Robert Chambers

Into the Unknown: Explorations in Development Practice: lovely (and short) new book from Robert Chambers

Duncan Green - April 28, 2014

Robert Chambers is who I want to be when I grow up, an object lesson in how to grow old (dis)gracefully. Funny, passionate, always willing to admit doubt and failure, and endlessly curious – he never pulls that weary ‘oh, we tried that in the 1970s and it didn’t work’ routine beloved of other development veterans. He also writes short books, something I can’t seem …

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Robert Chambers on the Fifth Power (the power to empower)

admin - November 29, 2012

Some thoughts from Robert Chambers, from whose wonderful new book I recently posted several excerpts. People tease me for being pentaphiliac.  They notice that I love fives of a thing.  Well, it’s true.  If there are six, I boil them down to five.  If there are only four I rack my brains to find a fifth.   So the four types of power have been a challenge: …

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Paradigms, lock-ins and liberations: Robert Chambers on rice and shit

admin - September 12, 2012

 Following my review of his new book, and Robert’s thoughts on immersion programmes (which generated some great comments), here is a third and final piece from Provocations for Development A lock-in is a paradigmatic syndrome in which there is strong mutually-supporting inflexibility. Let us examine two examples of paradigmatic lock-ins which have been comprehensively turned on their heads to create new counter-intuitive, counter-commonsense, syndromes of …

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Robert Chambers – why don't all development organizations do immersions?

admin - September 6, 2012

Following on my review of Robert Chambers’ new(ish) book, ‘Provocations for Development’, I’m posting a couple of edited-down excerpts that caught my eye. Today, immersions –  written in 2007 and a nice illustration of how Robert combines both the politics and practicalities of aid work. Immersions can take many forms, but an almost universal feature is staying in a poor community, as a person, living …

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Provocations for Development: Superb new collection of Robert Chambers’ Greatest Hits

admin - September 4, 2012

This is not an impartial review – Robert Chambers is a hero of  mine, part development guru, part therapist to the aid community. His ideas and phrases litter the intellectual landscape. Or ought to: if you don’t recognize some of his major contributions to the development lexicon – ‘hand over the stick’, ‘uppers and lowers’, ‘whose reality counts?’, participatory research methods or seasonality, (there are …

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Inspiring action on shit (getting rid of it) – guest post from Robert Chambers

admin - May 30, 2011

Robert Chambers is a participatory development guru with a nice line in modesty. The one line bio he sent for this post reads ‘Robert Chambers is a research associate at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, currently working on Community-Led Total Sanitation’. Well OK, but he’s also author of books that have changed the way we see development, such as Whose Reality Counts? and Revolutions …

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So the world is complex – what do we do differently?

admin - May 13, 2011

Spent yesterday discussing the implications of complexity theory for development (previous discussion on this blog here) at a seminar organized by the UKCDS, a body that promotes interdisciplinary research on development. It was totally gripping, not least because two of my gurus were there – Eric Beinhocker, whose brilliant book on evolution and economics, The Origin of Wealth, you absolutely must read (it took me …

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Newton v Complexity: Robert Chambers on competing aid paradigms

admin - February 16, 2011

This is taken from a longer two part piece by Robert Chambers on the excellent ‘Aid on the Edge of Chaos’ blog. Worth spending some time studying the diagrams. “Today we can see two broad paradigms at work in international development. On the one side are Neo-Newtonian practices – those processes, procedures, roles and behaviour which emphasise standardisation, routines and regularities in response to or assuming …

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How do you help people cope with shocks? A liquid brainstorm with Robert Chambers

admin - March 15, 2010

At an IDS seminar last week, part of its excellent Crisis Watch initiative, Steve Wiggins from ODI argued that his research on the food price crisis shows that during an actual shock, state initiatives are much less important to poor people than their own social coping mechanisms as individuals, communities or through local institutions like churches. These mechanisms include borrowing money, sharing food, collective action etc. …

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