Complexity in development – a new kind of course, booking open now

For decision-makers and policy experts in aid and development, complexity in development has become a critical factor.  It is both an opportunity for new approaches to old problems and a threat as standard approaches reach the limits of their effectiveness and efficacy.  With that in mind, Narrate and Mesopartner have joined forces to offer a radically different training on complexity thinking and, more importantly, the implications and applications of using it on real current problems and projects.

Download a course brochure here and register on Eventbrite here.  This first course is to test the approach and ideas and we’ve discounted the price accordingly.

For a limited period, there is an Early Bird discount on bookings – saving 20% on single tickets and saving 35% on group tickets for three or more people from the same organisation.


The course arose from conversations between Marcus Jenal and myself after we both presented a webinar on SenseMaker® and Social Change Dynamics (video still available here). After a conversation in London, we met up in March to map out a potential new course to help practitioners in harnessing complexity techniques to development problems. The course is different by design from previous courses that we’ve both been involved in before.

How this course differs

  • No “workshop half-life problems” – embed the learning with extended practical application
    We’ve both attended and taught on courses that cram lots of information and knowledge into a few days – but felt that information evaporates quickly afterwards unless it’s referenced and embedded into actual practice. (And there’s a limited amount of attention and hence concepts that people can take in in that space of time).
    Our solution: extend the course into practical projects that run throughout the length of the course, bridging gaps between formal learning sessions and applying the concepts to real problems
  • Avoiding Case-study-itis – taking participants’ own examples and situations as the working projects
    Often, where “real-world problems” are used to illustrate tools and techniques, the chosen problems are carefully selected examples that are relatively neat or familiar problems. So either the tools are too easily applied or the presenter is an expert in the case study and therefore has a sense of the likely solutions in advance.
    Our solution: the projects will be based on problems described and brought by course participants. They can be hypothetical, but our preference would be to look at live examples from current projects – the point of the course is to go beyond applying the principles of complexity-based approaches and to practical experience of actually doing the work.
  • Making more opportunities for confidential conversations and coaching
    On a topic as new – and potentially challenging – as harnessing complexity, it can be difficult to find time to talk in private with course experts. Typically, it’s either snatched conversations at coffee breaks or open discussion with the group.
    Our solution: every fortnight between the formal learning events and on the days when the optional project meetings are held, either Marcus or I (or both) will be available in London for drop-in sessions for all participants. Conversations could be about particular elements of the course, the current projects or any element of day-to-day work that they would like to look at through a complexity lens.
  • Finding your new tribe
    On courses like this – full of people who are typically uncomfortable with standard approaches and looking to stretch against current constraints – it’s often the case that we meet others thinking like ourselves but the connections are short-lived – as is the mutual support that can help people when they return to their desks and the culture of their home organisation. Maintaining those links and building a greater sense of fellow-feeling within the group is an important part of our intention with this course.
    Our solution: Enable participants to build a peer support network – start with a full-on three days from 7-9th September with a residential option, but support everyone with online group options (e.g. Slack, etc) and multiple opportunities to connect and work together through the three-month course and beyond.
  • Avoiding the exclusively abstract voice with a pragmatic guest speaker with even more concrete experience
    This is an awkward one.  Clearly, Marcus and I convinced of our own rightness in presenting the material and designing the course – however that doesn’t always help. It’s useful to hear other views – particularly around how to apply these principles and the practical issues of these approaches when in the political environments of our organisations. And, from a complexity perspective, diversity of perspective matters greatly (that’ll come up somewhere in the first two days of the first weekend).
    Our solution: We’ll be having a guest speaker at the middle formal learning session of the course on 17th October. Her perspective will be practical and pragmatic.

We’re looking forward to starting in September, but booking is open now – with a great Early Bird discount available until 30th June.  Book early – and if you’ve got any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch here.