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Johns Hopkins SAIS expert available to discuss implementation and management of foreign aid

High-quality implementation of foreign aid programs often requires contextual information that cannot be seen by those in distant headquarters, according to Dan Honig, Assistant Professor of International Development at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
In his new book, “Navigation by Judgment: Why and When Top Down Management of Foreign Aid Doesn’t Work,” Dr. Honig argues that tight controls and a focus on reaching pre-set measurable targets often prevent front-line workers from using skill, local knowledge, and creativity to solve problems in ways that maximize the impact of foreign aid.
Drawing on a database of over 14,000 development projects across nine aid agencies and eight paired case studies of development projects, he concludes that aid agencies will often benefit from giving field agents the authority to use their own judgments to guide aid delivery.
“Aid agencies — like lots of government agencies — have a basic problem: they have to prove to Congress and the public they’re doing something, but the impact of their work isn’t always easy to measure,” Dr. Honig said. “Trying to report on performance sometimes undermines performance.”
He added that too little management control can result in waste, fraud, and abuse, but performance can also suffer from too much control and reporting.
The scholar is available to further discuss:

  • How can aid agencies be better managed to maximize the impact of foreign aid spending?
  • How do performance metrics act as a form of top-down control, and when does this undermine agency performance?
  • How can the demands for effectiveness by politicians and authorizers — like Congress or the World Bank’s Executive Board — actually undermine agency performance?
  • What are the perils of “the reductive seduction of metrics?”
  • When is an agency likely to see more success when guided by the judgment of its field staff?
  • As technology-enabled observation of workers continues a rapid ascent, how can the gains of greater observation be balanced with the costs of observation?

Dr. Honig’s research focuses on the relationship between organizational structure, management practice, and performance in developing country governments and organizations that provide foreign aid. He has served as a special assistant, then advisor, to successive Ministers of Finance in Liberia and ran a local nonprofit focused on helping post-conflict youth realize the power of their own ideas to better their lives and communities through agricultural entrepreneurship in East Timor. Dr. Honig has also worked for a number of local and international NGOs, including Ashoka in Thailand and the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development in Israel. A native of Detroit, he holds a BA from the University of Michigan and a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School.
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Stacy A. Anderson
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Johns Hopkins SAIS
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About Johns Hopkins SAIS
A division of Johns Hopkins University, the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) is a global institution that offers students an international perspective on today's critical issues. For nearly 75 years, Johns Hopkins SAIS has produced great leaders, thinkers, and practitioners of international relations. Public leaders and private sector executives alike seek the counsel of the faculty, whose ideas and research inform and shape policy. Johns Hopkins SAIS offers a global perspective across three campus locations: Bologna, Italy; Nanjing, China; and Washington, D.C. The school’s interdisciplinary curriculum is strongly rooted in the study of international economics, international relations, and regional studies, preparing students to address multifaceted challenges in the world today.
For more information, visit or @SAISHopkins

Tuesday, April 10, 2018