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Paper Heralds Era of a Politically Informed Approach to International Development

October 21, 2015

“To meet the learning and accountability needs of programs that are working on complex, [highly political problems a new approach to program monitoring is required that fosters real-time learning and program adaptation] based on new information, insights, and shifts in local context…” concludes The Asia Foundation’s just-released StrategyPaperWorkingPoliticallypaper, Strategy Testing: An Innovative Approach to Monitoring Highly Flexible Aid Programs. The paper, developed with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-Asia Foundation (DFAT-TAF) Partnership and the third in the Foundation’s Working Politically in Practice series, examines an innovative approach to monitoring, known as ‘Strategy Testing’ (ST), which was designed specifically to monitor highly responsive, flexible, and politically informed programs.

While variations of this approach have been important elements in the Foundation’s work for several decades, more recently the DFAT-TAF Partnership has provided The Asia Foundation with the opportunity to trial, analyze, and learn from programs using this approach in real time. Despite the growing consensus that politically informed styles of development programming can achieve high impact, efforts to apply this approach have been hampered by a lack of appropriate monitoring and evaluation tools. This paper describes a new Strategy Testing system developed by The Asia Foundation under the Partnership, which was custom-designed to track programs that are addressing complex development problems through an iterative approach. ST provides an alternative to more traditional monitoring methods that track progress against pre-determined outcomes and indicators. The paper outlines key insights on what flexible programming means in practice, using examples from the Foundation’s field experiences from improving urban services in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to achieving economic policy reform in Bangladesh.

Download full paper.

*This version has been edited slightly from the original. 

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