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We are an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development
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Leadership Observatory: Issue 16

02 August 2021

In this month’s Leadership Observatory, DLP provide four takeaways for development policy and programmes based on new evidence. Collective leadership is a key mechanism for influencing positive change across all development sectors. But who are developmental leaders and where do they come from? Increasingly, donors and NGOs recognise the power of supporting locally-led development for long term success – recently highlighted as a central approach to USAID’s future work by Administrator Samantha Power.

Improving health relies on multisectoral action, but coordination requires actors to navigate complex power and institutional contexts.

Ssennyonjo et al. investigate the obstacles and opportunities for coordination within governments. Drawing on four theories about relationships between organisations, they emphasise limitations of individual agency and that public sector coordination operates within a political (contested) environment. The diverse administrative configurations of different governments and their relationship with external actors, such as donors, are also key in defining the nature of collaboration.

In the WASH sector, users, providers, and experts must collaborate to oversee sustainable reform, rooted in local communities through existing leadership structures.

In a recent DLP webinar, Northover presented recent findings that a whole-of-government approach and aligning WASH efforts with historical and culturally resonant themes are some of the key traits of effective leadership in countries that have achieved a step change in sector performance. Nhim explored the promise of locally-led systems-based approaches based on an analysis of WaterSHED’s Civic Champions leadership development program in Cambodia. The program saw a 6.9% increase in latrine coverage, and its participating councillors showed a greater capacity for leadership and collaboration.

While Pacific women in politics may not govern with feminist ideologies common to international donors, they do engage in feminist practice to create positive social change.

Despite similarities in how women leaders articulate their relationship with feminism across the globe, a distinction between Western and non-Western feminism is often drawn. Based on interviews with three senior women leaders in the Pacific (Fiame Naomi Mata‘afa, Dame Kidu and President Heine), Spark, Cox and Corbett argue that the liberal rights-based nature of international donors and women’s groups provides a foundation from which these politicians may shift the gender agenda while simultaneously distancing themselves from it.

There is a need for more effective support from political parties and institutions for women in political leadership roles, such as training and sustained mentorship.

Through interviews with 25 women political leader in 15 countries, Gordon et al. find that women’s candidate selection and election success is supported by targeted training that enables women to build up campaigning skills, networks that provide guidance and mentorship based on previous campaigning experience and effective relationships with local parties. Women also noted the importance of creative campaign strategies that helped to raise their profile.

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    DLP has been enormously influential in shaping my thinking and teaching about leadership and change. It combines conceptual clarity, with usable tools in areas such as political analysis, and case studies that are invaluable in bringing complex arguments to life.
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    Duncan Green
    The Developmental Leadership Program has deeply influenced my work in supporting locally-led reform in the Pacific.
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    Anna Gibert