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Asia Foundation, ODI Release Case Studies under Working Politically in Practice Series

“Leather Sector Reform in Bangladesh” and “Reforming Solid Waste Management in Phnom Penh” are 7th and 8th papers in the series


San Francisco, June 23, 2016 — Through its partnership with the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and in collaboration with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), The Asia Foundation today launched the seventh and eight papers in its Working Politically in Practice paper series. The aim of the series is to draw on and share the rich lessons being learned through the country and regional programs that are implemented under the DFAT-Asia Foundation partnership (DFAT-TAF Partnership). The primary purpose of the partnership is to develop, test, and promote cost-effective innovations that increase the impact of development assistance and respond to the dynamic and evolving needs of the region.

The “Leather Sector Reform in Bangladesh” case study written by Dan Harris; and “Reforming Solid Waste Management in Phnom Penh” written by Lisa Denney are the result of a unique research undertaking aimed at capturing the realities of working in politically informed and flexible ways. While previous papers in this series have laid out principles of the innovative program approach taken by DFAT-TAF Partnership programs, these case studies delve into the details of two specific programs that were implemented.

The first case describes how the Foundation and its partners supported reform in the leather sector in Bangladesh, and specifically worked politically to support growth in the sector by facilitating the process of moving the bulk of the tanneries in Dhaka from their current high pollution areas to an area with improved facilities to protect the environment as well as the health of workers. The second case study looks at the Foundation’s efforts to engage with the solid waste sector in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to promote the provision of better services to the city’s residents in a context featuring significant information deficits and opaque networks and incentives.

The two case studies are the result of a two-year action research effort in which ODI researchers would periodically visit the programs as they were being implemented. The action research model allowed the researchers to track changes to program strategy, the process through which key decisions were made, and understand the stages of knowledge gathering and analysis that guided programs as they actually took place. The methodology has enabled the authors to reflect on the practical implications and specific implementation choices that will be required for any program that aims to work in a flexible and politically astute manner. This approach has the potential to generate useful and practical insights given that discourse around thinking and working politically has often struggled to move beyond principles and more general concepts.

This ongoing DFAT-TAF Partnership Working Politically in Practice paper series will inform the broader international community by helping to better ground discussion in empirical evidence, advance theoretical debates, and ultimately improve development policy and practice across a variety of subject areas.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

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Related locations: San Francisco
Related programs: Development and Aid Effectiveness, Good Governance
Related topics: Adaptive Development

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