Most development agencies, analysts and practitioners recognize that institutions shape the course of development and that, in turn, institutional change involves power and politics. An important corollary is that practical development organizations need to be capable of acting with intelligence in the political environment of partner countries, so they help promote, or at least do not stand in the way of, progressive developmental reform. Yet this poses significant challenges for organizations and professionals that were formed to deliver technical inputs and financial resources to development processes on the assumption that others will take care of the politics.
Various communities of practice have been established recently to advance the general idea of thinking and working politically in development agencies. One of the obstacles they face is a lack of well documented examples of the gains from working in more politically informed ways with aid. Another is an apparent shortage of operational models that provide a coherent, evidence-based alternative to standard donor practices. This paper addresses this particular gap by describing the practice of what has been called development entrepreneurship and explaining some of the ideas from outside the field of development that have inspired it.