This paper discusses the steps required to build a robust evidence base for ‘thinking and working politically’ (TWP) in development. It argues that better understanding what works, when and why is an important step in moving TWP into mainstream development programming.
The paper reviews the existing evidence base on TWP, building on this and on other literature on public sector reform and ‘pockets of effectiveness’ to suggest research questions, case study selection criteria, and a four-level analytical framework: 1) political context; 2) sector; 3) organisation; and 4) individual. The framework aims to help build a ‘rigorous enough’ evidence base to show whether and how TWP happens and whether or not it influences the effectiveness of programme implementation and outcomes. The paper also calls for more focus on gender issues, and on different – and often more fragile – political contexts.