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


Think pink! – Learning from the Antipoles

May 22, 2012 LND Methods & Tools

Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Corinne-SprecherBlack and white, water and fire, ying and yang, Outcome Mapping and Logical Framework – is it really like this? Corinne Sprecher from the International Team at AGRIDEA discusses in her blog post the attitude of individuals towards two opposing concepts. With the example of Outcome Mapping and Logical Framework Approach she shows, how the process of dealing with the polarities could look like. And how the eagerness to see the positive aspects of two poles could enhance (an unexpected) learning, of searching for complementarities, combined with the great potential for creating new ideas and new solutions. (more…)

MfDR – what’s the problem with impact oriented program steering?

May 25, 2011 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere

Rating: none

 Adrian picture for sdclan



by Adrian Gnägi


A few years ago, when I was posted in Amman, we frequently visited my wife’s family in Beirut. That made for long rides on monotonous Middle Eastern desert highways. The deal with the kids was that they could wish for stories to be told. One of their favorites was the illustrated book “Beaver, give us a ride”. The story goes like this: Beaver uses a hollow log as boat on the river. His friends are not impressed: nice, but small. So beaver builds a large raft and invites one after the other of his friends to come on board. When bear joins after all the others, there definitely is no space left. The friends try to prevent an uninvited butterfly from landing on the overloaded raft in the rapids, but …

The story is a beautiful explanation of complexity theory for children. Our kids used to discuss for hours whether and how the wreckage could have been prevented. They asked to review the pages where the different friends joined the party, discussing who could have done what differently at which moment to prevent the accident. The better they knew the story and the pictures, the more weak signals they discovered. In the end they realized there would have been steering potential in every single scene, right from the beginning.

But why was this steering potential not realized, why was the catastrophe not prevented from happening? Standard MfDR (managing for development results) thinking explains impact as the end of the result chain: impact happens in a distant future, when all outputs have been produced, when outputs have interacted with other factors into outcomes, and when other forces have diluted outcome influence in the attribution gap. 

Beaver’s story shows why the MfDR impact model is not useful for development program steering:

  • When impact is conceptualized as happening in the distant future, all impact induced steering opportunities are forgone, because they lie in the past. At the moment when the friends are swimming to the shore, they cannot prevent the wreckage any more.
  • The attribution gap prevents from knowing what kind of steering should have happened – the cause-effect chain is broken. When the friends discuss who was to be blamed, they agree none of them had caused the result – it was the butterfly’s fault! (more…)

MfDR – what is “Capacity WORKS”?

May 03, 2011 Adrian Gnägi Learning Elsewhere

Rating: none

Adrian picture for sdclanby Adrian Gnägi 


20 years ago I worked as a consultant for GTZ. Those were the golden years of ZOPP (Zielorientierte Projektplanung). I got trained on ZOPP, I was forced to use ZOPP. I learned to hate ZOPP as naïve, pseudo-participatory planning tyranny. In November 2010 I attended a training workshop on “Capacity WORKS”, the approach that replaced ZOPP in GTZ. I could hardly believe what I saw and heard: a real tectonic shift, a different paradigm. In this post I will share some of the great things I learned. And yes: not everything is brilliant with “Capacity WORKS”; I will write about the weaknesses, too. (more…)

Dealing with complexity – is the SDC credit proposal really the key document?

April 20, 2011 Manuel Flury SDC Experiences

Rating: none

Manuel picture for sdclanBy Manuel Flury

Some months ago, a colleague of mine was preparing a regional workshop with National Programme Officers (NPO).  “How can we make sure that NPOs write better credit proposals that reflect the various, complex challenges SDC is confronted with  in its development activities?” was the question we discussed. My immediate reaction and proposal was: Why don’t we make the NPOs understand better how SDC Berne looks at proposals and how Berne takes decisions. During the workshop, the NPOs got acquainted with SDC Berne realities through role plays.
Some weeks later I participated in a discussion among colleagues leaving for Cooperation Offices. Again the same issue: Credit proposals do not satisfy the Head Office, they do not reflect the logics of the Operations’ Committee. Are NPOs not able to edit such documents? Can’t they handle the complexity built-in? The answer was a different one: Let the NPOs focus on projec documents. That is where they are experts in! And let the Swiss expatriate staff write the “Swiss styled” credit proposals. Dividing the labour as another way of dealing with complexity! (more…)