Theories of Change: Grounded for Complex Environments

Theories of change need to be grounded in context and derived from an understanding of complexity.  Starting new projects –or scaling proved projects in new contexts- is complex. Applied to development complexity happens when there are high levels of social disagreement and low levels of technical expertise. Since projects are complex emergence, nonlinearity, and systems thinking are important for both project development and continued change (Patton, 2010). Complex projects managed in a linear way often miss their mark. Further, ifRead more

Thriving People and Organizations Create Flourishing Societies

The bullet point about “capacity development” in the job description and the catchphrase on the development organizations web-site are both deceptive. It looks simple. Developing people’s professional skills and increasing the ability of organizations is not simple. Power, culture, and diversity of vision all collide when people try to “develop capacity”. Here are six observations I’ve had about the fun (and complex) world of “capacity development”. 1) Developing People is not like building a houses: A+B does not always =Read more

Leading While in the Muddled Middle: Lessons from Development Leadership

International development leadership is a mix of creating movements, managing people and budgets, and casting a constant vision of what a new reality could be. It is a world of emergence. The development leader is in what Michael Patton (2011) in Developmental Evaluation call’s “the muddled middle”. Local culture and organizational culture meet. Customary systems meet log-frames. At the meeting point is the International Development manager, consultant, or director. There is nothing like it in the world! Here are aRead more