This article is part 2 of a series of articles featuring the ODI Background Note A guide for planning and strategy development in the face of complexity.
How can we determine whether an intervention will face complexity and, therefore, what is the most suitable planning approach? There are various ways to define ‘complexity’ in economic, social and political development. We use a problem-focused definition, grouping the characteristics of complexity according to the type of the challenges they pose for the design and implementation of development interventions.
In … [the next three articles of this series], we describe three types of challenge:
- the level of uncertainty involved
- the extent of agreement about project goals or ways to achieve them, and
- the extent to which knowledge and capacities are distributed.
We suggest ways in which the reader can decide to what degree they face each challenge, and outline the implications for planning. It is important to note that situations will hardly ever be complex in their entirety, with all three issues being clear-cut. In reality, there will be a mix of situations and the challenge is to focus on the respective combination and importance of the three challenges. There are other ways to categorise the degree of a situation’s complexity that do not define complexity according to the specific parameters mentioned above, but these three dimensions mark out common dimensions and issues covered by other definitions (see Box 1 for a comparison of this categorisation with other popular definitions).
Next part (part 3): Task 1 – Assess the level of uncertainty.
See also these related series:
- Exploring the science of complexity
- Managing in the face of complexity
- Taking responsibility for complexity.
Article source: Hummelbrunner, R. and Jones, H. (2013). A guide for planning and strategy development in the face of complexity. London: ODI. (https://www.odi.org/publications/583-exploring-science-complexity-ideas-and-implications-development-and-humanitarian-efforts). Republished under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 in accordance with the Terms and conditions of the ODI website.