The Development Dance

In a book full of directly applicable lessons for policymakers, Haley J. Swedlund explores why foreign aid is delivered in different ways at different times, and why various approaches prove to be politically unsustainable. She finds that no aid-delivery mechanism has yet resolved commitment problems in the donor-recipient relationship; bargaining compromises break down and have to be renegotiated; frustration grows; new ways of delivering aid gain traction over existing practices; and the dance resumes.

Swedlund draws on hundreds of interviews with key decision makers representing both donor agencies and recipient governments, policy and archival documents in Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, and an original survey of top-level donor officials working across twenty countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. This wealth of data informs Swedlund’s analysis of fads and fashions in the delivery of foreign aid and the interaction between effectiveness and aid delivery. The central message of The Development Dance is that if we want to know whether an aid delivery mechanism is likely to be sustained over the long term, we need to look at whether it induces credible commitments from both donor agencies and recipient governments over the long term.

Praise for The Development Dance  

“The author’s writing is crisp and engaging, and she weaves her central metaphor of the negotiation process as a dance between donors and recipients throughout…. Practitioners involved in the aid bargain will also almost certainly benefit from this work, which brings what I suspect many will find to be a useful, broader frame to their lived experience. Swedlund has taken a big step forward in explaining the dance of development assistance, and her book deserves to be widely read.”
—Dan Honig, American University

“Swedlund provides an empirically rich, contemporary analysis…The Development Dance should be required reading for anyone interested in making aid work better.”
—Chris W. J. Roberts, University of Calgary

The Development Dance is clearly written, always smart, and a real pleasure to read. Haley J. Swedlund interviewed hundreds of aid officials on both the government and donor sides, and she makes remarkably adept use of the interviews to illustrate aid dynamics.”
—Nicolas van de Walle, Cornell University

The Development Dance is an interesting, important, and well-conceived work that explains why donors select the aid modalities and delivery mechanisms that they do, and why they so frequently and readily drop one and take up another. Haley J. Swedlund draws on an extensive and illuminating set of empirical data.”
—Jonathan Fisher, University of Birmingham