Woolcock, Michael

Development Research Group
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Social development, Research methods, Institutions, Poverty, Community Driven Development, Governance, Conflict
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Last updated June 24, 2023
Michael Woolcock is the lead social scientist in the Development Research Group at the World Bank, where he has worked since 1998. For 14 of these years he has also taught (part-time) at Harvard Kennedy School, with periods of leave spent at the University of Cambridge (2002) and the University of Manchester (2007–09). In 2015-17 he also helped establish the World Bank’s first Knowledge and Research Hub, in Kuala Lumpur. His current research focuses on strategies for enhancing the effectiveness of policy implementation, extending work addressed in his recent book, Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action (with Matt Andrews and Lant Pritchett; Oxford University Press, 2017). Michael is a co-recipient of the American Sociological Association’s awards for best book (2012) and best article (2014) on economic development.
Citations 433 Scopus

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Now showing 1 - 2 of 2
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    Justice without the Rule of Law? The Challenge of Rights-Based Industrial Relations in Contemporary Cambodia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009-01) Adler, Daniel ; Woolcock, Michael
    A significant proportion of the world's work is done in contexts where the rule of law is absent or severely lacking. This paper describes one such context, that of contemporary Cambodia. Based on a literature review and interviews with key informants the authors find that there are opportunities to embed labor markets in regulatory frameworks, even at the periphery of the global economy. In such contexts, however, it is suggested that orthodox models of legal and judicial reform, which focus on drafting better laws and building capacity in judicial and administrative institutions for their enforcement, may not be the most effective way forward. Rather, the Cambodian experience suggests that the following were crucial in moving towards better protection of workers' rights: understanding the limitations of law as an instrument for attainment of rights absent independent and accessible judicial institutions; confronting the barriers to the establishment of such institutions (and being open to alternative strategies); recalling that law can have a powerful normative force, even without direct enforcement; engaging with the way in which rights are attained through processes of social contest; and supporting institutional forums for such contests to be played out in ways which maximize the potential for the disadvantaged to take part and tap in to the legitimating power of the law.
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    Alternative Paths to Public Financial Management and Public Sector Reform: Experiences from East Asia
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2018-06-26) So, Sokbunthoeun ; Woolcock, Michael ; April, Leah ; Hughes, Caroline ; Smithers, Nicola ; So, Sokbunthoeun ; Woolcock, Michael ; April, Leah ; Hughes, Caroline ; Smithers, Nicola
    Reforming public-sector organizations--their structures, policies, processes and practices--is notoriously difficult, in rich and poor countries alike. Even in the most favorable of circumstances, the scale and complexity of the tasks to be undertaken are enormous, requiring levels of coordination and collaboration that may be without precedent for those involved. Entirely new skills may need to be acquired by tens of thousands of people. Compounding these logistical challenges is the pervasive reality that circumstances often are not favorable to large-scale reform. Whether a country is rich or poor, the choice is not whether, but how, to reform the public sector--how optimal design characteristics, robust political support, and enhanced organizational capability to implement and adapt will be forged over time. This edited volume helps address the “how” question. It brings together reform experiences in public financial management and the public sector more broadly from eight country cases in East Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, and Vietnam. These countries are at different stages of reform; most of the reform efforts would qualify as successes, while some had mixed outcomes, and others could be considered failures. The focus of each chapter is less on formally demonstrating success (or not) of specific reform, but on documenting how reformers maneuvered within different country contexts to achieve specific outcomes. Despite the great difficulty in reforming the public sector, decision-makers can draw renewed energy and inspiration, learning from those countries, sectors, and subnational spaces where substantive (not merely cosmetic) change has been achieved, and they can identify what pitfalls to avoid.