Outsourcing the business of development: the rise of for-profit consultancies in the UK aid sector

Brendan Whitty*, Jessica Sklair, Paul Gilbert, Emma Mawdsley, Jo-Anna Russon, Olivia G Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)
    13 Downloads (Pure)


    While much attention has been paid to the ways in which the private sector is now embedded within the field of development, one group of actors — for-profit development consultancies and contractors, or service providers — has received relatively little attention. This article analyses the growing role of for-profit consultancies and contractors in British aid delivery, which has been driven by two key trends: first, the outsourcing of managerial, audit and knowledge-management functions as part of efforts to bring private sector approaches and skills into public spending on aid; and second, the reconfiguration of aid spending towards markets and the private sector, and away from locally embedded, state-focused aid programming. The authors argue that both trends were launched under New Labour in the early 2000s, and super-charged under successive Conservative governments. The resulting entanglement means that the policies and practices of the UK government's aid agencies, and the interests and forms of for-profit service providers, are increasingly mutually constitutive. Amongst other implications, this shift acts to displace traditional forms of contestation and accountability of aid delivery.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)892-917
    Number of pages26
    JournalDevelopment and Change
    Issue number4
    Early online date31 Jul 2023
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2023


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