A continuing theme on this blog has been the issue of leadership. Many reports and studies call for it, reforms are seen as impossible without it, critical challenges will not be met without it, and we are all ready to point out the lack of it (in others, at least). Despite the fact that leadership […]

Humanitarian coordination has been described in a new ODI paper as a ‘wicked problem’ which demands new and radical solutions. This post explores the  longstanding incentive issues underlying the lack of effective coordination and suggests possible ways forward. In a paper published last year,  Michael Barnett and I argued that the humanitarian system was stuck in much the […]

Last year I wrote a paper called Paradigms, Poverty and Adaptive Pluralism. In it I explored how technological advances and complexity sciences were together helping to reframe a longstanding divide between two opposing paradigms in international development. Because of the relevance of this to current debates on complexity and aid, I welcome this opportunity to share these ideas here. I warmly invite feedback from […]

Positive deviance (PD) is a fascinating approach, a decade and a half old, and the focus of growing interest in health, education and numerous other sectors in domestic public policy. Interestingly, given PD saw first widespread application in an aid programme, it is still less well known than it should be across the international community. This post […]

A piece in yesterday’s New Scientist titled ‘Can Complexity Theory Explain Egypt’s Crisis?’ explores ideas of complexity in the context of the ongoing events in Egypt. It draws on the insights of two noted complexity thinkers – Yaneer Bar-Yam and Thomas Homer-Dixon. Excerpts are reproduced below with permission: Egyptians are the world’s biggest wheat importers and consumers, and […]

When does crowdsourcing work best? New research from the Institute for Human Development provides answers which may be of relevance for aid projects and programmes. There has been a lot written, spoken and blogged about the power of crowds in making decisions. In James Surowiecki‘s bestselling Wisdom of Crowds, published in 2004, the central thesis […]