What are the Stories of Development Progress?
The Development Progress Stories project documents and communicates stories of progress, outlining what has worked in development and why. The project showcases examples of outstanding progress across a number of areas of development. 24 stories, drawn from eight areas of development (see below), have been chosen to illustrate this progress. The examples highlight a different country in each story and are available at www.developmentprogress.org.
Why are the Development Progress Stories important?
The project grew out of a growing sense within the international community that there was too little attention paid to progress being made in development. This has led to a general feeling of pessimism around the whole development enterprise. The DPS project aims to counter this.
Progress has not been analysed enough in a systematic way. These stories provide examples that demonstrate that, despite challenges, there has been significant progress in development.
The project was launched in 2010 to mark the tenth anniversary of the Millennium Declaration with only five years left to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
What do the DPS cover?
The eight areas of development covered are: agriculture and rural development, economic conditions, water and sanitation, health, education, governance, social protection and environmental conditions.
What do you mean by development progress?
Progress in development is defined as equitable and sustainable improvement in key dimensions of human wellbeing, including material living standards, health, knowledge, environment, political voice, and security. Progress across these dimensions is both a process and an objective.
The full Methodology Paper and the final synthesis report will be published in early 2011.
Who is involved in the project?
The Development Progress Stories was conducted under the general guidance of Liesbet Steer. Alison Evans, Director of the Overseas Development Institute, has provided project oversight. The core team members include Milo Vandermoortele and Matthew Geddes. Jakob Engel, Heidi Tavakoli and Dan Harris assisted in background research and the selection of the progress story cases.
The case studies were conducted by a number of ODI sector experts. More information can be found here.
The project is financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
How did you select the stories?
ODI's research team spent several months on qualitative and quantitative research, including extensive consultations with sector experts, to select a long list of stories from the hundreds available. Stories identified were passed between the quantitative and qualitative research teams for cross-checking.
The long lists contain around 10 stories per sector. The final selection of the case studies was based on detailed selection criteria and consultations with the DPS review panel (see Who we are). The full Methodology Paper and the final synthesis report will be published in early 2011.
What data did you use?
The large majority of the data sources we used are publicly available. They include the MDG Database: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/mdg/Data.aspx (downloaded in early 2010, prior to the 25 June update when analysis was complete) and the World Bank WDI (downloaded in early 2010): http://www.worldbank.org/data/onlinedatabases/onlinedatabases.html.
The time frame used in this analysis is from 1990 to 2010, or the most recent data available.
The quantitative indicators were chosen to reflect the definition agreed with experts interviewed during the qualitative analysis. The criteria for choosing between the available quantitative indicators to measure progress was:
- data availability both across countries and over time (1990-2010)
- prioritising observable indicators (e.g. U5MR, measles vaccination)
- avoiding modelled indicators (e.g. $1 a day, % people with inadequate calorie intake, completion rates)
- avoiding perception indices (except for governance, where these were used to inform qualitative research).
In some sectors the quantitative analysis is complemented by qualitative data. In sectors where data availability was limited, a heavier emphasis was placed on qualitative data.
For media interested in the technical detail or methodology we can offer a background briefing with one of the research team. Please contact Jonathan Tanner: email@example.com, +44(0)2079220431.
Is the data available and if so how do I request permission to reproduce the data?
DPS outputs are available to download free of charge. We welcome requests for permission to reproduce and disseminate our work, provided reproduction is accompanied by a full credit. To request permission to re-publish DPS content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
How long did it take?
We've been researching for over a year already and the project is ongoing.
Did you work with southern stakeholders?
ODI works with an extensive network of research institutes, southern government officials, donor agencies, UN agencies and NGOs based in the south.
For example, we consulted with the former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Mauritius for the Mauritius case study, as well as UNICEF-Viet Nam for the Viet Nam case study, and collaborated with Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) in Malawi.
Typical informants were from academia, donor agencies and civil society organisations in both the north and the south.
Will ODI expand on the 24 case studies?
From researching this project we've discovered many examples of development progress that we can all learn from. Once the first case studies have been published we will review the project and make an announcement via the DPS website and newsletter.
Can we access the long list of stories? Which countries were nominated?
The long list of stories is in the Case study selection report, which will become publicly available soon in the resources section of the website.
How will you make the stories available?
22 of the 24 stories are already available via the resources section of the website and we also aim to reach decision-makers through meetings and media. You can sign up to the DPS newsletter to receive updates of new stories, reports, events and DPS activities.
Aren't there lots of other projects like this?
Where this project is unique is in taking a multi-sector approach to identifying instances of sustained development progress at a large scale, usually national or regional. It also uses different measures of progress both at national and sub-national level.
The project team have consulted with researchers leading similar sector-specific initiatives. For example the Millions Fed project was relevant for research in the agricultural and rural development sector.
What's the link to the MDG report card?
The MDG Report Card presents data on how countries are progressing on the Millennium Development Goals. It unpacks a selected number of the targets and indicators to map out how development process is playing out across countries and continents. Similar measures of progress have been used in both DPS and the MDG Report Card including national progress and how this progress has been shared across subnational groups. The DPS goes further by looking at factors of change and provides information on how progress was made.
What is the difference between absolute and relative progress?
The project looks at national-level progress in absolute terms, as well as from progress relative to global MDG targets.
Absolute progress identifies which countries have made the greatest nominal progress over time, whereas relative progress identifies which countries have made the largest improvement relative to their starting point. Both are required to tell the full story. For example, an increase from 10% to 12%, would amount to 2% absolute progress and 20% relative progress. In order to compare countries where data is available for time periods of different lengths the average yearly value of both absolute and relative progress is used.
What's the significance of DPS?
The DPS project aims both to tell stories and to generate dialogue with different audiences about development achievements around the world.
The project examines lessons that can be learned. We've focused on stories with a wider resonance, and not stories of progress that are based on factors that are explicitly unique to that country/time period.
The overarching questions we address in this project are:
- What constitutes progress in development?
- How can stories of progress in development be identified?
- What are some verifiable stories of sustained progress in development?
- What combination and sequence of factors have contributed to progress in development (using both qualitative and quantitative data analysis methods when possible)?
- What can governments and citizens in developed and developing countries do to promote further development progress?
We will publish a synthesis report early in 2011.
How will you use the DPS?
DPS publications will be in the public domain. Outputs are available in PDF format to download free of charge. We welcome requests for permission to reproduce and disseminate our work, provided reproduction is accompanied by a full credit. To request permission to re-publish content please contact email@example.com.
What do you hope to achieve with the project?
This project will establish a library of stories illustrating progress in development. We have three main goals:
- to contribute to progress by providing robust and accessible information to support advocacy for more - and more effective - development spending/policy making and to demonstrate investment in development
- to stimulate research into progress and its contributing factors
- to draw lessons for policy makers as to how development might be achieved and supported.
Does the collection of stories add up to something bigger than just a set of case studies?
The global report Mapping progress: evidence for a new development outlook synthesises of the country level research to draw lessons on development. The report is availbale at www.developmentprogress.org/global-report
Why did you not look at whether countries are reaching MDG targets?
We have not calculated whether it is anticipated that a country will reach the target in 2015 for two practical and two theoretical reasons.
- Progress is far from linear and there is no agreement about whether it should speed up or slow down as countries approach the target, which makes prediction very difficult
- Past performance is not a good indicator of future performance in many cases, especially for indicators that are more dependent on policy measures
- The MDG goals were designed to be applied to the world as a whole not to individual countries. For the world to meet the MDGs it is designed that not all countries will achieve the targets.
- There is a growing suggestion that the MDGs are unfair to Africa because they are relative goals, see the recent Brookings paper and UNDP paper. Hence we would be reluctant to emphasise progress differences in meeting the goals.
Can other organisations use the DPS?
DPS publications are in the public domain. Outputs are available in PDF format to download free of charge. We welcome requests for permission to reproduce and disseminate our work, provided reproduction is accompanied by a full credit. For permissions requests please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do individual stories match to individual MDGs?
The project is somewhat wider than the MDGs. For example,we have chosen to include stories of progress in governance and social protection. The sectors chosen are based on a fairly broad definition of development progress. The DPS project does of course include stories that are relevant to ongoing development review processes including the MDG 2010 review.