how change happens

Two top authors compared: Hossain on Bangladesh and Ang on China

Duncan Green - September 21, 2017

OK, so this week I’ve reviewed the two important new books on the rise of China and Bangladesh. Now for the tricky bit – the comparison. The books are very different in their approach. Where Yuen Yuen Ang focuses on the ‘how’ in China, Naomi Hossain is more interested in the ‘why’ in Bangladesh. Hossain traces the ‘why’ to the critical junctures that littered Bangladeshi’s …

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Book Review: How China Escaped the Poverty Trap, by Yuen Yuen Ang

Duncan Green - September 20, 2017

Following on from yesterday’s book review on an account of Bangladesh’s success, here’s a great book on another developmental superstar – China. The macro-story on China is well known, but always bears repetition. Emerging from the carnage of the Mao era, China in 1980 had a GDP of $193 per capita, lower than Bangladesh, Chad or Malawi. It’s now the world’s second largest economy, with …

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Book Review: The Aid Lab: Understanding Bangladesh’s Unexpected Success, by Naomi Hossain

Duncan Green - September 19, 2017

Over the summer I read a few absolutely brilliant books – hence the spate of book reviews. This week I will cover two new studies on development’s biggest recent success stories – China, but first Bangladesh. How did Bangladesh go from being a ‘basket case’ (though ‘not necessarily our basket case’ – Henry Kissinger, 1971) to a development success story, claimed by numerous would-be fathers …

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Complexity v Simplicity: the challenge for Campaigners and Reformers

Duncan Green - September 14, 2017

Had a few thought-provoking conversations on this last week. I increasingly see most problems (social, political, economic) as complex, i.e. arising from multiple causes in interconnected systems, often highly dependent on the specific context and history of any given place/population. My campaigner friends generally hate such talk, because their gut feeling is that it makes taking action to change the world much more difficult. We …

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Book Review: The Road to Somewhere, by David Goodhart

Duncan Green - September 13, 2017

There was a moment a few years ago when I was walking through Brixton with my son, Calum. I was tediously droning on about how much I loved the cultural and ethnic kaleidoscope, compared to the plain vanilla places where I grew up. Calum suddenly turned on me – ‘you’re just a tourist; you visit on Saturdays. It’s different growing up here’ and proceeded to …

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Living in interesting times: one year in the life of Oxfam’s Women’s Rights Director

Duncan Green - September 8, 2017

Nikki van der Gaag looks back on her first year as Oxfam’s Gender Justice and Women’s Rights Director. ‘May you live in interesting times’ is a Chinese saying that could equally be a promise or a curse. In the past decade, there can’t have been many more interesting times to be working on women’s rights and gender justice. I began my new post three months …

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Book Review: Norms in the Wild: How to Diagnose, Measure, and Change Social Norms, by Cristina Bicchieri

Duncan Green - September 7, 2017

Alice Evans was raving about this book on twitter, so I scrounged a review copy and read it on holiday (that’s just how I roll). Verdict? A useful resource on an incredibly important topic (see my previous blogs), but sorry Alice, no cigar. Why important? Because norms are the neglected heart of development and social change – how people see themselves and their neighbours, what …

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Book Review: How to Resist: Turn Protest to Power, by Matthew Bolton

Duncan Green - September 5, 2017

Full disclosure: Matt Bolton works for Citizens UK, an organization of which I am a big fan, and who my son works for, but if you’re OK with that level of bias, read on. Citizens UK is a fascinating community organization, with a reputation far beyond its relatively small size (currently about 30 full time staff). For a fuller description see its Wikipedia entry.Here’s my …

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What can we learn from 7 successes in making markets work for poor people?

Duncan Green - September 1, 2017

Hi everyone, I’m back from an August blog break, with lots of great reading to report back on. First up, if you’re even slightly interested in how markets can benefit poor people, I urge you to read Shaping Inclusive Markets, a new publication from FSG and Rockefeller. The 60 page document explains their approach to ‘market systems innovation’, which we discussed at an event in …

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How might a systems approach change the way aid supports the knowledge sector in Indonesia?

Duncan Green - August 9, 2017

For some reason, the summer months seem to involve a lot of cups of tea (and the occasional beer) with interesting people passing through London, often at my second office in Brixton. One of last week’s conversations was with Arnaldo Pellini, who has been working for ODI on a big ‘knowledge sector initiative’ in Indonesia. Five years in, the team is thinking less in terms …

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