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

July 17, 2019
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 and the response was basically
Featured image for “What have we learned from a close look at 3 DFID Adaptive Management programmes?”

What have we learned from a close look at 3 DFID Adaptive Management programmes?

July 4, 2019
Adaptive Management week part 3 (with some trepidation given the recent comments from Heather Marquette et al about the proliferation of flakey case studies in lieu of evidence)…. My paper with Angela Christie summarizing our 3 case studies of big DFID-funded Adaptive Management projects in Myanmar, Tanzania and Nigeria is now online. Every word in its 26 pages is golden,
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What we’re missing by not getting our TWP alphabet straight

July 3, 2019
TWP guru Heather Marquette does everyone a great service by explaining the important differences between all the acronyms. I am struck by how often people say ‘TWP/PDIA/adaptive management/PEA…whatever’. Kind of like when my great-aunt calls me by various relatives’ names first before getting mine right – ‘Sheila… Mary…Lily…Heather!’ – these things may share a common genesis, and there are threads that
Featured image for “What does the evidence tell us about ‘thinking and working politically’ in development assistance?”

What does the evidence tell us about ‘thinking and working politically’ in development assistance?

July 2, 2019
We’re having an ‘Adaptive Management week’ on FP2P, because so much good material has been coming through recently. First up is a new paper by Niheer Dasandi, Edward Laws, Heather Marquette, and Mark Robinson that I read on the way to the TWP conference in Washington that I wrote about recently. It really got me thinking. The paper is pretty damning:

Take-up and Doubt: where have we got to on Thinking and Working Politically?

June 21, 2019
Spent a day this week at a Washington workshop on ‘From Thinking Politically to Working Politically’, organized by Abt Associates, whose Graham Teskey is one of the TWP gurus. What struck me most was the combination of the spreading acceptance of TWP approaches within the aid sector, and serious questions being asked about important aspects of the whole enterprise by

Book Review: The Business of Changing the World, by Raj Kumar

June 18, 2019
I found reading The Business of Changing the World rather disturbing – a bit like being taken hostage by a cult and submitted to polite but persistent brainwashing for several days (I’m a slow reader). The cult in question is what Anand Giridharadas calls ‘MarketWorld’ – an effusive, evangelical belief in the power of markets, data and new tech to

In ‘Winner Takes All’, Anand Giridharadas takes down philanthropy’s ‘MarketWorld’: Book Review

June 13, 2019
If you’ve ever been irked by the combination of arrogance, platitude, complacency and dismissiveness that often characterizes the private sector-aid complex (philanthropists, management consultants, foundations, impact investors and their groupies across the aid business), then this is the book for you. In Winner Takes All, Anand Giridharadas hangs out at their motivational talks and high end dinners, and spends time

The quest to measure South-South cooperation

May 31, 2019
Prof. Neissan A. Besharati serves as the Associate Director for Deloitte Development Africa, Strategy & Operations. He holds a Masters in International Social Development and a PhD in Public Policy & Development Management, with a focus on evaluating effectiveness of development interventions. This piece was written as part of a research project for Southern Voice’s Development Effectiveness Programme.  Most people

Adaptive rigour: bridging the art and science of adaptive management

May 7, 2019
Ben Ramalingam and Leni Wild share the thinking behind a new initiative to support adaptive management in aid. Adaptive management seems to be everywhere these days – and is one of the most popular topics on this blog. More and more, it is becoming seen as the best way to deal with a wide range of development and humanitarian problems, from

A rant about gender (and other) consultants and how we can avoid them

May 1, 2019
Guest rant from CARE International’s Elizabeth Cowan Ask a group of international development people about external consultants and the conversation that ensues resembles group therapy. Everyone has a story of pain and frustration, of feeling cheated, misunderstood and unsatisfied. Sometimes we cry. There was the external evaluator we paid $60,000 to tell us our project was “doomed from the start”.

Six things INGOs need to fix to be fit for the future. Mark Goldring’s outgoing reflections

April 29, 2019
Guest post by my former boss Mark Goldring, first published in the March edition of Governance and Leadership Magazine. Mark was chief executive of Oxfam GB from 2013 until January 2019. This article is based on a talk given to Civil Society Media’s NGO Insight Conference in November 2018. My last year as chief executive of Oxfam was dominated by the

Will aid help or undermine Mindanao’s new start? Scott Guggenheim is worried.

April 24, 2019
Community Development guru Scott Guggenheim emailed some provocative thoughts on my piece last week on Mindanao, with much wider relevance to the localization debate, so I asked him to turn it into a blog. I like your piece but I’m a bit longer in the tooth than you and so slightly less optimistic. You are entirely right that the MILF