Photo by Christopher Paul High on Unsplash

Coming from a company of some serious (and not so serious) game players, we’d like to share our passion for games, and how they can be a great tool for working with complexity, specifically, with behavior change and human development.

We build core life skills through play such as social navigation, negotiation, creativity, confidence and decision-making. Play also brings us joy and connection.

Games are a form of play. There is evidence that people have played games since our very beginnings. Gameplay isn’t just about having fun, though that is a…

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

What if being accountable were a daily and relational practice?

The tools of evaluation are very often used for the purposes of accountability. In fact, the increased use of evaluation within international development has been driven largely by the frameworks of good governance and transparency. From this root a whole host of accountability lookalikes pop up. Accountability becomes technical and procedural, not ethical, political, or relational.

Accountability within international development is:

Donor-centric. A measurement against whatever standard and outcome has been set as desirous and necessary by the donor.

Control oriented. “Foreign assistance donors usually want more certainty.”

Over the last 7 years, having intentionally built a business that blurs the lines between strategy, design, and evaluation, it is with great joy that I have watched the profession of evaluation bud and blossom well beyond the traditional Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning box. Some highlights include:

The current conversations at annual conferences, webinars, and on-line community convenings are bursting with boundary pushing and wildly uncomfortable ideas.Notable …

Complexity? Blech.

I have come to think of myself as a complexity coach. Sure, I’m a social worker. An evaluator. A strategist. A technical writer. A behavior change designer. A facilitator. . . but it’s the ebb and flow of complexity (OK, complex adaptive systems, if you want to be technical) that keeps me happily reaching for the toolkits from all these transdisciplines**.

I love complexity theory. There, I outed myself. Think what you want — it’s dry, impersonal, confusing, abstract, irrelevant, inactionable, not practical. . . shall I go on? I get it. I do. It doesn’t really come alive until…

We wish it were different

As I consider the resistance to complexity which I see throughout international development, I have to ask, “Why?” There has been a conversation about complexity in this space for close to 20 years now. There have been conferences, white papers, research, working groups, etc. And yet so many of our fundamental systems and operating processes do not support dancing with complexity — in fact they actively get in the way. Why ignore something that can get us to greater effectiveness and a better collective humanity?

Answering this led me to brainstorm the common objections, immovable policies, client requests, contractual expectations…

Anna Martin

Evaluator, Social Worker, Facilitator, Complexity Coach, curious mischief maker and co-founder of Picture Impact.

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