Adaptive pluralism and intentions…

In a recent meeting on Practice-based change for development, which took place in London, UK, on 20-21 February 2012, and blogged about earlier here by Ewen le Borgne, we discussed Robert Chambers’ work on Paradigms, poverty and adaptive pluralism. Chambers compares the dominant paradigm of neo-Newtonian practice in international development, oriented to things and ‘imposed by powerful actors and organisations’ (2010, p. 3) with the paradigm of adaptive pluralism, oriented to people. Chambers defines adaptive pluralism as:

Paradigmatic elements and relationships associated with people as adaptive agents, with eclectic and participatory methodologies, and with ontological assumptions of complexity such as non-linearity, unpredictability and emergence. (2010, p. 7)

Many of the distinguishing characteristics of IKM Emergent fit within this tradition of adaptive pluralism such as its methods and procedures which are ‘pluralist, iterative adaptation, a la carte and combinations; which have ontological origins and assumptions based on people, the social world, complexity science, emergence, and non-linearity; and which involve goals, design and indicators which are negotiated, evolving and emergent (2010, p. 44). IKM Emergent has been taking place in a context in the development sector which is largely dominated by the neo-Newtonian paradigm which are ‘supervising, auditing, controlling, conforming, complying’. But in agreement with Chambers, we understand that:

 So in the name of rigour and accountability what fits and works better in the controllable, predictable, standardised and measurable conditions of the things and procedures paradigm has been increasingly applied to the uncontrollable, unpredictable, diverse and less measurable paradigm of people and processes. The misfit is little perceived by those furthest from field realities and with most power. (2010, p. 14)

In one of Robert Chamber’s blog posts on this subject Whose paradigm counts part 2, he has made two figures which describe different aspects of the two paradigms: concepts and ontological assumptions; values and principles; relationships; methods. procedures and processes; and roles and behaviours. I have also tried to do the same for IKM Emergent. From this exercise, I realsied that although IKM does fall in the general category of adaptive pluralism, some of its specific emphases are quite different.

IKM mindsets, orientations and predispositions (adapted from Chambers)

A discussion about this figure (left) led us to the conclusion that values are very important to our work but that we very rarely talk about them or even consider them explicitly. One of the really good things of taking this lense to examine your work is that implicit mindsets, orientations and predispositions suddenly become much clear, and can even be part of a process of negotiation.

Jaap Pels was present at the meeting via skype and I know he had some additions to this figure so this is an invitation for his comments :-).

Mulling over these issues after the meeting, as one does, I was thinking that there should be another circle in the figure called ”Intentions” because that is at the roots of everything we are doing. For IKM, and myself, I would think that intentions would be: reforming, more pluralistic, more open, more inclusive, more respectful, more creative. In fact, I’ll have a go at re-drawing this figure with the new circle when I’ve had Jaap’s reflections on what still needs to be added.

Now I have started thinking about the ”intentions” circle for the neo-Newtonian paradigm and I am worried that they might be the same as the ones I’ve listed here. But, then again, I think they’re more likely to be: value for money, control, efficiency. Not that I don’t think these are important, they’re just not my core intentions.

Development and the private sector

At a recent meeting of IKM Emergent, we discussed what we mean when we’re talking about the private sector. The reason for this is that there is a general expectation that the private sector should be at the table when there are multi-stake holder processes related to development. But there seems to be a great vagueness about who and what the private sector is…

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Evaluation revisited II: complexity and evaluation in a cleft stick?


We are squeezed to death, between the two sides of that sort of alternative which is commonly called a cleft stick.
(William Cowper, 1782)

In the second of my personal reflections on the Evaluation revisited conference which took place in May 2010 in Utrecht, The Netherlands, I consider the relationship between complexity and evaluation, particularly theory and practice, and talk about the cartoonist, present at the conference. Continue reading

IKM-relevant? Annual programme meeting, days 2 and 3

After exploring and discussing (on day 1) the various pieces of research work that have been undertaken in IKM-Emergent until now, the second day of the workshop started with a world café and continued with a ‘birds of a feather session’ (a marketplace / less-open space method) where we explored some ideas for the end of the programme and a potential IKM-Emergent 2 programme. The last day of the programme put us in action planning mode around crucial activities.

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IKM-convergent? Annual programme meeting, Wageningen, day 1

A while back I blogged about the IKM-Emergent programme and its tendency to dispersion.

The programme has evolved since then and a number of things are coalescing on this first day of the all-peeps IKM-Emergent  workshop (which brings together the three working groups, but also a number of new guests that are working on issues related to IKM-E and/or that will be working for the programme from now on).

IKM participants getting their heads around common issues
IKM participants getting their heads around common issues

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Around the MandE table: a cooking lesson?

Much has happened since Simon and I started working on this paper about the monitoring and evaluation of knowledge management (M&E of KM, see original post here) and the cooking lesson continues, for us anyway and hopefully for you too, as in this case there are not too many cooks!

At the M&E cooking class, there's never too many cooks (Photo credits: vår resa)

On the KM4DEV mailing list, there has been a useful exchange on this topic of M&E of KM and this has triggered more reflections on our side to approach this paper. By the way, special thanks for Sarah Cummings, Roxane Samii and Patrick Lambe for getting this discussion going!

Simon just introduced in a blogpost one of our suggested theoretical models to address the different paradigms (what I profanely refer to as ‘world views’) on knowledge management, offering a spectrum from positivist to constructionist and from cognitivist to social learning).

In this post I’d like to share a refined version of the framework that we would like to offer to your scrutiny. This framework will eventually include a series of questions helping to crack the nuts for the M&E recipe, but for now let’s focus on the recipe itself. Continue reading

Methodological paradigms of the M&E of KM

I’ve been working on a small section of our paper on the monitoring and evaluation of KM (see Ewen’s earlier blog) and wanted to share some emerging ideas. The section is attempting to communicate IKMs epistemological perspective by introducing two dimensions (originally described by Chris Mowles in his comments on Ewen’s blog): the perspective of enquiry and the perspective of knowledge held by the evaluator (monitor). This is fairly abstract at the moment but do let me know if this is (1) accurate (I’m not a philosopher or even a social scientist) and (2) useful…

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