Where am I on my journey to use the awareness about complex systems in my work in economic development? That is a question I have asked myself more often recently. Continue reading
The SEEP Network published a new paper, which I have co-authored together with Lucho Osorio and Margie Brand. The publication is part of SEEP’s Systemic M&E Initiative.
This paper evaluates the validity and usefulness of seven principles for appropriate design and management of systemic M&E frameworks. The principles were defined in an earlier publication (see here). This new paper now puts the principles to the test in the context of the Market Assistance Program (MAP) in Kenya and its institutional host, the Kenya Markets Trust (KMT).
You can download the publication from the SEEP Website.
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.
Have a look at a blog post I wrote for the SEEP Network’s blog:
I was very lucky to be invited to present my work using the Systems Dynamics Analysis methodology at the SEEP Network‘s annual conference last week in Arlington, VA.
I presented the methodology based on the work I did in Mongolia on the problem of pastoralism and pastureland degradation. Based on my presentation and my script I prepared a special version of the Prezi I used with more text so it can also be understood without me presenting. This extended presentation can be accessed here.
The main goals of the presentation were to show the participants a concrete and practical tool that improves our way of looking at systems and their dynamics. Especially, I presented the loop analysis as an alternative to the widely used tools based on linear causal chains.
My presentation of the Systems Dynamics Analysis was well framed by Lucho Osorio from Practical Action who was setting the scene introducing the concept of working in complex realities and how Practical action uses the participatory market mapping to better reflect the reality as well as Tjip Walker from USAID who gave an insight perspective of how USAID is approaching the issue (he was actually also involved in organizing the event on complexity within USAID on which I wrote here). This short article gives an idea of the whole session.
The feedback I and my fellow panelists received was very encouraging. Many practitioners approached us with a clear message: these concepts of complexity and the system dynamics analysis are seen as very potential to better reflect the realities in the field and improve not only the ability to plan better and more effective interventions, but also to improve the ability to show and report the more intangible changes on a system level.
This positive feedback gives us enormous motivation to go ahead with our work on how to better embrace complexity in our work in international development and beyond. I am keen to report in this blog how this work is progressing.