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Social Policy in Development: Coherence and Cooperation in the Real World

CID Faculty Working Paper No. 203

Merilee S. Grindle
October 2010


Ideas about social policy and its role in development have shifted over time, signaling the difficulty of finding clarity in approaches to social investment, poverty alleviation, and equity. In consequence, research and practice related to social policy and poverty alleviation have left a legacy of a very broad agenda of "things that need to be done," along with important unanswered questions about how to integrate social and economic development. While these legacies contribute to the difficulty of developing overarching solutions to problems of social development and poverty alleviation, they also suggest the fruitfulness of focusing more on the distinctions among countries in terms of their capacities, generating ideas about priorities and sequences, and working to reduce what is often an overwhelming social policy agenda. The development community needs to get much better at matching ideas to realities, at considering how policy priorities could be assessed in terms of contextually specific feasibility, and at generating contextually grounded processes for taking the next step. While these are less ambitious questions than are often asked, they hold some promise of bringing ideas into better touch with the real world.