Why Political Economy Analysis helps you create better politically informed strategies & programs
Updated: Apr 21, 2022
Why should you consider politics when doing health development?
There is an increasing understanding that development is essentially a political process (1). Each country has a unique political environment that creates its own constraints and opportunities. Therefore, offering technical assistance and resources without consideration of the political economy is not effective (1). It’s the people in power who will make the decisions and often, they have a significant influence on the feasibility or sustainability of projects. Hence, there needs to be adequate consideration of the political environment and its impact on development outcomes. Political economy analysis (PEA) is the study of the interaction between politics and economics within a specific context (1). It is concerned with the incentives, relationships, distribution and contestation of power between different groups and stakeholders (2).
What are the benefits of a PEA?
Builds understanding of how incentives, institutions, and ideas shape political action and development outcomes.
Brings political context into any intervention or strategy allowing for better politically informed solutions (1).
Sheds light on the critical factors that are likely to drive or impede progress.
Fosters country ownership and contributes to improved prioritization and sequencing of reform efforts (1).
When should you conduct a PEA?
PEA is not a one-off assessment. It should be an ongoing and iterative process done throughout strategy or intervention development with the goal of adapting when necessary to produce the most effective outcome (3). Firstly, PEA should be conducted early enough to inform project design. Secondly, depending on the fluidity of the factors assessed in the initial PEA, a light-touch PEA should be conducted periodically. This can range from one-hour conversation with key stakeholders to one month report analysis (4). Regular light-touch PEA promotes strategic adaptive management that ensures development objectives are guided by continuous learning. Finally, follow up is required to ensure that 1) PEA findings directly impact strategies and programs and 2) PEA impact is monitored through concrete outcome indicators (1).
What are the challenges in conducting a PEA?
Difficult to get funding to conduct a PEA.
Concerns about PEA practically given time constraints.
PEA often conducted in ad-hoc fashion, therefore do not directly inform programs.
There is a gap between the desire to design politically informed programs and the support and opportunities that organizations provide.
Although PEA is not a silver bullet, it is a crucial piece of development. IHI strongly encourages development partners, NGOs, local implementers to strongly consider the political context in which they work in. PEA will promote politically informed programs, interventions and strategies that are more likely to be sustainable.
1. DFID. (2009, July). Political Economy Analysis How To Note. Retrieved February 10, 2021, from https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/events-documents/3797.pdf
2. Mcloughlin, C. (2014). Political Economy Analysis: Topic Guide (2nd Ed.) Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham
3. Menocal, A. R., Cassidy, M., Swift, S., Jacobstein, D., Rothblum, C., & Tservil, I. (2018, April). Thinking and Working Politically through applied political economy analysis: A Guide for Practitioners. Retrieved February 15, 2021, from https://usaidlearninglab.org/sites/default/files/resource/files/pea_guide_final.pdf
4. Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre. (2015, April). Making political analysis useful: Adjusting and scaling. Retrieved February 15, 2021, from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/57a08995e5274a31e0000168/esid_bp_12_PEA.pdf