Organising for development: How donor governance affects aid allocation and the effectiveness of foreign aid

More than twenty years ago, an influential study by World Bank economists showed that foreign aid promotes economic growth only in countries that are well governed and opt for optimal economies policies (Burnside and Dollar 1997). In response, foreign donors began allocating more aid to countries that meet certain standards of good governance and by dispersing aid in poorly governed countries via non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

This project shifts attention to donor governance as a potential determinant of aid effectiveness. Improvements to donor governance—the institutional environment, organizational structure, and transparency of donor agencies—may carry important benefits for aid effectiveness and aid efficiency. Systematic research on how the organizational arrangements of donor agencies affect their aid allocation behaviors and aid effectiveness is lacking.

To address this gap, this project will collect systematic information on critical aspects of donor governance. In doing so, it will pilot a novel hybrid research-and-learning approach involving 10 postgraduate students from the University of Glasgow and Radboud University to assist data collection and survey research.


Research leads

Dr Bernhard Reinsberg (University of Glasgow)

Dr Haley Swedlund (Radboud University)


Student team

Jakub Barszcz
Hans-Peter den Boer
Rachel Chowings
Marta Martin Grund       
Sanne van Helmondt     
Tom Howe
Dion Koerntjes                 
Olaf Knoester   
José Pedro                                         
Sylvia Raisanen


Project dates

1 August 2020 – 31 July 2021



Glasgow-Radboud Collaboration Fund (GBP 18,250)



The project has facilitated the development of a new database on donor governance. The added value of our dataset is its wide-ranging coverage in terms of indicators of donor governance. It thereby complements ongoing efforts on mapping donor governance in the social-scientific literature and policy circles. The dataset will be publicised soon.

Another outcome of this project is to build a network of scholars and students interested in the political economy of foreign aid and international development across the two universities. To that end, the project leads held a joint workshop on international development in October 2021 with participation from about 20 faculty members from both the University of Glasgow (School of Social and Political Sciences and Adam Smith Business School) and Radboud University (Nijmegen School of Management and Faculty of Social Sciences). This complements the strong existing Glasgow-Radboud ties in research, teaching, and practice. 

Through a series of four project workshops, postgraduate students from both universities had an opportunity to learn about the research process from the project leads, while carrying out research under their guidance and with the support of peers. The project therefore helped familiarize students with research methods and enhanced their transferrable skills.