Center for Global Affairs
Peacebuilding, Development, and Complexity
As our entire world is becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent, it is also becoming increasingly volatile and unpredictable. Social, economic and political challenges occur with unprecedented scope and scale; presenting many promising potentials, coupled with overwhelming vulnerabilities and uncertainties. In the early 1970s, the term wicked problem entered the social science lexicon to describe a specific type of problem: one that is difficult to grasp and define; that is subject to multiple interpretations; and, one that is resistant to resolution. Einstein has often been quoted for saying that a problem can never be solved by the same kind of thinking used to create the problem. In line with this insight, what has emerged in recent decades is a growing recognition that this new type of problem requires new approaches and responses. The tools of Complexity science offer one such approach to wicked problems already used and valued by private and public sectors to better analyze and navigate a range of challenges across many disciplines. Within the international development field broadly, the influence of complexity thinking and approaches have been notably gaining ground amongst a widening audience. Situated in this context, this course will explore the implications of wicked challenges for development assistance and for peacebuilding effectiveness. The course will draw from literature that applies Complexity science to social change broadly and more specifically to conflict, aid and peacebuilding.