How will political and economic shocks drive social change? Please help me write a paper…..

admin - March 1, 2012

Something almost unprecedented has occurred – I’ve finished an article early. Oxfam Peru is a redoubt of intellectuals and every year publishes an annual collection of essays on the state of Peru and development in general. This year they’ve asked me to focus on shocks and change, so I’ve donned my false beard and cardigan and had a go. Here is a short summary of …

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Positive deviance: spotting the hidden innovations in development work

admin - February 8, 2011

I just learned some new jargon – always a heady sensation. Positive deviance. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? And it describes something really interesting and, I suspect, quite important. A colleague at Oxfam America, Roanne Edwards, filled me in – she has been to Mali to look at OA’s massive Saving for Change (SfC) project, which reaches 300,000 women and has spread to several …

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Financial crises at a glance: bank crashes, geopolitics and how long til the rebound?

admin - January 12, 2009

Here are two illuminating graphics from the Financial Times and Economist. First up is a figure from Martin Wolf’s latest column in the FT, itself based on a new paper by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, showing the proportion of the world economy affected by banking crises, from 1900-2008. Its main features are a spike around the Great Depression of the 1930s, then a period of …

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Final thought on Complexity Economics

admin - January 9, 2009

This week, I’ve been mulling over Eric Beinhocker’s book, ‘The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity and the Radical Remaking of Economics’ (see previous posts – an overview and a discussion of the implications for our models of change). One question that remains is ‘why aren’t there more books like this?’ The initial idea of  ‘Complexity Economics’ dates from an epic debate in 1987, pitting ten leading …

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Shocks and Change

admin - December 29, 2008

Funny thing, the Chatham House rule. Introduced by the Chatham House thinktank to enable policy makers to speak more freely at seminars and meetings, people often assume it means you are sworn to complete secrecy about what was said. Not so. The actual rule reads “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information …

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Complexity, Chaos, Catastrophes and Change: Is the New Physics much help to development wonks?

admin - December 26, 2008

One of the unfinished tasks in From Poverty to Power is developing a better model for analysing processes of change, so I’ve been going back to my prehistoric roots as a physics undergraduate, and reading about complexity and chaos. Exploring the Science of Complexity is a newish (February 08) paper from the Overseas Development Institute that wrestles with the question posed by Robert Chambers back …

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I just read four novels in a row…

admin - December 12, 2008

….. without a single interruption from development, economics, news, or the appositely named ‘grey literature’ of papers, reports and all the rest of the stuff that pours into my inbox every day. Yep, I’ve been on holiday. Actually, the supposed detox of reading fiction proved to be an unplanned exploration into the links between individual citizens and politics – there appears to be no escape.

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Fixing Failed States

admin - February 23, 2008

Just finished the book of this title by Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart. It left me with a mixture of excitement and frustration – excitement because it sets out some good ideas on state-building, frustration because it doesn’t quite live up to the title and is sloppily edited, with whole chunks repeated verbatim, wandering narrative etc (shame on you, OUP!).

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