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Development conference blog: Day 2 John Young

December 1, 2009

John Young of the Overseas Development Agency starts off by saying that he is impressed with the attempts to use complexity in development. He wants to focus on one area in the field to see how complexity would apply, namely the link between research and policy. Makes it clear that policy processes are either linear, nor cyclical in nature. A very clever slide showing how multiple interest groups start to interfere with processes. The screen is now full of red arrows! Its very difficult to say that policy is chaotic, people react badly. This is a delightfully ironic and understated presentation that I can’t really do justice to here. References the five Ss that prevent policy makers understanding the use of evidence: Speed, Superficiality, Spin (in the sense that you can’t change your mind every five minutes), Secrecy and Scientific Evidence.

Raising the issue of intent, and linking it to motivation

Takes about a 6 step model

  1. Define your policy objective
    Needs to be discursive, attitudinal, procedural, content focused and behavioral (all in respect of change)
  2. Understand the context.
    This needs to understanding external influences, the political context, the links between policy and research communities and the credibility of evidence, its degree, simplicity and ease of communication.
  3. Identify the key actors
    Uses an alignment-interest-influence-matrix to identify the critical stakeholders. After that who are the most influential and who you can influence.
  4. Develop a theory of change
    intersection of project team withdrawal and other actors engagement is key. Otherwise the project is simply a project and does not make a difference
  5. develop a strategy
    They use force field analysis, and specifically look at their ability to inflluence them
  6. Assess competencies
    this can range from SWOT analysis to competency frameworks.
  7. Develop an action plan
    Liked the Cynefin framework approach he was involved in yesterday (and will try that out). Using outcome mapping at the moment details on their web site
  8. M&E and Learning
    Strategy and direction, the management level, outputs, uptake and then outcomes and impacts.

I got a copy of his slides and you can find them here. He finishes off the theory by arguing that you need to be a good researcher, an excellent story teller, a good networker, a good engineer and a political fixed. Then goes on to illustrate this on a groundwater project in India and another in Indonesia.

I like this, it has value and I think it will be interesting to walk it through with a complex systems perspective. If I can get a copy from John I will do that.

Several questions, one very interesting one about power: coercive, persuasive etc.

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