Making Foreign Aid Work: Managing Tensions Between Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches
Gothenburg University - 5 credits, Third Cycle
How to make foreign aid work in a changing world? How is foreign aid to be designed and implemented in order to achieve its goals and deliver development, and for whom?
About the course
The goal of the course is to build knowledge about the longstanding question how to make foreign and development cooperation successful, and for whom. The course focuses in particular on donor-recipient relations and the tensions between top-down and bottom-up approaches in the management, delivery and implementation of foreign aid.
The course is divided into two parts. The first is made up of four online seminars and deals with the most important top-down and bottom-up approaches that currently dominate the debate in both the academic and policy-making communities. In the second part of the course all participants will gather for an exciting on-site workshop in Gothenburg (15-17 May), which aims to provide hands-on and concrete knowledge why and under what contextual circumstances different top-down and bottom-up approaches to foreign aid are likely to be effective or not across different policy fields, contexts, types of donors as well as aid instruments.
Fredrik Söderbaum is leading the course together with a team of lecturers and practitioners — Patrik Stålgren, Jesper Sundewall and Josephine Sundqvist — with considerable experience from working in the field for Sida and other development agencies:
Lecturers and practitioners
The lecturers and practitioners for the course 2024 is to be announced.
Target group and selection
We invite doctoral students from different disciplines and PhD programs in order to create stimulating seminars and discussions based on intense interaction between the teaching team and the doctoral students. The goal is that the students will be able to bring their own experiences to the benefit of the course and that the course will be of direct relevance for their doctoral projects.
In case of a large number of applicants, priority will be given to the students where the course is of highest relevance to the thesis project and/or to doctoral students from the partners of the Development Research School.
Costs and travel stipends
The course is free of charge, but expenses related to travel and accommodation (tickets, hotel et cetera) are not included. However, a limited number of travel stipends will be available; state in your application if you apply for this.
On successful completion of the course, the third-cycle student is expected to be able to:
Knowledge and understanding
• Identify and describe the strength and weaknesses of various top-down and bottom-up approaches to public policy in general and foreign aid in particular.
• Identify the role of the most important actors throughout the policy cycle in various policy fields, types of foreign aid and recipient contexts.
Competence and skills
• Analyze some of the most influential top-down and bottom-up foreign aid approaches and strategies.
• Use theories and concepts to understand and analyze the management and implementation of foreign aid strategies across various policy fields, types of foreign aid and recipient contexts.
Judgement and approach
• Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the most influential top-down and bottom-up foreign aid approaches and strategies.
• Critically evaluate the drivers, dynamics and effects of different foreign aid strategies across policy fields, types of foreign aid and recipient contexts.
There is an inherent tension between top-down and bottom-up approaches in the management and implementation of foreign aid. Donors generally want control over funds, policies and goals, which has resulted in a wide-range of top-down approaches to foreign aid as illustrated by development planning, managerialism, as well as results-based management approaches. At the same time, proponents of bottom-up approaches emphasize that foreign aid will work better by giving field agents the authority and power to use their own discretion and judgement in the delivery of foreign aid. Other proponents of bottom-up foreign aid emphasize greater context-sensitivity, the need for recipient ownership or the role of local institutions for achieving effective and sustainable development.
This course deals with tensions between top-down and bottom-up approaches to foreign aid and practical solutions to overcome the conflicts and contradictions. While the main focus is placed on conventional Official Development Assistance (ODA), consideration will also be given to multilateral foreign aid (e.g. UN, EU), new donors (e.g. China and India) as well as non-state development agencies. The whole policy cycle is taken into account, from agenda-setting and policy design to policy implementation.
The course consists of two parts. The first part identifies and discusses the most important top-down and bottom-up approaches that currently dominate the debate in both the academic and policy-making communities. The second part provides students with hands-on and concrete knowledge why and under what contextual circumstances different top-down and bottom-up approaches to foreign aid are likely to be effective or not across different policy fields, contexts, types of donors as well as aid instruments.
Types of instruction
The main forms of teaching on the course are seminars, lectures and group work.
Language of instruction: English
The grade Pass or Fail is given in this course.
Types of assessment
The examination will be conducted through a written assignment with an oral presentation, active workshop participation (including a group work) and an examination essay.
• Written assignment and oral presentation (1 HEC)
• Active workshop participation and group work (1 HEC)
• Examination essay (3 HEC)
Pass is required on all three parts of the examination for a Pass on the course as a whole.
If a student, who has failed the same examined component twice, wishes to change examiner before the next examination, a written application shall be sent to the department responsible for the course and shall be granted unless there are special reasons to the contrary.
In cases where a course has been discontinued or has undergone major changes, the student shall normally be guaranteed at least three examination occasions (including the ordinary examination) during a period of at least one year from the last time the course was given.
The course coordinator is responsible for systematically and regularly collecting the students' views of the course, and for making sure that the results of the evaluations in different forms are taken into consideration when developing the course. The results and possible changes to the course will be shared with the students who participated in the evaluation and the next class to take the course.
The reading list for this course is not available.
Third Cycle, 5 credits
Language of instruction
To be announced
For enquiries about the course, please contact:
fredrik [dot] soderbaum [at] globalstudies [dot] gu [dot] se (Fredrik Söderbaum)