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

November 3, 2018
  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 for an FP2P podcast.

The Project Cycle in Complex Systems – cartoon version

June 7, 2018
Jo Rowlands spotted this gem in a recent Intrac Newsletter. It’s drawn by Bill Crooks, based on an original concept by Nigel Simister.

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

January 31, 2018
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 going to give the same

The Unvarnished Project Cycle

January 8, 2018
Continuing the most-read FP2P posts from 2017, in reverse order. Here’s the runner up. Click on the original to see the comments. This is genius from Lisa McNally – feel free to suggest further improvements And I guess this is the exec sum, although it’s actually a very optimistic version, in that ‘what happened’ ends up roughly in the same place

Achilles v Ulysses and Complexity, according to the OECD

October 12, 2017
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.’ The pieces are short

Complexity v Simplicity: the challenge for Campaigners and Reformers

September 14, 2017
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

The Unvarnished Project Cycle

July 21, 2017
This is genius from Lisa McNally – feel free to suggest further improvements                     And I guess this is the exec sum, although it’s actually a very optimistic version, in that ‘what happened’ ends up roughly in the same place as the planned version, in the top right quadrant (there’s three others

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

April 20, 2017
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

How Change Happens (or doesn’t) in the Humanitarian System

February 15, 2017
I’ve been in Stockholm this week at the invitation of ALNAP, the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action, which has been holding its annual meeting on the banks of a frozen Swedish river. I was asked to comment on the background paper for the meeting, Changing Humanitarian Action?, by ALNAP’s Paul Knox-Clarke.  I read the paper

Watching Oxfam morph into an interdependent networked system

February 1, 2017
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

Handy NGO Guide to Social Network Analysis

January 26, 2017
Social Network Analysis has been cropping up a bit in my mental in-tray. First there was my Christmas reading – Social Physics, by Alex Pentland. Then came yesterday’s post from some networkers within Oxfam. So here are some additional thoughts, based on a great guide to SNA by the International Rescue Committee. Complexity and Systems Thinking seems to push people into

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