InterJournal Complex Systems, 2051
Status: Accepted
Manuscript Number: [2051]
Submission Date: 20080226
Applying complex systems research to international development
Author(s): Philip Fellman ,Roxana Wright

Subject(s): CX.4

Category: Article


In this paper we review a number of practitioner-friendly approaches to international development using non-linear dynamical systems theory. We examine international development, particularly the transition to market in formerly non-market or centrally planned economies as a series of political, legal and institutional interventions in a complex system. Many previously non-market economies function at a low level of efficiency combined with very poor use of available factor and human resources. Due to problems of institutional path-dependent lock-in, these systems are often highly change-resistant. In such cases, intervention requires a deep understanding of hidden variables and it may be necessary to work in rather unconventional ways to uncover and stimulate what are essentially self-reinforcing autocatalytic processes in order to bring about substantive changes in the system. However, a critical element of this process is to stimulate self-organizing change without destabilizing or overwhelming the system. This is particularly important with respect to financial interventions, since their size alone may, in some cases, represent a substantial fraction of the entire systemís existing economic activity. One must also avoid having all socio-economic activity organized around the intervention itself, since this will create an undesirable dependency of the economy on the intervention process. In the empirical section of this paper, we examine several recent case studies of successful interventions. We conclude our analysis by arguing that the primary generator of developmental effectiveness is the creation of an autocatalytic or self-organizing networked structure of interactions and relationships between local, national and international participants in the development process.

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