Strategies for Development Work

International Development work has come a long way, and is changing lives around the world, for the better. Billions of dollars are being granted every year in the form of foreign aid, with the United States leading the way. Apart from the big multilateral organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank, there are other foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation doing some outstanding work in the development field. But no matter at what level, for any development work, creating a strategy is one of the most critical, and difficult aspect of a development project. 

The strategies for development can be divided into 4 layers:

1) Donor Government / Foreign Aid Strategy: This layer of strategy is based on the political / strategic / business needs, the humanitarian needs, and the agreed parameters with the other donors / international initiatives.

2) Sovereign Country Strategy: This layer of strategy is based on the country’s needs as perceived by its current government. It is influenced by the external partners / allies, special interest groups, economic envelope, and the cultural concepts.

3) Agency Strategies (Institutions like the World Bank, United Nations etc): This layer of strategy is based on the assessment of global priorities for lending and grant giving. These strategies might not initially gel with the sovereign country strategy, however, they must eventually agree.

4) The Donor / Country Sector Strategy (Education, Health, Roads etc): These strategies should mesh with the recipient ministry strategies. Within these are sub-sectors like higher education under the education sector etc. And there are other special interest strategies i.e. gender, HIV/AIDS, refugees etc.

Preparing a Strategy:

One needs to take the following steps to prepare for a strategy:

a) revisit the last strategy implemented there – what results have been achieved, noting what worked and what did not.

b) a risk analysis – with actions to be taken to mitigate known risks.

c) learning from the other strategies, building on it, and creating/analyzing the scope and objectives of the new strategy.

d) a proposed timeline for the strategy and the estimated cost for preparing the strategy;  how the results and coverage of the new strategy can be strengthened over that of the former one.

Making a Strategy Workable:

To make a developmental strategy to be implementable, a consensus needs to be gained from a variety of actors: local and national governments, donor political players – in power and out, the military, civil society – political parties, trade unions, churches, local organizations, business and non-profit sector; communities, families, social networks, specific interest groups – minorities, linguistic and cultural, gender groupings.

Other Factors to Consider:

– Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to satisfy investors that their money is being used wisely.
– Risk analysis and risk mitigation strategies upfront. It is vital to keep options open.

Competitiveness in the Developmental Marketplace:

There is competition between agencies and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for new territories, competition between donor countries for political and economic influence, and then there are new players like the Gates Foundation. And then there is an increasing access for lower-income countries, and rising economic/political powers like Brazil, Russia, India and China.


There are also tensions between the following entities: donor strategies and country ownership, recipient country political situations and donor mandates/timeframes, need for measurement and lack of data, humanitarian/rights and business aspects of development work, trade offs between dispersing funds and controlling corruption etc.

Questions Needed for the Development of a Strategy:

– What is the status of the current economic growth?

– What is the status of the education and healthcare sectors?

– Is the government stable? transparent?

– What is the cost of doing business in the country?

– Is there data available for evaluating and making decisions?

– What is the role of the developmental aid in the country?

The Checklist of Questions for an Education Strategy:

– Are the short, medium and long-term objectives clear and appropriate for what is being proposed for the country?

– Does the strategy encompass all the different levels of education adequately?

– Does the strategy address quality and equity issues?

– Does the strategy adequately consider financing constraints and public-private roles appropriately?

– Are structural and management reforms being addressed?

– Are partnerships being used to the fullest?

– Is the strategy trying to do too much?

– Does the strategy draw sufficiently from a wide range of resources.


From preparing a strategy, to making it implementable, a developmental strategy involves a lot of resources and planning. In recent years there has been an increase in competition in the development market, which has also led to rise in tensions. But if one asks the right questions, learns from previous mistakes, takes into account the risks involved, keeps an open mind, collaborates with the government and civil society, and tailors the development strategies to the local needs, there is a good chance of the development strategy achieving, and even exceeding its goals.


About pritamkabe

Originally from Bombay, India. Relocated to the United States in 1997 for attending graduate school at The University of Texas. Completed my Masters in Electrical Engineering in 1999 and then worked in the Hi-Tech industry for the next 11 years in Austin, Texas. I have a passion for travelling, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures...and i've been very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to travel quite a bit. Sports and food are my other big passions in life. Some life-changing experiences in my life a years ago changed my perspective of life, after which, just have an engineering job was not meaningful to me anymore. Hence i quit my engineering career, and I'm now motivated to give back to society and make a positive impact in some way. To get started on that journey, i went back in graduate school, and recently graduated as a "Mid-Career Fellow in Foreign Service", from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, at Georgetown University, Washington DC. Currently in New Delhi, India, on a research fellowship, to learn about the educational issues in India, and brainstorm my ideas about technological interventions for resolving those issues.
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