Tag: complexity

What has cancer taught me about the links between medicine and development? Guest post by Chris Roche

My friend and How Change Happens co-conspirator Chris Roche (@croche123) has had a rough year, but has used it to reach some interesting insights into the links between medicine and development. In July last year I was diagnosed with a pancreatic neuro-endocrine tumour. This is a rare disease and thankfully usually not as lethal as […]

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What could Foundations add to the aid mix? A conversation with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation

Foundations are increasingly important players in the aid scene, spending the interest and/or capital from monster endowments set up by philanthropists. Some of the best known (Ford, Rockefeller) have been around for a long time, and as their names suggest, have an American feel – the big Daddy is the Gates Foundation, which spends some […]

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New research shows aid agencies get better results if they stop trying to control their people on the ground, especially in complex environments (and performance monitoring can make it worse)

This fascinating excerpt from a recent Owen Barder speech to the little-known-but-huge Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) covers two new papers on the management of development interventions, with big potential implications: ‘[First] a study of the evaluations of 10,000 aid projects over the last ten years from nine different development organizations. In this paper Dan […]

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Can complex systems thinking provide useful tools for aid workers? Draft paper on some DFID pilot experiments, for your comments

Ben Ramalingam, who wrote last year’s big book on complexity and aid (Aid on the Edge of Chaos) has been doing some interesting work with DFID and wants comment on his draft paper (with Miguel Laric and John Primrose) summarizing the project. The draft is here BestPracticetoBestFitWorkingPaper_DraftforComments_May2014 (just comment on this post, and the authors will […]

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How can complexity/systems thinking help small island states?

‘It’s a big year for small islands’ announced the speaker before me, who revelled in the title ‘The Honourable Lord Tu’ivakano, Prime Minister, Kingdom of Tonga’ (right). When my turn came, how should I refer to him? (I’m hopeless at this kind of thing, must come from going to a state school.) His Lordship? Your […]

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The Aid trilemma: are complexity, scale and measurability mutually incompatible?

I’ve been reflecting on Owen Barder’s recent post on the tensions for aid agencies between wanting to go to scale, and acknowledging that lasting development solutions have to emerge from discussions among local actors, based on local context. Seems to me we have something of an aid trilemma here – I would add in attribution […]

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How to bridge the Valley of Death that separates complexity/systems thinkers from decision makers?

Sometimes new ideas arrive like a bolt from the blue. More often they emerge through a series of conversations, reading and thinking. An element of repetition may be necessary, provided you talk to different kinds of people about the same issue (rather than having the same meeting with the same people over and over again […]

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Lant Pritchett on why we struggle to think in systems (and look for heroes and villains instead)

This passage in Lant Pritchett’s new book, The Rebirth of Education, (reviewed here yesterday), had me gurgling with pleasure. It explains, in vintage Pritchett prose, why we all find it so hard to think in terms of systems, rather than agents (i.e. heroes and villains). He totally nails the origins of that glazed look I […]

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How complexity thinking cut malnutrition in Vietnam by two thirds

To end complexity week, another of the fascinating case studies from Ben Ramalingam’s Aid on the Edge of Chaos In December 1991, Jerry and Monique Sternin arrived in Vietnam so Jerry could take up the role of Save the Children US Country Director. The country was still labouring under a US-led economic embargo and had […]

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Aid on the Edge of Chaos, a book you really need to read and think about

I held off reviewing Ben’s book til after last night’s launch at ODI, so that I could add any useful extra info or soundbites. Here goes. It’s smart, well-written and provides a deeper intellectual foundation for much of the most interesting thinking going on in the aid business right now. Ben Ramalingam (right)’s Aid on […]

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Complexity 101 – part 2: Getting to the So Whats

It’s complexity week on the blog, coinciding with the launch of Aid on the Edge of Chaos today at 5pm UK time (long since full, but being livestreamed). I’m a discussant, and will nick any clever comments for tomorrow’s review of the book. Meanwhile, the ODI’s Harry Jones continues his stocktake on complexity and development […]

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Complexity 101: behind the hype, what do we actually know?

Complexity week continues with this excellent stocktake from the ODI’s Harry Jones (who’s got a new guide out on ‘Managing Projects and Programmes in the Face of Complexity‘). Part two tomorrow. Seven years ago John Young, Ben Ramalingam and I decided to begin research on complexity theory and international development.  We felt there was really […]

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