Why should large aid organizations spin off more start-ups? What kind?

April 14, 2016
Here’s vlog number 3 – they’re turning into kind of lazy exec sums for blog posts. And a chance to study my kitchen…. I’ve been thinking about the idea of Oxfam and other large aid players deliberately ‘spinning off’ start-ups as independent organizations. The idea came up when I was writing ‘Fit for the Future’ last year, on the way
Read more >>

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

March 16, 2016
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
Read more >>

Doing Development Differently: a great discussion on Adaptive Management (no, really)

November 4, 2015
Went to a fascinating workshop last week on ‘adaptive management’ hosted and designed by USAID as part of their work on Knowledge, Information and Data (see final para for more links) and facilitated by Ben Ramalingam, who has just started at IDS as their new digital, technology and innovation czar. A whole load of participants are going to write posts for this
Read more >>

How to use ‘Systems Thinking’ in practice: good new guide

October 20, 2015
This was posted by John Chettleborough on Oxfam’s Policy and Practice blog today, and I really liked it, so here you are Ever wondered what connects Buddhism, climate change, improved governance and a flexible approach to decision making? If so….read on. Currently if you work in the international development sector it is difficult to escape from the term “systems thinking”.
Read more >>

Embracing Complexity – a good new book on systems thinking (and action)

August 26, 2015
Jean Boulton is a regular both here on the blog and in the corridors of Oxfam. She’s a onetime theoretical physicist turned consultant, and one of her passions is complexity and systems thinking, and their implications for how organizations, including development agencies, go about their work. Now she’s teamed up with fellow lapsed physicist Peter Allen, and Cliff Bowman (a
Read more >>

How can big aid organizations become Fit for the Future? Summary of my new paper

June 17, 2015
My navel-gazing paper on the future of INGOs and other big aid beasts came out last week. Here’s a summary I wrote for the Guardian. Thanks to all those who fed in on earlier drafts. Oxfam’s Deputy CEO Penny Lawrence gives a semi-official response. A miasma of existential doubt seems to hang over large chunks of the aid industry, even
Read more >>

If Complexity was a person, she would be a Socialist. Jean Boulton on the politics of systems thinking.

May 15, 2015
Jean Boulton (physicist, management consultant and social scientist, right) responds to Owen Barder’s Wednesday post on thinking of development as a property of a complex adaptive system. I’d like to go a bit further than Owen on the implications of complexity for how we understand power and politics. It is generally the case that the powerful get more powerful and
Read more >>

What has cancer taught me about the links between medicine and development? Guest post by Chris Roche

April 15, 2015
My friend and How Change Happens co-conspirator Chris Roche (@croche123) has had a rough year, but has used it to reach some interesting insights into the links between medicine and development. In July last year I was diagnosed with a pancreatic neuro-endocrine tumour. This is a rare disease and thankfully usually not as lethal as exocrine pancreatic cancer. Some people
Read more >>

Fit for the Future? Systems thinking and the role of International NGOs – draft paper for your comments

April 14, 2015
I’m committing potential hara-kiri by giving a DFID staff talk on the future of INGOs tomorrow lunchtime (Wednesday) – if you’re an FP2P reader in DFID, do please come along. Here’s the background and a call for comments on the draft paper I’m presenting: (INGO futures, Green v5 April 2015 (edited)). Just before Christmas, Oxfam boss Mark Goldring collared me in
Read more >>

What are the implications of ‘doing development differently’ for NGO Campaigns and Advocacy?

February 10, 2015
I’ve been having fun recently taking some of the ideas around ‘Doing Development Differently’ and applying them to INGOs, building on the post I wrote last year on ‘You can’t take a supertanker white-water rafting’. The Exam Question is: Given complexity, systems thinking and the failure of top down approaches, what future, if any, is there for International NGOs? Paper
Read more >>

Can complex systems thinking provide useful tools for aid workers? Draft paper on some DFID pilot experiments, for your comments

May 7, 2014
Ben Ramalingam, who wrote last year’s big book on complexity and aid (Aid on the Edge of Chaos) has been doing some interesting work with DFID and wants comment on his draft paper (with Miguel Laric and John Primrose) summarizing the project. The draft is here BestPracticetoBestFitWorkingPaper_DraftforComments_May2014 (just comment on this post, and the authors will read and reply where necessary,
Read more >>

How can complexity/systems thinking help small island states?

May 1, 2014
‘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 Lordship? Your Honourableness? ‘Yo Tu’ivakano’ (a la
Read more >>