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

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 3 of 3
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    Trust, Voice, and Incentives : Learning from Local Success Stories in Service Delivery in the Middle East and North Africa
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2015-04) Brixi, Hana ; Lust, Ellen ; Woolcock, Michael ; Alaref, Jumana ; Halabi, Samira ; Hebert, Luciana ; Linnemann, Hannah ; Quota, Manal
    This report examines the role of incentives, trust, and engagement as critical determinants of service delivery performance in MENA countries. Focusing on education and health, the report illustrates how the weak external and internal accountability undermines policy implementation and service delivery performance and how such a cycle of poor performance can be counteracted. Case studies of local success reveal the importance of both formal and informal accountability relationships and the role of local leadership in inspiring and institutionalizing incentives toward better service delivery performance. Enhancing services for MENA citizens requires forging a stronger social contract among public servants, citizens, and service providers while empowering communities and local leaders to find 'best fit' solutions. Learning from the variations within countries, especially the outstanding local successes, can serve as a solid basis for new ideas and inspiration for improving service delivery. Such learning may help the World Bank Group and other donors as well as national and local leaders and civil society, in developing ways to enhance the trust, voice, and incentives for service delivery to meet citizens’ needs and expectations.
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    Operationalizing the Science of Delivery Agenda to Enhance Development Results
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2015-10) Gonzalez Asis, Maria ; Woolcock, Michael
    The clear development gains achieved in recent decades should not deflect attention from the scale and type of challenges that remain. The strategies largely responsible for these initial gains have been technical reforms promoting economic growth and logistical systems supplying basic inputs. Today, strategies are needed that focus on enhancing the quality of implementation— for example, ensuring learning and not just building schools and enrolling students. This concern now spans numerous domains of professional practice (especially health) and has entered World Bank discussions framed as the “science of delivery.” At the World Bank, the Global Delivery Initiative (GDI) is an operational manifestation and extension of these ideas. To date, the GDI has prepared a number of different case studies across numerous sectors on ways in which innovative teams solve particular problems during project implementation. On the basis of the initial case studies, the authors outline five key principles of how high-quality implementation occurs and invite others to add to this growing storehouse of knowledge. Specifically, task teams are encouraged to develop “live” case studies by and for their staff, documenting how, in real time, implementation challenges are being met. Projects must “learn” more rapidly and systematically how to solve the myriad range of complex implementation challenges they inevitably encounter, since most of these (by definition) cannot be anticipated ex ante. Delivery challenges of this kind will only intensify in the coming years as citizens demand effective responses to ever-more complex—and contentious—policy domains, such as justice, regulation, and taxation.
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    Toward Successful Development Policies: Insights from Research in Development Economics
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-01) Artuc, Erhan ; Cull, Robert ; Dasgupta, Susmita ; Fattal, Roberto ; Filmer, Deon ; Gine, Xavier ; Jacoby, Hanan ; Jolliffe, Dean ; Kee, Hiau Looi ; Klapper, Leora ; Kraay, Aart ; Loayza, Norman ; Mckenzie, David ; Ozler, Berk ; Rao, Vijayendra ; Rijkers, Bob ; Schmukler, Sergio L. ; Toman, Michael ; Wagstaff, Adam ; Woolcock, Michael
    What major insights have emerged from development economics in the past decade, and how do they matter for the World Bank? This challenging question was recently posed by World Bank Group President David Malpass to the staff of the Development Research Group. This paper assembles a set of 13 short, nontechnical briefing notes prepared in response to this request, summarizing a selection of major insights in development economics in the past decade. The notes synthesize evidence from recent research on how policies should be designed, implemented, and evaluated, and provide illustrations of what works and what does not in selected policy areas.