Tag Archives: development system

Paradigm shift and the (non) future of schools

I want to share some of my Sunday reading and listening with you.

First a blog post by Dave Algoso on his blog “Find What Works”: in the article¬†Kuhn, Chambers and the future of international development he talks about paradigm shifts from science to international development. This is interesting as I myself and many around me are saying that a paradigm shift is needed in international development that appreciates the complexities of the environments we work in. Algoso features two posts by Robert Chambers where he sketches out how such a new paradigm could look like (direct links here and here)

Secondly, a TED talk by Sugata Mitra about the future of schools and learning. His basic thesis: “schools as we know them are obsolete”. One quote that particularly struck me, as the language he uses is very much the one we use when talking about development from a complexity perspective:

… we need to look at learning as the product of educational self-organization. If you allow the educational process to self-organize, then learning emerges. It’s not about making learning happen. It’s about letting it happen. The teacher sets the process in motion and then she stands back in awe and watches as learning happens.

Watch it yourself, it’s about 20 minutes:

Boosting development effectiveness: what would need to change?

In this post I want to write about a discussion paper that I have been working on in collaboration with Lucho Osorio, facilitator of the Market Facilitation Initiative (MaFI), which is an initiative of the SEEP Network (more about MaFI, more about SEEP). The paper can be found here on Slideshare.

The paper tries to answer the question What do we need to do differently if we want to make development – and specifically economic development – more effective and inclusive? The basic assumption is that if we facilitate the market systems to change from within rather than through a number of direct and distorting interventions, we have better and more sustainable results. Therefore, the title of the paper reads:

The MaFI-festo: Boosting development effectiveness through facilitation of inclusive markets and private sector engagement.

The paper is based on an extensive online discussion in the LinkedIn group of MaFI as well as a number of face-to-face meetings. Although not explicit, the basic principles of complexity theory had a strong influence on the discussions and consequently on the contents of the paper.

The MaFI-festo will build the basis of a 2012 MaFI-initiative called ‘the MaFI-festo dialogues’. The goal of the dialogues is to “build a process of trust, dialogue and collaboration between inclusive market facilitators and donors to improve or change the principles, rules and procedures of international aid (or international cooperation).”

The six section of the MaFI-festo discussion paper represent the basic fields of action within the the process.

1 Guiding principles. Collaboration, engagement and practicality are the basic aspects underpinning the design and implementation of the MaFI-festo. In the process we want to include donors, practitioners and other key stakeholders in a process that is guided by trust, dialogue and mutual understanding.

2 Changing the way we work. This section spells out the basic principles of how to improve ones work in project implementation, i.e., ‘focus on root causes, not symptoms’, ‘focus on resilience and adaptability of the system’, ‘invest more in field-based, pre-design phase’, and ‘test and promote co-volutionary experimentation’.

3 Flexibility and accountability: the ultimate balancing act. Taking into account both the need for flexibility when working in complex systems and the need for accountability to the donors and further up parliaments and tax-payers, but also towards receiving countries.

4 Building capacity: speeding up the paradigm shift. This section promotes both the establishment of capacity building systems instead of individual training courses as well as the need for the recognition of capacity building as development strategy instead of ‘overhead’ costs.

5 Building up the evidence: what and how we measure. This section advocates for a monitoring system that focuses on structural and deeper, systemic change instead of single universal indicators such as increased income.

6 Activities. This section lines out a number of activities that can be started based on the MaFI-festo discussion paper.

For me, the MaFI-festo incorporates an important move towards a development system that is more conscious of the system it works in and tries to work with the system instead of against the system. It also communicates the realization that this represents a paradigm shift and will need a lot of common efforts of the many actors of the development system itself to be realized.

It is my interest to further contribute to this process in the hope that I can contribute to positive change that leads to an improved way of how we interact with the people in developing countries.