“Best practices” prescriptions for reform have long dominated the development discourse, but they confuse the goals of development with the journey of getting from here to there. In this seminar, Brian Levy will lay out an alternative approach which he develops in his recent book, Working with the Grain (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).
The book takes as its point of departure the realities of a country’s economy, polity and society, and directs attention towards the challenges of initiating and sustaining forward development momentum. It builds on new institutional economics, organizational theory and political economy analysis to explore “good fit” approaches to the analysis of how divergent developing country contexts influence the feasibility of alternative reform options. The analysis distinguishes between “top down” options which endeavor to strengthen formal institutions, and options supporting the emergence of “islands of effectiveness”. Sometimes the binding constraint to forward movement can be institutional, making governance reform the priority; at other times, the priority can better be on inclusive growth. Taking the decade-or-so time horizon of policymakers, the book explores how to nudge things along -- seeking gains that initially may seem quite modest but can, sometimes, give rise to a cascading sequence of change for the better.
Brian Levy is the Academic Director of the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice at the University of Cape Town. He also teaches at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC. He worked at the World Bank from 1989 to 2012, including as manager of the Africa Vice Presidency Public Sector Reform and Capacity Building Unit, and as head of the secretariat responsible for the design and implementation of the World Bank Group's governance and anti-corruption strategy. He has published widely on the interactions among institutions, political economy and development policy. He completed his Ph.D in economics at Harvard University in 1983.