Tag: Europe

 

Complexity, Adaptation, and Results

Blog Post

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.

All That Glisters: The Golden Thread and Complexity

Blog Post

David Cameron co-chairs the UN Panel on the future of the development agenda, so his 'golden thread' view of development is likely to have a global impact. In the second of three blog posts looking at development policy through the lens of complexity thinking, Owen Barder asks whether the British government's golden thread is good development policy. He concludes that though it has much to commend it, it also has significant weaknesses.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, wants us to stop talking simply about the quantity of aid we give, and:

“start talking about what I call the ‘golden thread’, which is you only get real long-term development through aid if there is also a golden thread of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law, transparent information.”

This is not a new wheeze: Mr Cameron has been talking about the golden thread since before he became leader of the Conservative party. Given that he is a co-chair of the UN High Level Panel on the global development agenda after 2015, we can expect to see some of this thinking in that panel’s recommendations.