- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 3, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199578028
- ISBN-13: 978-0199578023
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.4 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,151,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Aid on the Edge of Chaos: Rethinking International Cooperation in a Complex World 1st Edition
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"Sets a new milestone... Required reading for those interested in development." --The Guardian
"Exhaustive... This book explains an important global activity few outsiders understand, and important scientific ideas that might yet turn it around."--New Scientist
"Aid on the Edge of Chaos offers an exhaustive tour of the complex systems research landscape, including how it is used to understand phenomena as diverse as climate change, food price rises, ethnic segregation and the Arab spring." --Financial Times
"Masterful...an important step towards changing our institutions and organizations...Ramalingam skillfully draws upon a diverse body of ideas and research to deliver a vital message for aid and beyond." --Philip Ball, author of Critical Mass, Winner of the Aventis Royal Society Book of the Year
"Aid on the Edge of Chaos will change the way you think...one of the most important books you will read about development." --Owen Barder, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
"Ben Ramalingam's thought provoking and highly readable book re-frames the debate on aid and development...challenges the existing aid paradigm and points the way towards a genuinely new approach - a new approach that is urgently needed." --Eric Beinhocker, Executive Director, Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford and author of The Origin of Wealth
"Ben Ramalingam's tour de force of a book provides an unorthodox and fascinating insight into today's global aid sector: its current practices and sometimes faulty theories of action. This book is a vital source of inspiration." --Yves Daccord, Director General, ICRC
"Marrying science, policy and practice with a deep moral conscience, this important book points to a future that that we should all be working towards." --Peter Doherty, Nobel Laureate, Medicine
"Ramalingam sets out a challenge to everyone working in international cooperation, to rethink our basic assumptions and to think and act in ways that are more attuned to the real world in all its complexities. This is one to read and re-read." --Sir Richard Jolly, Assistant Secretary General, United Nations
"Ben Ramalingam convincingly shows why transformational change is so badly needed in foreign aid, and where it might come from." --Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management, London Business School, Author of Hot Spots
"This well-written and thought-provoking book is an important contribution to redesigning aid for a messy, complex world." --Duncan Green, Senior Strategic Advisor, Oxfam
"Ben Ramalingam is a leading champion of the adaptive, scientific, trial-and-error thinking that the aid industry badly needs." --Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist Strikes Back and Adapt
"This excellent book [is] a must-read for anyone interested in development, its current discontents, and its future potential." --Ricardo Haussmann, former Chief Economist, Inter-American Development Bank and Director of the Centre for International Development, Harvard University
"This is a superb book, boldly facing in this age of globalization the complexity of aid to developing countries. Impressive and inspiring, this work is destined to become a 21st century classic." --Dudley Herschbach, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry
"With beautifully clear writing and stories, Ben Ramalingam uses complexity concepts to reveal the deep reasons for why aid sometimes works--and sometimes doesn't." --Thomas Homer-Dixon, Director, Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, author of The Upside of Down
"Far from being a pessimistic funeral march, Ramalingam's wide-ranging...discourse provides many inspiring examples of how complexity theory can be put to practical and meaningful use, and lays out a hopeful path forward." --Simon Levin, Moffat Professor of Ecology, Princeton University
"Well-intentioned aid agencies sometimes oversimplify the problems they need to solve.[This] book makes the good case that the growing field of complex adaptive systems can help prevent such errors from being repeated." --Eric Maskin, Nobel Laureate, Economics
"Ben Ramalingam seamlessly combines practical experience, policy relevance and scientific expertise. Aid on the Edge of Chaos deserves a very wide audience." --Paul Ormerod, author of Death of Economics and Positive Linking
"This is a work of immense value and importance for the development sector. The crucial question is whether international agencies are ready to hear the message and willing to act on the lessons." --Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate, Economics
"A terrific, stimulating book...Ramalingam clearly and engagingly shows how the use of complex adaptive systems thinking can significantly strengthen and enhance the impacts and effectiveness of global foreign aid." --Jerry Sabloff, President, Santa Fe Institute
"A magnificent piece of work..a major contribution to the debate about how to rethink and improve the way we deliver aid worldwide." --Sir Nick Young, Chief Executive Officer, British Red Cross
"[A] timely critique of aid... The examples presented in this work should prompt a reconsideration of how one thinks of foreign aid." --CHOICE
About the Author
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.
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One does not argue with the author's conclusions that current development theory needs to be revisited with a systems approach that takes advantage of advent of fast, low cost computers for modeling and analyzing projects in the field. Many examples can be found to validate that millions of dollars have been spent often resulting in fields of skeletal remains, both physically and culturally. But there are also spectacular successes in the catalog of development projects. All of this could have been well documented along with many of the examples cited by the author where complex dynamics and systems thinking offered a more informed set of paths for the development community.
The author's experience is in reviewing projects and the style reflects this historic approach. The volume reads much like a review of the field and where researchers using new techniques of computer modeling were able to either rescue projects gone wrong or point to new insights. It is very clear that the homework has not been done sufficiently that the author can "own" the materials to develop his own analysis. The entire section is validation by the reputation of others through their work, much of which has only occasional linkages to the world of development.
Missing is a clear understanding of the difference between simple, chaotic, complicated and complex systems such as developed by practioners as David Snowden's thinking as applied to organizations. Missing is the early work based on what has been identified as Lorenz's "butterfly" effect, or Prigogine's thinking about open system since this is the case with complex development systems, or the early work by May rather than his current evolution. Much of this early work sets the foundation for the researchers at the Santa Fe Institute and elsewhere and who are cited in the book's endnotes.
While the author cites Beinhocker's The Origin of Wealth, glaring by its absence is the entire arena of the emergent field of heterodox economics that grew from a revolt of French economic students and initially was named "post autistic" economics. Development is an "open system" where money and theoretical models are fed into the projects from desks in development agencies, mostly well outside of the project itself. It is influenced by governments that are lobbied by a variety of interests and by private sector foundations and NGO's with a variety of perceptions. These factors are often ignored or lumped into models as constants or unimportant externalities. But as work of Lorenz, Prigogine, May and Santa Fe researchers such as Doyne Farmer show, these factors including new or old economic thinking can lead to highly discontinuous, chaotic functions and as the author suggest, tragic collapse.
What makes this volume of great concern is the mention of the forthcoming "The Atlas of Economic Complexity", again without the author providing a clear discussion or the potential ramifications to the development community. If the examples such as the Ghana/Thailand discussion or the Atlas' data on countries are carried out to the future, many countries, particularly in Africa, may prove to be almost a bottomless pit of development funds- countries such as Rwanda, Tanzania and others whose budgets are supported at levels of approximately 40% by development funds. The discussion and the posting of the Ted-X Boston talk on this author's web page do not give clarity or faint hope.
This volume's premise about the need for new thinking is sound given our current understanding of complex systems. The problem is that the author's lack of mastery of the theory and his history of looking at development projects from the perspective of the analyst prevents him from owning the knowledge but rather reporting. It is past oriented with a hint of the future possibilities. He becomes a cheerleader for change in how development is approached but does not give the confidence of one who has battlefield experience.