Category Change in a Complex World

What is an emergent property? (and why care?)

“What is an emergent property?” a friend asked me after my post the other day. She said, “I bet that really means something to you and your little peer group, but to me it doesn’t mean anything.” Oops. Own goal. What is the point of writing about something if only your small group of people […]

Development as an emergent property

You don’t get a better explanation on the complexity of development than this video. Make a cup of tea and put your feet up as it is 45 minutes long. But worth every minute. Two things that I love about this video: It sees development not as a series of successes towards a finite end, […]

Slow ideas, complex ideas

Some ideas spread fast. How do you speed the ones that don’t? asks the New Yorker. When anaesthesia was introduced in 1849, it soon swept across the world and was taken up as a worldwide innovation within seven years. When in 1867 Joseph Lister published a new method—the use of antiseptics—to eliminate germs and reduce […]

Achieving change through other people: the laws of physics do not apply.

I have just been in my first days of Outcome Mapping training and very enjoyable it was too. Outcome Mapping was conceived and developed by the Canadian International Development Research Centre and it is: a participatory method for use in planning, monitoring and evaluating a framework for clarifying intent an orientation towards adaptive management and […]

Direction and value

Targets, goals, purpose. They are all ways of describing the direction we are heading. Does it matter which name we give them? Well, yes, I think it does. Target sounds to me like something you do on the way to something else. It is not the overall purpose of your action. System thinkers like to […]

research, policy and change

I have been thinking a lot—since I work in a pro-development research organization—about how change happens. What brought this on? One thing was a rather unfortunate paper I read on gender and agricultural biodiversity. The author seemed convinced that the recent data (FAO 2011) suggesting that eliminating the gender gap would result in a huge […]