There’s a lot of great research published about development and I find it hard to keep up, as the pile of reading on my desk grows higher and higher. If you’re short on time this week (like me) then I recommend putting these two at the top of your pile – ONE’s DATA Report and Charles Kenny’s essay on the SDGs.

Why? Because they’re well written and are backed up by some great data analysis of what’s happening in the sector and what might happen next.

ONE has published its DATA Report since 2006 and it’s quickly become a mainstay for those of us who care about aid data and what it does (and doesn’t) tell us. If you’re really low on time then there’s an executive summary that outlines the main findings, the most memorable of which for me is that growth in agriculture is 11 times more effective at reducing poverty than any other sector growth in sub-Saharan Africa.

That’s what I like about this year’s DATA Report – it’s gone back to basics. It bangs the drum for aid, for maintaining development budgets and for making sure it goes to women in the poorest areas in the poorest countries. Obvious stuff and what you’d expect, right? But then the data tells us otherwise, with less than a third of ODA going to LDCs in 2014. And this is why it’s worth reading the full report, as it hones in on who is giving what, where and what inclusive growth involves (clue: ODA isn’t enough). For those of us who spend our time eyeballing aid information, the DATA Report provides some context for those thousands of data points. I wish more organisations produced this kind of research.

CGD doesn’t need any lessons in this, as Charles Kenny’s essay on the SDGs demonstrates. For a 6-pager, it packs it in, with a brief history of the MDGs, what they achieved and why we may not have totally lost the plot with 17 SDGs and 169 targets. They may be sprawling, but they cover a lot of themes that were previously ignored, so there’s something about having an open process and the need for inclusivity there too. And although ONE calls for donors to meet their 0.7% commitment and Kenny says is less plausible today than it was when the MDGs were agreed; they do agree on two important points:

  1. Aid has had some great successes since 2000, not least the reduction of child mortality, but the data needs to be better to monitor progress more accurately; and
  2. The importance of country ownership. As Kenny says, “…development progress has always been primarily about poor people and poor countries achieving things for themselves.” A timely reminder in the run up to Addis and the Financing for Development summit.

Our mid-year review of EU donors is coming out next week. I expect it to rise quickly to the top of your reading list…