The development “players”

The development landscape has never been more cluttered than it is today,” wrote Marc Bellemare in Foreign Affairs last week.

“Oh great, what have I missed?” I thought, as I had already prepared my intro lecture for International Development Communications. The industry exists, fueled by rich countries, which delivered $3.2 trillion of aid to poor countries between 1960 and 2008. That’s a whole lotta landscape indeed, and that figure doesn’t include foundations.

What better way to make a global development list and check it twice, than sharing it on one’s blog? And who doesn’t love a good typology? Please share any others of which you may know. I’m sure there’s more refined ones out there, but here’s how the landscape is laid out in my head.

Slide3Oxfam America refers to the diagram above as “the development compact,” or rather, the agreement between government officials to respond effectively to citizens’ needs and citizens to demand that their governments do their job and govern well and accountably. Diaspora groups are also playing  an increasingly active role in development. Note that civil society and the private sector are not yet present in this diagram – it’s citizens and governments in charge of their countries’ future. Now who else enters into this and tries to affect change?

Slide4The old-school “players” have been around basically since the idea of “development” came about. Of course the multi- and bi-lateral donors e.g. World Bank, UN agencies, USAID (which has some promising reforms, at least on paper), DFID, CIDA, SIDA, AusAid, MCC come to mind. Other donors include those from private philanthropy. The “biggie” foundations such as Ford, Gates, Rockefeller operate strategically, while other smaller, often family foundations utilize relationship-based and seed funding models. US foundations number over 80,000. Grants awarded directly to overseas recipients and to US-based international programs accounted for nearly 24 percent of total grant dollars awarded in 2011. As one person told me when I entered my first job in philanthropy, “If you know one foundation, you know one foundation.”

NGOs can be categorized by level at which they operate (international, national, local) and by the type of focus or activities in which they engage. For example, more service delivery/program-focused international NGOs in the US are Care, World Vision, and Catholic Relief, while more advocacy-focused INGOs include Amnesty and ONE. Some have predicted an end of the golden age of NGOs, or at least pending disruption for this part of the industry. The for-profit aid contractors such as Chemonics, DAI, and Futures Group are also here with a business model dependent on governmental foreign assistance.

Slide5aIn terms of the new-school players, if you’re doing anything that uses private sector strategies to help people who are poor rather than shareholders, you can call yourself a social enterprise. Ashoka and Skoll were early supporters of individual social entrepreneurs, and this part of the sector has boomed over the last ten years. From social good businesses to fair trade cooperatives to social marketing to design for development to buy one/give one models, social enterprises encompass a lot and walk a fine line between for-profit and non-profit. There are lots of hybrids out there and clearly more to come! Corporate social responsibility initiatives are related, but should be distinguished as they are clearly operate as part of a for-profit model.

And of course who likes to fund social enterprises more than impact investors? Think, “what if I had a portfolio of $50 million to spend to make the world better?” That’s what impact investors get to do all day.

But wait, what if we could all spend our money this way? Crowdfunders (often referred to as “revolutionary”) like Globalgiving, Kiva, and GiveDirectly are all enabling people to have a more direct connection to the people they’re supporting.

So what have I missed? Please share your comments, observations, and feedback about the development players in the comments section.


  1. Comments from Twitter:

    – From @ErinLauer: where do you see think tanks like CGD and IFPRI? To me, they are their own little group. The ‘ivory tower’ feels less separate these days, but definitely a sub group.
    – From @jindraczech Maybe only the private sector is missing in leveraging funds/ boosting bilaterals and PVOs + communities

  2. I’m always a fan of big, clear diagrams. Love it!

    Only thing, I would add a greater distinction in scale levels of government , particularly with the rising importance of municipal governance e.g. urban local bodies, mayors, etc. Lumping “effective states” as the entire nation under one umbrella doesn’t fully reflect the realities of public administration.

    The way which the diagram differs the civic sector as local-national-international could be easy enough to implement here, although I’d argue that the “urban” states are part of the “new-school players”.

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  4. @isahoy

    Great diagrams! Gives a very clear picture!
    I would add governments from emerging countries (China, India, Brazil…) that have developed international cooperation strategies and play an increasingly important role.

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