The team behind the Atlas of Economic Complexity (see my post on this here) have come up with a fascinating network-based approach for analysing the global aid system.

As they put it:

International development is a complex global goal that faces massive coordination barriers. The difference in income between rich and poor has expanded over the years from a four to one factor to a hundred to one. Where there once were only a handful of development agencies, thousands have now emerged. The system that connects donor agencies, recipient countries and development challenges is extremely complex and should not be managed with a top-down approach… The Aid Explorer was developed as a tool to facilitate better aid coordination. The Aid Explorer enables users to understand what issues face which countries and which aid organizations are aligned to address these issues.

Some specific pointers:

  • The Aid Explorer’s Profile pages enables us to see which issues face which countries and which organisations are best aligned to address them
  • The Network maps can be used to explore how issues, countries, and organizations relate to each other
  • The Rankings presents the findings and the best alignments of countries, issues and organizations

The process of developing the dataset, and how to use it, is described in more detail in the accompanying paper “The Structure and Dynamics of International Development Assistance“, published earlier this year in the Journal of Globalization and Development.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Hi Ben

    Readers might be interested to know that there is a way of doing a very simple version of the analysis presented by Aid Explorer, which I tried out in 2008 and described here: It starts “Web pages are piles of links, brought together by website designers who think the links have some form of shared relevance. Links to other websites can be seen to be conceptually linked when they are referred to on the same webpage. A single Google search for two web page addresses will produce a list of sites where both are listed. See this example of a Google search for “,“. The number of the sites containing both of these links tells us something about the relative strength of that conceptual link (i.e a lot of people see some form of commonality, though not necessarily the same form). ” The post goes on to describe the results of one systematic search for associated links, and includes a network diagram that shows the structure of associations


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About Ben Ramalingam

I am a researcher and writer specialising on international development and humanitarian issues. I am currently working on a number of consulting and advisory assignments for international agencies. I am also writing a book on complexity sciences and international aid which will be published by Oxford University Press. I hold Senior Research Associate and Visiting Fellow positions at the Institute of Development Studies, the Overseas Development Institute, and the London School of Economics.


Accountability, Evaluation, Facilitation, Innovation, Institutions, Knowledge and learning, Leadership, Networks, Organisations, Public Policy, Reports and Studies, Research, Self organisation