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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


  • Fredrik Söderbaum (course leader)
    Professor of Peace and Development Research, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg.
     
  • Patrik Stålgren (PhD) 
    Head of Unit: Partnership, Innovation and Methods, Sida (formerly University of Gothenburg and SADEV). 
     
  • Jesper Sundewall,
    Associate Professor, Global Health Systems, Lund University and University of KwaZulu-Natal (formerly Sida and EBA).
     
  • Josephine Sundqvist (PhD) 
    Secretary General and CEO, LM International Läkarmissionen (formerly Sida, ACT and Uppsala University).

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 PhD 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 PhD 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.
 


 

Learning outcomes

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.

Course content

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

Grades

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.  

Course evaluation

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.

Seminar 1. Introduction

28 March, 13-16 Online

  • Course introduction and course objectives.
  • Introductory lecture: Making foreign aid work: for whom and for what purpose? 
  • Mini-presentations of participants and their ongoing PhD projects in relation to the course.
  • Discussion & expectations.
     

Seminar 2: Seminar on development planning, results-based and donor-centered approaches

11 April at 13-16 Online

  • Short lecture on development planning, results-based and donor-centered approaches.
  • Presentations and reviews by select participants of development planning, results-based and donor-centered approaches. 
  • Discussion.
     

Seminar 3: Seminar on ownership, bottom-up and recipient-centered approaches

25 April at 13-16 Online

  • Short lecture on bottom-up and recipient-based foreign aid.
  • Presentations and reviews by select participants of research on ownership and recipient-oriented foreign aid strategies. 
  • Discussion.
     

Seminar 4: Seminar on development cooperation beyond top-down and bottom-up approaches

9 May at 13-16 Online

  • Presentations and reviews by select participants of theoretical frameworks that integrate or move beyond top-down and bottom-up strategies in foreign aid.
  • Discussion.
  • Preparations for the workshop.
     

Workshop 15-17 May

Location: the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg

Monday 15 May (start at 13)

  • Introduction
  • Short lectures and discussions with practitioners
  • Presentations of PhD research projects in light of top-down and bottom-up management of foreign aid – part 1. Feedback from lecturers/resource persons and peers. 
  • Discussions.

Tuesday 16 May (9-17)

  • Seminar on different types of donors, aid modalities and policy fields
  • Presentations of PhD research projects in light of top-down and bottom-up management of foreign aid – part 2. Feedback from lecturers/resource persons and peers. 
  • Seminar on making foreign aid work: experiences from the field.
  • Roundtable on top-down and bottom-up management of foreign aid
  • Presentations of PhD research projects in light of top-down and bottom-up management of foreign aid – part 3. Feedback from lecturers/resource persons and peers. 
  • Discussions.


Wednesday 17 May (9-16) 

  • Seminar on types of recipients and ownership
  • Seminar on decolonizing foreign aid: the practitioners’ view 
  • Present your own research project in light of top-down and bottom-up management of foreign aid – part 3. Feedback from lecturers/resource persons and peers. 
  • Concluding seminar: Making foreign aid work in a multiplex world.
  • Course evaluation and feedback
     

The schedule is only preliminary and may be subject to change. More detailed information regarding the course will be provided upon acceptance to the course. 

The reading list is being developed and will be available in early February. 

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Practical information

Third Cycle, 5 credits

Language of instruction
English

Course period
Spring 2023

Course structure

Four online sessions:
28 March, 11 & 25 April, 9 May

Onsite workshop:
15-17 May in Gothenburg