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How can complexity theory contribute to more effective development and aid evaluation?

Panos London
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Panos London


The sixth in a rolling series about how complexity theory is useful in the aid and development sector, this meeting focused on complexity theory and evaluation, and was hosted by Panos London and facilitated by Robin Vincent, Panos's Senior Advisor on HIV and AIDS and Ben Ramalingam from the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP). 
Development and aid are influenced by a range of interacting factors in constantly changing social contexts which can lead to unpredictable outcomes. Concepts and approaches from complexity theory may be useful for developing appropriate evaluation approaches that will enhance real-time learning and responsive working.



Following the more theoretical emphasis of previous meetings in the series, this day was anchored in six case studies of evaluation approaches which have drawn on concepts from complexity theory. Discussion considered the potential for, and challenges of, working with complexity theory for more effective development practice. A wide range of stakeholders were present, including development practitioners, academics, donors, consultants and NGO representatives.