what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

making change stick

It will take some time to get through Governance Reforms under real world conditions – the World Bank E-book I mentioned yesterday. It apparently came out in 2008 – but presumably has only now been made available as an E-book. I spotted it on http://blogs.worldbank.org/publicsphere/
Up until now, the World has focussed on the WHAT of administrative change and rarely looked at the HOW. And, as we all know, the devil is in the detail. The reason? Its constitution forbids it from anything that smacks of politics and, as a result, its staff are predominantly US trained economists.
The “real world” phrase in the title is a real slap in the face to the economists who (patently) don’t live in the real world. Critical study of the World Bank has been a real cottage industry – I have about 10 books in my own library alone. Some years back there were several active campaigns to abolish it – initially because of the environmental damage and huge displacements of indigenous people its large-scale damming projects caused. “50 years is enough” was one of the slogans. Under Wolfensohn there was good intent but hubris. Wolfowitz’s brief tenure brought ridicule and his replacement, Zoellick, few hopes. But all has been quiet since then. This publication is, certainly, a good sign – of brains actually being applied with some decent results to an important issue.

The last 3 of the 6 questions it is written around are what we consultants deal with on a daily basis and are not normally what you expect to see the World Bank deal with -
- How do we build broad coalitions of influentials in favour of change? What do we do about powerful vested interests?
- How do we help reformers transform indifferent, or even hostile, public opinion into support for reform objectives?
- How do we instigate citizen demand for good governance and accountability to sustain governance reform?


I tried to address some of these questions in several of my own writings – and, a few years back, had got to the stage of suggesting what I called and “opportunistic” theory of change –
• “Windows of opportunity present themselves - from outside the organization, in crises, pressure from below
• But reformers have to be technically prepared, inspire confidence – and able to seize and direct the opportunity
• Others have to have a reason to follow
• the new ways of behaving have to be formalized in new structures

Laws, regulations and other policy tools will work if there are enough people who want them to succeed. And such people do exist. They can be found in Parliaments (even in tame and fixed parliaments, there are individual respected MPs impatient for reform); Ministries of Finance; have an interest in policy coherence; NGOs; Younger generation – particularly in academia, policy shops and the media
The question is how they can become a catalytic force for change – and what is the legitimate role in this of donors
?”
The Paper is number 8 on website (just click publicadminreform in the list of links in the right hand column on this site

The paper by Matthew Andrews which starts part 2 of the book weaves a very good theory around 3 words – acceptance, authority and ability.

Is there acceptance of the need for change and reform?
• of the specific reform idea?
• of the monetary costs for reform?
• of the social costs for reformers?
• within the incentive fabric of the organization (not just with individuals)?

Is there authority:
• does legislation allow people to challenge the status quo and initiate reform?
• do formal organizational structures and rules allow reformers to do what is needed?
• do informal organizational norms allow reformers to do what needs to be done?

Is there ability: are there enough people, with appropriate skills,
• to conceptualize and implement the reform?
• is technology sufficient?
• are there appropriate information sources to help conceptualize, plan, implement, and institutionalize the reform?

A diagram shows that each of these plays a different role at the 4 stages of conceptualisation, initiation, transition and institutionalisation and that it is the space of overlapping circles that the opportunity for change occurs. “Reform space”, at the intersection of acceptance, authority, and ability, determines how much can be achieved. However the short para headed - Individual champions matter less than networks – was the one that hit nerves. The individual who connects nodes is the key to the network but is often not the one who has the technical idea or who is called the reform champion. His or her skill lies in the ability to bridge relational boundaries and to bring people together. Development is fostered in the presence of robust networks with skilled connectors acting at their heart.
My mind was taken back almost 30 years when, as the guy in charge of Strathclyde Region’s strategy to combat deprivation but using my academic role, I established what I called the urban change network and brought together once a month a diverse collection of officials and councillors of different councils in the West of Scotland, academics and NGO people to explore how we could extend our understanding of what we were dealing with – and how our policies might make more impact. It was, I think, the single most effective thing I ever did. I still have the tapes of some of the discussions – one, for example, led by Professor Lewis Gunn on issues of implementation!

Sad that the recent OECD paper which tried to look at the change process was so inadequate. I mentioned it on a previous blog -
In 1999 I devoted a chapter in my small book - In Transit; notes on good governance -to a summary of the various texts on managing change which was then such a fashionable subject. And one of the "key papers" on the website is a 63 page "Annotated bibliogaphy for change agents".

The 2 best things I have ever read on the subject are Robert Quinn's Deep Change; and Buchanan and Boddy's The Expertise of the Change Agent - public performance and backstage activity (Prentice Hall 1992)
Paul Bate's Strategies for cultural change (1994)is also a highly original and neglected book which presaged the recent fashion on that subject.
Useful summaries of the last 2 books can be found on pages 47-48 of the Annotated Bib I've just mentioned - I like in particular the 5x4 matrix I reproduced on styles of change he suggests.

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