At LASER, we adopt a politically smart approach to investment climate reform. The support we provide is informed by our partner’s needs and is designed to be highly flexible, allowing us to adapt to new challenges as they arise in rapidly changing political contexts. We encourage dialogue between government and the business community, helping to identify and solve the primary constraints faced by citizens. We support step-by-step reform in recognition of gaps in government institutional capacity, whilst working alongside existing structures and resources.
Although there is no ‘one size fits all’ instructive formula for adopting such an approach, LASER has curated guiding principles from the collection of ideas known as ‘doing development differently’ and developed and applied a seven-phase hourglass methodology for institutional reform at scale.
This technical approach has been underpinned by an adaptive approach to programme management, which has been developed and refined in partnership with DFID. This approach allows flexibility ensuring that technical decisions aimed at increasing impact drive the programme – while managing risks and meeting DFID accountability requirements.
The principles underpinning the LASER approach can be summarised as follows:
- Support is problem-driven. Locally identified and defined problems partners care about provide the entry point for engagement.
- Small bets are taken. Solutions are developed iteratively and tested through ‘small bets’, which can be adapted and scaled up (or abandoned if unsuccessful).
- Solutions are context specific. Instead of locking in what we do and how we do it up front, LASER support is informed by ongoing political and contextual analysis of what is ‘best fit’, feasible and realistic for the local context.
- Interventions are locally led. Local partners identify needs and lead reforms, and LASER practitioners serve as facilitators and brokers of solutions and support, not drivers of reforms.
- Budgets do not drive decision making. A long design phase is undertaken, without significant funding (which has the potential to distort relations and incentives) committed or programmed; in addition, budget allocations are not static, but is assigned in response to needs and potential impact on an ongoing basis.
- Sustainable and scalable solutions are prioritise. Support is not focused on creating ‘pockets of success’ but emphasis is placed on activities where sustained impact and scalable solutions can be developed.
- Learning and adaptation. In addition to positive outcomes, learning takes a central place in the programme. Monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) activities form a key part of the LASER work, and the programme constantly adapts at a strategic and operational level as a result of changes in the political context, changes in partner needs, and learning about what works, and what doesn’t.
Synthesis paper 1 – 4 provide more detail on 1) why LASER decided a different approach to commercial justice reform was necessary, 2) the hourglass approach we developed to guide problem identification and programme crystallisation, 3) the lessons we learned through working in an adaptive way and 4) the technical approaches we utilised. Synthesis paper 5, to be published in Spring 2017, will set out our approach to MEL. The videos available also provide feedback from our partners on their experience of engaging with LASER.