Navigation by judgment: why and when top down management of foreign aid doesn’t work

Professor Daniel Honig
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17:30 - 19:00
Blavatnik School of Government
Radcliffe Observatory Quarter
Woodstock Road
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Lectures and seminars
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Join us for an event with author Dan Honig, Assistant Professor of International Development at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

In 'Navigation by Judgment' (Oxford University Press, 2018) Dan Honig argues that high-quality implementation of foreign aid programmes often requires contextual information that cannot be seen by those in distant headquarters. Tight controls and a focus on reaching pre-set measurable targets often prevent front-line workers from using skill, local knowledge, and creativity to solve problems in ways that maximise the impact of foreign aid. Drawing on a novel database of over 14,000 discrete development projects across nine aid agencies and eight paired case studies of development projects, Dan argues that aid agencies will often benefit from giving field agents the authority to use their own judgments to guide aid delivery. This “navigation by judgment” is particularly valuable when environments are unpredictable and when accomplishing an aid programme’s goals is hard to accurately measure.