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Toward isomorphism in development aid?

In a new project, funded by the Swedish Research Council, Susanna Alexius and Janet Vähämäki seek to develop systematic data on how diversity objectives of the multi-actor policy are being met in actual practice.

Susanna Alexius och Janet Vähämäki

Over the past decade, the inclusion of a variety of diverse actors has been proclaimed the way forward to combat global poverty. However, despite intentions of the Swedish multi-actor policy to safeguard diversity, data indicates an increased isomorphism in the organization of aid. Actors from different institutional domains are seen to operate in a similar way, a conformity often shaped by general management knowledge.

This project builds on results from Towards an organizational theory on “obsessive measurement disorder”: A comparative study on how intermediary organizations translate performance measurement requirements on aid

In this new project, funded by the Swedish Research Council, Susanna Alexius and Janet Vähämäki seek to develop systematic data on how diversity objectives of the multi-actor policy are being met in actual practice. A mixed-methods design, combining surveys and focus group interviews, will be used to make comparisons across and within actor groups, in Sweden and Tanzania.

By mapping current trust patterns among intermediaries in aid, across actor groups, and discussing implications of these trust patterns, the project will contribute not only to develop theory on trust, but also policy relevant knowledge on ways to safeguard diversity in the organization of aid.

Theoretically, the aim is to make sense of current trust patterns in aid, where the researchers’ previous findings suggest that current trust patterns may contribute to explain isomorphism (conformity) in aid (read the EBA-report In Proper Organization We Trust here: https://eba.se/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/In-Proper-Organization-we-Trust.pdf). Alexius and Vähämäki will also study variation and resistance to isomorphism, that is how diversity may be defended and promoted.

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