White water rafting with Duncan Green

June 23, 2015 | Blog-Admin1 | Learning Elsewhere |


Rating: 4.5 out of 5

In an inspiring speech at the Annual Meeting of learn4dev, Duncan Green, senior advisor of Oxfam GB, compared the environment in which we are going to work in the post-2015-landscape to white water rafting. The landscape changes – new actors emerge, CSO, private sector, new donors -, the challenges may be others than we perceive them to be, and we do not have the appropriate solutions to emerging challenges.

By Charlotte Nager, SDC

New challenges

In the post-2015 we will have to deal with a number of new challenges, among which are the increased relevance of citizens movements, the significance of domestic middle classes, domestic economies and the private sector, the diasporas and the fact that working in urban centres, becoming more and more important, need other approaches. Aid is becoming very last century and becomes less and less relevant in developing countries.

New roles and approaches

According to Duncan Green we have to strengthen our thinking in complex systems, that have many links and interconnections and where you cannot predict what is going to happen if you intervene in one sphere. The development aid that works with recipes is not appropriate in complex systems. We will have to focus more on context-specific approaches and have to take over the role of outsiders that analyse the problem and then facilitate a problem-focused iterative adaptation, based on test-fail-test and multi-stakeholder initiatives.

We have to increasingly deal with big questions like monoculture vs. diversification: up to now development aid funds organisations, public or civil society organisations, that function like our organisations; do we want to invest in change (research, experiments) and how can we convince the public to invest in this?; how do we go about the huge pressure for measuring results quickly?

Foto by Redmarkviolinist / CC ShareAlike

Quick changes

Duncan Green sees the future rather like “white water rafting”: smaller projects, adaptive, inducing quick change. But if we take this way, this means also the acceptance of a partial loss of control, to be experimenting fast and iterative, to use windows of opportunities when they appear, and start with ideas that then can spin off, and finally also to get leverage by engaging with multi-stakeholder environments. He also poses the fundamental questions, if development always has to be the funding of projects?

More conversations

The changing post-2015 landscape also has clear implications for our learning. Most importantly it needs the recognition for local knowledge, for getting to know the context in which we work very closely. But it also needs, that we clearly recognize the knowledge that we already have. According to Duncan Green we will have to work with case studies and questions, that enhance the conversations, instead of continuing working with toolkits and best practices. In learning we will also have to focus more on national staff, who is remaining more continually in the programmes. And most importantly quick feedback-systems will have to put in place.

New forms of cooperation

In Duncan Green’s vision of development aid in the post-2015 world we have to abandon the supertankers of the past, and engage in new forms of cooperation, including the different voices in order to recognize the key issues, working together in multi-stakeholder platforms and trying to adapt to changing complex environments by adaptive programming and flexible approaches.

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