Over the course of 2016, Shawn and I worked on a piece of research on systemic change in market systems development, funded by the BEAM Exchange. In this work, we question the utility of the concept of systemic change in market systems development (though this is valid in the wider field of economic development) as it is currently used and suggest a rethink. To do so, we went back to search for a fundamental understanding of economic change. This is what we found.
Shawn and I wrote a blog post on the IDS website about our recent article for the IDS Bulletin. Here is how it starts:
The company we work for, Mesopartner, supports development organisations to address the challenge of innovation and change towards economic development, cluster and value chain promotion and the strengthening of local innovation systems.
In our work in economic development, we often find ourselves in situations where we don’t know which interventions will work and what exactly a good outcome will look like.
As a result, those working to plan and deliver development interventions may have divergent views on what must be done and why. These situations are complex (PDF) and uncertain (following Frank Knight’s definition of uncertainty).
Read more at the IDS blog …
For the last 3 years we at Mesopartner have been purposefully experimenting with complexity and systems theories in our practice. Not only did we change our company logo and strapline based on our new learning, we started to dismantle and question almost every aspect of our instruments, tools and theories.
This was a steep learning curve for us and for our key customers who agreed that we could embark on these serendipitous journeys together. While we still believe in bottom up development, we are wondering about how to achieve developmental change within the typical timelines and resource constraints that development projects often face.
One of the results of this process is this website, where we want to share our thoughts and invite our followers to contribute to the discussions we have.
A new Mesopartner working paper now provides a theoretical grounding for the work we have done in the last three years and will continue to do. We consider some definitions, ponder the implications and try to formulate some responses to some of the key challenges that systems and complexity theories confront us with in our field of bottom up economic development.
We see this paper as an input into a broader discussion with our close collaborators, our close clients, and the broader network that we form part of. We ask you to send us your thoughts and add your comments to this and future posts.