In many developing countries the problem is just getting things done. The capability of state organizations to implement-as opposed to just articulate or design-policies and programs, and to discharge basic responsibilities in an effective and fair manner, is a key constraint to progress in diverse domains from education, policing and public financial management to dispute resolution, infrastructure and economic regulation.

Building State Capability Video Series

This constraint exists and persists because governments are often mired in capability traps-a political and organizational dynamic in which state capability stagnates or declines over long periods of time, even as internal and (especially) external resources continue to flow. Despite being five decades into supporting "development" and building state capability, there are few complete successes, little progress in many places, stagnation and decline in some, and complete failure in others.

There have been hugely impressive overall gains in some aggregate measures of human welfare during this time, but these trends surely cannot be maintained (and increasingly complex tasks undertaken) without corresponding improvements in state capability. It is time to admit that perhaps the foundational ideas that informed these initial efforts to build state capability-and their associated strategies and tactics-are deeply flawed.

The Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University has launched a new program entitled 'Building State Capability' which researches new strategies and tactics that can be used to escape capability traps and build the capability of public organizations to execute and implement.

Academic Research

What is PDIA?

Escaping Capability Traps through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation rests on 4 core principles, each distinct from current standard approaches.



Building State Capability is implemented under the Research and Communication on Foreign Aid (ReCom) project of UNU-WIDER.