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Internal and external development actors may be pursuing strategies for building state capability that have no impact, or worse, are counter-productive. This can happen via the common emphasis on transplanting successful forms of capability and adopting ambitious "best practice" modes of governance and public administration. Such an emphasis on form-what organizations look like-over function-what they actually do-provides financing and legitimacy that allows continued dysfunction while potentially crowding out space for local initiatives. Hence even well meaning attempts to "build capacity" may serve as techniques of persistent failure that perpetuate capability traps.
Led by an inter-disciplinary team of HKS development faculty Lant Pritchett (economics), Matt Andrews (public administration) and Michael Woolcock (sociology), this new research program explores pragmatic new ways of building state capability. One such approach we call Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA).