Building a knowledge repository on economic change – systemic insight

I spent the last week with my business partner Shawn Cunningham in South Africa to discuss our continuous research work on systemic change, market development and innovation promotion. It was a week packed with a lot of thinking, discussion and occasional flicking through some of our favourite textbooks. Not much we enjoy more!
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Want to measure systemic change? Here’s a refined complexity sensitive framework.

Systemic change has become a catch phrase in recent years, not only in the field of Market Systems Development. I have blogged about it before (for example here and here). The question I want to address in this post is how we can conceptualise systemic change as a first step in developing ‘Theories of Systemic Change’ and evaluating systemic change initiatives. And all of this in the face of complexity and unpredictability of how complex systems change. Continue reading

Five reasons why using narrative is important for understanding social change

In this post I want to share the five reason I have found so far why using narrative is central to understanding and engaging in social change. In an earlier article, I described different types of narrative and different types of working with stories.

Narratives are central in how we humans organise our society. Gossiping about others allows us to exchange reliable information about who can be trusted, who’s behaviour is acceptable and who is behaving in a ‘bad’ way. Talking about metaphors, legends and myths gives us a common framework of meaning. Weaving life-lessons into stories that get repeated again and again helps us to learn how to behave and become accepted members of a society.

The intention of this post is for me to bring some weeks of reading on narrative together, it is not yet the final word. What’s in here will no doubt further develop and I would appreciate your comments and thoughts – and links to further sources.

So, after this disclaimer, here the five reasons I have come up with. Continue reading

Pilots almost always work – “from-pilot-to-scale” does not

The reason that pilots almost always work is the so-called Hawthorn Effect. According to Wikipedia, “The Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect) is a type of reactivity in which individuals modify an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.” This is one of the reasons why I think that projects that are predominantly operating in a “from-pilot-to-scale” logic struggle to achieve that scale. Another reason why I am concerned with the prevalence of this logic in many projects is that they introduce often externally conceived solutions for what they analysed as ‘root causes’ into a system. Even if the solution scales, the social and institutional structure and dynamics of the system will most certainly not have changed, making the system not more but potentially less resilient. This is not what I would call systemic change. Continue reading

Working with narrative – potential start of a series

I have blogged about using narrative to measure changes in attitudes or to build up human sensor networks. These blogs have generated a lot of traffic. The use of narrative for better understanding social systems and social change is still a big interest of mine. This is why I have been digging a bit to better understand why narrative research is so powerful to understand change in complex systems such as communities.

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Presentation: Refreshing development

Marcus at the RSAI had the honour and pleasure to be a speaker on a panel last week at the Royal Society of the Arts (RSA) in London. The event was titled “Refreshing Development: Making the Case for New Economic Thought in Global Development Policy”. It was part of a whole series of events 10 years after the economic crash in 2007 and supported by the Alumni network of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

My presentation was about transformational economic change and in it I tried to convey the basic ideas on how change happens in the economy, wrapped in the example of the “Growing Rubber Opportunities” (GRO) Project I have been supporting over the last four years in Myanmar. Continue reading

Thinking out loud: my areas of interest

This post is a bit of an experiment. In it, I want to outline my four main areas of interest which guide my reading, thinking and the work I want to engage in. The aim is twofold. Firstly, I hope that the exercise focuses my thoughts because I need to write the areas down in a coherent way. Secondly, this is intended as a way to reach out to likeminded people who are interested in the same issues, so it contains a call to action, i.e. to contact me. I would be particularly interested if you would like to discuss my ideas presented below, work with me on any of these challenges, or simply tell me that what I am sketching out below is not really as challenging as I think it is and that robust answers/solutions are indeed already available (please do share them with me and excuse me for my ignorance).

My four areas of interest are (1) understanding change in societies from a complex systems perspective and in particular how to promote a more sustainable way of living, (2) developing an integrated approach to performance management, accountability and learning for teams and organisations engaging in complex change, (3) achieving systemic change through economic development initiatives, and (4) engaging more in the area I live in – the North East of England. Some of these areas are more concrete and tangible in terms of potential outputs and activities. I will now describe each of them in turn in more detail. Continue reading

A Whole New World: funding in complexity

wholenewworld.pngYesterday I was at the launch of a fascinating report on how to better fund organisations that aim to achieve change in complex systems. Though the report draws mainly on public sector commissioners and charitable funders in the social sector in the UK, it is relevant far beyond that. We can take many if not most of the principles the report found and with some tweaking apply them in funding for international development.

The aim of the report is to attempt to answer the question “How should organisations which have a desire to help improve people’s lives, and resources to allocate to achieve this goal, manage the distribution of those resources most effectively?” This question is certainly also relevant for international development, as its goal equally is to improve people’s lives – even though many organisations and initiatives have much narrower aims – which is a problem in itself, but that’s for another post.
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Mesopartner Summar Academy 2017

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I just realised that I have not published a post on this year’s Mesopartner Summer Academy in Berlin. Luckily, there are still places open, so if you see this post and are interested to participate in the training, please do apply!

The Academy is a training event for advanced professionals in territorial economic development and related economic development approaches. This year’s focus will be on what we call ‘meso organisations’. The meso level is where the both public and private actors on the national, regional, and local level work together to create locational advantages and increase relative competitiveness. The idea of the need to support the emergence and capacity of a meso level, though not new, is still not very strongly integrated in current approaches to economic development.

Besides the focus on meso organisations, we will also bring in as many insights as possible from our recent research products on systemic change. Continue reading