Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Can we do aid better? Confronting the challenges of sustainable development

29 November 2018, 6:15 pm–7:45 pm


Join Tamsyn Barton (Independent Commission for Aid Impact), Daniel Honig (Johns Hopkins University), David Hudson (University of Birmingham), Owusu-Gyamfi (Power of Nutrition), and Pablo Yanguas (Adam Smith International) for this talk.

This event is free.

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Greg Whitfield and Jennifer Hudson


JZ Young Lecture Theatre
Anatomy Building
Gower St London

Foreign aid has few outright supporters among Western political leaders. The UK consensus around the 0.7% commitment to aid has dissipated in recent years with changes in party leadership, and in the US, Donald Trump has pledged “deep cuts to foreign aid" as part of his promise to 'Put America First'. Support for aid amongst the public in key donor countries is also tenuous: while there is a constituency for aid, there is also a great deal of scepticism. Myths about the costs, benefits, and effectiveness of foreign aid appear to abound in the public consciousness. For example, a majority of the British public think aid does not get to its intended recipients and on average, Americans think that c. 20% of the US budget is spent on aid. While scholarship continues to show the effectiveness of aid across a range of indicators, there is no consensus within the sector on the best way to deliver aid. This panel brings together academics, practitioners, and regulators to discuss the challenges of aid and top tips for how we can do aid better.

Running order:

Welcome & Introduction

Dr. Gregory Whitfield, Junior Research Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies

Professor Jennifer Hudson, Professor of Political Behaviour, Department of Political Science


Dr. Tamsyn Barton, Chief Commissioner, Independent Commission for Aid Impact

Tamsyn will take up the role of Chief Commissioner for the Independent Commission for Aid Impact in January 2019. She was until recently the Chief Executive of Bond, following an extensive and varied career in international development since 1993. She was previously Director-General at the European Investment Bank, which she also represented on the Board of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Prior to that, Dr. Barton worked for a range of NGOs and the Department for International Development in a range of policy and programme management roles, in both India and the UK. She is also a Trustee of the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Dr. Daniel Honig, Assistant Professor of International Development, Johns Hopkins University

Dan’s research focuses on the relationship between organizational structure, management practice, and performance in developing country governments and organizations that provide foreign aid. His recent book,Navigation by Judgment: Why and When Top Down Management of Foreign Aid Doesn’t Work, examines the optimal level of autonomy in foreign aid intervention delivery and the role political authorizing environments and measurement regimes play in circumscribing that autonomy.

Professor David Hudson, Professorial Research Fellow, University of Birmingham

David’s research examines the politics of development, in particular on the role of coalitions, leadership, and power in reform processes, and how development actors can think and work politically. He is the Director of the Developmental Leadership Programme, an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power, and political processes drive or block successful development funded by the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs & Trade. He co-led the Gates Foundation’s Aid Attitudes Tracker study of how the public engages with aid and development in key donor countries.

Mavis Owusu-GyamfiDirector of Investments, Power of Nutrition

Mavis has over 20 years of international development experience in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Carribean. Prior to Joining the Power of Nutrition, she was the Director for Programme Policy and Quality at Save the Children UK, where she led a team of technical experts in delivering high-quality programmes. She has also worked for the Department for International Development (DFID) for 15 years as a Private Sector Development Specialist and Head of Profession for the technical group. Mavis serves as a Trustee for the Coalition for Global Prosperity.

Dr. Pablo Yanguas, Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre, Adam Smith International

Pablo is an international development consultant specializing in politically-smart and adaptive foreign aid, with a focus on anti-corruption programming. He received a PhD from Cornell University in 2012 and his academic research examines the political economy of foreign aid, the politics of development policy, and public sector reform, and has appeared in numerous academic journals. He is the author of Why we Lie about Aid: Development and the Messy Politics of Change (Zed Books, 2018).


This event is organised in collaboration with the Department of Political Science at UCL. 

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