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Explaining Positive Deviance in Public Sector Reforms in Development


  • Andrews, Matt


Public sector reforms are commonplace in developing countries. Much of the literature about these reforms reflects on their failures. This paper asks about the successes and investigates which of two competing theories best explain why some reforms exhibit such positive deviance. These theories are called `solution- and leader-driven change´ and `problem-driven iterative adaptation´. They are used to analyse data emerging from a case survey involving thirty cases from Princeton University´s Innovations for Successful Society programme. The bulk of evidence from this study supports a problem-driven iterative adaptation explanation, but there is reason to believe that solution- and leader-driven change hypotheses also have value. It seems that problem-driven iterative adaptation and solution- and leader-driven change are two viable paths through which positive deviance can emerge; although problem-driven iterative adaptation seems to provide the wider path for more positive deviance.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrews, Matt, 2013. "Explaining Positive Deviance in Public Sector Reforms in Development," WIDER Working Paper Series 117, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  • Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:wp2013-117

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thomas C. Beierle & David M. Konisky, 2000. "Values, conflict, and trust in participatory environmental planning," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4), pages 587-602.
    2. Andrews, Matt & Pritchett, Lant & Woolcock, Michael, 2013. "Escaping Capability Traps Through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 234-244.
    3. Maurice Obstfeld, 2009. "International Finance and Growth in Developing Countries: What Have We Learned?," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 56(1), pages 63-111, April.
    4. Lant Pritchett & Michael Woolcock & Matt Andrews, 2013. "Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(1), pages 1-18, January.
    5. Andrews,Matt, 2013. "The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107016330, December.
    6. Kim S. Cameron, 1986. "Effectiveness as Paradox: Consensus and Conflict in Conceptions of Organizational Effectiveness," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 32(5), pages 539-553, May.
    7. Boubakri, Narjess & Cosset, Jean-Claude & Guedhami, Omrane, 2009. "From state to private ownership: Issues from strategic industries," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 367-379, February.
    8. Anuradha Joshi & Mick Moore, 2004. "Institutionalised Co-production: Unorthodox Public Service Delivery in Challenging Environments," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(4), pages 31-49.
    9. Andrews, Matthew R. & McConnell, Jesse & Wescott, Alison, 2010. "Development as Leadership-led Change," Scholarly Articles 4449099, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    10. Francis Owusu, 2006. "On Public Organizations in Ghana: What Differentiates Good Performers from Poor Performers?," African Development Review, African Development Bank, vol. 18(3), pages 471-485.
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    Cited by:

    1. Matt Andrews, 2014. "Can one retell a Mozambican reform story through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation?," CID Working Papers 278, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    2. Andrews, Matt, 2014. "Can one retell a Mozambican reform story through problem-driven iterative adaptation?," WIDER Working Paper Series 094, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    3. Andrews, Matt, 2014. "Can One Retell a Mozambican Reform Story through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation?," Working Paper Series rwp14-018, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.


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