Aid on the Edge of Chaos has been endorsed by senior leaders, top scientists and best-selling authors. Click on the links or scroll down to see what they are saying.



Owen Barder, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development and former Director, Department for International Development

Aid on the Edge of Chaos will change the way you think about development. Drawing on the latest scientific research into complex adaptive systems, Ben Ramalingam shows that simplifications about economic and social change are not only misleading, they are potentially damaging. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to think seriously about how development happens, and about what can be done to accelerate it. This is one of the most important books you will read about development.”

Eric Beinhocker, Executive Director, Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford and author of The Origin of Wealth

Alleviating deep and persistent poverty, and creating shared, sustainable prosperity is one of the great challenges of our century. Ben Ramalingam’s thought-provoking and highly readable book re-frames the debate on aid and development. Drawing on both leading-edge thinking and practical experience from the field, Aid on the Edge of Chaos challenges the existing aid paradigm and points the way towards a genuinely new approach—a new approach that is urgently needed.”

Yves Daccord, Director General, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Ben Ramalingam’s tour de force of a book provides an unorthodox and fascinating insight into today’s global aid sector: its current practices and sometimes faulty theories of action. Beyond the criticism it manages to explore several avenues on how to unlock the most obstructive problems that are facing the sector. Borrowing from scientific fields generally ignored by the aid industry, Ben Ramalingam also opens up new perspectives on possible humanitarian and development futures. This book is a vital source of inspiration for the ICRC and for the aid community as a whole.”

Ricardo Haussmann, former Chief Economist, Inter-American Development Bank and Director of the Centre for International Development, Harvard University

This excellent book does three important things. It provides an informative tour of the reductionist thinking and over-simplistic approaches that characterise so much current development policy and practice. It draws on the ideas of complex adaptive systems research to show that such flaws are neither inevitable nor incurable. And it presents a series of powerful cases of how these new ideas are beginning to make a real difference to the way we think about and work in aid. A must-read for anyone interested in development, its current discontents, and its future potential.”

Sir Richard Jolly, former Assistant Secretary General, United Nations

Aid on the Edge of Chaos is an important and insightful book, a work of original and well documented scholarship that is also highly accessible. Fresh thoughts and new ideas bubble on virtually every page. Ramalingam sets out a challenge to researchers and practitioners in international cooperation to rethink our basic assumptions and act in ways that are more attuned to the real world in all its complexities. This is one to read and reread.”

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive, NESTA

This brilliant book will energise the struggle to make big government, big money and big aid sensitive to contexts, humble about what they can achieve, and sophisticated about the connectedness of things. It won’t make simple panaceas any less attractive. But it points the way to a common sense far more appropriate to the 21st century world.”

Sir Nick Young, Chief Executive Officer, British Red Cross

Aid on the Edge of Chaos is a magnificent piece of work, highly readable notwithstanding the complex topics it deals with, and a major contribution to the debate about how to rethink and improve the way we deliver aid worldwide . . . I fully endorse Ben Ramalingam’s call for more catalytic approaches to aid, that empower and enable local communities to find and develop their own answers, which are in keeping with the richness, interconnectedness and intricacy of their lives.”

Andrew Zolli, Executive Director, Pop Tech and Author of Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back

Aid on the Edge of Chaos provides a view of development that is breathtakingly more realistic, more humble, more contemporary, more informed and more dynamic than the dreary library of concepts it upends. Ben Ramalingam is catapulting development thinking into the 21st century—read this book and be changed.”


Peter Doherty, Nobel Laureate, Medicine 

We are all on this small planet together. Ultimately, our fates cannot be separated. In a broad ranging discussion of our global ‘network of mutuality’, Ben Ramalingam expertly shows how those in the wealthier countries can best help the severely disadvantaged in this time of massive change and dislocation. Marrying science, policy and practice with a deep moral conscience, this important book points to a future that we should all be working towards.”

Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management, London Business School, author of Hot Spots: Why Some Teams, Workplaces, and Organisations Buzz with Energy—and Others Don’t

In this important book, Ben Ramalingam convincingly shows why transformational change is so badly needed in foreign aid, and where it might come from. In clear and elegant prose, he presents a critique of the status quo, clear explanations of alternative mindsets and ideas, and inspiring stories of innovation from around the world. The result is a book that is a must read for all leaders who are—regardless of sector—finding themselves having to navigate instead of ignore complexity. A wonderful endeavour.”

Duncan Green, Senior Strategic Advisor, Oxfam

By bringing together a deep knowledge of both the aid business and complexity theory, Ramalingam shows the insights that come from crossing disciplinary boundaries. This well-written and thought-provoking book is an important contribution to redesigning aid for a messy, complex world.”

Dudley Herschbach, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry

This is a superb book, boldly facing in this age of globalization the complexity of aid to developing countries. Ben Ramalingam presents lucid exposition and insightful analysis, derived from hundreds of interviews, empirically tested studies, and real-life episodes. His findings make a compelling case to transform aid, from the “external push” of unrealistic panaceas to “internal catalysis” that can help recipient societies evolve their own future. Impressive and inspiring, this work is destined to become a 21st century classic.”

Thomas Homer-Dixon, Director,Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, author of The Upside of Down

“Aid of the Edge of Chaos is a masterful synthesis of complexity science and the latest thinking about aid and development. With beautifully clear writing and stories, Ben Ramalingam uses complexity concepts to reveal the deep reasons for why aid sometimes works—and sometimes doesn’t. Scholars, practitioners, policymakers and students will all benefit considerably from reading this book.”

Simon Levin, Moffat Professor of Ecology, Princeton University

This book is essential reading not only for those committed to making aid more effective, but also for those interested more generally in complex systems thinking. It shows the limitations and dangers of simplistic, prescriptive approaches to the highly interconnected, nonlinear systems that characterize so many real-world problems. Far from being a pessimistic funeral march, Ramalingam’s wide-ranging and scholarly discourse provides many inspiring examples of how complexity theory can be put to practical and meaningful use, and lays out a hopeful path forward.”

Eric Maskin, Nobel Laureate, Economics

Foreign aid to poor countries has had a checkered history, in part because well-intentioned aid agencies sometimes oversimplify the problems they need to solve. Ben Ramalingam’s book makes the good case that the growing field of complex adaptive systems can help prevent such errors from being repeated.”

Jerry Sabloff, President, Santa Fe Institute

This is a terrific, stimulating book that should be a must-read for both policymakers around the world and the general public alike. Ben Ramalingam clearly and engagingly shows how the use of complex adaptive systems thinking can significantly strengthen and enhance the impacts and effectiveness of global foreign aid. His ground breaking work will hopefully pave the way for many more such efforts in the future.”


Philip Ball, author of Critical Mass, Winner of the Aventis Royal Society Book of the Year and Consultant Editor, Nature

This masterful book represents an important step towards changing our institutions and organizations: a shift away from outmoded, one-size-fits-all, top-down planning and towards responsive and adaptive innovation. If that were to happen in international development alone, the effects could be profound—but as Ramalingam implies, this needs to be a part of a much broader change in political and economic thinking. Ramalingam skillfully draws upon a diverse body of ideas and research to deliver a vital message for aid and beyond.”

Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist Strikes Back and Adapt

Ben Ramalingam is a leading champion of the adaptive, scientific, trial-and-error thinking that the aid industry badly needs—we’ve been eagerly awaiting this book.”

Noreena Hertz, author of Eyes Wide Open: How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World and The Silent Takeover

Well written and challenging, Ramalingam pushes his reader to question traditional wisdoms, navigate different disciplines, and value the import of local experience. Much needed.”

Paul Ormerod, author of Death of Economics and Positive Linking

This is a well-written and original book which has implications for policy making far beyond its immediate focus of aid and development. Ben Ramalingam seamlessly combines practical experience, policy relevance and scientific expertise. Aid on the Edge of Chaos deserves a very wide audience.”

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