, considered together, delineate a spectrum of patterns along which most real-world examples could fairly straightforwardly be aligned……….

“But if the advice itself remains the same, regardless of circumstances, distinguishing systematically among different groups of countries does not contribute much to a ‘good fit’ approach to development policymaking. Thus a further goal of the book is to broaden the menu of options for public sector reform. The intent is not to prescribe some mechanical formula, but rather an initial orienting framework to clarify which among an array of alternative options is potentially most relevant in a specific country settings – as a platform for further learning…..

“Depending on the context, a variety of very different options each potentially can add value to development. In some settings where formal institutions are weak, transparency and participation can offer an alternative way of addressing governance weaknesses at the micro-level. At least on the surface, transparency and participatory approaches might seem to have particular promise in personalized-competitive democracies which often offer an environment of openness, but without formal institutional buttresses – and with little prospect of strengthening formal institutions even over the medium-term. In these settings, the possibility arises that progress need not only be dependent on what happens at the apex of power but can be made through many small victories, one island of effectiveness at a time…….”

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