There is no doubt that complex problems disproportionately affect the less powerful: hunger, drought, floods, and conflict all punish the poor and marginalised first. It is understandable that the less powerful feel angry at the more powerful. They may despair or rage against the injustice. “Why me?”

The powerful may be the winners in the system – wealth, health and power accrues to them/us. They/we may have power over the less powerful, and thereby be in a position to protect the status quo. This does not necessarily mean that the powerful have much effective power over the system itself. Indeed they/we are as much a product of the system as anyone else.

As Duncan Green describes in his excellent new book How Change Happens, much effort from principled activists goes in to “speaking truth to power.” This energy can feel like shouting in to the wind, because it is like shouting in to the wind. The system’s dynamics are more powerful than any individual leader. Like the monsters of old, you could chop off its head but the system will grow another back. We attribute too much power to leaders, and they/we are often obliged to perpetuate this myth to secure their/our position. Let’s see how effective Trump is at fulfilling all his promises to “Make America Great Again.”

System change requires a different kind of power – a collective power that Wasafiri terms “adaptive capacity”. This is the ability of actors in a system to know and act upon that system, so as to intentionally change it. Like other aspects of systems, the whole is not simply the sum of the parts. Collective power is not the aggregation of the power of individuals. It is a product of the social structures, behaviours and attitudes that allow collaboration and communication at a system level. The toughest “complex” problems are those where adaptive capacity is inadequate to the scale of the challenge – climate change, violent extremism, food security. A classic power analysis will not miraculously identify the individuals who can wield enough influence to solve these issues.

This does not diminish the responsibility of leaders. They/we often hold a privileged point of view from which to perceive the system more completely. They/we certainly have convening and decision-making power that can be the basis for greater adaptive capacity and effective interventions that drive system reform. But they/we are as much part of the system as anyone else, and can feel powerless to effect change.

A family is often described as the Complex Adaptive System that is easiest to relate to. As the Dad and primary breadwinner, a pure power analysis would suggest I have most individual power in my family. Do I feel powerful as one child has a tantrum, the other refuses to do his homework, and my wife fumes? Not very.

I recently described Wasafiri’s work on system change to an old friend, expecting the usual slightly blank look followed by, “So what exactly do you do?”. Instead she replied, “Oh that sounds just like my work as a family counsellor”. She helps whole families understand how they affect each other, and then collectively they make changes to the routines, norms and behaviours that define them. She helps increase the adaptive capacity of that family to evolve itself as a micro-system. That’s the help I need as a Dad. I’m not powerful to effect change on my own. I need my whole family to be working together.

Duncan Green would describe this approach to system change as “strategic activism”, in contrast to “principled activism”. Wasafiri uses the term “Systemcraft” to evoke the long-term effort of simultaneously strengthening adaptive capacity within system, whilst also coordinating interventions to address complex problems.

Ubuntu: why adaptive capacity has profound value?

A few years ago, the Wasafiri team attempted to articulate our values. Our North Star was a sense of purpose that we struggled to articulate. It was broader than poverty-alleviation, less benevolent than compassion, less “us vs them” than solidarity. It was a sense that the problems we worked on required people to work together in new ways that transcended boundaries; that their success was interconnected, even if they did not recognise it at first.

The African concept of Ubuntu was introduced and immediately resonated. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his book No Future Without Forgiveness, says: “Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language… It is to say, ‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life.” Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee defined it as: “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

This philosophy gives a value-base to why work on adaptive capacity is important. It emphasises the collective over the individual, or at least that the individual cannot understand or fulfil their humanity outside their relation to the collective. Our work is to evolve human systems in which we can all thrive. It is to increase human agency over structural constraints. This we can only do together, wielding collective power, not looking to mythically powerful leaders to resolve our problems as if they sat God-like above the systems.

Whether it is my family striving for a little more harmony, a village countering the rise of extremist ideologies, or the global community facing global warming; we must consider how to increase our adaptive capacity. That’s when power is no longer a zero-sum game, we are collectively fulfilling our humanity, and we might just counter some thorny problems along the way.

This week we have a guest blogger – Griff Griffiths, who shares some thoughts on wicked problems and complexity thinking, taken from beyond the world of international development.

Griff runs Cocomotion, works in the complex area of People and Organizational Development and describes himself as a ‘surprisingly useful person.’ He has been working, thinking and experimenting with the application of complexity thinking for longer than Wasafiri has existed; and has found himself in the midst of everything from large scale IT projects, to working with young people in Gaza, alongside a whole host of corporate world adventures.

I met Griff during a partially successful experiment to get a whole group of people to imitate a flock of birds – and he filled my head with all sorts of ideas about complexity from a world outside of international development. So, I thought we would invite him along to add some new ideas, perspectives and background to some of thinking we have been exploring at Wasafiri over the last few months.

How do we get to grips with wicked issues?

Our most intractable problems are hard to fix because they contain many more factors than we can hope to count, understand or control; because the factors are interdependent in ways we cannot always discern; and because small changes sometimes have big effects, and vice versa.  And when we do fix these problems, they don’t stay fixed. These are the so-called wicked problems and we have many of them, at all scales of human interaction – societies, communities, organisations and groups; between individuals and within individuals.

We could be better at solving them, but we’ve been focussed on other problems for quite a long time, like going to the moon or flying to Europe for twenty five pounds, which are very complicated, but for which we’ve developed sophisticated and successful techniques of planning and control. Now our wicked issues are beginning to bite hard.

So what can we do? Here are some ideas:

Change the way we think about the world

In their wonderful 2015 overview of wickedness Embracing Complexity: Strategic Perspectives for an Age of Turbulence, Boulton, Allen and Bowman make the case for complexity as a worldview. They point out that the mindset that this involves  – seeing the world as interwoven process rather than interacting objects, or, as a friend of mine said recently, thinking of people as verbs, not nouns – is one which was common in the distant past, but has long fallen out of favour.

When we intervene in such a world,  we’re confronted not only with risk, but with uncertainty – it’s not merely a question of whether our interventions will work or not, it’s that they may result in the appearance of entirely new phenomena that we can’t predict in advance. Boulton et al give the example of SMS, which was a tiny feature in the then-new digital mobile networks designed to notify users of voicemail; what it became was the conduit for an entirely unexpected global phenomenon of short interpersonal messaging, which itself reshaped the way people communicate.

Use metaphor – with care

In her 1993 paper Chaos and Complexity, What Can Science Teach? Margaret Wheatley also refers to the need for a shift in consciousness and draws rich metaphors from complexity science to illustrate how our thinking about organisations can shift from organisation-as-machine to organisation-as-complex-entity. She challenges assumptions that we commonly make about human organisations based on ideas taken from, for example, mechanics (‘change happens as the result of external influences’) and physics (‘things fall apart’ – entropy). She offers alternatives, drawn from complexity science, which describe what we see in organisations in a more useful way, and suggest different ways of working.

But although models from complexity science can help us in this way with metaphor, they can’t just be transplanted in order to explain the complexity we find in human affairs. For example, chaos can mean many things: it’s been used as a beautiful metaphor for the behaviour of flourishing teams, as an obvious metaphor for anarchy, and Wheatley talks about it as breeding self-organisation and creativity. What are we to make of that?

Search for explanations

Metaphor lets us borrow language from complexity science to describe what we see; explanation gives us insight to understand and influence. We need explanatory theories of  complex human interaction to give us a basis upon which to work with wicked problems.

Glenda Eoyang (Human Systems Dynamics) and Ralph Stacey (Complex Responsive Processes) are two thinkers whose work explores the underlying dynamics of human interaction to develop theories which explain those dynamics, and show why human interaction self-organises into observable patterns. Eoyang’s work seeks to build on this to create further specific models which provide more detail for particular domains, such as community engagement or team effectiveness.

Interestingly, both Eoyang and Stacey’s theories apply at any scale of human interaction – within the individual person; in one to one interactions; within groups and in whole societies. This suggests that there might be scale free ways of working with complexity; approaches which we can use with any size of wicked problem.

Develop processes

There’s a three-minute video by Eric Berlow in another post on this blog, in which he talks about standing back, looking for patterns, choosing a sphere of influence and looking for a ‘simple detail that matters most’ as the place to intervene if we want to change things.

We are in a world of massively entangled connections. The ‘simple detail that matters most’ is quite likely a detail that also matters in some other web of connections, not just the one we are focussed on, and our actions to influence in one place may give rise to unintended consequences in another – either within our field of view or outside it.

So if we aren’t sure what the outcomes of our interventions will be, or even where or when they will occur, then we are more or less compelled to work in adaptive cycles rather than following a long term, fixed plan. What might the general features of an adaptive approach be?  Look for pattern. Find the detail that matters most. Act to influence it. See if the patterns change. Look for pattern… and so on.

But working like this presents some challenges. DFID’s report From Best Practice to Best Fit, summarised in another post on this blog, notes that “While [development] programmes exhibiting best fit can readily be described at a conceptual level, they have proved rather harder to operationalise.”

Perhaps that’s partly a question of how long people have been trying. The tech industry operationalised software development to a best fit process (Agile), after years of failing to deliver on time or within budget, or even to deliver what the client actually wanted. Agile recognises that the client’s understanding of what they want emerges as the work progresses, and changes direction as a result of that understanding, and as a result of changing environmental (market) conditions during the work.

Software is much simpler than international development, but even so, it took the industry quite a few years to work out how to do it, and several different approaches have evolved under the same broad process. And despite Agile’s success, the transition to it is by no means complete, partly because of a reluctance to let go of deeply held ideas of control – a quick glance at the Agile Manifesto gives a sense of the letting-go required.

Use what we already know

Finally, it’s worth saying that adopting a complexity worldview doesn’t require a celebratory bonfire of the GANTT charts. Some situations respond well to command and control. Some things can be planned. Some can be predicted. At least for a little while!

For more information about Griff and the work that he does check out: 

A review and reflections on the ODI working paper: “From best practice to best fit: understanding wicked problems in international development.


As philosophers, neuroscientists, pop singers and marketeers have known for years, as human beings the things we notice most in the world around us, are the things already in our own heads and own worlds. So it seems as we at Wasafiri have become more interested in how to apply complex systems thinking to our work, suddenly complexity thinking seems to be everywhere.

While there is a lot of interest in complexity based approaches to development issues, most of this ‘interest’ has stayed at a fairly conceptual and theoretical level. Generally, because whilst the theory might make sense, the application has proved, well, complex.

The ODI, working with DFID, have published a working paper that attempts to confront this gap between theory and application. The paper, ‘From best practice to best fit’examines a number of case studies in using complex systems approaches to deal with ‘wicked problems’ and, whilst acknowledging the limits of seeking generalised lessons, they offer some general points. At 55 pages the paper is far from a quick read – so here is a bit of a premise based on my almost-quick read.

  • Wicked problems are juxtaposed with ‘tame problems’ – (they have a rather nice table comparing the two on page 2). The wicked problems are those where the problem is difficult to define, has many contributing factors, where the solutions are not singular and where there is no ‘end point’ for when the problem is solved. Rather, the aim if to make things ‘better’.
  • Development approaches have been dominated by the logical framework approach – which works well for t­­ame problems (where a linear relationship between problem-inputs-outputs-solution can be mapped), but for problems where there are complex sets of relationships, where the causes of the problem are multiple and where the end point is unclear, logical frameworks have proved limited and are highly criticised.
  • From best practice to best fit – best practice has become a dominant paradigm and assumes that what works in one setting can be applied to another. This approach allows the building of generic tool kits and supports the career paths of ‘technical experts’ (that last bit might be my view). By comparison, best fit emphasises adaptability to local and changing contexts, recognising the imperfect and unique starting point.

So how to work with wicked problems?

The paper cites a number of case studies which give more insight into the messy reality of the work done, in summary:

“dealing with such [wicked problems] requires us to recognise the systemic nature of the issue; understand the interactions among key actors and their behaviours; identify the dynamics and patterns of the issue; pinpoint the range of possible intervention points; work flexibly with a range of approaches; and adapt over time.”

Key specifics they offer include:

  • Use of systems mapping to explore the relationships between actors and make visible the different issues, policies, agencies etc. that impact on the ‘wicked problem’ being explored.
  • A portfolio approach using mapping to identify entry points to influence the problem and then launching multiple, small interventions which act on the problem in different ways.
  • Iteration and real time learning about the impact of interventions, using ongoing monitoring; and being willing to adapt, change and even abandon interventions that don’t seem to have the desired impact.
  • Shorter planning horizons in not expecting to lay out a 5 year plan and keep to it come what may; and rather, knowing “that complexity or wickedness in the environment needs to be respected and uncertainty navigated, not retreated from. This is a particular challenge to the dominance of well constructed business cases, budgets, plans and the optimism bias to which they lead.

Criticising logical frameworks is a well worn argument; and to be fair, for the right job they are still a good tool. However, finding viable alternatives has proved far from easy.

We have been experimenting for several years with developing ways to work with and not despite the complexity we find in our work. I think a key revelation for us is that the nature of the complexity we face is different. So, when working in conflict affected environments, or on countering violent extremism, the way the environment and context constantly changes and evolves make it a ‘wicked problem’ and real time research becomes very important. In agricultural development the context is often more stable, but the way the stakeholders –such as government, private sector and smallholders– interact with and impact on one another, is often underestimated and even ignored in the meta planning process. So stakeholder engagement platforms become fundamental to creating any change.

Ultimately, whilst we and many others will continue to experiment with systems thinking, complexity and wicked problem based approaches, it may well be that the more radical change is applying such thinking to the frameworks, TORs and M&E requirements that drive the funding of development programmes. Be it from NGOs, national donors, or international organisations, if we all want to see more varied and adaptable approaches to development, then we need more varied and adaptable approaches to commissioning and monitoring our work.

The past month has been, in a word, complex.

I’ve found myself in London helping Google grapple with emerging markets, in Somalia with the British Government wrestling with ongoing conflict and then back to Nairobi overseeing projects tackling issues of community security and extremism. And in amongst it all, I’ve become preoccupied with the search to understand these problems better and to figure out how meaningful change can happen; which has brought me to thinking more and more about the concept of ‘complexity’ and how it cuts across all the work we do.

In recent years there has been a lot of talk of concepts such as Systems Thinking, Complexity and Complex Problems. Such thinking proposes that many of the challenges we currently face (whether as an organisation or as a global community), go far beyond being merely ‘complicated’; and that we need entirely new ways of thinking and acting if we are to make change happen.

 Complexity thinkers argue that conventional approaches to problems assume that, however big or nasty an issue is, with enough clever thinking from enough experts, with enough forecasts and models and spreadsheets, we can plan our way to a clever solution – and we can build a logical framework to prove it. In essence, this ‘theory of change’ is a theory of comprehensive planning. (It’s worth knowing the UK’s Department for International Development has pioneered this approach for global development problems).

Don’t get me wrong, this sort of approach has worked well for all sorts of issues – from building hospitals, to putting humans on the moon.

But what about those situations when we don’t even understand the nature of the problem itself? When things are so volatile that the consequences can’t be calculated, or it’s impossible to fully understand what’s going on? Or when the future we desire is difficult to predict or agree on?

These are complex issues. And as Einstein once (apparently) said: ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ So it seems our usual ways of thinking won’t help us figure out the kind of complex solutions we need.

Examples include the alarming issue of violent extremism spreading across the Horn of Africa, where we don’t understand the root causes, or the consequences of intervening. Or the problem of a multinational extractives business trying to operate amongst fragile local communities, where it’s difficult to identify myriad interests and agendas. Or climate change, where we don’t really understand what is happening, why, or the future it will bring.

These are all issues we at Wasafiri are helping our clients grapple with. And they can’t be tackled merely with very good planning.

Rather, we need to think in different ways – systemic ways. We must approach such issues not with the metaphor of a machine that can be built and mended and adjusted, but as a complex living system, where there are many different things going on at the same time, connected in ways we may not see and which adapt and evolve constantly.

So my search for the threads which bind our work is helping me realise the need to stop looking for universal, simple solutions, to get rid of the mindset of linear planning and abandon the search for best practice from what has gone before.

But this journey is only just beginning. Over the coming months we will be deepening our exploration of complexity and how to bring it to the complex problems faced by our clients and partners. As we go along we will share our thinking, our questions and, no doubt, our uncertainties.

 We’d love your thoughts and questions, so please drop us a line if there is a question you would like us to explore, or a thought, experience or challenge you’d like to share.

Our world is insufficiently prepared for an increasingly complex risk environment. This stirring call to arms was recently issued by the World Economic Forum in its Global Risks Report.

The Forum’s study of the planet’s most pressing problems reveals that the underlying nature of the risk is changing. The pace of political, economic, social, environmental and technological change is unprecedented. As never before, we are faced with risks that are increasingly complex, unpredictable and volatile.

The report draws particular attention to a number of concerns that affect us all:

  • Fragile societies under increasing pressure from rising unemployment and inequality;
  • Growing concerns over conflict, in a new era of strategic competition among global powers;
  • A potentially false sense of optimism over the global economic recovery; and
  • The rising dangers of climate change, environmental degradation and resource scarcity.

Yet it is when the interconnections between these risks are mapped, that we begin to understand just how complex an environment we face.

WEF Risks Connections

(Source: World Economic Forum, Global Risks Report)

In Africa, this landscape is posing extraordinary challenges for decision makers at all levels. The risks of climate and economic shocks, the fear of instability and extremism are rising. How do we prepare for and build resilience against such risks? How do we mitigate the consequences? How do we avoid collateral damage and the unintended fallout?

Complex risks transcend borders, politics and spheres of influence. And they require complex solutions. Conventional thinking won’t work. New approaches are required, new collaborations across countries and industries, which forge new partnerships to think and act differently.

Click here to view the full report Global Risks Report


For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” H.L. Mencken

At Wasafiri we are interested in how you make change happen in complex systems. So far we have yet to find any simple answers, but we have found a lot of complex ones. So for this play list, I have brought together an odd selection of people who argue that we need to embrace complexity, confusion and ambiguity in our thinking and give up any idea that we understand what is going on. For, if we’re going to find solutions to some of the complex problems we currently face – be they the productivity of agricultural systems across Africa, climate change or long term conflicts – then we will need to be able to think and work within the complexity we live.

Eric Berlow – Gives us a surprisingly simple (well sort of) summary of complexity and opportunities for drawing out important insights (and there are some reassuringly complex graphics)

In this talk Tim Harford, an economist and journalist, connects the dots between the second world war, Marmite, manufacturing detergent and a Japanese mathematician, to argue for the importance of trial and error and that we give up ‘having the answer’ (he also shows that economists aren’t quite as funny as they think they are!).


Moaning about PowerPoint must be one of the most shared human activities. This article argues that it is not just boredom that PowerPoint risks imposing on us but, potentially, it erodes our very ability to think! A little extreme perhaps, but still a call to avoid the overly rigid application of bullet points and logic of simple cause and effect.


And if you actually want something that gives an overview of (and a lot of links to more info on) complexity science, then here is a more serious article.


Part of the reason that complexity is so hard and simplicity so appealing, is to do with the way our brains work and the ways we like to think. Daniel Kahneman has won the Noble Prize for basically telling us that we don’t know what we are doing, or why we do it. In this short radio interview he shows how much context informs our thinking and the many ways we avoid ambiguity. Unfortunately, complexity is full of ambiguities.



Africa is open for business! Or so we have been told. There is enthusiasm from investors; there are entrepreneurs with great (and some terrible) ideas; and there are businesses to be found all over the continent. Yet the flow of capital and investment into Africa are still slow. There are undoubtedly lots of reasons for this, but the question is: what can be done to encourage more catalytic investment in Africa and more successful African entrepreneurs?

As with all complex problems, the solutions are also complex and vary across the continent. For example, while Somalia is famous for its entrepreneurial and business-minded people, the chronic insecurity makes it a very hard place to invest. Meanwhile Nigeria has one of the biggest domestic markets on the continent and its $800 million ‘Nollywood’ film industry produces around 50 movies a week, making it second only to Hollywood (even bigger than ‘Bollywood’ on a per capita basis); yet the country is hampered by a reputation for corruption. Or in Kenya, where there are some fantastic, innovative businesses emerging (watch ‘mobile money’ take over the world and know it all began in Kenya); but the challenges of setting up a business and the political climate mean any investor will need a strong stomach for bureaucracy.

Here in Rwanda, there is a great deal of attention on and energy around entrepreneurial development and, indeed, the subject is now on the national curriculum for secondary school students. So I caught up for breakfast with Sara Leedom and Julienne Oyler, founders of African Entrepreneur Collective, to talk entrepreneurs, development, investment and the value of cows. Its pilot company, of Inkomoko Business Development, (which means ‘origin’ in Kyinrwanda) has been working in Rwanda since 2012 and, with a local team of eight and a rolling supply of international mentors, has supported over 170 businesses.

Kate: What is it that inspired you to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs here in Rwanda?

Sara & Julienne: For us it is all about jobs. Across the continent there is a real need to generate a huge growth in employment. In general, African economies need to grow 8-10% per year just to keep up with the growing labour market population and maintain current levels of unemployment. If you want to reduce unemployment, then even more growth is needed; and this growth has to come from the private sector. So, across the continent, there is a need for businesses that can set up and grow to create new jobs. For us at Inkomoko, it is all about supporting the entrepreneurs to build and grow the businesses that will create these jobs.

As for starting in Rwanda, well we actually explored a number of countries and there are a few things that make Rwanda a great place for entrepreneurs and investors. For a start, structurally, Rwanda is really well set up for entrepreneurs. It is easy to open a business; it is politically stable; there are efficient systems around tax and employment; and so on. Also, politically, there is a real encouragement for entrepreneurs with things like subsidised training and support for people to start businesses. In fact it’s the only place we have worked where starting a business is seen as ‘patriotic’. So while in the USA or UK, your average entrepreneur is often quite individualistic and there is a real emphasis on personal success, here in Rwanda, being an entrepreneur is much more about collective effort and about contributing to your community and country.

There are challenges too – it is a small country and so any successful business really needs to be looking beyond national markets. Also, outside of Kigali, infrastructure such as Internet is more limited; and, culturally, there can be a more cautious, less ‘risk’ taking, approach than you traditionally see in entrepreneurs in the West.


Kate: I feel like I read and hear a lot of enthusiasm at the international level for investment in Africa. Yet on the ground and certainly here in Rwanda, it seems that enthusiasm isn’t quite translating into actual investments. What’s your perspective on the challenges entrepreneurs here face?

Sara & Julienne: Matching investors and business is not simple. While it is easy to talk about and get investors excited about ideas, actually getting capital into businesses is much harder. Often investors, particularly those from mature markets in the West, have unrealistic expectations about what it will be like investing in an African business. They don’t necessarily know what it means to invest in, say, an agricultural business in an emerging economy and they have unrealistic expectations about levels of mechanism, or the ways labour will be organised, or how a business will plan and report on activities. Interestingly, what we are increasingly seeing is ‘South – South’ investment, particularly from Indian investors. They often have a better understanding of how markets and supply chains work in an emerging economy and are more able to understand the risks and recognise the opportunities. I think we will see increasing flows of investment into Africa from various parts of Asia.

The other challenge is in the types of businesses that international investors are drawn to. There can be an over enthusiasm for what are seen as ‘innovative’ ideas in, for example, technology business. While tech businesses are important, especially here in Rwanda, they are not going to be the engine of large employment. In a country where 80% of the population is involved in agriculture, the business opportunities and types of business that are likely to create significant numbers of jobs, are in agriculture and, particularly, in processing. For example, at the moment we are supporting a great business focused on avocado oil and we are also trying to work out how to structure financing for some cows for a diary business. But it can be a challenge to get investors, who are new to agriculture, to really explore these sorts of businesses.


What next for Inkomoko?

Sara & Julienne: At Inkomoko, we are committed to expanding our work in Rwanda. Everyday we are seeing local businesses with tremendous potential and opportunity, and we want to continue to provide the support and resources necessary to see these grow.

For African Entrepreneur Collective, we want to see take our learnings from Rwanda and move to new geographies. We want to explore working with partners in other countries across the continent, to see how we can grow the model we have developed here, to support more businesses, in more countries, to grow and create more jobs. I think what we have found here is the importance of working with entrepreneurs in a very tailored, individual way. All their businesses are different and so are their challenges; and while we have developed a really good training curriculum for business skills, helping entrepreneurs really scale up their business is about supporting them at all stages.



For more interesting information check out:

On Monday June 8th we are hosting our first Change Lab in Nairobi. This free event will be held at Zen Garden, Spring Valley from 6-8pm.

The Wasafiri Change Lab will use real world case-studies, facilitated dialogue and peer-to-peer problem solving to help you develop your organisation’s approach to building effective partnerships in conflict affected regions. The Change Lab will give you a structured approach to exploring challenges and creating solutions in new ways, with new perspectives and new people.

The session will be lively, interactive and discussion based. Please bring to the Lab a real challenge you are working on and come ready to talk, listen, explore and collaborate.

A drink & bitings will be included so please RSVP to  to make sure we get enough food! – We look forward to seeing you there.

No time to watch all those interesting TED talks? Well we’ve watched (some) of them and here is our 1 minute summary of three of the most interesting and recent with something to say on change in Africa.

For Africa it is all about jobs, leaders and building strong institutions. In countries with weak institution you need good leaders – who can build the strong institutions to protect the country from bad leaders. And Africa needs jobs, lots of jobs – by 2030 the continent will have a bigger workforce than China and that means a  924 million people. Ultimately these jobs need to come predominantly from the private sector and so you need entrepreneurs – and lots of them. Fred is hoping that the African Leadership Academy and the African Leadership Network will be a part of creating these leaders and entrepreneurs that the continent needs.

Who are the biggest senders of money to developing world countries? Migrants are. Remittance payments from international migrants amount to  413 Billion US Dollars per year, or three times as much as ALL the development aid money given by governments. This money tends to move in small amounts and go directly to poor people – it has a direct, measurable, positive impact on development indicators such as birth weight, school attendance and GDP. Yet there are significant barriers and costs to getting this money moving. Diip Ratha’s call for action is to make this money easier and cheaper to send – and he has a plan for donors, social entrprenures and businesses alike on just how to do that.


Not the hopeless but the hopeful continent – Charles Robertson argues  (with some stats and some economist talk) that, as a continent, things in Africa are just getting better and  better.  From economic growth, to the quality of leadership, to reduced corruption, increased education levels and even reduced malaria, he paints a positive and optimistic picture of Africa and calls for the 21st Century to be the century of Africa. While his talk is sweeping and generalist – and his argument disguises huge variety and variation across the continent – it’s still a welcome and useful antidote to the stories of negativity that often dominate talk of Africa.

And if all that is a bit too serious, here is a satirical look at a particular African Stereotype. This one is much better to watch than to read about (and its only 3 mins long).


Download Change Perspectives – Wasafiri Insights 2014 For  some practical tips and ingredients on how to deliver change.

In the last year Wasafiri consultants have worked across Africa delivering change in diverse settings and on diverse projects. Working with private, government and NGO clients and across the continent we have tried, succeeded, failed and learnt new lessons about how to deliver change in Africa. ‘Change Perspectives’ is our new short report that shares  some of the practical insights we have gained.