Tag Archives: complexity

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 taking action to change the world much more difficult. We …

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

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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Watching Oxfam morph into an interdependent networked system

While I’ve been ivory towering on the book for the last couple of years, Oxfam has been going through a wrenching internal reform (wait, don’t click – this gets interesting, honest!). Known as Oxfam 2020, 18 different Oxfam affiliates are slowly and painfully sorting out a single operating system and pushing power down to countries and a new swathe of southern affiliates, all while retaining …

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How do we chose the most promising theory of change? Building on the context-intervention 2×2

One of the slides from my standard HCH presentation that resonated most during the many conversations and book launches in the US was the 2×2 on which kinds of interventions are compatible with different contexts. I first blogged about this a year ago, when the 2×2 emerged during a workshop of aid wonks, but the recent discussions have added some nice extra ideas to what …

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Some highlights from the first 30 book launches for How Change Happens

I’m about six weeks into launching How Change Happens, and am having a great (if knackering) time. Highlights so far include a Kurdish/Dutch guitar combo warming up the crowd in Nijmegen, conversations with an Islamic finance entrepreneur trying to do financial inclusion in South Wales, a great group of women managing a community-run service station on the M5 motorway and a network of ‘social leaders’ …

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Why systems thinking changes everything for activists and reformers

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?

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 Can International Development Learn From Britain’s Olympic Team?

This post first appeared on Views from the Center. There is a lot of chatter about the reasons for Britain’s relative success in the Olympic games (at time of writing, Team GB is second in the medals table, ahead of China but behind the United States). This is an astonishing turnaround in just 20 years—in the Atlanta Games, Britain won only 1 gold medal, and came 36th overall on the medal table. As Emma Norris at the Institute for Government notes, this transformation in Britain’s sporting performance has generated a raft of tortured analogies with various non-sporting challenges, such as industrial and education policies (on which Britain’s performance is rather less stellar). So I’m leaping on the bandwagon with two lessons for international development

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Which of these three books on complexity and development is right for you? Review/user’s…

Dave Algoso (@dalgoso ) with a handy guide to what to read for those wondering what all this complexity stuff is about In the last few years, complexity thinking has found its way into general development discourse. Anyone reading this blog or others has likely encountered some of the terminology, even if the technical pieces remain elusive to you. Ready to go deeper than the blogs? …

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Medical Complexity among Children with Special Health Care Needs: A Two-Dimensional View

Objective To identify subgroups of U.S.

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Can aid agencies help systems fix themselves?

This essay first appeared on Duncan Green’s blog, From Poverty to Power. It was a follow up to a lecture on complexity and development which I gave to Duncan’s international development course at the LSE. Duncan wanted me to explore the “so what?” for development agencies in more detail, so here are my thoughts. You can read comments and discussion about this essay on FP2P. If economic development is a property of a complex adaptive system, as I’ve argued elsewhere, then what, if anything, can development agencies and NGOs do to accelerate it

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Health Systems Complexity: A “Gardening” Metaphor

By Woldekidan Kifle Amde on September 12, 2014 | For over two weeks (since 18 August), members of Emerging Voices for Global Health 2014, with the help of Read More

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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 L…

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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 &#…

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