How far to the horizon?

There are, as usual, a whole load of useful insights in Tom Baker’s latest blogpost. But I was particularly struck by the first two lessons he offers about campaigning around aid, essentially that: Things can move very quickly, with key shifts happening from moment to moment Meaningful change tends to happen over the long term (in the campaign cited, 30 years plus) This reminded me a little bit of an argument I’ve made over the years, that campaign planning tends to focus on exactly the wrong timescales. Plans typically focus on the medium term (something like 6 months-2 years), but...

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Theories of change vs dart throwing chimps

I wouldn’t ideally call it a ‘theory of change’, but I think it can be really helpful to develop – at an organisational level – a shared view of how change happens, the power dynamics at play, and the best ways to intervene. The absence of this sort of analysis can be problematic for many reasons, to do with what flows into this gap in understanding. However, it’s at the campaign level, not the organisational one, where ‘theories of change’ are all the rage these days. And, as a planning process and tool, the approach has some obvious advantages: It uncovers, and allows...

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Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser

  The kid spread his hand and then began to blush But his face turned pale when he saw my queen-high flush   T Bone Walker there, describing how to play a winning hand of poker. Though in fact (a) he’s not actually talking about poker and (b) it’s rarely that simple. According to Nate Silver, in his book The Signal & The Noise, a good poker player can still be financially behind after tens of thousands of hands, if the cards go against you, at the unluckiest end of the spectrum. Good players are highly skilled, but it’s also about how the cards fall. So poker is a high...

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Evaluator says evaluation is a waste of time, never works again

The history of our knowledge about, and understanding of, the world can be summarised (amongst other ways) as follows: Speculation. Plausibility. Certainty. Uncertainty. Unknowability. Aristotle suggested that stones fall to earth because they are trying to get back to their home. Fire travels upwards because it lives in the heavens. He invented logic and was a major catalyst for the Renaissance so we can forgive him these misreadings. The point anyway is that he was speculating. A few centuries later, Francis Bacon stuffed a chicken with snow and experimental science was born. Processes of...

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