Tag: systems thinking

If top down control is unavoidable, can we still make aid more compatible with systems thinking?

Had a really interesting conversation last week with Oxfam Intermon and its friends in the Catalan aid system (in Spain, aid is regional with provinces and even cities like Barcelona pursuing active aid policies). I gave my usual rap about how complex systems require aid providers to adopt iterative, adaptive approaches to cope with uncertainty […]

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Podcast: How China Escaped the Poverty Trap, with Yuen Yuen Ang

Finally managed to persuade Yuen Yuen Ang, author of one of my favourite books from last year (reviewed here and discussion of bicultural authors like Yuen Yuen here), to come to LSE, where she gave a barnstorming lecture on the book and its wider implications. The previous evening I managed to catch up with her […]

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Can ‘Doing Development Differently’ only succeed if aid donors stay away from it?

Another day, another seminar on Adaptive Management/Doing Development Differently/Thinking and Working Politically (let’s save words by just calling the whole thing DDD). This one was held under the Chatham House Rule, so no names or institutions. There was an interesting mix of academics and contractors – private companies who increasingly run the big contracts for […]

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I’m helping run a summer school on Adaptive Management. In Bologna. Interested?

This could be a lot of fun, I’m working with two of the smartest minds in Oxfam: Irene Guijt (head of research) and Claire Hutchings (head of Programme Quality) to design and deliver a one week summer school course on ‘Adaptive Management:  Working Effectively in the Complexity of International Development’. Between us we are going […]

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My (current) default suggestions when asked about almost anything to do with ‘strategy’

I realised recently that I have a fairly standard playlist of topics I bang on about to people during the frequent ‘blue sky’ (well, the initials are BS, anyway) sessions after someone phones up and says something like ‘can I pick your brains as part of our strategy refresh?’ So I thought, if I am […]

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Achilles v Ulysses and Complexity, according to the OECD

Just been browsing a new OECD book on what complexity and systems thinking mean for policy-making. It consists of ‘a compilation of contributions from a series of seminars and workshops on complexity issues over the past two years. It reflects the combined wisdom and perspectives of an internal and external network of researchers, academics and policymakers.’ […]

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

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 […]

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Complexity v Simplicity: the challenge for Campaigners and Reformers

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 […]

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

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 […]

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

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. […]

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Which aspects of How Change Happens resonate with campaigners?

Writing, and then promoting, How Change Happens has often left me feeling a bit remote from ‘the field’, with a nagging anxiety that what I am saying no longer has much connection with what people are doing on (or at least closer to) the ground. So it was great to get online with some of […]

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Why rethinking how we work on market systems and the private sector is really hard

Whatever your ideological biases about ‘the private sector’ (often weirdly conflated with transnational corporations in NGO-land), markets really matter to poor people (feeding families, earning a living, that kind of thing).  But ‘making markets work for the poor’ turns out to be really difficult and, just as with attempts to tackle corruption or improve institutions, […]

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