Aid on the Edge of Chaos Rethinking International Cooperation in a Complex World

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2014-01-03
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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It is widely recognised that the foreign aid system - of which every country in the world is a part - is in need of drastic overhaul. There are conflicting opinions as to what should be done. Some call for dramatic increases to achieve longstanding promises. Others bang the drum for cutting it altogether, and suggest putting the fate of poor and vulnerable people in the hands of markets or business. A few argue that what is needed is creative, innovative transformation. The arguments in Aid on the Edge of Chaos are firmly in the third of these categories.

In this ground-breaking book, Ben Ramalingam shows that the linear, mechanistic models and assumptions that foreign aid is built on are more at home in early twentieth century industry than in the dynamic, complex world we face today.

The reality is that economies and societies are less like machines and more like ecosystems. Aid on the Edge of Chaos explores how thinkers and practitioners in economics, business, and public policy have started to embrace new, ecologically literate approaches to thinking and acting, informed by the ideas of complex adaptive systems research. It showcases insights, experiences, and dramatic results of a growing network of practitioners, researchers, and policy makers who are applying a complexity-informed approach to aid challenges.

From transforming approaches to child malnutrition, to rethinking process of macroeconomic growth, from rural Vietnam to urban Columbia, Aid on the Edge of Chaos shows how embracing the ideas of complex systems thinking can help make foreign aid more relevant, more appropriate, more innovative, and more catalytic. It argues that taking on these ideas will be a vital part of the transformation of aid, from a post-WW2 mechanism of resource transfer, to a truly innovative and dynamic form of global cooperation fit for the twenty-first century.

Author Biography

Ben Ramalingam, Independent consultant and writer

Ben Ramalingam is an independent consultant and writer specialising on international development and humanitarian issues. He has worked with and advised dozens of development and humanitarian organisations including UN agencies, NGOs, Red Cross, and government agencies. He holds honorary positions the London School of Economics, the Overseas Development Institute, and the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University.

Table of Contents

Preface: globalization, development, and complexity
Part 1: The way aid works
1. A system to change 'the system'?
2. Thinking inside the box
3. Strategic mismanagement
4. The goats in the machine
5. Watching the watchmen
6. Part 1 epilogue---global Fordlandia?
Part 2: The way the world works
7. Introducing complexity
8. More than, and different to, the parts
9. The madness of men
10. Falling off cliffs
11. The devil is in the dynamics
12. Part 2 epilogue---what lies between order and chaos?
Part 3: The way aid could work
13. From Bali, with complexity
14. Systemic learning
15. Adaptive strategies
16. Networked organizations
17. Dynamic change
18. Part 3 epilogue---moving beyond panaceas
19. Aid on the edge of chaos

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