Michael Woolcock


Micahel Woolcock  (World Bank and Harvard University) 

Michael Woolcock is Lead Social Development Specialist in the World Bank’s Development Research Group, and a (part-time) lecturer in public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He is a founder of the World Bank’s Justice for the Poor program, the University of Manchester’s Brooks World Poverty Institute (where he was in residence in 2007-2009), and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Building State Capability initiative. His published work spans a broad spectrum of issues in development, ranging from social institutions, economic history, and legal pluralism, to program evaluation, service delivery, and popular culture. He is a recipient of the 2012 “best book” and 2014 “best article” awards by the American Sociological Association’s section on the sociology of development. An Australian national, he has an MA and PhD in sociology from Brown University.


Now for the Hard Part: From the MDGs to Building Capability for Implementation

Most developing countries will meet most of the MDGs, which is great. But that was the easy part; the development objective should not be merely to get everyone immunized, attending school, and living on at least $1.26 per day, but to raise everyone to the level of the lowest OECD countries (e.g., Portugal). The modalities and metrics deployed to deliver the MDGs, however, will not get Monrovians to Lisbon. Going forward, the key development challenge is building the state’s capability to implement incrementally more complex and contentious tasks (e.g., justice, regulation, taxation, land administration). Achieving this requires a fundamentally different approach, elements of which will be outlined.

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