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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Complexity, Adaptation, and Results

In the last of a series of three blog posts looking at the implications of complexity theory for development, Owen Barder and Ben Ramalingam look at the implications of complexity for the trend towards results-based management in development cooperation. They argue that is a common mistake to see a contradiction between recognising complexity and focusing on results: on the contrary, complexity provides a powerful reason for pursuing the results agenda, but it has to be done in ways which reflect the context. In the 2012 Kapuscinski lecture Owen argued that economic and political systems can best be thought of as complex adaptive systems, and that development should be understood as an emergent property of those systems. As explained in detail in Ben’s forthcoming book, these interactive systems are made up of adaptive actors, whose actions are a self-organised search for fitness on a shifting landscape. Systems like this undergo change in dynamic, non-linear ways; characterised by explosive surprises and tipping points as well as periods of relative stability. If development arises from the interactions of a dynamic and unpredictable system, you might draw the conclusion that it makes no sense to try to assess or measure the results of particular development interventions. That would be the wrong conclusion to reach. While the complexity of development implies a different way of thinking about evaluation, accountability and results, it also means that the ‘results agenda’ is more important than ever.

P4R: Looking to the Pilot Phase

This is a joint post with Rita Perakis.

After many stages of drafting, debates, and consultations, the World Bank´s proposed results-based financing instrument, Program-for-Results is going for approval to the Bank´s Board on January 24. The latest draft of the policy can be found here; we´re pleased to see that Bank staff listened to comments at a CGD roundtable and many other consultation meetings and incorporated changes to previous drafts. CGD hosted a final discussion of P4R on Thursday January 19, with a presentation by World Bank VP for operations, Joachim von Amsberg, and a panel that included Anne Perrault of the Center for International Environmental Law, Marta Garcia Jauregui, who represents Spain, Mexico and several Latin American countries on the World Bank board, and CGD president Nancy Birdsall (see event video here).