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Interesting things I heard and read during the week linked to demand and use of evidence


I have joined a group of people interested in the topic of innovation and development. We meet once a month. Here is the blurb of the meeting we had this week: ‘One message emerging from the ongoing DDD discussion is that development is about taking many small bets. Some will succeed, get traction and can be pursued further. Other will not succeed and need to be stopped before they become too costly bets. I think that the same applies to innovations and the processes of introducing innovative processes, ideas and practices into development work. Some innovation will work. Some will not. What matters most is to understand why? Projects and programmes speak often about the learning they they want to accumulate though implementation and the ways they want to share it with a mixed audience of government counterparts, development partners, civil society, and the private sector. But are we, who work in projects and programmes and want to introduce and promote innovation, good at learning? Are we good at learning from success? What does it mean to learn from success? At the same time how do we deal with failure? Are we able to distinguish between failure of ideas and failure from implementation in the case of innovation? Can we learn from failures?’

Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian Weekly from an article titled Don’t get caught in the monkey trap: our difficulty lies not in new ideas, but in our ability to escape from old ones: ‘We are so rigidly attached to a certain notion of progress that we can’t let go when it turns against us. “the difficulty,” as Keynes put it, “lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” Burkeman describes the Einstellung effect, one which means that often we do mistakes because we rely too much on old ideas, on experiences and we do not dare enough to test and try new ways of doing things, new ways of seeing the world and the problems around us and search for solutions. It is is useful to attempt to see the world with a ‘benginner’s mind’, that is ‘expertise that sees past the edges of expertise.’

I was at the Jakarta book launch of Raymond Struyk’s Improving Think Tank Management organised by Article 33. Following the presentation by Raymond about the aim and content of the book there was a lively discussion that touched beyond think tanks and their role as knowledge producers. The presentations by Fred Carden, Yanuar Nugroho and the Minister Andrinof Chaniago kick started an interesting discussion about the role of think tanks in the knowledge sector, the need to accept that a more evidence based approach to policy making means more contestation and critical review of ideas and research results. I found interesting the idea that may have to think about the influence of evidence not only on policy and policy making, but also politics and polity. Separate spaces for different types of influence? In the Jakarta Post: How to harness the power of think tanks.

Started to read Albert O. Hirschman biography, The Worldly Philosopher: “Hirschman positioned himself as a contrarian. This was because he always feared that orthodoxy and certainty excluded the creative possibilities of doubt, of learning from surprises.”

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