What Do We Know About Aid as We Approach 2015?

The ReCom—Research and Communication on Foreign Aid—programme produced 240 original studies. Some 300 researchers from 60 countries came together and provided evidence on what does and could work in development, and what can be transferred and scaled up. ReCom’s five thematic areas are summarized in comprehensive Position Papers on: Aid and the Social Sectors; Aid and Gender Equality; Aid, Governance and Fragility; Aid, Growth and Employment, and Aid, Environment and Climate Change. ReCom research was communicated and tested in seven international Results Meetings, more than 75 seminar and conference presentations across the world, and an impressive series of academic outlets. The ReCom website provides access to working papers, videos and research summaries. Together this material offers an unprecedented insight into what moves societies forward, what achieves change and what aid can and does achieve.

Following the guidelines established at the outset, ReCom research was not meant to simply compile small ‘best practice’ projects, hoping that these might add up to systematic large-scale impact. Instead the focus has been on synthesizing what aid has produced in terms of outputs and outcomes and on contributing to systematic thinking and reflection with a view to improving existing knowledge about development assistance. An old saying suggests that success is not doing extraordinary thing, but doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. High impact aid is associated with doing many ordinary things, but also with doing the extraordinary, in less than ideal circumstances. In aid’s daily practice, context, political acumen and sequencing are indispensable to complement technical proficiency and expert identification of needs. As we approach 2015, the task of achieving and sustaining large-scale impact— ‘going to scale’—stands out as aid’s greatest challenge.