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admin | monk seal habits | 23.07.2015
The Deputy National-Security Adviser speaks about the United States’ new ties with Cuba and its impact on American foreign policy.
Thursday night’s debate pitted a front-runner offering attractive generalities against a field serving up unpopular specifics.
For months, Republican insiders have watched Donald Trump’s rise with mounting horror. The Republican frontrunner made it through just four more sentences before the next one stood up. Who is this Barack Obama, where does he fit into the traditional matrix of American thought on foreign policy: realism vs.
In order for Romney and Kasich’s wish to come true, it would mean that no candidates received the necessary 1,237 delegates.
The title of Jeffery Goldberg’s very fine essay notwithstanding, there is no Obama Doctrine. He admits one major mistake: not making sufficient allowances for how unreasonable other people are. A new multi-media project explores black mixed identity through the lens of the history of America’s racial classification.
I went off to New York last week at the invitation of the UNDP Regional Center in Europe and Central Asia to discuss using complexity thinking to design a new ‘Finch Fund’ to support innovation and scaling up.
Leaving your discipline is traumatic – akin to being suddenly infantilised and made vulnerable. But I didn’t flounce out, and instead (perhaps inspired by Robert Chambers‘ call for greater reflection in our work)  started musing about what was going on in my head. Lesson 3: I found myself veering between ‘oh wow, this is a whole new way of seeing the world’ and ‘this is just describing what we do already in a new vocabulary’.
But how you do that depends on whether you are trying to immerse yourself in a whole new paradigm (painful, you have to leave aside your reference points, with no idea of where you are going to end up, or whether the journey will be worth the pain).
In real time, there is also a difficult choice between trying to follow every word (very difficult, and means you have to keep interrupting and asking for explanations, which gets humiliating after the first couple of times) or surfing the conversation, gliding over the bits you don’t understand and trying to grasp the overall shape of the thought process, but never quite knowing if you’ve missed the important stuff. Positive deviance: clear evidence that the teams have studied what is already happening in their countries and issue areas and identified particularly positive or negative outliers as part of the experiment.
Fast feedback, especially from poor people, which determines how the set of interventions evolve and change. Don’t overdesign: built-in flexibility will allow any given intervention to morph and evolve in response to feedback. If it just stops there, the Finch Fund will be pretty unique and I think could provide a really influential model for how to think more intelligently about ‘going to scale’. Two other dilemmas: what is the right response to a complex system; study it really hard to try and understand it better, or accept that you cannot fully understand it, so trial and error is a better approach? This is a conversational blog written and maintained by Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam GB and author of ‘From Poverty to Power’. Thanks for honesty and wonderful, recognizable anecdotes about how hard it is to work with people who have very different fields of expertise.
I think many of the most promising ideas in development, or perhaps best ideas in general, emerge at the intersection of existing disciplines since these areas of thinking have been less explored. This requires a special type of facilitation to be able to make people feel comfortable to exchange with each other and to smooth over misunderstandings and draw out the common threads. Rather than toolkits, maybe it is developing courses of ‘how to fail gracefully (and try again)’ for development institutions (and funders) that we need!
In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.

We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we've established for ourselves.
At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.
Divorce is stressful, from divvying up the assets to determining custody arrangements and untangling previously tangled lives. But sometimes the best way to live a stress-free life during and after divorce is to simply let go of things you can't control. Click through the slideshow below to see what they had to say, then head to the comments to share your favorite quote or saying about moving on. The conversations below all started off just fine, and then quickly took a turn for the worse after a major autocorrect fail. On question after question, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio offered specifics, while Trump served up vague generalities and promised to make better deals. At least 18 times during Trump’s speech, police came and plucked people out of the crowd, each time creating a large disturbance. The convention in Cleveland would require several rounds of voting, with a majority of delegates eventually free to vote for any candidate. Most scale-up exercises take successful pilots and just try and replicate them (one of the UNDP organizers, Millie Begovic, memorably likened it to trying to turn a particularly cute baby into a really enormous baby, rather than an adult). From being a bit of a development know-all, I became a know-nothing, resentfully observing an incomprehensible exchange of references, books, jargon and gossip (oh, Bob’s at Yale now, is he?). Need to resist both temptations, and try and sift through the murk for the occasional nugget. The alternative, which I tend to prefer, is to enter enemy territory, briefly immerse yourself in ambiguity, uncertainty, alien vocabulary and ‘OMG I know nothing’ vertigo, then grab whatever is useful, and retreat back behind the development stockade to recover. Some other, deeper ideas may have been lurking in the fog of jargon that could make it even more interesting. Reminiscent of the evolutionary culture wars between intelligent design and random mutation + natural selection! If we want this approach to be adopted, we will have to set out guidelines for how it works, what questions to ask, what to avoid etc.
This personal reflection is not intended as a comprehensive statement of Oxfam's agreed policies.
I think that is a real danger because we can, I call them the silos, if everyone works in their silo, rather than learning from one another, so I work across disciplines and always have. It was a conversation on scaling up with Millie (one of the organizers) that led to my recent post on the link between spreading good ideas and scaling up.
A challenge you identify in this post is how to make it easier for people to communicate across disciplines when each has their own language (jargon) and culture, and their won sense of exclusivity and clubbyness. Feeling vulnerable and frustrated may be an important part of the discussion since you need to go out of your comfort zone to create something new but this needs to be channelled into something productive so the group can work together effectively. I wonder if investing more in learning how to do this might bring more benefit than taking any specific new or old approach to development. In an ever complex world, multidisciplinary views and understanding are necessary requirements for finding comprehensive and inclusive solutions to big problems.
I am afraid we will continue to miss the big picture unless we actively act to bridge the gaps between bodies of knowledge that are so determinant to advance the solutions to develoment issues and so interdependant to achieve comprehensive results. The reaction to the pepper-spraying incident as UC Davis last week has been nearly uniformly one of horror (I say nearly because of the credulous acceptance of the police actions by certain Fox News anchors). The Finch Fund is looking for a better way, and thinks complexity and systems thinking could be the answer, so it decided to try a bit of ‘interdisciplinarity’.

I would say the ability to empathise is probably more essential than being top of the field. They revolve around how to identify systems that are particularly propitious for rapid evolutionary change. I don’t want to get rid of the disciplines entirely, but it is then that people learn how to work together and that the, we have very bad incentives. Whether he texts or calls, he’ll get some feminist wisdom courtesy of bell hooks, activist, author, and all-around feminist MVP.
The best would be if women were not required to engage in all this exhausting and ridiculous subterfuge just to ensure our own safety and happiness. To help you move forward, we've gathered some of the best quotes on the art of letting go, from famous figures as varied as Lao Tzu and Bill Cosby.
But to those outside of the Fox News bubble, the pepper-spray attack demonstrated a disturbing combination of callousness and aggression.Interesting, those people include Kamran Loghman, one of pepper spray's developers. I spent the day with a handpicked group of psychologists, ecologists, philosophers and economists all working on complex adaptive systems. In general these have a steep gradient of difference between different parts of the system, a high level of ‘microdiversity’, and feedback systems with costs that fall as a change goes to scale.
If you publish outside your discipline, frequently inside your discipline, that’s not counted for tenure. Besides, the reality of the world we live in can not just be represented in fine formulaic language.
But you don’t want to just give out your real phone number to someone you really hope to never cross paths with again. Loghman worked for the FBI in the 1980s and helped to make it into a weapons-grade material. Some of this lot failed pretty heavily (maybe they were exacting revenge for being bullied at school) – if you ever see me give a furtive little smile of self satisfaction when someone says they can’t follow what I’m saying, please give me a slap. But isn’t that contradictory, if a central point about complex systems is that they defy blueprints and best practice? Alfred Nobel may be the inventor most closely associated with that sentiment, but this turns out not be quite accurate. The story goes that after inventing dynamite, he tried to make amends for it by endowing the peace prize that bears his name.
He believed that dynamite would help governments achieve peace through deterrence, and worked late into his life developing new weapons. He did not live to see World War I and the damage that dynamite could wreak.A better example of an inventor with regrets is Albert Einstein, who played almost no role in the development of the atomic bomb but whose discoveries led to it. In his biography of Einstein, Walter Isaacson dramatically tells the moment when the scientist first understood the possibility of the bomb:Sitting at a bare wooden table on the screen porch of the sparsely furnished cottage [on Long Island], [Leo] Szilard explained the process of how an explosive chain reaction could be produced in uranium layered with graphite by the neutrons released from nuclear fission. He asked a few questions, went over the process for fifteen minutes, and then quickly grasped the implications.At first Einstein believed the Germans would produce the bomb, and he signed a letter to President Roosevelt urging him to support the research of American physicists into the chain reaction. Einstein sought to control nuclear weapons and to develop institutions such as the UN that he believed could lead to peace. Loghman develops guidelines for the use of pepper spray and helps police officers get proper training.

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