Building State Capability
Evidence, Analysis, Action
Since the beginning of the development era in the aftermath of World War II and the accelerating creation of newly independent nation-states, there has been massive intellectual and ideological debate about what governments should do. However, there was less debate about how governments could do what they chose to do—that is, about how to build the capability of the state. The result is that more than half a century into the development era there are many states that lack the capability to carry out even simple functions, like delivering the mail, about which there is essentially no debate at all. How is it that countries like Ghana and Egypt and Honduras and Fiji (and most other developing countries) do not have a post office that implements simple policies that they have adopted?
In seeking to identify answers to these questions, we begin by returning to the available cross-national data on state capability, the better to establish a broad empirical foundation regarding global trends. In subsequent chapters we will explain these trends, explore their manifestations within particular countries and sectors, and outline a practical strategy for responding to them
Our theory stems from our belief that success builds capability, and not vice versa. Institutions and organizations and state capability are the result of success—they are the consolidation and reification of successful practices. Our approach aims to produce success by solving pressing problems the society faces in ways that can be consolidated into organizations and institutions. This begins with what we call problem-driven iterative adaptation (PDIA): a process of nominating local problems, authorizing and pushing positive deviations and innovation to solve problems, iterating with feedback to identify solutions, and the eventual diffusion of solutions through horizontal and interlinked non-organizational networks.