Transformational Change: the Challenge of a Brave New World

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Transformational Change: the Challenge of a Brave New World

Most multilateral development agencies aim for change that is ‘transformational’ or that shifts the ‘paradigm’. In many ways transformation has become the holy grail in development assistance, with most development and environmental aid agencies aspiring to deliver transformational change. Despite this, definitions for what constitutes transformational change remain elusive. Consequently, there is nearly a complete absence of evidence on whether transformational change has been achieved.

What is transformational change? Can we define it? Can we measure it? If a transformational change occurred, would we notice it? This paper looks at several instances where attempts have been made to define and measure transformational change. It then discusses if these instances were defined as having caused transformational change and explores potential ways to measure this change. The paper claims technologies and methods are now available that could help us better understand what transformational change may encompass. However, understanding and developing strategies related to transformational change will require concerted thinking on this topic, a devolution of measurement capacities and a wider recognition of technologies and techniques as well as cross-systems thinking.

Authorship Jyotsna Puri (Jo)
Cover date September 2018
Document type Learning paper
Table of contents
  • Introduction and objectives
  • What are other organisations doing?
  • A discussion of agency experiences
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion: implications for organisations
  • References