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Adaptive programming at scale: a discussion at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

I was in Helsinki last week for a presentation and discussion at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This was part of the yearly Studia Generalia, a series of seminars organised by the Ministry and the Finnish Society for Development Research where researchers have the opportunity to meet staff of the Ministry and discuss various aspects of development cooperation and development policy. The title of my presentation was Adaptive programming at scale: three challenges and three possible solutions.um_logo_2 (1)

Since I live now in Finland, it was a great opportunity to also hear about adaptive programming in the Finnish development cooperation.

The main point of my presentation was that programmes with a large budget, large implementing teams, operating in a complex context, and tackling wicked hard problems, etc. can struggle more than smaller programmes to apply the principles of adaptive programming.

The challenges are:

1) The challenge of governance and management: large programmes plan activities usually over 12 months and submit the plan to a Steering Committee for approval. A lot of work goes into doing that as well as in the approval process. To make changes afterwards it is not easy, and programmes tend to stick to the plan. Possible solutions could be detailed plans covering less than 12 months or the moving budgets across financial years.

2) The challenge of skills within the team: large programmes tend go through an inception period where most of the programme team is hired. This is done before knowing what specific problems the programme will address and how. Some roles are needed by default:  finance management, grants management, communication, etc. Other roles, however, are more linked to the pilots and experimentations that the programme will conduct during its implementation which are not known at the beginning. There are experiences with flexible contracting modalities that show that for specific policy experiments it is possible to get the team on board with the right networks and political skills.

3) The challenge of monitoring and learning: an adaptive approach requires a learning culture within the programme team because without learning and good monitoring it is difficult to generate the knowledge and information that can help to change course, adapt activities, or stop policy experiments that do not work. Investing in developing that learning culture is important.

Helsinki harbour

Photo by Jonathan on Flickr

We had a nice and interesting discussion around these challenges and some possible solutions for about one hour. Here my three main takeaways:

1) Bilateral programmes funded through the Finnish development cooperation have a good degree of flexibility embedded in design and implementation. The programme design document is not considered as set in stone. If the evidence is there, changes to the design and implementation plans are possible. This flexibility is included in the description of the role and function of the Steering Committees established to oversee  programmes at country level. This is a good foundation.

2) Not all activities in large programmes are likely to require an adaptive approach. A mapping of key activities can help to identify which ones require an experimental and iterative approach and which ones do not. This can then be reflected in the annual plans where experimental activities can be only sketched, while other activities can be described in more detail.

3) Finland is known internationally for it experimental approach to public policies. The Universal Basic Income has caught the international media attention. The Prime Minister’s Office has set up the Experimental Finland web page. There is scope, I think, to bring that experimental culture into development policy and programming. This is in addition of having pilots within programmes. It is about designing small experimental  projects which address wicked hard problems, and which can be scaled up at later stage based on the evidence and learning acquired through the experimentation. There is more that can be explored in this area, linking, for example, to the insights from the growth of start-ups in which Finland has also considerable experience.

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Can policy makers catch up with the 4IR?

Lately, I have been reading more about the challenges that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is bringing to policy making and governance. The pace of the changes is what is challenging governance institutions. It is like policy makers are catching up with the consequences and impact of the new technologies and as the pace of change accelerates, catching up becomes harder.


Photo: Maurizio Pesce on Flickr

I though about this when reading  and watching some of the commentaries on Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to Senate and Congress in the US this week.

On NYT Day 2 of Mark Zuckerberg’s Testimony: What to Watch For :

“The Senate hearing made clear that lawmakers aren’t quite sure what Facebook’s business model is or how it works, including what the difference is between selling user data to advertisers and allowing advertisers to target ads to an aggregated slice of Facebook users.

The technological gap between Silicon Valley and Washington was apparent when Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican of Mississippi, asked about internet regulation.

Mr. Zuckerberg explained that when thinking about regulations, government officials need to differentiate between internet companies like his and broadband providers, the companies that build and run the “pipes” that carry internet traffic, like AT&T and Comcast.

The difference is at the heart of net neutrality, a hotly debated regulation that was overturned last year. The rules prevent internet service providers from favoring the flow of all internet content through their pipes.

Mr. Zuckerberg explained that when thinking about regulations, government officials need to differentiate between internet companies like his and broadband providers, the companies that build and run the “pipes” that carry internet traffic, like AT&T and Comcast.

The difference is at the heart of net neutrality, a hotly debated regulation that was overturned last year. The rules prevent internet service providers from favoring the flow of all internet content through their pipes.

“I think in general the expectations that people have of the pipes are somewhat different from the platforms,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

“When you say pipes, you mean?” Mr. Wicker asked”

On Wired: If Congress Doesn’t Understand Facebook, What Hope Do Its Users Have?

“But the apology rang hollow for members of Congress who said they’d heard it all. “We’ve seen the apology tour before,” senator Richard Blumenthal told Zuckerberg. As proof, he summoned an oversized poster board featuring just a sampling of Zuckerberg’s past apologies in big block lettering. “This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it,” read one Zuckerberg quote from 2006. “I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes,” read another from 2011.

With that, Blumenthal made it clear that lawmakers didn’t want to hear Zuckerberg apologize. They just wanted to understand how this whole thing works—something Facebook’s users deserve to know as well.”

Did senators questioning Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg understand the internet? – video

If  lawmakers do not understand the technology, how can they design legislation and  policies that ensure that, as we move fast into the 4IR, economic growth benefits all, natural resources are preserved, and that the political debate is open, transparent, and fair. How to make sure that people come really first.

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Articles and papers I liked

20180221-AP- Harmela_ice_lake-175547-FINAL_EDIT_BW

Here is an image of the beautiful winter we are having in Tampere to accompany the articles and papers I enjoyed reading last week.

Duncan Green published When does Tech → Innovation? Here’s what 178 projects tell us. The blog is about a study of the the results of 178 small grants to tech projects funded under the Making All Voices Count accountability programme over 4.5 years. Fourteen messages emerged from the study. Here are two messages that I found particularly to the point:

  • Message 6. Technologies can create new spaces for engagement between citizen and state
  • Message 7. Technologies can help to empower citizens and strengthen their agency for engagement

A lot is being written about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and the dangers to our democracies. Here is one article, but there are many more: Facebook: is it time we all deleted our accounts?

An article that I found striking earlier in the week, was published by Wired about the incredible power Facebook has as a media organisation. Inside the two years that shook Facebook-and the world shows how FB is a media company that has yet to wake up to the notion that it is one.

I heard an interesting comment on the BBC World Service in one of the programmes about the Cambridge Analytica saga: our democracies were built about 200 years ago. The new digital technologies are incompatible with that model. We need a new forms of politics and probably of democracy


The World Economic Forum has written this interesting article about how the fourth industrial revolution is changing policy making: How can policy keep pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution?. In sum: policy making has to become much more experimental, agile, adaptive. Sounds familiar, isn’t it?

The Guardian columnist George Monbiot has written a courageous article on cancer: I have prostate cancer. But I am happy.


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A conversation about policy experiments

The search for ways to design policies that help to solve societal problems is continuously evolving. The traditional evidence-based approach to policy making involves generating research results and using these to inform policy decisions.

This blog post is based on an interview with Mikko Annala, Head of Governance Innovation at Demos Helsinki. It was originally posted on the Think Tank Initiative Blog.

Road smaller

Think tanks around the world play an essential role in the knowledge ecosystem: they generate creative approaches grounded in local realities and use this evidence to inform policy-making. Through my experience working at the Knowledge Sector Initiative in Indonesia I have seen how research and advocacy by think tanks can inform and change policy. For example, we documented how the Institute for Research and Empowerment made a crucial contribution to the passing in 2013 of the new Village Law. In addition, SurveyMETER, a think tank based in Yogyakarta, conducted research which, in the Municipality of Balikpapan, informed plans to invest in better urban infrastructures for the elderly. As a result, I’ve seen the impact that think tanks in the global South are making.

I’m now living in Finland and am interested in the innovative approach to policy experiments they’re adopting here, as this may be of interest to others engaged in similar work. Policy experiments take a different approach: they test solutions and then generate evidence about what works and what does not work, which can inform policies and government programmes. But, what are the key factors that characterise an experimental culture in government? Are policy experiments something new in policymaking? To learn more, I got in touch with Mikko Annala, Head of Governance Innovation at Demos Helsinki, a Finnish independent think tank which is involved, among other things, in policy experiments with the Finnish government as well as overseas.

Arnaldo Pellini: what are policy experiments?

Mikko Annala: “Policy experiments are usually defined as initiatives that help ministries and government departments test new ways to solve policy problems within a limited scale, and within a set timeframe.

I find this definition limiting. It presents experimentation merely as a tool for discovering and testing new solutions. I think that there is more to it.

In our policy experiment work with the Prime Minister’s Office, we have realised that experimentation can also contribute to building trust between citizens and policy-makers. The dialogue and debate around the design of the experiments, the alignment with the government policy goals, the trade-offs between different solutions, and so on, helps to share different perspectives and points of views. In turn, this helps to strengthen trust towards policy institutions.  One example is TAIKA – Taidetta kansalle (MAGIC – Art for the People), a policy experiment that seeks to develop new human-centric ways for connecting arts to social and welfare services in Finland and see this can promote better health and well-being.

My definition of policy experiments includes:

  • Uncertainty of outcomes.
  • The courage to find new, and sometimes even radical, solutions to social problems.
  • Building learning within experiments by setting clear objectives and measurements.
  • A limited timeframe and scale.
  • Open and active inclusion of different stakeholders from the design stage.”

Are policy experiments new?

“Policy experiments are not new, but a lot has been happening in this field lately.

During the 1930s, President Roosevelt led a policy experimentation boom in the United States. But in my opinion, it is only in the last 10 years or so that we have seen a new wave of policy experimentation emerging across the world.

Today the term ‘experimentation’ is not only used by experts, but also by politicians, policy-makers and civil servants.

This is not a coincidence. In my opinion, there has never been a greater need for experimentation in public policy as today. Change in our societies and economies is happening at a fast pace. The complexity of the world is rapidly increasing and will continue to do so.

There is an increasing need to develop faster and more reliable learning processes to solve problems and, at the same time, strengthen the trust between citizen and policy institutions. Policy experiments are a great way to do this.”

Experiments will sometimes fail, failure is not always welcome

“Policy experiments require certain capabilities within government departments and, importantly, a culture that supports policy experimentation. When the culture is not there, the shift can be difficult.

This is why it is important to document and communicate good experimental practices. There are three elements which are a key to experimental culture:

1) Incentives. For example, requiring ministries to commit and use a certain part of their budgets to conduct evaluations of policies and programmes enables, in my experience, a greater openness towards experimental methods within a bureaucracy.

2) Leadership. An experimental culture, requires a high level of leadership and opening up of public discussions about the benefits of experimentation, as well as the value of failing and learning.

3) Results. Policy experiments have to try to show success pretty fast, which is easier if flexibility, adaptation and a limited scale is part of the design.”

You seem to take a problem driven approach in your report to the Prime Minister’s Office, Design for Government: Human-centric governance through experiments. Is that true?

“The approach we suggest in the paper starts from understanding the problem. But let me explain how we suggest going about it.

First, review the research and literature around the problem and map how much is already known.

Second, we research interesting practices that seems to address, and potentially solve, the same challenge or parts of it.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, we build a dialogue with individuals and stakeholders related to the problem.

In our experience, (co)defining the problem among stakeholders increases trust towards the experimentation process and the risks it entails. It also reduces the complexity of problems, because the experts planning the experiments don’t have to do so much guesswork and can actually learn a lot about the problem through interaction with the stakeholders.

Having said this, I also think that one should not fall in love with the problem. After a certain level of elaboration, a team has to come up with potential solutions and start testing whether they work or not!”

What types of evidence do experiments produce?

“Without measurements, we can’t tell what works and what doesn’t. In other words, we can’t learn from what we are doing.

Policy experiments should always try to generate different types of evidence and in my experience, it pays off to remain patient. With sufficient sample sizes, for example, randomised control trials can provide useful evidence through pre- and post-experiment analysis.

At the same time, some policy experiments may have to deliver results and evidence quickly. In those cases, policy experiments need to develop ‘quick and dirty’ learning methods that enable them to learn without major time and resource investment.”

Policy experiments are an approach to test policy solutions and, at the same time, generate evidence that can inform policy decisions around solutions to very policy problems. Being an approach, rather than a model, they can be applied to different contexts and policy issues in a very flexible way. The experiences in Finland, which I discussed with Mikko Annala, can provide ideas and suggestions for other countries, though, as always, the answers and solutions have to be found locally.

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Has Italy turned right?



The first results of today’s parliamentary election are being broadcasted by media and newspapers’ TV channels. As of today the Movimento 5 Stelle is the first party in Italy . It is followed by the centre-right coalition with Lega Nord and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. The centre left party which was leading the government has collapsed to 19%. Italy has turned to the right following other European countries. The campaign centred on immigration and ‘Italy first’ while unemployment in the South is at 29%, the debt to GDP at 130% second only to Greece, economic growth sluggish. We will see in the next few months what this election means for Europe as well.

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Looking at evidence-informed policymaking through the ‘dissonance’ lens

Last week I attended  the Development Days Conference 2018 in Helsinki. This is a yearly event organised by the Finnish Society for Development Research. This year’s topic was: The Politics of Sustainability: Re-thinking resources, values and justice.


It is a nice and informal event which brings together researchers, activists, and practitioners from all over Finland and overseas.

Sian Sullivan of Bath Spa University gave a very interesting presentation sharing her thoughts on Dissonance Cognitive Theory drawing from the groundbreaking work by Leon Festinger in the mid 1950s . Festinger’s theory challenged Action-opinion Theories which proposed that actions can influence subsequent beliefs and attitudes. His Dissonance Cognitive Theory, turned things around and highlighted the sense of discomfort that people feel when confronting situations involving new knowledge and conflicting beliefs or behaviours.

The fundamental assumptions of Dissonance Cognitive Theory are:

1. Humans are sensitive to inconsistencies between actions and belief.
2. Recognition of this inconsistency causes dissonance, and motivates an individual to resolve the dissonance. Once an individual recognises that one of her/his beliefs are being challenges, the instil is not to just say “oh well, that is fine”. There is usually some sort of mental anguish about this.
3. The degree of dissonance varies with the importance of the beliefs.

How do people resolve dissonances? The theory suggests three main ways:

1. Change beliefs (difficult but not impossible)
2. Make sure that you never do this action again (and do not feel the discomfort)
3. A third and more complex method of resolution is to change the way they view/remember/perceive their action, in other words “rationalise” the actions (eg, I think CO2 is contributing to climate change, yet I take a plane to fly to Helsinki to attend a conference because it is important that I share about my research).

While listing to the presentation I was wondering to what extent we who are working on evidence-informed policy systems are influenced by Action-opinion Theories and the notion of a causal links between new evidence and knowledge produced by researchers, policy analysts, etc. and changes in the beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, decisions by policy makers.

If we look through the Dissonance Theory lens at the relationships between knowledge and policymaking, what we see is resistance, rationalisation of strongly held beliefs, justification of the refusal to accept new facts and knowledge, strengthening of biases, and discomfort. Do we pay enough attention to this? The alternative, of course, is not stop producing knowledge to inform policy. I believe that knowledge is needed and required to inform policy decisions (my bias) but we need also to be aware that one trait of human psychology is to confirm an rationalise biases and not to be open to new knowledge and facts and be ready to change actions.

The researchers’ mindset may be more geared to asking questions and challenging biases and assumptions. But we cannot assume that everybody’s mindset (esp. policy makers) is the one of John Maynard Keynes who famously said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”.

It seems to me that what Dissonance Theory tells us working on evidence-informed policy space, is to be aware of our biases and become more creative in designing ways to bring knowledge into policy, in addition to the research occurring in academia and think tanks. Policy experiments are one way which has gained considerable traction. Other ways include: collaboration between researchers and knowledge intermediaries has great potential; packaging knowledge to communicate through different channels and platforms is important; convene networks and working groups which bring together researchers and policymakers to develop policy research agendas.


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#Brexit, the populist surge and the crisis of complexity

Is policymaking becoming too complex? What does this mean for evidence-informed policy making?

Paul Arbair


The British vote in favour of an exit from the EU has thrown the UK’s political system into chaos and shocked Europe and the world. The long-term consequences of this vote are still unclear, but some fear it could trigger the undoing of the UK and accelerate the disintegration of the EU. Many see this outcome as a new victory for populist movements, which are on the rise across much of the Western world. Something more fundamental, however, might be at play.

View original post 6,665 more words

Flag of Finland. Photo: Sepi V (CC BY 2.0)
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Making research evidence count: insights from Finland’s Policy Analysis Unit

After more than a decade in Asia working to build governments’ use of evidence, I recently moved back to Finland. Here I’ve found commitment to evidence and innovation like nowhere else.

Kokeileva Suomi or Experimental Finland is a great example of the nation’s ‘readiness to innovate’. Set up by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in 2015, it tests policies at local level and scales up those that work. For example, Finland’s experimental universal basic income scheme, which made international headlines in 2017.

Equally important, however, is that Kokeileva is coupled with careful planning. Each year, the Prime Minister’s Office publishes a plan to make sure that the ministries have access to the research they need to tackle varied and complex social problems.

To learn more about how the Finnish Government manages research evidence, I travelled to the Prime Minister’s Office in Helsinki. I met with Science Specialist Anna-Kaisa Lähteenmäki-Smith and Project Manager Sari Löytökorpi from the Government Policy Analysis Unit, which is in charge of coordinating the annual research plan.

The following interview offers insights into what lies behind Finland’s commitment to research evidence, and how its annual plan operates. Having worked with governments around the world to improve evidence-informed decision-making processes, I think there’s a lot that other governments can learn from Finland.

What values underpin Finland’s investment in research evidence?

Openness and transparency are important values in Finnish society. Citizens expect transparency and openness from politicians and civil servants.

The research we fund ultimately seeks to improve society. It’s not the government’s research. We use tax payers’ money, so it’s everybody’s research. The results are owned by, and accessible to the media, civil society, citizens, researches, and so on.

That is why we ask grant recipients to include a clear communication strategy in their proposal for funding. This must describe how they intend to share and make available the research results and data through different channels, activities and knowledge products.

Our opinion is that the more openness and critical discussion there is in the planning stages of policy-making, the better the quality. The research we fund makes a contribution and supports that process.

What does ‘impact’ mean for the policy analysis unit, and how do you measure it?

Impact matters for our work. Two areas in particular: the quality of the research results and products, and the quality of the research process.

The outputs of the research we fund include for instance data, reports, policy recommendations, dialogue, and so on.

We define results as the availability, visibility and utilization of knowledge in the form of information, knowledge, expertise, assessment, solutions, concepts, and models. The results contribute to direct effects (i.e. a better basis for drafting regulations and making decisions, closer cooperation between knowledge producers and public debate) and indirect effects (i.e. more efficient and better-quality policy implementation, participatory decision-making, improved trust and ownership).

We use different tools to gather this information. One tool is a questionnaire which we send out to policy-makers, civil servants, and researches involved in the projects we fund. In this survey we ask for opinions about the quality of our work, the support we provided throughout the research process, the clarity of guidelines we publish, the dialogue and cooperation established during the research process.

We also ask whether the policy decisions have been informed by the research results and, if not, why. In other words, we conduct a self-assessment which looks at the quality of the research as well as the quality of the dialogue during the research process.

In ‘The politics of evidence-based policy making’, Paul Cairney writes that it is difficult not to agree with the idea of using evidence to inform policy. But in reality, it is difficult to do and ultimately, evidence is just a small part of policy-making. How does this resonate with your experience?

It is not easy to bring evidence into the policy-making process, particularly research-based evidence.  There are a few challenges that are intrinsic to research-based knowledge.

The first is that it is not possible to guarantee that the results of a research project are actually used in the policy decisions. Politicians and civil servants also bring their personal and political values into the decision-making processes and sometimes these can reduce the influence of research-based results.

A second issue is that research results are unlikely to provide a straight-forward yes or no answer to any specific policy problem. Research results can suggest options, compare the costs and benefits of the different alternatives and choices, but there will always be a degree of uncertainty. In the end, research-based evidence is just one element of the policy-making process.

However, it can be an important element. Research findings help to generate discussion. They can even help to reach a shared view on a specific problem,  for example between the parties in government and those in opposition.

The debate and discussion over research results can be a starting point for a compromise which is often what policy decisions ultimately are.

The 2017 research plan included 42 research topics, with a budget of €10.4 million. How did you decide the research topics?

All research and evidence funded through this instrument is aligned with the overall government strategy and policy agenda. The specific research topics are selected through a process of consultation with all ministries.

We do not do this alone. The government working group for the coordination of research, foresight and assessment activities (or the TEA Working Group) plays a very important role.

The TEA Working Group includes representatives of all ministries and has the task to strengthen horizontal monitoring of research, foresights and assessment activities across ministries. They are a key actor in the selection of the research topics that untimely are included in the yearly research plan.

A good selection process requires good research questions and these are obviously difficult to formulate, especially because not all civil servants have been trained as researchers. Often politicians and civil servants come up with research needs and questions that are too broad or too narrow.

This is one of the functions of our unit: work with ministries to ensure that the research questions are specific, relevant to policy-making and researchable.

An additional area of our work is to check the extent to which the research questions that arise have already been researched. To do so, we collaborate closely with other teams and units here at the Prime Minister’s Office, such as the Foresight team or the Knowledge Management Unit. The Knowledge Management Unit, helps us to search and find whether a research has already been conducted earlier on.

And how do you break down the research questions that come from ministries but are too broad?

We are testing some new approaches to do this in addition to helping directly with feedback and comments. This year we have had three co-creation workshops for formulating knowledge needs and research projects.

In a nutshell, the process functions around bringing together academics, policy researchers, experts and analysts from relevant organisations. They sit together discuss what the knowledge need is, what is already known and what specific questions could help provide new and relevant answers to policy-makers.

We are happy with the results so far and we will continue testing this approach. We find it useful not only because it helps clarify research questions and methodology, but because it establishes a dialogue between researchers and policymakers from the very beginning which then continues throughout the research activities through, for example, the discussion about preliminary results.

This article was originally published on ODI Insight. Read the original article.

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Policy content change is one of the types of policy change, but not the only one

There is an interesting exchange mid-way through David Letterman’s interview to President Barack Obama on Netflix.  Letterman asks President Obama about his reflection on policymaking and the role and power that the president actually has.  Obama answer is quite illuminating in terms of the nature of policy change. Yes, he says, a lot of his time was dedicated to debate and discuss legislation but more than anything else, he saw his role as trying to influence attitudes, perceptions, and values around policy problems and, importantly, policy solutions.  These changes of behaviours are in most cases the key determinants of change in the policy content.

We, who work on evidence-informed policymaking, sometimes focus our strategies and results too much on changes in policy content and forget that other type of changes (ie, attitude, perceptions, etc.) as as important to develop technically sound and politically feasible solutions to policy problems.

A very entertaining and refreshing interview. Worth watching.


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Tips for public speaking

TED Talks by Chris Anderson is not only about providing useful suggestions for giving public speeches.  it is also about the bigger theme of knowledge sharing. In all its forms. In all it areas. In all its aspects.

Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

I have no doubt (and Chris Anderson confirms that in the book) that there are people who want to get on the TED stage for the limelight. But many people do not. They have true stories to tell. Stories and knowledge they want to share and TED is a great opportunity to do that.

Ted Talks is also an interesting example of documenting lessons’ learned about a project. The foundation led by Chris Anderson bought TED in 2001  The book was published in 2016. In the years in between TED has had  good speakers, bad speakers, average speakers and the internet with the launching of a TED Channel on YouTube.

TED has evolved over time. It has not followed a straight planned line from activities to results. Most importantly, the experience has become learning which has help to improve formats and test new ideas. The book is the result failures and reflection. I wish more development projects would be given the same gifts: time to evolve, time to reflect and learn, time to adapt and change.

Here few tips that I have noted down so far:

Have a throughline for what you want to say (or write). Write it down in no more then 15 words and build you argument around it.

A good speech structure:

Introduction  – what will be covered
Context – why the issue matters
Main concepts
Practical implications

A checklist to develop the throughline:

Am I passionate about the topic?
Does it inspire curiosity?
Will it make a difference to the audience to have this knowledge?
Is my talk (piece of writing) a gift or an ask?
Is the information fresh, or is it already out there?
Do I know enough about this to make a talk ( a piece of writing) worth the audience’s (readers’) time?
Do I have the credibility to take on this topic?

Happy reading!