This seminar is the fourth in a series that aims to share cutting edge thinking and research being done at IDS and the University of Sussex around practically how we capture and account for complexity across a variety of sustainable development contexts.
The field of global development has reached a critical turning point. Almost gone is the mechanical, one-size-fits-all “good governance” paradigm of the past. In its place is a growing embrace of complexity and systems thinking. While this is an encouraging shift in the right direction, the discussion mostly ends by concluding that we should adapt.
Yuen Yuen Ang urges that it’s time to take our conversation on “complexity & development” to the next level: how to enable adaptation. Effective adaptation doesn’t automatically arise just because we desire it—rather, it requires certain enabling conditions. In How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (2016), she introduces a generic complexity 2.0 framework that she terms “directed improvisation.”
Effective adaptation, Yuen Yuen argues, requires a paradoxical blend of top-down direction and bottom-up improvisation. Such a system can be created—and produce dramatic results and adaptive solutions—even within a closed political regime like China.
About the speaker:
Yuen Yuen Ang is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, and Faculty Associate at the UM Center for the Study of Complex Systems. Her research and teaching lies at the intersection of global development, China’s political economy, and adaptive processes of change. Her book, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (Cornell University Press, Series in Political Economy, 2016) lays the foundation for her research agenda. Winner of 2017 Peter Katzenstein Book Prize, it was described by the prize committee as “a field-shifting move to non-linear complex processes.” Elsewhere, Foreign Affairs named it among the “Best of Books 2017.” Yuen Yuen has received fellowships and awards from the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, American Political Science Association, IBM Center for the Business of Government, and others. She received her PhD from Stanford University.