Complexity-aware, systems-based approaches help inform international development programming, recognizing that actions in one part of a system have both anticipated and unanticipated effects in other parts of a system. Nonetheless, results-based management approaches predominate the international development landscape, limiting focus to “controlling what we can see”. Application of complexity and systems-based approaches to design, monitoring and evaluation practice is an ongoing challenge, one in which a well defined causal pathway links project activities to a systems-level analytical framework.
LINC is assisting USAID’s Global Development Lab from 2015 – 2018, implementing the Strategic Program for Analyzing Complexity and Evaluating Systems (SPACES MERL) project in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, Global Knowledge Initiative and RAN Makerere University of Uganda. Working with multiple USAID missions and bureaus, the project is testing a variety of systems and complexity tools and methodologies to enhance program decision-making. Application and mainstreaming of these systems and complexity approaches are expected to lead to more effective program design, adaptive management and results measurement over the course of this three year activity.