Development entrepreneurship and policy entrepreneurship: a discussion with the Asia Foundation in Manila about similarities and differences between the two approaches

I have had a very interesting meeting and discussion this week with about 20 staff of the Asia Foundation in Manila. We talked about policy entrepreneurship and development entrepreneurship and discussed the differences and similarities between the two concepts.

Development entrepreneurship has been introduced and has been described by the Asia Foundation in a recent book titled: Built on Dreams, Grounded in Reality: Economic Policy Reform in the Philippines. The development entrepreneurship approach consists of 1) a recognition of the iterative process of change that calls for a combination of technical analysis, political economy analysis and political action; 2) local leaders, referred to as development entrepreneurs, who take personal responsibility for achieving development outcomes; and, 3) a project structure that allows development partner to support local partners through grants and not contracts.

In ODI’s RAPID programme we have taken the concept of policy entrepreneur and have adapted to researchers who implement policy influence research. It suggests that by following a strategic planning approach this will increase the chances that their policy research will contribute to influence policies. You can read about it here: Helping researchers become policy entrepreneurs. The approach described by RAPID suggests that research institutions that aim at influencing policy need to invest time and resources to develop or acquire strategic planning skills, management skills, communication skills and develop adequate monitoring and learning systems.

My presentation describes the RAPID Outcome Mapping Approach (ROMA), a strategic planning approach that can help researchers in their policy influencing efforts. I include, as one of the ROMA steps, the Knowledge, Politics and Power analytical framework for mapping policy context and the use of research evidence in policy making which has been recently presented by ODI’s collagues.

The main points I took home from our discussion are:

  • Development entrepreneurship is a broader concept that policy entrepreneurship. The latter has been developed by RAPID having mainly researchers in mind while the development entrepreneur approach by TAF means that anybody can be and become a development entrepreneur.
  • In the development entrepreneur research evidence does not have the central role that it has in the policy entrepreneur approach. Research is an important technical input to the policy influencing process that help to provide credibility and substance.
  • In both the approaches it is important to self assess before implementing a policy influencing project the team’s networking skill, the communication skills, the knowledge of the policy making process.
  • Both approaches are often implemented by teams where the different skills and competencies play together towards the policy influencing outcomes. Policy influencing isn’t a straight and linear process, but is rather a process of tests and trials: two steps ahead and one (or maybe two) steps back. This is another reason for having solid management skills and system at the core of the two approaches. In other words, good management skills and system can help: 1) to maintain coherence during implementation, 2) to manage the inevitable changes in direction, 3) to document the process to learn from it.
  • Development entrepreneurs have to be prepared to spend political capital during the process or collaborate with individual and institutions that are willing to spend their own political capital in the process of influencing policy debates. I think this is an area that we should explore in RAPID’s policy entrepreneur approach.

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