how change happens

5 Straws to Clutch/Reasons to be Cheerful on US presidential inauguration day

Duncan Green - January 20, 2017

Someone asked me to try and write something positive today, so here goes. As President Obama told his daughters, the only thing that’s the end of the world is the end of the world. This ain’t it. So (channelling Ian Dury), here are some reasons to be cheerful: The US is deeply federal: to a Brit, it’s striking how many of the big decisions are …

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Preaching to the Converted and the Path to Unlearning: this week’s random conversations

Duncan Green - January 13, 2017

Had some interesting if random discussions this week – I work from home a lot, and then get far too excited when I actually end up in a room with interesting people.  Two thoughts (among many) seem worth capturing: Preaching to the converted: This is something we’re not supposed to do – waste of time all agreeing with each other, right? We need to get …

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A 3-fold theory of social change (and some great quotes on complexity, ambiguity and dreaming)

Duncan Green - January 12, 2017

Sometimes a paper is worth blogging about just for the quotes. Here are the best from a 2016 update of Doug Reeler’s ‘A Three-Fold Theory of Social Change’: “I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity. But I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side.” Oliver Wendell Holmes “Whosoever wishes to know about the world …

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Is the Anti-Politics machine still a good critique of the aid business?

Duncan Green - January 11, 2017

Just been re-reading a great 6 page summary of James Ferguson’s 1994 classic critique of the aid industry, The Anti-Politics Machine. Read this and ask yourself, apart from the grating use of the term ‘Third World’, how much has changed? ‘Any question of the form ‘what is to be done?’ demands first of all an answer to the question, ‘By whom?’ The ‘development’ discourse, and …

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What is Fiscal Justice? A rationale and some great examples

Duncan Green - January 10, 2017

What is ‘Fiscal Justice’? It’s one of those campaign buzzwords that appears every so often, and Oxfam is going big on it (you’ll hear plenty about it at the impending Davos meeting, provided the media cover anything other than Donald Trump’s inauguration that week). If you want to get a sense of what it means on the ground, check out Oxfam’s ‘Fiscal Justice Global Track …

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Book Review: Social Physics : How Social Networks can make us Smarter

Duncan Green - January 6, 2017

My Christmas reading included a book called Social Physics – yep, a party animal (my others were Lord of the Flies and Knausgard Vol 3, both wonderful). Here’s the review: Airport bookstores are bewildering places – shelf after shelf of management gurus offering distilled lessons on leadership, change and everything else. How to distinguish snake oil from substance? My Christmas reading, based on a recommendation …

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How bad is my filter bubble problem? Please help me find out

Duncan Green - January 5, 2017

In an idle moment over the Christmas break, I decided to run a twitter poll to assess the extent of my filter bubble. For any of you who’ve been on a different planet for the last few months, that’s the social media phenomenon whereby you like/follow/read only those sources that broadly agree with you, creating an echo chamber that can lead to you mistakenly thinking …

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RIP Tony Atkinson: Here he is on our personal responsibility for reducing inequality

Duncan Green - January 2, 2017

Tony Atkinson, one of the world’s great thought leaders on poverty and inequality, died on New Year’s Day. Combining intellectual rigour and a profound commitment to social justice, his life’s work epitomised the economics profession at its best. Here he is in the final chapter of his 2015 book ‘Inequality: What can be done?’ ‘I do not accept that rising inequality is inevitable: it is …

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Is this time really different? Will Automation kill off development?

Duncan Green - December 21, 2016

Is this time really different? That’s the argument whenever people want to ignore the lessons of history (eg arguing that this particular financial bubble/commodity boom will never burst) and such claims usually merit a bucketload of scepticism. On the other hand (climate change, nuclear war) sometimes things really are different from everything that has gone before. Which brings us to technology. Lots of musings are …

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‘Odd but Interesting’: Clare Short reviews How Change Happens

Duncan Green - December 20, 2016

Clare Short was DFID’s first minister (1997-2003) and a force of nature (for example she was one of the originators of what became the Millennium Development Goals). Great when she agreed with you, pretty brutal when she didn’t. Which in the case of NGOs, was quite a lot of the time – she had the traditional Labour Left dislike of middle class, self-appointed, self-righteous dogoodery …

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