Effective States and Inclusive Development

Pockets of Effectiveness – Overview

Investigating ‘pockets of effectiveness’ in developing countries: a new route to building state capacity for development

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A major challenge for achieving poverty reduction is that the capacity of states to deliver development is in short supply, particularly in Africa.

However, ‘pockets of effectiveness’ (PoEs) offer important clues concerning how developmental forms of state capacity might emerge and be sustained in difficult contexts. PoEs are public organisations that function effectively in providing public goods and services, despite operating in an environment where effective public service delivery is not the norm. History suggests that PoEs have proved critical to developmental state success in the global south.

Recent research on PoEs has suggested that both external (e.g. political context) and internal factors (e.g. organisational leadership) shape their performance. However, this emerging subfield of governance research lacks a comparative study which systematically identifies how PoEs emerge and are sustained in different contexts and sectors, and the role that domestic and international actors can play in this. Specifically, we are seeking to understand the political and bureacratic logics that shape the emergence and performace of PoEs. Our research questions are:

  1. How do pockets of effectiveness emerge and how are they sustained within different types of context and sector?
  2. What role has been and could be played by domestic and international actors in support of this?


This project is being led by Professor Sam Hickey, The University of Manchester in collaboration with Professor Giles Mohan of The Open University. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.