Skip to content

What are we reading? — The development sector yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

This week’s articles walk us through the main changes that the development sector has experienced and some of its remaining challenges.

Photo ©

1. Where are we heading? Insights from three different publications that explore the evolution of the development industry in the past decades.

George Ingram, Senior Fellow at Global Economy and Development, takes us through some of the key insights from three different publications that explore the ways the aid industry has evolved over the past few decades. He summarizes the ideas of Raj Kumar’s “The Business of Changing the World”, Kristin Lord’s “Global Development Disrupted”, and Ann Mei Chang’s “Lean Impact”. There is a focus on measuring and rewarding results and impact rather than inputs or good intentions.

“Each publication takes a different tack, but they all present how the approach to development is, or should be, advancing. Viewed together, they create insights into where the field may be headed. […] Each deals with development with both how it is approached today and how it can be improved. What emerges are the components of how development efforts can be most effective.”

For more information on Kristin Lord’s publication, also refer to the following link.

2. A quick timeline of the development industry.

Ruth Levine, Director of the Global Development and Population Program, reflects on her experiences and her path in the development sector. To convey her message, she shares some anecdotes from her experiences at the Hewlett Foundation of what was, is, and will be for this industry. She finally explains what she thinks are the key problems to be solved in the future in development (such as the climate crisis, gender economic opportunity gap, and weak institutions) and the potential role of philanthropists and other actors in solving them.

“There are millions of young people from all over the world who want to work toward a brighter, more connected future. The question is whether the institutions of 50-plus years ago are able to channel that energy and ideas in ways that correspond to what’s needed for the next 50 years.”

3. Old aid vs. New aid. A critical look at Raj Kumar’s new book — “The Business of Changing the World”.

Michelle Sieff from Inside Philanthropy explores Raj Kumar’s (co-founder of Devex) newest book “The Business of Changing the World”, focusing on the role of billionaire philanthropists in the evolution of the development sector. More specifically, she questions Kumar’s oversight of public aid actors’ role in the process of making the sector more results-oriented. She also criticizes effective-altruism’s obsession with short-term measurable results that could bias service delivery in favor of short-term impact vs. more systemic, long-term changes.

“Kumar’s book is an essential primer on the aid industry’s new trends, synthesizing a vast amount of information — and for that reason, it is a must-read for anyone working in the development sector. But I am not sure he has fully grappled with the downside of the results-focused development agenda.”