Behavioural economics is not (a) about controlling behaviour (b) conservative or liberal (c) about irrationality. So what exactly is it? People are complex; they defy easy summary. Like Walt Whitman, we all contain multitudes. As a discipline, economics has been successful in part because it has ignored this complexity. Instead it has focused on explaining the institutions […]


The team behind the Atlas of Economic Complexity (see my post on this here) have come up with a fascinating network-based approach for analysing the global aid system. As they put it: International development is a complex global goal that faces massive coordination barriers. The difference in income between rich and poor has expanded over […]

Many of the grand challenges that confront humanity—problems as diverse as climate change, the stability of markets, the availability of energy and resources, poverty and conflict—often seem to entail impenetrable webs of cause and effect.But these problems are not necessarily impenetrable. Powerful new tools have given scientists a better understanding of complexity. Instead of looking […]

Innovation is popular in aid at the moment, so much so that there is a steady spate of articles which range from trashing its potential contribution to development through to challenging Western, donor, countries’ assumed roles as the ‘providers’ of innovation. In this post I want to argue that there is a middle  ground between […]

This guest post by Andy Sumner and Sergio Tezanos Vázquez explores new approaches to classifying developing countries, based on a new IDS Working Paper published last week. In the paper, they develop a more precise and accurate classification system for low and middle income countries, and suggest that this can support a more complex, non-linear  […]

Earlier this month, Nature published a piece by Daniel Sarewitz on emerging challenges faced in science and research, which has some useful lessons for the aid system. The greatest threat to science is not  due to the usual suspects of “inadequate funding, misconduct, political interference”, etc, etc. Instead, according to Daniel Sarewitz, the problem is more […]