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 - 5 of 5
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    Measuring Social Capital : An Integrated Questionnaire
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2004) Grootaert, Grootaert ; Narayan, Deepa ; Nyhan Jones, Veronica ; Woolcock, Michael
    The idea of social capital has enjoyed a remarkable rise to prominence in both the theoretical and applied social science literature over the last decade. While lively debate has accompanied that journey, thereby helping to advance our thinking and to clarify areas of agreement and disagreement, much still remains to be done. One approach that we hope can help bring further advances for both scholars and practitioners is the provision of a set of empirical tools for measuring social capital. The purpose of this paper is to introduce such a tool-the Integrated Questionnaire for the Measurement of Social Capital (SC-IQ)-with a focus on applications in developing countries. The tool aims to generate quantitative data on various dimensions of social capital as part of a larger household survey (such as the Living Standards Measurement Survey or a household income/expenditure survey). Specifically, six dimensions are considered: groups and networks; trust and solidarity; collective action and cooperation; information and communication; social cohesion and inclusion; empowerment and political action. The paper addresses sampling and data collection issues for implementing the SC-IQ and provides guidance for the use and analysis of data. The tool has been pilot-tested in Albania and Nigeria and a review of lessons learned is presented.
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    Customary Law and Policy Reform : Engaging with the Plurality of Justice Systems
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2005) Chirayath, Leila ; Sage, Caroline ; Woolcock, Michael
    The importance of building effective legal and regulatory systems has long been recognized by development professionals, yet there have been few programmatic initiatives that have translated empirical evidence and political intention into sustained policy success. Justice sector reforms have frequently been based on institutional transplants, wherein 'successful� legal codes (constitutions, contract law, etc.) and institutions (courts, legal services organizations, etc.) of developed countries have been imported almost verbatim into developing countries, without thought of the country�s social and cultural situation. Further, the fact that most developing countries have customary legal systems is often overlooked by development practitioners. Many governments, however, have tried to engage with customary systems in one way or another, with differing results. This paper brings customary systems into central focus in the ongoing debate about legal and regulatory reform. It analyses the ongoing challenges and critiques of customary legal systems and examines why, despite these challenges, engaging with such systems is crucial to successful reform processes. It examines the ways customary systems have developed in three African Countries?Tanzania, Rwanda and South Africa?and draws out some of the lessons of these experiences and the implications they have for policy reform initiatives.
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    Role of Law and Justice in Achieving Gender Equality
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2012) Chiongson, Rea Abada ; Desai, Deval ; Marchiori, Teresa ; Woolcock, Michael
    The authors are grateful to a number of people who helped at various states in the drafting of this paper. In particular, Nicholas Menzies (Justice Reform Specialist, LEGJR) for his continuous support and extensive comments on earlier drafts; Milena Stefanova (Project Officer, LEGJR), Daniel Evans (Consultant, LEGJR) and Elizabeth Morgan (Development Practitioner, PNG-Australia Law and Justice Partnership, Village Courts & Land Mediation Secretariat, PNG Department of Justice & Attorney General) for their invaluable inputs and insights; Barry Walsh (Senior Justice Specialist, LEGJR), Harold Epineuse (Counsel, LEGJR), Richard Nash (Counsel, LEGJR) and Melissa Upreti (Center for Reproductive Rights) for their contributions and comments; Virginia Seitz (Senior Director, Social and Gender Assessment, Millennium Challenge Corporation) and Limpho Masekese Maema (Gender Coordinator, Gender Equality in Economic Rights Programme, Millenium Challenge Account- Lesotho) for their contribution to the drafting of the case study on Lesotho.
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    Implementing Adaptive Approaches in Real World Scenarios: A Nigeria Case Study, with Lessons for Theory and Practice
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-06) Bridges, Kate ; Woolcock, Michael
    How does adaptive implementation work in practice? Drawing on extensive interviews and observations, this paper contrasts the ways in which an adaptive component of a major health care project was implemented in three program and three matched comparison states in Nigeria. The paper examines the bases on which claims and counterclaims about the effectiveness of these approaches were made by different actors, concluding that resolution requires any such claims to be grounded in a fit-for-purpose theory of change and evaluation strategy. The principles of adaptive development may be gaining broad acceptance, but a complex array of skills, expectations, political support, empirical measures, and administrative structures needs to be deftly integrated if demonstrably positive operational results are to be obtained, especially when undertaken within institutional systems, administrative logics, and political imperatives that are predisposed to serve rather different purposes.
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    How (Not) to Fix Problems that Matter: Assessing and Responding to Malawi's History of Institutional Reform
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2017-12) Bridges, Kate ; Woolcock, Michael
    Malawi can be understood as a microcosm of institutional reform approaches in developing countries more broadly. A common feature of such approaches, whether implemented by government or donors, is reform initiatives that yield institutions that "look like" those found in higher-performing countries but rarely acquire the same underlying functionality. This paper presents a retrospective analysis of previous institutional reform projects in Malawi, as well as interviews with Malawi-based development practitioners. The paper finds a plethora of interventions that, merely by virtue of appearing to be in conformity with "best practices" elsewhere, are deemed to be successful yet fail to fix underlying problems, sometimes in contradiction to internal and public narratives of positive progress. This unhappy arrangement endures because a multitude of imperatives, incentives, and norms appear to keep governments and donors from more closely examining why such intense, earnest, and long-standing efforts at reform have, to date, yielded so few successes. This paper seeks to promote a shift in approach to institutional reform, offering some practical recommendations for reform-minded managers, project teams, and political leaders in which the focus is placed on crafting solutions to problems that Malawians themselves nominate, prioritize, and enact.