Go to content

2. Engagement: Which Leaders and Institutions Have Experience Working with Denmark?

Engagement is a necessary, though not sufficient, precursor to influence (Parks et al, 2015; Custer et al, 2015). It is unlikely that a policymaker would pay much heed to a development partner with whom they have neither interacted nor heard of previously. Therefore, the starting point for a study of Danish influence is to pinpoint those policymakers that have experience working with Danish development partners. Which countries do they call home, what are their areas of specialisation, and what roles do they play in the policymaking process?

To answer these questions, we utilise responses from the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey of policymakers and practitioners that held leadership positions in 126 low- and middle-income countries between 2004 and 2013.[3] Participants provided first-hand insights into their experiences working with a variety of development partners and feedback on three aspects of performance: influence in setting the policy priorities, usefulness of advice in informing policy decisions, and helpfulness in reform implementation (i.e., translating ideas into action). The survey participants are broadly representative of the population of interest on four key dimensions: sex, country, stakeholder group, and institution type.[4] See Figure 1 for a comparison of the full 2014 Reform Efforts Survey sample (those who responded to the survey) versus the population of interest (those who are in the sampling frame). Additional information on the representativeness of the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey sampling frame and participants is available in Appendix A.

Figure 1: Distribution of 2014 Reform Efforts Survey Participants

Figure 1

Of the 6,731 individuals who responded to the survey, 179 reported working directly with Denmark. They include representatives from five stakeholder groups, including: (1) senior and mid-level executive branch government officials who formulate and execute policies and programs in a variety of policy domains; (2) representatives of bilateral and multilateral aid agencies and foreign embassies who dialogue with government authorities regarding policy choices and program priorities; (3) leaders of domestic civil society organisations who advocate for reforms; (4) leaders and members of business associations who are knowledgeable about government programs and the domestic policy-making process; and (5) independent country experts who monitor reform patterns and processes and donor relationships with host governments.

Survey participant responses shed light on the role development partners such as Denmark play in a given area of policy specialisation and at different phases of reform process, from upstream agenda setting to downstream reform implementation.[5] While not provided with a specific definition of "reforms", each survey participant was asked to evaluate the performance of individual development agencies in assisting government efforts to solve specific, self-identified problems related to his or her particular area of policy expertise. For the purposes of our data analysis, we define reforms as these government efforts to solve specific policy problems.

There are several caveats to our findings in this study. First, our evaluation relies on a relatively small sample of survey participants who worked directly with Denmark (N=179). Their views may not accurately represent the actual scope and influence of Danish development cooperation in its entirety, which puts into question the generalisability of our findings. Second, the survey participants’ evaluations of Danish development partners are experiential in nature, meaning that their evaluations are based on their experience working directly with Denmark. These experiential evaluations of survey participants are not necessarily correlated with the de facto influence of Danish development partners on the reform process in their respective countries. Lastly, our study is based on survey participants’ experiences for a specific time period of 2004-2013, which means that recent changes in the strategy of Danish development cooperation (e.g., increasing focus on fragile states, public and private partnerships) may not be reflected fully in participants’ views of Danish influence in reform efforts.

While findings based on a small number of responses are not necessarily generalisable across all of the diverse contexts in which Denmark operates, they nonetheless shed light on the experiences those individuals who reported working with Denmark on specific reform efforts. As such, the data from the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey represent a rich source of information to analyse partner country perceptions of Danish performance – including its policy influence, advice usefulness, and helpfulness during reform implementation – across sectors and geographical regions.

In the remainder of this section, we analyse the unique characteristics and attributes of the key audiences for Danish development cooperation, based upon responses to the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey.[6] We identify four patterns about who is, and is not, familiar with Danish development partners through a comparison of those individuals who reported working with Denmark versus those that did not.

2.1 The composition of survey participants who reported working with Denmark is consistent with Danida’s strategic focus on partnerships with civil society and the private sector, as well as close coordination with other development partners.

While the group of individuals who reported working with Denmark appears to be largely representative, we do find that a smaller-than-expected proportion of host government officials indicated working with Denmark (57.4% of survey participants as compared to 50.3% of participants who worked with Denmark). In turn, individuals from civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations were proportionally over-represented (17.8% of total survey participants as compared to 21.2% of participants who worked with Denmark), as were participants who worked for development partners (24.8% compared to 28.5%).

Figure 2: Distribution of Survey Participants, by Stakeholder Group

Figure 2

2.2 Denmark’s longstanding emphasis on assistance to sub-Saharan Africa is evident in the higher-than-expected number of survey participants who indicated that they had experience working with Denmark (see Figure 3).

This relatively high degree of engagement with Denmark within sub-Saharan Africa (44.7% of survey participants who worked with Denmark) makes intuitive sense, given that Africa has been the largest recipient of Danish development aid (with approximately 60% of Danish bilateral ODA disbursed to the region in 2009 (OECD-DAC 2011b). As we will discuss in Section 5, further analysis reveals that Denmark, as evaluated by these survey participants, also performs particularly well in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of providing useful policy advice, exerting influence on initiating reform efforts, and helping in the implementation of such reform efforts. Figure 4 indicates countries where there is at least one survey participant who interacted directly with Denmark.

Figure 3: The Distribution of Survey Participants, by Region

Figure 3

Figure 4: Where Did Denmark Interact with Survey Participants?

Figure 4 Notes: All countries surveyed in the 2014 Reform Efforts Survey are shaded, with darker blue indicating countries where there is at least one survey participant who interacted directly with Denmark.

2.3 In line with Danida’s own perceived comparative advantages, survey participants who worked with Denmark indicated that they specialised in governance and social sectors.[7]

It does not come as a surprise that, among survey participants who worked with Denmark, those with governance expertise constituted the largest sectoral group (see Figure 5 for the numbers and proportions of survey participants who worked with Denmark, sorted by five policy clusters[8]).

Democracy and human rights have long been among the top priorities of Danish development strategy (OECD-DAC 2007; OECD-DAC 2011b; Danida 2010; 2012).[9] Indeed, the largest share of Danish development aid is dedicated to the governance sector (OECD-DAC 2011b, p. 43). The social sector also accounts for a significant share of Danish development assistance, which may partly explain why survey participants who reported specialisation in the social sector broadly -- and health in particular -- comprised one of the dominant sectoral groups among participants who worked with Denmark (Gates and Hoeffler 2004; OECD-DAC 2011b).[10]

Figure 5: The Distribution of Survey Participants, by Policy Domain

Figure 5 Notes: Figure shows the proportion of respondents who interacted directly with Denmark, sorted by policy domain. Blue (or green) bars represent the proportions of respondents in the Denmark sample (or in the overall sample). The number of respondents in each policy domain is reported in brackets next to each policy domain.

2.4 Unsurprisingly, given Denmark’s focus on communication and partnership, middle management and programmatic staff within government were more likely to have worked with Denmark than senior leaders.

This asymmetry between the participants who worked with Denmark and the broader sample of policymakers and practitioners who participated in the survey could be a result of Denmark’s emphasis on partnership and communication with in-country stakeholders: middle management and programmatic staff are more likely to have the time for frequent conversations with their development partner counterparts. Additionally, if Danish development actors are providing practical advice related to their areas of specialisation, it is likely to be targeted to officials at the levels that are overrepresented in the groups who reported working with Denmark.

Figure 6: The Distribution of Host Government Survey Participants Who Worked with Denmark, by Position Type

Figure 6 Notes: This figure shows a breakdown of host government officials who interacted with Danida by position type in comparison to that of the overall sample. The number of survey participants in the Denmark subsamples for each position type is reported in brackets.

[3] The 2014 Reform Efforts Survey leveraged a sampling frame of 55,010 individuals constructed using a rigorous institution-mapping process to identify country-specific institutions and leadership positions of relevance to a study of reform efforts. Of the 55,010 individuals originally included in the sampling frame, we successfully sent a survey invitation to the email inbox of over 44,055 people. From this cohort of survey recipients, 6,731 participated. Throughout this report, we have attempted to correct for potential biases that may result from variation in contact availability, country sample size, and participation rates by employing non-response weights, which adjust for survey non-response.

[4] We identified our population of interest by first mapping country-specific public sector institutions (and leadership positions within those institutions) back to an ideal-typical developing country government. This ideal-typical government consisted of 33 institution types (e.g., Ministry of Finance, a Supreme Audit Institution, and a National Statistical Office). We then identified functionally equivalent leadership positions within these institutions, and the specific individuals who held these positions between 2004 and 2013. For the four other stakeholder groups, we undertook a similar process of first mapping country-specific institutions and positions, and then identifying the individuals who held those positions between 2004 and 2013. Identifying functional equivalents at the institution- and leadership position-level resulted in a sampling frame that enables comparison across countries. See the Appendix of the Marketplace of Ideas for Policy Change (Parks et al. 2015) report for more details.

[5] Survey participants were first asked to identify their areas of policy specialisation and then select all development partners with whom they had worked directly at any point between 2004 and 2013. Survey participants were then asked to evaluate how frequently those development partners provided useful policy advice and the degree to which they influenced the government’s decision to pursue specific reforms within their primary areas of policy specialisation. Each participant was also asked to identify the development partners involved in the implementation of specific partner-government reform efforts, and evaluate the extent to which each development partner was helpful in supporting those reform implementation efforts.

[6] Due to the representative nature of survey participants, vis-à-vis the broader sampling frame, in the following sections we compare survey participants with the sub-group of survey participants who indicated working with Denmark. Tables with all four sub-groups: (1) the sampling frame, (2) survey participants, (3) survey participants who worked with Denmark, and (4) survey participants who indicated Denmark’s involvement in the implementation of reforms are available in the Appendix.

[7] The governance policy area includes the democracy, decentralisation, anti-corruption and transparency, justice and security policy domains. The social sector policy area includes the health, education, family and gender, and social protection and welfare policy domains.

[8] For the purposes of this analysis, we exclude participants who selected “other.”

[9] The policy priorities of the Danish development policy have changed over time. In 2000, Danida “established gender, environment and democracy as cross-cutting issues [or particular focus] in Danish development co-operation” (Engberg-Pedersen 2014, p. 120). However, the idea of cross-cutting issues was jettisoned in the 2010 development policy, which then identified “five themes that are supposed to guide Danish development co-operation (the five themes have been cut down to four in the latest development policy” (Ibid).

[10] Figures A-1 and A-2 in the Appendix show the distribution of survey participants by each of the different policy domains. Individuals with policy expertise in health account for 8.4% of survey participants who worked directly with Denmark and 12% of survey participants who indicated Denmark’s involvement in reform implementation.


This page forms part of the publication "Danish Development Cooperation from a Partner Country Perspective – Evaluation Study, September 2016" as chapter 2 of 7.
Version no. 1.0, 2016-10-04
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/evaluation_study_september_2016/index.html