Book
Building State Capability

Evidence, Analysis, Action

This is an open access title available under the terms of a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence. It is free to read at Oxford Scholarship Online and offered as a free PDF download from OUP and selected open access locations. Governments play a major role in the development process, and constantly introduce reforms and policies to achieve developmental objectives. Many of these interventions have limited impact, however; schools get built but children don't learn, IT systems are introduced but not used, plans are written but not implemented. These achievement deficiencies reveal gaps in capabilities, and weaknesses in the process of building state capability. 

This book addresses these weaknesses and gaps. It starts by providing evidence of the capability shortfalls that currently exist in many countries, showing that many governments lack basic capacities even after decades of reforms and capacity building efforts. The book then analyses this evidence, identifying capability traps that hold many governments back - particularly related to isomorphic mimicry (where governments copy best practice solutions from other countries that make them look more capable even if they are not more capable) and premature load bearing (where governments adopt new mechanisms that they cannot actually make work, given weak extant capacities). The book then describes a process that governments can use to escape these capability traps. Called PDIA (problem driven iterative adaptation), this process empowers people working in governments to find and fit solutions to the problems they face. The discussion about this process is structured in a practical manner so that readers can actually apply tools and ideas to the capability challenges they face in their own contexts. These applications will help readers devise policies and reforms that have more impact than those of the past.

Table of contents
  1. 1. The Big Stuck in State Capability
    Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock
  2. 2. Looking Like a State: The Seduction of Isomorphic Mimicry
    Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock
    More Working Paper | Looking Like a State
    More Research Brief | The Development Process – The Problem of Imitating Success
    More Journal Special Issue Article | Looking Like a State
  3. 3. Premature Load Bearing: Doing Too Much Too Soon
    Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock
  4. 4. Capability for Policy Implementation
    Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock
  5. 5. What Type of Organization Capability is Needed?
    Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock
  6. 6. The Challenge of Building (Real) State Capability for Implementation
    Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock
  7. 7. Doing Problem-Driven Work
    Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock
  8. 8. The Searchframe: Doing Experimental Iterations
    Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock
  9. 9. Managing Your Authorizing Environment
    Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock
  10. 10. Building State Capability at Scale Through Groups
    Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock
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