Is this time really different? Will Automation kill off development?

December 21, 2016
Is this time really different? That’s the argument whenever people want to ignore the lessons of history (eg arguing that this particular financial bubble/commodity boom will never burst) and such claims usually merit a bucketload of scepticism. On the other hand (climate change, nuclear war) sometimes things really are different from everything that has gone before. Which brings us to

‘Odd but Interesting’: Clare Short reviews How Change Happens

December 20, 2016
Clare Short was DFID’s first minister (1997-2003) and a force of nature (for example she was one of the originators of what became the Millennium Development Goals). Great when she agreed with you, pretty brutal when she didn’t. Which in the case of NGOs, was quite a lot of the time – she had the traditional Labour Left dislike of

Links I Liked

December 19, 2016
When scientists protest, their placards have footnotes [h/t Bill McKibben] Are economists partly responsible for the rise of populism? Dani Rodrik argues that by abandoning evidence to become cheer leaders for globalization, they helped contribute to the backlash The Digital Divide is serious: Fewer than half of all Africans have phones; 3/4 don’t use the internet. Here’s one reason why

On webinars, prayer and ‘transformational development’: an hour with World Vision

December 16, 2016
I’m becoming a big fan of webinars. I can slump in front of the computer at home, slurping a coffee, give a presentation on the book (Open Access helps – no need to try and get people to buy copies, just download the pdf after the session), then sit back and listen to the ensuing conversation. On Wednesday it was

Why is Africa’s Civil Society under Siege?

December 15, 2016
Oxfam’s Ross Clarke (Governance and Legal Adviser ) and Desire Assogbavi (Resident Representative & Head of Office, Oxfam International Liaison Office to the African Union) introduce a new analysis of the threats to African civil society After years on the margins of the mainstream development agenda, addressing civic space is finally getting the attention it deserves. If the number of

What can Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Matrix teach us about how change happens?

December 14, 2016
Chatting to academics in the US last week, we swapped notes on the merits of using shared cultural references to convey some of the key ideas around how change happens. They act as a short cut, allowing subtle, nuanced ideas to be discussed on the basis of a large pool of common knowledge. You need to avoid the pitfalls of

On theories of change, what are the differences between playing offence and defence?

December 13, 2016
Unsurprisingly, in this year of Brexit and US elections, I’ve been thinking about how to stop bad stuff happening. While they are doubtless desperately looking for silver linings in a year of defeats, progressive movements are likely to spend a good part of the next few years defending good things from political assault. So what is the same/different about defence

Links I Liked

December 12, 2016
Social Wealth Funds, publicly owned, that pursue social good & reduce (rather than exacerbate) inequality. A smart proposal from Stewart Lansley Talking of wealth, you can always rely on the FT magazine’s ‘How to Spend It’ column to answer the really pressing questions of the age: ‘when your superyacht is too small, you are no longer expected to buy a

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

December 9, 2016
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

Adaptive Management looks like it’s here to stay. Here’s why that matters.

December 8, 2016
The past two weeks in Washington, New York and Boston have been intense, leaving lots of unpacking for the blog. Let’s start with the numerous discussions on ‘adaptive management’ (AM), which seems to where the big aid agencies have found a point of entry into the whole ‘Doing Development Differently’ debate. I spent a day with USAID and came away

A lesson on power and the abstruse (or a love-peeve relationship Part 2)

December 7, 2016
Duly provoked by yesterday’s assault on IDS’ use of language, John Gaventa responds with a really nice story/rebuttal As ever, we are delighted to see Duncan Green’s interesting and incisive blog on the new IDS Bulletin on Power, Poverty and Inequality. In talking about what he calls his ‘love – peeve’ relationship with IDS, Duncan raises important questions of language

Power, Poverty and Inequality: a ‘love-peeve’ new IDS bulletin

December 6, 2016
I have something of a love-hate relationship with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Brighton, or more accurately, a love-peeve. I love the topics, the commitment to bottom-up approaches, and the intellectual leadership IDS has shown over the years on a whole range of issues dear to my heart. The peeve stems from its preference for abstruse language and