Friday, 24 May 2013

International Development as Organized Complexity

     When first formally introduced to the extremely wide field of development I was completely overwhelmed by the breadth of the subject: poverty is the cause of many dozens of different issues spread over time and geographic space, both of which only increasing the complexity of the causes and solutions with their size. This series of comprehensible, tightly intertwined issues that cause poverty in a region are an example of organized complexity. Early poverty-reduction methods took the traditional, cause-and-effect approach that reflects the early scientific model, seeing a problem, giving a direct solution ignoring the complexity of that 'single' problem. Most of them, as Dr. Weaver is quoted in The Death and Life of Great American Cities of saying cannot work for issues that involve organized complexity: non-chaotic issues with solutions only found in many simultaneously occurring actions. With this is mind, myself and other future development practitioners must embrace the successful movements of the past, and never lose sight of the complexity of a single issue being addressed.

   This, I fear, is the thing that will prevent my full comprehension of development issues, and perhaps even finding solutions. As a westerner I am born and bred to be a creature of rationale and of reason, and this has created in me a kind of desperate need to find the logical solution to an issue, embodied in logical frameworks and statistical analysis, have huge holes in their all-encompassing, one-solution-to-many-problems approach. There is a way to avoid falling into this trap: full immersion to learn the current ways that organized complexity is controlled (or not), try to comprehend the many working parts that combined create the issue(s) at hand, and supply rational logic only when needed, incrementally to each aspect at hand. As I continue to learn, this will likely change, but as of now I feel this is how long-standing harmful problems can be solved, with minimal western ideological input, which occasionally* has been found to be ineffective.

 I believe the blog,, has covered this topic before, will update when I find the link.

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