From best practice to best fit: understanding and navigating wicked problems in international development

Research reports and studies
September 2014
Ben Ramalingam, Miguel Laric and John Primrose
The methods of complex systems research are increasingly being used and valued by international development organisations. These approaches enable a shift away from existing tools and business processes that reinforce a focus on static, simple and linear problems. The evidence is that these methods can help development partners better navigate the complex, dynamic realities they face on a day-to-day basis. 

This Working Paper summarises the findings of a series of small-scale pilots of selected complex systems methods in DFID’s wealth creation work. The pilots contributed to improved analysis and understanding of a range of wicked problems, and generated tangible findings that were directly utilised in corporate and programmatic decisions. 

They played a significant role in the design of two large programmes, and provided the evidence base for a root and branch review of DFID processes. The Working Paper concludes that there are considerable opportunities for doing more programming using these methods, with real potential for enhancing development decision-making in the face of wicked problems.

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