Researching the politics of development



The politics of what works in service delivery: an evidence-based review

Working paper 6

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Claire Mcloughlin and Richard Batley


This paper examines the evidence on the forms of politics likely to promote inclusive social provisioning and enable, as opposed to constrain, improvements in service outcomes. It focuses on eight relatively successful cases of delivery in a range of country contexts and sectors (roads, agriculture, health, education) where independent evaluations demonstrate improved outcomes. The paper traces the main characteristics of the political environment for these cases, from the national political context, to the politics of sector policymaking, to the micro politics of implementation. The findings indicate that it is possible to identify connections between good performance and better outcomes at the point of delivery and the main forms of politics operating at local, sector and national levels. A number of common factors underpinning successful delivery emerge strongly but need to be tested through further research.
In particular, the paper highlights the relationship between inclusive delivery and:

  • periods of crisis and transition;
  • the nature of the political settlement;
  • the types of calculations of political returns being made by political actors at all levels, and;
  • the extent to which the state derives or seeks to enhance its legitimacy through the provision of a particular service.