What is Beyond Complicated?

19 Jan
International development is complex.” I’ve heard that phrase about as many times as “Eat your vegetables,” but what does it really mean? How does one begin to understand this complexity, and how does this understanding direct real-world actions?
To be honest, I don’t think that anyone -not even the “experts”- fully understands all of the inter-related systems within the development sector. But if I’m going to be even remotely useful while working  in Africa (more precise location to be announced in March) this summer, I have to at least have a beginner’s understanding of the complex systems I will be immersed in. But before this gets tooo wordy, here’s a diagram to explain the confused mush between my ears!
Basically, people tend to work with ideas and problems that are either simple, complicated, or complex. Hopefully my drawing makes enough sense that I don't have to define each individually.
Basically, people tend to work with ideas and problems that are either simple, complicated, or complex. Hopefully my drawing makes enough sense that I don’t have to define each individually.
International development work is often complex, because it deals with many components and people, each with intertwining, continually changing relationships and influences. The second drawing shows just a few of the things that I will have to consider this summer. There’s no way I’ll ever understand it all, but I will try to learn all that I can, and I will begin with books… The goal is to get  my thoughts further than Simple and Complicated ideas, to a more sophisticated understanding of Complex concepts: moving my brain-space beyond Complicated.
I have already been reading a couple of books, so I’ll post summaries and learning-points here. This will mostly be for myself, but if anyone else is interested or is doing similar learning, I would love comments, feedback, and suggestions for things to read next!
Eventually my learning process will have to evolve, and in May I’ll have stories to tell about my on-the-ground experiences, but this is where I’m going to begin.
I know an itty-bitty bit about all of these things, and practically nothing about how they interact in real-life systems.
I know an itty-bitty bit about all of these things, and practically nothing about how they interact in real-life systems.
Yours in anticipation of mind-blowing awesomeness,
Julia
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