When: Thursday 10th November 2016, 5.30pm
Where: St Georges Church, University of Sheffield
To register, click here

SIID is pleased to announce that the School of Law will be welcoming Dr Michael Woolcock from the World Bank’s Development Research Group to give a public lecture on Experimental Justice Reform: Lessons from the World Bank and Beyond.


As policy and practice, rule of law orthodoxy—transplanting legal systems from high- to low-income countries—has endured despite persistent critiques. A key reason for this is the absence of positive theories of praxis that can instantiate essentially contested concepts such as rule of law. One nascent alternative instantiation, the World Bank’s Justice for the Poor program, can be understood as part of broader turns to experimental approaches to governance reform, as manifest in the forthcoming World Development Report on Governance and Law. Such approaches understand rule of law reform in the context of the politics of the relationship between development experts and the domestic political forums in and through which rules systems emerge. As such, a primary task of external agencies is to help forge and sustain such forums, to recognize the deep imbrication between the process norms of these forums and the nature of the rule of law being produced, and to ensure that the empirical foundations on which ensuing deliberations rest are both sound and accessible. Experimentalist approaches are not without their own challenges, however, from methodological concerns associated with building an empirical foundation to political accountability issues with respect to rule of law reformers themselves. Even so, they constitute a welcome expansion of the theoretical and epistemological basis on which rule of law reform is conceived, implemented and assessed.


Michael Woolcock

Michael Woolcock is Lead Social Development Specialist in the World Bank’s Development Research Group, where he has worked since 1998. For eleven ofthose years he has also been a (part-time) Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. His current research focuses on strategies for enhancing state capability for implementation, on crafting more effective interaction between informal and formal justice systems, and on using mixed methods to assess ‘complex’ development interventions.

In addition to more than 75 journal articles and book chapters, he is the co-author or co-editor of eight books, including Contesting Development: Participatory Projects and Local Conflict Dynamics in Indonesia (with Patrick Barron and Rachael Diprose; Yale University Press 2011), which in 2012 was a co-recipient of the best book prize by the American Sociological Association’s section on international development; Legal Pluralism and Development: Scholars and Practitioners in Dialogue (edited, with Brian Tamanaha and Caroline Sage; Cambridge University Press 2012); and Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action (with Lant Pritchett and Matt Andrews; Oxford University Press 2017).

He is a co-founder of the World Bank’s global Justice for the Poor program; in 2007-2009 he was the founding research director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester (on external service leave from the Bank), and in 2002 was the Von Hugel Visiting Fellow at St Edmunds College, University of Cambridge. He is currently based in Malaysia, helping establish the World Bank’s first Knowledge and Research Hub. An Australian national, he completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Queensland, and has an MA and PhD in comparative-historical sociology from Brown University.