The replication of ‘best practice’ is a trend we are working hard to undo. Why? Because best is only best where the idea is conceived. Replication of systems, laws, policies and institutions in other countries and contexts may (and often does) do more harm than good. Laws modeled on one legal system don’t ‘mesh’ with other legal systems (see essays by Melanie Phillips on this particular issue in the Journal). Institutions and systems developed and functioning in one country aren’t necessarily effective or even rational in another (see interview with Dipa Bagai in this Journal). As noted in ‘The development process – the problem of imitating success,’ by Miguel Nino-Zarazua (http://recom.wider.unu.edu/article/development-process-%E2%80%93-problem-imitating-success):
“The goal of development policy should then be to ensure that demonstrable accomplishments, rather than isomorphic mimicry, become the mechanism through which legitimacy is sustained. However the process of isomorphic mimicry is currently encouraged by the traditional development practice of importing structures that have been successful elsewhere. This is due to the fact that development practitioners often try to achieve this goal by making aid disbursements conditional on countries implementing certain reforms. These conditionalities create a disincentive for experimentation. Organizations that deviate from approved forms may face sanctions, even if this deviation is demonstrated to have positive outcomes.”
‘Best practices’ are disincentives to finding good solutions to development problems using local knowledge, capacity and innovation in local contexts. Perhaps ‘good practices are for learning; not for importing’ should be a new development mantra?