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Aid Watch blog ends; New work on development begins

Today, after two years and four months, we end the experiment that was the Aid Watch blog.

We think the experiment was a success. We’ve had a great time blogging here. Thank you all for reading and writing back, and to our wonderful guest bloggers, for helping to make Aid Watch a source for way-outside-the-Beltway commentary on aid. Your response continues to exceed our expectations.

Some of you may be surprised. This was not a sudden decision; we have been talking it over with a few others for some time now.

The simple reason for ending the blog is that we want to free up our own time for writing longer and more substantive pieces, both academic and non-academic, on development.

The blog is a hungry mouth that always wants to be fed, and the longer projects we’d like to take on don’t fit in with those constraints.

Economists are professionally trained to be wary of diminishing returns to any one activity, and to be entrepreneurial about starting new activities. Although we’ll still write about aid, we plan to move away from aid criticism as our main focus, and put more emphasis on the high-stakes development debates going on now. We still believe that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid, but, as we’ve always known, there’s a lot more to development than aid.

Fortunately for us all, there are many other good blogs on aid and development that have sprung up since we started Aid Watch, from smart establishment blogs like Development Impact at the World Bank, to lonely aid workers blogging from Malawi (check the sidebar for our recommendations).

The blog will stay at its current web address, and all the archives will remain available and searchable. Check for updates on our work at the DRI web site.

Signing off for now,

Bill and Laura


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  1. Tom Cushman wrote:

    Good bye Bill and Laura Ill miss you. Aid Watch and a cup of coffee (African) started my mornings. At least I still have coffee. I look forward to the new book.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:40 am | Permalink
  2. Jim wrote:

    Really sorry to hear!

    Thanks for writing. I hope you both reconsider in the near future.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:55 am | Permalink
  3. Adam Baker wrote:

    Good work these last two years. Lots of fun and some good ideas as well.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:58 am | Permalink
  4. This does seem out of the blue for those of us out of the loop. I’m not going to lie and say I agreed with everything you both wrote, but there’s no doubt that the blogosphere on development both expanded and improved immensely due to Aid Watch. Good luck with the future. I’ll still read the books and papers you both produce.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 2:03 am | Permalink
  5. phil wrote:

    Sorry to see you guys go. I has been a great blog to read that i have been following since i picked up one of your books a while back. Certinally you have highlighted issues and rpeented them in novel ways which has got me thinking a number of times. I’ll keep an eye out for your longer work. best of luck with it all

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 2:28 am | Permalink
  6. To all good comes an end, in the end. Thanks for the inspiring words.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 3:04 am | Permalink
  7. Tracey Naughton wrote:

    I too have been a regular reader / morning coffee drinker with your blog and it’s been just great, really appreciated. All the best for your next stages of writing…. Tracey, Mongolia

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 3:26 am | Permalink
  8. Iván Cuesta wrote:

    Sorry to hear that you stop blogging. Though often in disagreement, your posts have always been provoking enough to reconsider my own thinking about development and aid. Best wishes for your academic adventures.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 5:11 am | Permalink
  9. Owen Barder wrote:

    Thank you both for your hard work, rigour and humour and for your commitment to trying to ensure that we do the best we can to support development.

    Looking forward to the research and other work that this decision will free you up to do.


    Posted May 19, 2011 at 5:12 am | Permalink
  10. Elan wrote:

    Thanks for all the fish!

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink
  11. davidd phillips wrote:

    Why not do it a weekly. At least keep it going. Youve become an institution

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink
  12. You will be missed! Thank you for the humor, insight, brilliance and (occasional?) snark. It has been a pleasure to be a reader of AidWatch and you have had a direct influence on my work. I look forward to your continued contributions in the longer form, especially as it will be shifting from aid to development.

    Solar Sister

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink
  13. Mike Durham wrote:

    You can’t do this to me! Just when I’d got my RSS aggregator set up and was looking to many mornings of coffee and AidWatch……and got your books out of the libraray too! I’ll be setting up my own journalistically inspired Aid Alert blog shortly so maybe some of your guest bloggers and posters might care to migrate in due course.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink
  14. Thanks. I have learned a lot, argued a lot, and laughed a lot too. Looking forward to reading your longer pieces.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink
  15. cees wrote:

    thanks and good luck, from the Netherlands

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink
  16. Art Carden wrote:

    No! Won’t you please think of the children?!

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink
  17. Jenn George wrote:

    So sad to hear this but excited for your future work and (longer) analyses. Your insights and commentary on aid was always refreshing, thought-provoking and spot-on. Thanks, all!

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink
  18. Tom Murphy wrote:

    Now my goal of being listed among the “Blogs We are Reading” have been dashed!

    Good luck and I echo the thoughts of Owen and Ranil in looking forward to your future work. Your posts will be sorely missed.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink
  19. Daniel Tello wrote:


    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink
  20. Mark Katras wrote:

    thanks for your hard work! all the best in the future

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  21. Anna wrote:

    Very sad. Yours is my favorite blog.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink
  22. Perhaps a global happy hour to celebrate all that Aid Watch has contributed to the development conversation is in order…Bill can video stream a goodbye toast.

    Thanks for all of your interesting contributions, ideas, and posts over the past 2+ years. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of you’re newly available time!

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink
  23. Charles Kenny wrote:

    Life just got a little duller, and ideas for columns a little fewer. But congratulations — a lot of very valuable, useful, provocative, informative posts are up. If the tradeoff is that now there will be a few more valuable, useful, provocative and informative papers, maybe that’s worth it….

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink
  24. That’s really sad, you were the best place for debates on aid.

    Fair winds and following seas.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  25. Bret wrote:

    I was just thinking how much I relied on these postings. Very good at keeping us working in this field grounded and thinking critically. Kindly rethink your decision.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink
  26. Pablo Abitbol wrote:

    I learned a lot, thanks and good luck with what comes.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink
  27. Iowa Matt wrote:

    Sorry to see you go. Thanks for everything!

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink
  28. I support davidd phillips, wouldn´t you like to keep it going even if you take longer to update the blog?

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink
  29. sam wrote:

    Well this is a surprise. I’m sure this will be like the war veteran who loses his arm – we’ll all still feel Aid Watch even when it’s not really there or here, or wherever. But I would suggest this is premature, at best. The debate on aid effectiveness is just reaching a tipping point, from where I sit. The really interesting stuff is about to kick off – just when Aid Watch is really needed it’s leaving the room. I guess that’s the way it goes. Good luck.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  30. Michael Chommie wrote:

    Say it isn’t so Aid Watch. Your blog first was the first one I would click on each morning (and NOT just because you were atop my alphabetized RSS list.) Your posts were always relevant, thoughtful and punchy.

    I am hoisting “three flutes of champagne” in your direction!


    Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  31. Aurora wrote:

    It’s been a pleasure! Looking forward to seeing your future works in other mediums. Also, as a last hurrah, Tom’s blog should definitely be added to your sidebar.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  32. Moussa P. Blimpo wrote:

    This was a great platform for debate on aid, its effectiveness and development. I am sadden to see aidwatchers go. We are grateful for all the hard-work over the past two years and wish you all the best!

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  33. maureen wrote:

    I agree with all above…I learned so much reading this blog and will continue to search the archives and read posts, but am sad to see you go! Good luck and looking forward to reading your longer works.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  34. Jeff Barnes wrote:

    So sorry to hear this. As a consolation, you must continue to post commentary on other development blogs. I will also look forward to another (preferably non academic) book. Good luck. It has been a great run.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  35. déguisement wrote:

    Thank you very much for the work you gave here : I learned a lot here before travelling in some african developping countries, and it helped me having a more comprehensive opinion on the topic.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink
  36. Who will be the successor to the Emperor of Snarkistan? Time to assemble the aid and development cardinals.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  37. michael wrote:

    I really enjoyed your blog and I am sad to see it go. It was a highlight of my morning reading.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  38. J. wrote:

    Bill, Laura –

    My sincere best wishes to both of you as you both enter the next phase of thinking and writing about how to make the world a better, more equitable one. Whether on a blog, in a book, or at a life-saving conference somewhere, your contributions will continued to be sought and valued.

    I do look forward to meeting each of you in person one day.

    With warm regards,

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink
  39. inigo wrote:

    It’s been a pleasure and overall, very inspiring…
    Thanks a lot for your time!

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  40. Katherine F wrote:

    I just discovered this blog a couple of weeks ago, and it had already become one of my favorites. Very sorry to see you go.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  41. Rodney Chun wrote:

    As an economist, I understand why the opportunity costs involved with maintaining the daily blog posts could become a burden and why you would want to get back to doing your day jobs. I’ve always felt that we (the audience) are free riding. So thanks for the insights and the stimulating discussion over the years. And all the best on your next endeavors, academic or otherwise.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  42. Tom Paulson wrote:

    Bill and Laura,
    You will be sorely missed in the blogosphere. Thanks for the humor, insight and provocations. I look forward to following your next endeavors.
    Tom Paulson

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink
  43. Jacob wrote:

    This post ruined my day…

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink
  44. Matt Eldridge wrote:

    Your arguments are well taken regarding the time requirements and various limitations of the blog structure. However, as someone who has grown to depend on the quirky, intellectual, and ‘just outside the mainstream’ commentary which this blog provides, I find it difficult to overcome my Aid Watch dependency (although I have not encountered any of Dambisa’s perverse incentives… yet…). While I might endeavor to convince you to reconsider (just look at the passionate appeals above!), I recognize that you and your team probably have made up your mind and so I look forward to reading your next book or article. A note of caution however: blogs are uniquely able to generate discourse in ways that academic articles and general audience books are not. I hope you don’t expend too many resources trying to defy this comparative advantage of this blog!

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  45. Diane Bennett wrote:

    Laura and Bill,
    Having seen all the work that goes into the blog, I understand that you want your lives, or at least your weekends, back.
    I join the crowd in a “standing O.”

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink
  46. Bill, Laura – You will be missed. And thank you both for your work over the last few years and for your support of the aid transparency cause generally, and the papers we also used for the Publish What You Fund assessment.

    It also seems appropriate that your European name sakes’s report also publish the first ranking of donors aid transparency today based on the new methodology.

    Here to your enjoying increased marginal rates of return, from all the team here.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink
  47. Ian wrote:

    Bill and Laura – I’m sad to hear that you are giving up blogging – I think you made a tremendous contribution to the debate on aid and development and helped reach new audiences and engage in the type of discussions that don’t easily happen in the realm of academic papers and conferences.

    I hope you can be tempted out of the ivory towers again some time in the future. In the meantime a good rigorous paper about the influence of social media on aid debates is the least uyou could give us as a parting gift!

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink
  48. J wrote:

    Looking forward to reading your longer pieces in the future, but will miss your brief, insightful posts.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink
  49. nepaliketi wrote:

    so sad to see you guys go – where can we follow you next?

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  50. Homira Nassery wrote:

    No! This is unacceptable.

    Posted May 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

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  • About Aid Watch

    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

    "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking." - H.L. Mencken

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