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Embracing Complexity: NGOs in the New Order of Innovation and Disruption A Workshop by Facilitated by Dr. Felix Skip Bivens Sponsored by CORPluS November.

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Presentation on theme: "Embracing Complexity: NGOs in the New Order of Innovation and Disruption A Workshop by Facilitated by Dr. Felix Skip Bivens Sponsored by CORPluS November."— Presentation transcript:

1 Embracing Complexity: NGOs in the New Order of Innovation and Disruption A Workshop by Facilitated by Dr. Felix Skip Bivens Sponsored by CORPluS November 22, 2012 Sofia, Bulgaria

2 The Workshop at a Glace Start 9:00 am Part 1: Introducing the Participating Organizations Part 2: Setting the Context Part 3: Introducing and Learning from Complexity o Emergence o Rhizomatic Networks o Bifurcation Part 4: Wrapping Up Finish 1:00 pm

3 Introductions The participants will introduce themselves and their organizations. What is the mission of your organization? Who do you work with? What are your core projects and activities?

4 Setting the Context in Todays NGO Sector 30 Years of Neoliberal Economics 2008 Global Financial Crisis Eurozone Debt Crisis & Austerity Widening Economic Inequality Climate Crises Food and Fuel Crises

5 Changes within the Sector Itself Increased role of private donors/foundations Increased private sector involvement Measurable, results-based development Value-for-money agenda From service delivery to catalytic aid and advocacy But also more going local

6 Group Reflection: What is the most significant change you have seen in your organization or in the NGO sector in Bulgaria in the past five years?

7 Using Complexity Science to Understand and Act within an Increasingly Complex NGO Sector

8 What is systems thinking and complexity? The whole is great than the parts: Systems thinking concentrates not on basic building blocks, but on basic principles of organization. Systems thinking is contextual, which is the opposite of analytical thinking. Analysis means taking something apart in order to understand it; systems thinking means putting it into the context of the larger whole (Capra, 1996, 29). All actions are interactions Emphasizes non-linearity and unexpected/indirect outcomes Looks for the why and how in change processes

9 3 Useful Concepts from Complexity Emergence Rhizomatic networks Bifurcation

10 Emergence Emergence occurs when new qualities arise in the whole of a system which are not found in any of the component parts. – In nature: Hydrogen and oxygen are the elemental gases that make up water, but the wetness of water is an emergent property of the system not reducible to hydrogen or oxygen (Zajonc 2010, 81). – In organizations: [This] perspective implies that change does not result from someone first intending an intervention and then letting this change emerge from the interaction between the parts of the system. Rather, everybody is acting intentionally, on an ongoing basis, thereby change is seen as emerging from the interplay of intentions (Luoma, et al. 2007, 11).

11 Emergence, Learning and Innovation Emergence involves experimentation – Probing the system – Multiple prototypes – Safe-fail experiments Learning is an emergent process – It requires action and reflection – Innovation is based on quantity of ideas rather than quality – Focus on an minimum value product (MVP) Failure is unavoidable – Fail often to succeed sooner. –Ideo

12 Disruptive innovation Innovation is disruptive when it changes the rules and forces other to reconsider their practices (and/or markets) – Iphones/Ipads – Grameen Bank Disruptive innovation is holistic thinking that crosses boundaries (Johansson, 2006) – Charles Darwin was a geologist – Dinosaur extinction explained by an astrophysicist – The architecture of termites: modelled-on-termites-eastgate-centre-in- zimbabwe/eastgatew_mound1jpg/ modelled-on-termites-eastgate-centre-in- zimbabwe/eastgatew_mound1jpg/

13 Group exercise Surfacing theories of change: – How does innovation/change happen inside of your organization? – What drives good change in society which improves social problems?

14 15 Minute Break!

15 Rhizomatic networks

16 Complexity see society as a rhizomatic network. – Dense social connections – Non-linear – Resilient (many paths to any outcome) – Very similar to neural networks in our brains – Similar to our road systems in cities As such social and power relations are not static or fixed, but constantly changing. Through the internet and social media, communication systems act increasingly like rhizomatic networks.

17 Social media for networking and learning Social media enables rhizomatic networks to develop. – Social media is two-way (or more!) street – Communicate your message but also receive feedback from stakeholders – Look for bright spots for innovation – Organizations are nodes to connect stakeholders Social media isnt all about marketing – Good social media is about sharing/learning – People follow blogs/Twitter accounts that provide valuable ideas and insights – Blogs as upside down pyramids – A blog ÷ 2÷ 2÷ 2÷ 2 = a tweet

18 Group Survey: Whose organizations are using social media? Which ones? Facebook, blogs, Twitter? Others? How frequently? For what purposes? Who are you trying to talk to who?

19 Bifurcation Point The natural variations within and around all complex adaptive systems may build up to a stage challenging old forms. This accumulation happens because of the recursive interactions of the components and subsystems within the system. The bifurcation point is the stage where the system chooses its future, the stage of greatest tension between the old and the new (Salem et al 2003, 3).

20 Bifurcation: Learning for Transformation in NGOs Reflective practice (Schön 1980) Challenges for high intensity/low resource groups Babies in the river! – Lack of time for individual/group reflection – Involves opportunity cost of time away from fires Organizational learning – Single and double loop learning – Doing things better versus Doing better things – CDRA in South Africa

21 Documenting Complexity Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) – Not always donor-driven – Tool for learning and reflection – Helps to improve theories of change – Provides hard evidencemeasurable results Complexity based methods of M&E – Outcome Mapping (IDRC 2001, – Developmental Evaluation (Patton 2011) – Collaborative – No singular causality – Focus on learning – Adaptive in design

22 Final exercise: What are two take aways from today for your organization?

23 Questions? Final thoughts?

24 Thank You! For more information and/or a copy of these slides, please contact me at Dr. Felix Bivens, Empyrean Development Consulting and Research

25 References Capra, F. (1996). The Web of Life: A New Synthesis of Mind and Matter. London, HarperCollins. Zajonc, A. (2010). Attending to Interconnection, Living the Lesson. The Heart of Higher Education. P. Palmer, A. Zajonc and M. Scribner. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass. Luoma, J., R. Hämäläinen, et al. (2007). Systems Thinking, Complex Responsive Processes and Systems Intelligence. Espoo, Systems Analysis Laboratory, Helsinki University of Technology. Johansson, F. (2006) The Medici Effect. Boston, Harvard Business School. Salem, P., F. Barclay, et al. (2003). Organisational Culture at the Edge: A Case Study of Organisational Change. Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association. San Diego, California. Schön, D. (1981) The Reflective Practitioner. New York, Basic Books. Patton, M. (2011) Developmental Evaluation. New York, Guilford.

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