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Research Agenda

Phase 2: 2005-10
Programme 1:
Public Action & Private Investment
Programme 2:
Collective Action Around Service Delivery
Programme 3:
State Capacity

Phase 1: 2000-05

Programme 1:
Financing the State

Programme 2:
Mobilising Public Action

Programme 3:
Co-Producing Public Services

State Capacity

Project: 'Donor Proliferation and State Capacity'


This project seeks to contribute to the understanding and improvement of state capacity. This state capacity is affected by the proliferation of organised political actors. Such proliferation is almost universal in both the developed and less developed world, but the constellation of actors varies a great deal. This project is concerned with a group of actors which has proliferated particularly in poor countries and which has been particularly influential in poor countries: donor agencies. The problems arising from such donor proliferation has been increasingly recognised. As a result, donor agencies have agreed to co-ordinate their actions. The most explicit and detailed agreement is the Paris Declaration of 2005 in which they commit to support the recipients' own development strategies and co-ordinate their actions.

While this is a big step forward, evidence-based knowledge on the effects of donor proliferation and donor co-ordination is very limited. The question that drives the research is how proliferation/co-ordination of donor agencies affects state capacity in recipient countries. State capacity is defined as the ability to design policies and programmes, implement them in an authoritative and binding fashion, and managing internal and external resources for this purpose. The project concentrates on state capacity in two ‘sectors' in which donor agencies are particularly active: promotion of small and medium enterprise development and governance reform. The experience in both ‘sectors' is being investigated in Indonesia and Kenya

Research Questions

  1. To what extent has there been a proliferation of donors and projects? Has it increased over time?
  2. To what extent has there been donor co-ordination and what form has it taken?
  3. What has been the effect of donor proliferation/co-ordination on transaction costs?
  4. What has been the effect on government ability to develop and pursue a strategic approach in the selected ‘sectors'?
  5. What has been the effect on organisational learning in recipient agencies? Has such learning been strengthened or weakened?
  6. What has been the effect on establishment of parallel organisations?


A detailed research proposal for investigating these questions was prepared – see outputs below. It shows why and how the methodology varies with the question.

The implementation of the research is now underway. It proceeds in two stages: in the first stage we concentrate on the research questions 1 and 2 (above) and compare the findings with the donor aims set out in the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness.

In the second stage, we will examine how the recorded proliferation of donors and projects, and how the recorded donor coordination, affects state capacity. This means tackling the above questions 3 to 6.


In the inception phase we produced ‘Donor proliferation and co-ordination: effects on state capacity' – Proposal for Research. This is available on request from [email protected]

In the course of the research we will prepare Research Reports on Indonesia and Kenya , distil the key findings in journal articles and prepare Policy Briefings. These will be made available on this webpage as and when they are ready.

Click here for the findings on Donor proliferation and donor coordination in Indonesia – the case of SME promotion.

Click here for the findings on Donor proliferation and donor coordination in Indonesia – the case of governance reform.

Click here for the findings on Extent and Forms of Donor Proliferation and Coordination in Kenya

Click here for the comparison of donor proliferation and coordination in Indonesia and Kenya

Research Team

Kenya Team:
Erick Manga - Institute for Development Studies, Nairobi
Dorothy McCormick
- Institute for Development Studies, Nairobi (Coordinator)
Winnie Mitullah - Institute for Development Studies, Nairobi

Indonesia Team:
Lienda Loebis, Ministry of Industry, Jakarta
Hubert Schmitz, IDS, Sussex


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This project is entering a new phase comparing three countries in Africa.


Dorothy McCormick, Winnie Mitullah, Karuti Kanyinga, and Erick Manga (forthcoming) “Effects of Donor Proliferation and Coordination on State Capacity in Kenya









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