Complexity & systems thinking

Public sector management reform in developing countries: Perspectives beyond NPM orthodoxy

Derick W. Brinkerhoff and Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff

What alternative frameworks for theory and practice offer insights and guidance beyond the new public management (NPM) orthodoxy? This article offers some answers to this question. It is the introduction to a special issue of the journal Public Administration and Development titled ‘Beyond conventional public sector management reforms in developing countries’, and includes ...» more

Systems Thinking: An introduction for Oxfam programme staff

Kimberly Bowman et al.

Systems thinking can be an important part of developing truly sustainable and transformative change. This introduction explains how a systems approach can be integrated within programmes and ways of working, and provides tools, case study examples and links to resources for further learning. It highlights the need for change at both a programme and organisational level to ...» more

A new climate for peace: Taking action on climate and fragility

Lukas Rüttinger; Dan Smith; Gerald Stang; Dennis Tänzler; and Janani Vivekananda

This independent report commissioned by members of the G7 calls for action on climate and fragility risk. It highlights risks and policy gaps that pose serious threats to the stability of states and societies in three key sectors: climate change adaptation; development and humanitarian aid; and peacebuilding. The report suggests concrete action from G7 member countries is ...» more

Improving development aid design and evaluation: Plan for sailboats, not trains

Rachel Kleinfeld

How do reforms that require political engagement differ from traditional technical reforms? Why is political engagement different, and what are the implications for design and evaluation? How should development programmes that engage politics be designed? And how can those who fund or implement such programmes evaluate whether their efforts are contributing to reform? This ...» more

Adapting development: improving services to the poor

Leni Wild, David Booth, Clare Cummings, Marta Foresti, Joseph Wales

This report argues that if we are to avoid reproducing the pattern of uneven progress that has characterised the MDG campaign, there must be more explicit recognition of the political conditions that sometimes enable, but so often obstruct, development progress. In this context, domestic reformers and their international partners must pursue innovative and politically smart ...» more

Public service reform

The focus in this Pack is on action: on the public service reform intervention, conceived as an exercise in helping. The readings included in this pack have been chosen to be interesting and fresh rather than comprehensive; that is, to stimulate thinking rather than necessarily to ‘cover all the bases’ in public service reform as…» more

Problem-driven iterative approaches and wider governance reform

A problem-driven, iterative approach to institutional reform involves (i) solving defined performance problems through (ii) creating an environment amenable to experimentation, (iii) creating tight feedback loops, and (iv) engaging a broad set of actors. Such an approach has recently been termed as PDIA (problem-driven iterative adaptation), with analysis suggesting that ...» more

Explaining positive deviance in public sector reforms in development

Matt Andrews

Public sector reforms are commonplace in developing countries. Much of the literature about these reforms reflects on their failures. This paper asks about the successes and investigates which of two competing theories best explain why some reforms exhibit such positive deviance.These theories are called 'solution and leader driven change' (SLDC) and 'problem driven iterative ...» more

Escaping Capability Traps through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)

Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett,, Michael Woolcock

This paper argues that many reform initiatives in developing countries fail to achieve sustained improvements in performance because governments and organisations pretend to reform by changing what policies or organisations look like rather than what they actually do. The flow of development resources and legitimacy without demonstrated improvements in performance undermines ...» more

Exploring the Science of Complexity: Ideas and Implications for Development and Humanitarian Efforts

Ben Ramalingam, Harry Jones et al.

What is complexity science? How can it contribute to development and humanitarian efforts? This paper explores the key concepts of complexity science and shows how they might help development practitioners engaged in reform. The concepts highlight that the best course of action will be context-dependent, and they offer new ways to think about questions that should be posed. ...» more