Effective Development Assistance Through Competition


It is now generally accepted that development interventions can only be successful and sustainable if they are accepted by stakeholders and implemented in accordance with local institutions, culture and norms. “Tournament Approaches to Policy Reform—Making Development Assistance more Effective,” by Clifford Zinnes (Brookings Press, 2009), identifies a new class of emerging development intervention designs fitting this mold. In these designs the intervention is approached as a “game” with players, predefined—and, therefore, prospective—rules and payoff s, strategies, and beliefs in which players must compete to achieve the best implementation. “Winning” is based on scores on preannounced purpose-built indicators. Rewards are the sponsor’s aid. While players can be individual organizations (such as schools or even water companies), they are typically jurisdictions (from countries down to villages) so the underlying class of incentive mechanism is called “prospective inter-jurisdictional competition” (PIJC).

This brief summarizes an evaluation of past PIJC applications running from reducing red tape, youth unemployment, and pollution through to increasing literacy, public services, and governance. It asks how successful and sustain able they have been across a variety of situations and whether the approach merits replication and scaling up, particularly for improving the effectiveness of development assistance.