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.
Table of Contents
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.
Prelims [Figures, Boxes and Tables | Preface | Acknowledgements | Participatory research projects | Acronyms]
1 Failures of top-down development planning
2 How change happens
3 Catalysing large-scale and sustainable change
4 Seeing the system – participatory systemic inquiry
5 Systemic action research
6 Nurtured Emergent Development
7 Power in transformative change processes
8 Participatory processes in development
9 Implications for development
‘Burns and Worsley bring an acute understanding of the practitioner’s art and science of development. Intangibles like participation, learning, and network development are at the core of ownership and appropriate action for social change for the poor. Navigating Complexity in International Development unlocks the analysis and dialogue needed to impact sustainable large-scale change. An important contribution for all of us working at the front end of development.’
Steve Hollingworth, President and CEO, Freedom from Hunger
‘This book makes an important case for engaging complex systems, and contributes theory and practice for those researching and intervening to improve the conditions of the poor. It challenges current linear development thinking and offers new methods to effectively engage complexity. Its reflective case studies give rise to a new hope that, with the right approach, development can do better.’
Frank Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR consortium
‘The timely message of the book then is that we must adopt a collaborative systems orientation anchored in the realities of human participation when dealing with the complexity inherent in international change endeavours.’
Hilary Bradbury, Professor, Division of Management, Oregon Health and Science University, and Editor, Action Research
‘This book presents powerful and persuasive case-based evidence to show how systemic change can be achieved at scale.’
Robert Chambers, Research Associate and Professor Emeritus, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex
‘One of the most thoughtful explorations on the nature of complexity in the development sector. A rare example of a book where the writing is accessible without trivializing the underlying theory. It provides a great platform from which the participative action research and complexity theory communities can develop an exciting new body of both theory and practice.’
Dave Snowden, Founder & Chief Scientific Officer, Cognitive Edge Pte Ltd
‘It is courageous to think in terms of complexity in an era where linear thinking and accountability set the tone. In my experience, working together, coping with power differences, energy, trial, error, reflection and learning, keeping an eye on the parts as well as the whole, using data as well as your senses -- are a few essential elements to make change processes developmental. The book is inspiring since it captures both practice and theoretical reflections.’
Annemiek Jenniskens, ex-director, SNV/Netherlands Development Organisation
‘For too long, development problems have been articulated as technical issues – reframed in ways that remove politics, power imbalances and economics from the analysis. In contrast, this valuable book draws upon original studies to demonstrate the case for taking account of complexity, emphasizing the importance of participatory action and reflection whilst recognizing the need to link bottom-up approaches with wider strategies for social change.’
Marjorie Mayo, Emeritus Professor of Community Development, Goldsmith’s College, University of London