in: Development Policy Review, first published 15.03.2022
In the last decade, a movement formed around making aid delivery more adaptive, relying on principles such as context-sensitivity, flexibility and ownership. The approaches seem promising for civil society organizations (CSOs) to fulfil their mission of fostering social transformation. While several donor agencies have started engaging with such approaches, the authors hardly see their political implications in practice.
The article aims to provide evidence on an adaptive project and demonstrate how the social transformative and political nature of adaptive development management is rendered technical and is depoliticized in practice.
We use a case study of a development programme based on a social transformative policy framework that is implemented through CSOs in Uganda and Vietnam. Data was collected by means of interviews, participant observation and document analysis.
We find that, in practice, the social transformative policy framework is competing with managerial logics. We compare this process with the depoliticization of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, finding striking similarities. By using practice theory, we show how managerialism remains the dominant paradigm in the civil society aid sector, fuelling the ‘anti-politics machine’.
The article shows that policy frameworks do not always work as intended. Donors should therefore not only change policy frameworks, but also start addressing institutional and operational requirements.