The most interesting story this week for anyone interested in complexity and aid  issues is the news that Bill Frej, head of the United States Agency for International Development’s mission to Afghanistan from May 2009 until June 2010, will be the first ‘development diplomat in residence’ at the Santa Fe Institute, the leading global think-tank […]

Earlier this year, renowned historian Niall Ferguson authored a piece in Foreign Affairs which presented human civilisations as complex adaptive systems, in contrast with the traditional view of civilisations as moving through a gradual cyclical of growth and decline. As Ferguson argues, the cyclical model of civilisations has been long shared by historians, political theorists, anthropologists, […]

Lessons from theatrical improvisation have clear parallels with group dynamics in other social systems, including aid agencies… Outside of work, theatre is one of my main passions. In my tentative attempts to learn more about different aspects of stagecraft, I have stumbled across some fascinating thinking which is of real relevance for Aid on the […]

According to 2008 ALNAP research on organisational change in the humanitarian sector, ‘all theories of organization and management are based on implicit images or metaphors that lead us to see, understand, and manage organisations in distinctive yet partial ways.’ One of the key metaphors used in that work, drawing on the groundbreaking efforts of organisational theorist […]

The argument that modern organisations have to deal with complexity on a daily basis is fast becoming one of the least controversial statements any analyst, policy maker or practitioner can make. But what this actually means in practice is up for debate. Some suggest that there is little or no rigour in statements such as ‘the world […]

In the middle of the 19th century, one of the most widely publicised scientific struggles was to predict the motion of planetary bodies. Using Newtonian mechanics, it was simple enough to calculate the trajectory of one or two planets. However, when a third was added into the mix, the equations become complex and incomprehensible. Steven Strogatz described […]