Examining the results and adaptation ideas in foreign aid

  • Heiner Janus

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis applies ideational and institutional theories to analyse how two specific ideas, results and adaptation, have changed the theory and practice of development cooperation. The thesis addresses the question of why the results and adaptation ideas are often treated as binaries and how this debate has evolved historically. In a first theoretical paper, the evolution of results and adaptation is conceptualised as a combination of institutional layering and diffusion within development organisations. The second theoretical paper applies ideational theory, in particular, the coalition magnet framework, to China as a donor country. The empirical papers apply ideational and institutional theories to study aid projects funded by the World Bank and China in the Rwandan agriculture sector. The third paper analyses through which mechanism, results-based principal-agent relationships or problem-driven iterative adaptation, the World Bank’s Program for Results in the agriculture sector in Rwanda has led to increased agricultural productivity. The paper combines causal process tracing and contribution analysis to investigate two underlying theories of change of the Program for Results. The fourth paper applies the same framework and methodology to the Chinese Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center in Rwanda. The fifth paper compares both projects, the World Bank project and the Chinese project. The thesis finds that the ideas of results and adaptation are often presented as mutually exclusive mainly at the general level of public philosophies or paradigms, but show overlap and potential for integration on the level of framing policy problems and policy solutions. The thesis also demonstrates that there is unexplored potential for convergence between China and Development Assistance Committee donors around “coalition magnet” ideas. The empirical part of the thesis reveals how results-based and adaptive causal mechanisms co-exist within given aid interventions by the World Bank and China, how these interact and how they ultimately contribute to achieving development outcomes. The key finding is that the broader political context of the Rwandan agricultural sector is the main factor for determining development outcomes, which neither the World Bank project nor the Chinese projects take into account. The comparison of the World Bank’s and China’s interventions finds that donor organisations need to address how results-based ideas in combination adaptive development ideas can be better tailored to fit into the specific context of the Rwandan agriculture sector.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Hulme (Supervisor) & Admos Chimhowu (Supervisor)


  • Agriculture
  • Political economy
  • Rwanda
  • Chinese aid
  • Development cooperation
  • Results and adaptation
  • Foreign aid
  • Discursive institutionalism

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