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Now for the Hard Part: Strategies for Enhancing State Capability for Implementation
Despite what today’s headlines might convey, life for most people in most developing countries has never been better. This should be rightly celebrated, but improving basic levels of human welfare from a low base was the relatively ‘easy’ part. To consolidate and expand these achievements, the key development challenge remains building the state’s capability to implement incrementally more complex and contentious tasks, at scale (e.g., justice, regulation, taxation, land administration) and those tasks inherently requiring extended forms of human interaction (classroom teaching, curative care). These are fundamentally different types of challenges, however, ones for which our prevailing aid architecture was not designed and on which achievements to date are mostly flat or declining: if current trends continue, only about 10% of those living in developing countries today will have descendants who reside in a ‘high capability’ country by the end of this century. Different types of problems require different kinds of solutions, elements of which will be outlined.
Lead Social Development Specialist, World Bank and Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard University
Michael Woolcock is Lead Social Development Specialist in the World Bank’s Development Research Group, where he was worked since 1998. He is also a (part-time) Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. His current research focuses on strategies for enhancing state capability for implementation, on crafting more effective interaction between informal and formal justice systems, and on using mixed methods to assess ‘complex’ development interventions. In addition to more than 75 journal articles and book chapters, he is the co-author or co-editor of eight books, including Contesting Development: Participatory Projects and Local Conflict Dynamics in Indonesia (with Patrick Barron and Rachael Diprose; Yale University Press 2011), which in 2012 was a co-recipient of the best book prize by the American Sociological Association’s section on international development. He served for many years on the World Bank’s Social Development Board and co-founded the Justice for the Poor program; in 2007-2009 he was the founding research director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester (on external service leave from the Bank), and in 2002 was the Von Hugel Visiting Fellow at St Edmunds College, University of Cambridge. He recently returned from an extended assignment in Malaysia, where he helped establish the World Bank’s first Knowledge and Research Hub. An Australian national, he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Queensland, and has an MA and PhD in comparative-historical sociology from Brown University.