It’s smart, well-written and provides a deeper intellectual foundation for much of the most interesting thinking going on in the aid business right now. Ben Ramalingam (right)’s Aid on the Edge of Chaos should rapidly become a standard fixture on any development reading list.
The book argues for a major overhaul of aid in recognition that the world is made up of numerous interlocking complex systems, far removed from the assumed linear world of cause → attributable effect that underpins a lot of aid programmes. That fits pretty perfectly with a lot of the stuff on governance, institutional reform etc from ODI, Matt Andrews, and Oxfam’s own work, all covered on this blog. But it adds to it in important ways.
- It deepens our understanding of complexity and systems thinking, drawing on a range of other disciplines
- Much of the current aid thinking about complexity is happening in work on governance and (to a lesser extent) advocacy. The book widens the scope to just about every corner of the aid business – management, humanitarian, health etc
- Its 25 great case studies will spark ideas in people’s heads about how they can apply the thinking in their own work
The argument is divided into three sections: a thorough critique of the current aid system; an introduction to complexity and systems thinking; and a final ‘so what’ section on the reform of aid.