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Title: Making sense of change in NGO programs : a complex responsive processes perspective
Author: Iles, Karen Marie
ISNI:       0000 0004 5919 7354
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2016
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This dissertation focuses on making sense of social change and poverty reduction in international development, specifically through the work of NGOs. Social change is highly uncertain and ambiguous, taking place in a dynamic and rapidly changing context. The dominant discourse rests on the notion that poverty reduction and social change may be brought about through instrumental rationality. Key approaches are the Logical Framework Approach and Theory of Change approach with complexity sciences. These are underpinned by systems theories and the aid effectiveness agenda, focused on achieving change through the economically efficient use of resources. The dominant discourse is increasingly contested in the literature and by NGOs and other stakeholders based on their actual experiences. I draw on the work of Ralph Stacey and complex responsive processes theory to explore these contested claims. My dissertation is theoretical and practical. In the theoretical part I conclude that the dominant discourse cannot explain human social change on the basis of its own theoretical assumptions. These assumptions include predictability, control and determinism, which negates human agency and runs counter to peoples' experiences of uncertainty. I further conclude that complex responsive processes theory does offer an explanation for human social change that is congruent with peoples' experiences of uncertainty. Complex responsive processes theory is based on insights from the complexity sciences interpreted primarily through the thinking of Hegel, Elias and Mead. Human social phenomena are defined as emergent thematic patterns of interaction. The practical part of my dissertation involves situated research with an NGO. I demonstrate that complex responsive processes theory is extremely useful in making sense of program work. It offers practical ways for people to explore and participate more effectively in social change. This has critically important implications for the allocation of resources, time and effort aimed at improving the lives of people affected by poverty.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available