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International development interventions often fail because development experts assume that our world is linear and straightforward when in reality it is complex, highly dynamic and unpredictable.
Things rarely happen in the way that they were planned. The dominance of logical planning models in international development therefore needs to be challenged and replaced by a complexity-based understanding of how change happens. Navigating Complexity in International Development describes three such processes. Firstly it explores processes of ‘participatory systemic inquiry’ which allow complexity to be collectively seen and understood by stakeholders. Then it outlines two approaches to ‘engagement’: the more structured approach of ‘systemic action research’ and the more organic processes of ‘nurtured emergent development’.
The design and process of each are described clearly, allowing readers to utilize and quickly adapt the ideas to their own situations. They are illustrated through detailed case studies which range from water resource management in Uganda, to agriculture transformation in Egypt and Kenya, to education of girls in Afghanistan, and community responses to conflict in Myanmar. Each builds a detailed picture of how local people and practitioners were able to respond to complexity. The final section looks at issues of power, participation and policy that arise in emergent development processes. This book is essential reading for planners, practitioners, policy-makers, students, and researchers in international development.
Navigating Complexity in International Development – By Danny Burns
- Sussex Development Lecture “Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating Sustainable Change at Scale“, 3 March 2016, with Ben Ramalingan as discussant.
- Review of the event by Megan Driscoll, enttitled Navigating Complexity: An Evening on Change and the Quest to Sustain It
Which of these three books on complexity and development is right for you? Review/user’s guide – by Dave Algoso (@dagaso), published on From Poverty to Power