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International Aid to Education: Power Dynamics in an Era of Partnership

reviewed by Jayson W. Richardson - December 02, 2019

coverTitle: International Aid to Education: Power Dynamics in an Era of Partnership
Author(s): Francine Menashy
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807761281, Pages: 160, Year: 2019
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Francine Menashy’s International Aid to Education: Power Dynamics in an Era of Partnership critically explores the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals that explicitly focus on partnerships. Menashy lays out how Goal 17: Partnerships is the lynchpin to each of the other Sustainable Development Goals. Partnerships, however, in theory or in practice, are enmeshed with assumptions of power. As such, in this book, the author takes a network analysis approach to explore the intersection of partnerships, power, and inequality.

In Chapter 1, Menashy conceptualizes power as it relates to aid partnerships. The author details how a partnership is a malleable construct ebbing between the practical and the normative. On the practical side, partnerships are about collaboration, reciprocity, and joining up where paternalistic approaches are common. On the normative side, partnerships can be a shift away from recipients being imposed on by donor partners, and toward efforts that are owned and contextualized by both the recipient and the donor. In this opening chapter, the author details how 56 key informants were interviewed and how process-tracing methods were applied to two case studies to understand power dynamics within “governance structure, strategic planning, distribution of responsibilities, policymaking procedures, and implementation practices” (p. 12).

In Chapter 2, the author walks the reader through the history of aid partnerships and how those have shifted over time. Menashy stated how this chapter lays “the foundation for the argument that I will present throughout this book—simplistically put, that international aid to education must be viewed through the lens of the partnership era, in which actors are connected to one another, and those connections often do not reflect equitable relationships” (p. 43). Menashy details how partnerships became a common practice in global governance. The author introduces the term multistakeholder partnerships to refer to organizations that address a single issue in a single sector. These new types of partnerships bring together stakeholders from the public and the private, as well as from the Global North and the Global South. These partnerships are designed to be one decision-making entity that collaborates and coordinates policies and funding. Thus, multistakeholder partnerships promote country ownership and are hence the key lever in achieving each of the other Sustainable Development Goals.

The author applies what was learned in the two foundational chapters to Chapter 3, where the focus is on new actors in aid to education partnerships. The author presents research behind the changing nature of aid in this new era of partnerships, linking these changes to the power of networks. The author then highlights studies that applied network analysis generally, and studies that applied this technique to international development aid specifically. The author skillfully lays out how the current aid environment is hyperconnected and expansive, yet hierarchal, “with entities embodying various degrees of power and influence” (p. 59). As such, in this chapter, Menashy lays out the importance of understanding networks in this era of multistakeholder partnerships.

Chapters 4 and 5 each focus on a case study that centers on how power works in such complicated transnational networks. First, using the Global Partnership for Education (which began as the Education for All Fast Track Initiative) as an example, Menashy details how this initiative reproduces hierarchical power structurally and how power operates through discourse. Second, using the Education Cannot Wait Fund as an example, the author incorporates interview data to paint a picture of how asymmetrical power dynamics exists in this young partnership.

Chapter 6 focuses on bringing the evidence presented in the previous chapters together. Here, the author walks the reader through findings drawn from a network analysis of the case studies (i.e., Global Partnership for Education and Education Cannot Wait Fund) to better understand power dynamics in today’s partnerships in international aid for education.

The power of this book is in the final chapter, where the author weaves together the concepts, the data, and the modern-day actors to provide suggestions for moving forward in an era of multistakeholder partnerships. The author details how structural power in partnership remains clear and propagates power differentials by reinforcing power to some while systematically disempowering others. Menashy noted how “the key contribution of network analysis is its ability to expose asymmetries and the various hierarchical positionalities of actors and entities” (p. 102). The author also details how productive power in partnerships “operates through the diffusion of discourses that thereby legitimate particular systems of knowledge, meanings of categories, and subjects” (p. 105). The author is clear that both structural and productive power is likely not subject to change with these new partnerships for educational aid. Nevertheless, the author offers optimism in the final chapter in noting that by making these power dynamics clear, the hope is to “spur the existing partnerships to carve out the requisite time and make explicit efforts to self-reflect and evaluate themselves, addressing the hierarchies” (p. 111) that create power imbalances.

The book is a useful addition to the library of scholars, practitioners in the field, and policy makers. By applying a network analysis approach to understanding power in the current era of partnership in aid to education, stakeholders are presented with new ways to question long-held beliefs and assumptions about power. By taking a critical lens, the author hopes to shift the conversation about power and partnerships to harness positive change.  

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: December 02, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23150, Date Accessed: 5/17/2022 5:41:06 PM

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About the Author
  • Jayson Richardson
    University of Kentucky
    E-mail Author
    JAYSON W. RICHARDSON is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies at the University of Kentucky. His 50-plus peer-reviewed publications focus on technology leadership, international development, and educational reform. He is currently researching 30 deeper learning schools around the world to understand leadership, innovation, and change.
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