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Political Economy Analysis toolkit

Political Economy Analysis (PEA) is about understanding how change happens, helping to identify how best to influence change and make more politically informed decisions.

29 Sep 2016

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The PEA toolkit provides a structured approach for analysing how change happens, from the national to the local level. It can help shape our country strategies, programmes and even ‘everyday’ decisions. 

Download the complete toolkit (PDF) >


A triangle representing the 'PEA pyramid'.

The four tools in the PEA toolkit

The toolkit consists of four different tools. These are complementary, but can be used separately as a stand-alone exercise, too. Each tool includes facilitation guidance, a set of core questions and discussion points, and participatory exercises to help visualise the political economy features being analysed. They are intended to help produce rapid good quality analysis, to increase our understanding of which strategies, tactics or decisions may be appropriate in the different contexts in which we work. However, they should not be viewed as an independent planning exercise. Many other factors (such as capacity, experience or funding opportunities) will ultimately shape the direction taken.

This toolkit builds on existing tools used by WaterAid and other sector actors. It was developed by Stuart Kempster, with support from Andrés Hueso. You can reach out to them if you have any questions or feedback, or want to access the editable versions of the tools in order to adapt them.

Country Strategy PEA

What is it? This tool is a synthesis of existing approaches to country-level Political Economy Analysis. It aims to build on existing knowledge of political and economic context at the country level, and to produce a structured analysis of how these factors interact with WaterAid’s objectives.

When would you use it? As part of the context analysis for your strategic reflection or when preparing or reviewing the country programme strategy. It helps to answer the question of how change happens at the national level. The tool can be used to conduct an internal workshop, or to structure terms of reference if country-level PEA is being outsourced.

Download the Country Strategy PEA Tool >

Sector Strategy PEA

What is it? This tool draws on the World Bank’s Problem-driven political economy analysis and ODI’s Framework for political economy of sectors, with additional insights from tools already being used by WaterAid and other NGOs for analysing sector-level issues. It is centred on the ‘problem’ of achieving universal access in individual sectors, with the aim of building on WaterAid’s technical knowledge and increasing our understanding of the politics and relationships which shape how change happens in different sectors.

When would you use it? The tool is useful for ‘programme situation analysis’ when designing sectoral programmes or influencing plans. It supports strategic reflection on the question of how change happens at the sector level, and what can drive the changes needed to achieve universal access. Other tools (e.g. sector strengthening analysis you may have conducted) or publications (for example country status overviews, service delivery assessments, or WASH-BAT reports) may have already identified ‘sector bottlenecks’; this tool should be used to increase understanding of the politics and relationships which underpin these bottlenecks. The tool can be used to conduct an internal workshop, or to structure terms of reference if sector-level PEA is being outsourced.

Download the Sector Strategy PEA Tool >

Tactical PEA

What is it? This tool also draws on the World Bank’s Problem-driven political economy analysis, with additional insights from tools already being used by WaterAid and other NGOs for analysing micro-level issues. Its aim is to increase our understanding of the politics and relationships which govern how change happens within specific issues, and to help to sharpen the tactics we use to bring about change.

When would you use it? The tool could be used in response to the emergence of specific challenges or opportunities (for example the introduction of a new piece of legislation), or when designing/reviewing individual projects or interventions. It complements the Strategic PEA tools, and could draw from previous analysis at these higher levels. It could also be used after ‘Everyday PEA’ has demonstrated the need for more detailed analysis of a specific issue.

Download the Tactical PEA Tool >

Everyday PEA

What is it? This tool has been replicated from the Developmental Leadership Program (University of Birmingham). It is a ‘stripped-back political analysis framework’, and aims to help frontline staff understand the changing political context and make politically informed decisions on a day-to-day basis. The tool provides a condensed checklist to help conduct a quick political analysis and make this an accessible part of ordinary business practice.

When would you use it? To respond to all the small, everyday issues that need evaluating during the course of our normal work (for example the announcement that the health minister is stepping down, or an invitation to join a multi-stakeholder initiative). The tool is designed to be used flexibly; it could be used on your own in your office, or it could be used as the basis for group discussions. You may be able to draw on insights from previous PEA at higher levels. Equally, Everyday PEA may signal the need for more detailed Strategic or Tactical analysis.

Download the Everyday PEA Tool >