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Toward isomorphism in development aid? A study on current trust patterns and their implications for the multi-actor policy on diversity in aid

The project collects systematic data on how the diversity objectives of the Swedish Policy for Global Development are met in actual practice. By mapping current trust patterns among aid intermediaries, across actor groups, and by analyzing the implications of these trust patterns, the project will contribute to the development of theory on trust. The project also aims to study variation and resistance to isomorphism, exploring where and how diversity may be defended and promoted.

Active project


Over the past decade, proclaiming the inclusion of a diverse array of actors has been seen as a way forward to combat global poverty. However, despite the intentions of the Swedish multi-actor policy to ensure diversity, data indicates an increased isomorphism in the organization of aid. This means actors from different institutional domains tend to operate similarly, a conformity often shaped by general management knowledge.

The project is funded by the Swedish Research Council and aims to develop systematic data on how well the diversity objectives of the multi-actor policy are being met in actual practice. It will employ a mixed-methods design, combining surveys and focus group interviews, to make comparisons both across and within actor groups in Sweden and Tanzania.

By mapping current trust patterns among intermediaries in aid across actor groups, and discussing the implications of these patterns, the project intends not only to develop theoretical insights into trust but also to provide policy-relevant knowledge on ways to safeguard diversity in the organization of aid.

Theoretically, the project seeks to understand current trust patterns in aid, building on the researchers’ previous findings which suggest that these patterns may help explain the observed isomorphism (conformity) in aid. This study aims to explore the variation in and resistance to isomorphism, specifically examining how diversity can be defended and promoted.

Project partner

The project partner is SCORE (Stockholm Center for Organizational Research) at Stockholm University.


The project is funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet).

Project team

Janet Vähämäki
Janet Vähämäki

Team Leader: Development Policy and Finance

SEI Headquarters

Alice Tunfjord
Alice Tunfjord


SEI Headquarters

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