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

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    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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