The challenge for many development projects is to create a tangible impact in the world.  Recently both practitioners and academics like have recognized that despite the billions of dollars of global investments into the development of State capacity and governance have failed to produce any significant results.  In a recent Harvard University study of a government’s effectiveness or quality in twenty nine (29) middle and lower income countries it was found that 70 percent of sample countries (measured under the QoG benchmark) suffered from declining scores between 1998 and 2008 [1].

One obvious argument is to say that reforms were impacted by poor quality projects and poor project management.  However, the evidence suggests otherwise.  A number of declining group countries had stellar records of project success.  In fact, most projects were considered satisfactorily completed in most surveyed countries, and there is no real evidence to show that decliners had systematically weaker-quality projects or reform agendas.  This suggests that reforms tend to make governments superficially look better but generally fell short of creating sufficient levels of change in the national system (e.g. the creation of ‘capability gaps’) to register in external indicators or to stave off political upheaval.

We have drawn upon the lessons learned over the past 20 years and created an IMPACT approach to building state capacity that requires a planned and systematic, yet flexible and responsive, effort to work with local government counterparts and citizenry (with an emphasis on understanding their cultures, their collective histories and their traditional ways of governing) to co-develop or modify knowledge, stories, understanding, and skill-sets to build, strengthen or improve effectiveness, across many government departments.

Our approach enables our client to adapt to changing needs and requirements which includes the following:

  • Individual and human resource development (appropriate staff, appropriate numbers);
  • Organisational culture (alignment between project aims, design and political economy);
  • Organisational development (is the structure appropriate for the strategy?); and,
  • Institutional and legal framework development (appropriate and contextual processes, systems, performance, primary and secondary legal framework.
  • Organisational sustainability (appropriate reforms cannot be ‘appropriate’ unless also sustainable)

These challenges to contemporary state building comprise one of the biggest challenges to the International Community. The challenge exists in all contemporary development environments; immediate post-conflict, ‘stabilisation interventions’, post-conflict legacy, post-authoritarian, and economically and politically transitioning societies.

Our IMPACT phase is where the final concept is taken through final testing, signed-off, produced and launched.  It will result in a product or service that successfully addresses the problem identified during the ASSESS stage. It will also include processes for feeding back lessons from the full design process to inform future projects, including methods, ways of working and relevant information.

Of course, it is not possible to create change unless we are required to report back on the success of the launched product or service. The common aim in doing this is to prove the impact of good design on the success of the product or service. Being able to prove that design contributed to the client’s success helps to gain buy-in for design and maintains the team’s credibility and perceived value to the organisation.


[1]  Andrews, M. (2014) The Limited of Institutional Reform in Development. Cambridge University Press [kindle] loc 469