The Center for International Development at Harvard's Kennedy School has just launched its program on Building State Capability. This is some shameless self promotion of that initiative, but if you are interested in these blog postings it is a good place for you to visit.
In particular, you might be interested in looking at our new paper, Escaping Capability Traps.
One of the arguments we make is related to the discussion I have been having about complex contexts. We propose that the best way of introducing reforms into complex contexts is not to do loads of ex ante studies, but rather to
- enter the context through problems people care about, and then
- progress iteratively with small interventions that flush contextual impediments out, build capability and confidence and political support, and
- allow constant feedback…ultimately fostering the emergence of new hybrids.
In a sense, this is like saying that you need to muddle through the sea of icebergs in your context, ensuring that every step helps you navigate better in future.
Note how different this is to the way institutional reforms are commonly done: They are pre-designed as solutions, pre-planned over years, with limited opportunity for feedback and learning.