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Faculty Research Working Paper Series
Matthew Andrews
Senior Lecturer in Public Policy
phone: (617)384-8039
Isomorphism and the Limits to African Public Financial Management Reform
Andrews, Matthew. "Isomorphism and the Limits to African Public Financial Management Reform." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP09-012, May 2009.
Abstract
Many reform results fall below expectations in the development arena, especially in the public sector. Do the reforms just need more time to work better, or should we adjust our expectations? In addressing this question, the current article draws from isomorphism to think about potential limits to reform in developing countries. The theory is considered appropriate for thinking about change processes in the developing world. It presents change as motivated more by the need for legitimacy than efficiency and, in identifying the mechanics of change, points to potential limits of such change: to organizational dimensions that are visible, peripheral and involves concentrated sets of professional agents. These limiting factors are applied to a study of public financial management reform in 31 African countries which shows that some dimensions do appear more limited to isomorphic influence than others. Isomorphic change may indeed face natural limits, something the development community should consider in thinking about how it goes about facilitating and motivating reform in its client countries.
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