Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thick problems, thin solutions. — Michael Edwards on NGOs bridging the gap

The rapidly changing world leaves us with more complex, politicised and unpredictable problems. These stem from a number of issues such as growth, equity, sustainability, justice and others. Independent writer and activist Michael Edwards characterises these problems as ‘thick’ and describes the solutions being found as increasingly ‘thinner’.
He suggests that “the solutions promoted by most development agencies are getting ‘thinner’ by the day”, as currently they are ”fixated on speed, growth, numbers and material success; dominated by technology and other ‘magic bullets;’ framed by a philosophy that reduces human values to the competitive culture of the market; and aimed at increased participation in unsustainable economies and polities that are incapable of reconciling different interests”.
However, he does not dismiss thin solutions as irrelevant nor does he view thick problems as insoluble, “just complicated, requiring a conscious effort to link the concrete actions that NGOs support to the broader shifts that give them more long-term influence and impact”.
Altogether, in his article Michal Edwards explores four main issues: “why are problems getting ‘thicker’? Why are solutions getting ‘thinner?’ How can NGOs help to bridge the gap? And what should they strengthen and phase out in order to play this role effectively?”
You can read the entire article, “Thick Problems and Thin Solutions, How NGOs Can Bridge The Gap”, published by Hivos, member of Eurostep, on the former’s website: Hivos