systems thinking

What does Systems Thinking tell us about how INGOs and Academics can work together better?

Duncan Green - April 20, 2017

Yesterday, I wrote about the obstacles to NGO-academic collaboration. In this second of three posts on the interface between practitioners and researchers, I look at the implications of systems thinking. Some of the problems that arise in the academic–INGO interface stem from overly linear approaches to what is in effect an ideas and knowledge ecosystem. In such contexts, systems thinking can help identify bottlenecks and suggest possible …

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How do we encourage innovation in markets? What can systems thinking add?

Duncan Green - February 22, 2017

Update: check out the comments on this post – v interesting Earlier this month I spent a fun 3 days at a seminar discussing Market Systems Innovation. No really. I discovered a community of very smart people working on markets, who seem to be on a similar journey to the people working on governance and institutions, who I have spent most of my time with …

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Handy NGO Guide to Social Network Analysis

Duncan Green - January 26, 2017

Social Network Analysis has been cropping up a bit in my mental in-tray. First there was my Christmas reading – Social Physics, by Alex Pentland. Then came yesterday’s post from some networkers within Oxfam. So here are some additional thoughts, based on a great guide to SNA by the International Rescue Committee. Complexity and Systems Thinking seems to push people into two divergent sets of conclusions. …

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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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What can Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Matrix teach us about how change happens?

Duncan Green - December 14, 2016

Chatting to academics in the US last week, we swapped notes on the merits of using shared cultural references to convey some of the key ideas around how change happens. They act as a short cut, allowing subtle, nuanced ideas to be discussed on the basis of a large pool of common knowledge. You need to avoid the pitfalls of cultural imperialism, of course (so …

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Adaptive Management looks like it’s here to stay. Here’s why that matters.

Duncan Green - December 8, 2016

The past two weeks in Washington, New York and Boston have been intense, leaving lots of unpacking for the blog. Let’s start with the numerous discussions on ‘adaptive management’ (AM), which seems to where the big aid agencies have found a point of entry into the whole ‘Doing Development Differently’ debate. I spent a day with USAID and came away with a sense that AM …

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Why systems thinking changes everything for activists and reformers

Duncan Green - November 4, 2016

This week, the Guardian ran a very nicely edited ‘long read’ extract from How Change Happens covering some of the book’s central arguments, under the title Radical Thinking Reveals the Secrets of Making Change Happen. Here it is: Political and economic earthquakes are often sudden and unforeseeable, despite the false pundits who pop up later to claim they predicted them all along – take the …

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Is Good Advocacy a Science or an Art (or just luck), and how can we sharpen it?

Duncan Green - November 3, 2016

Helen Tilley (h.tilley@odi.org) , is a Research Fellow, Josephine Tsui (j.tsui@odi.org) a Research Officer, and Hannah Caddick (h.caddick@odi.org) a Communications Officer, in the Research and Policy in Development Programme at the Overseas Development Institute. ‘There is an art to science, and a science in art; the two are not enemies, but different aspects of the whole.’ — Issac Asimov In a recent blog, Duncan wrote …

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What is Adaptive Aid? Useful lessons from six case studies

Duncan Green - August 4, 2016

Move over ‘Innovation’, ‘Adaptive’ is the new fuzzword on the block – stick it in front of ‘learning’, ‘management’, ‘programming’ or ‘aid’ if you want to sound up to the minute. Dave Algoso and Alan Hudson wrote a handy overview on this blog recently. But to get an idea of the substance, it’s also worth reading Adapting Aid, a synthesis of six case studies by …

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Thought Leadership and NGOs: What is it? How can we get better at it?

Duncan Green - April 21, 2016

Here’s today’s 2 minute vlog summary for the incurably lazy/visual The aid business specializes in baffling, slippery concepts, often adopted as the latest management fuzzwords (like buzzwords, but fuzzy). One recent example in Oxfam was a brainstorm on ‘thought leadership’ – What is it? Does Oxfam do it? Do we want to do more of it? If so, how can we do it better? My …

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