The United Kingdom’s (UK) Department for International Development (DFID) is an ambitious government department that is committed to reducing poverty and conflict overseas. Many of the issues on which DFID works are complex; whether focused on climate change, gender equality, health or other priorities, simple solutions rarely exist. And to tackle these complex challenges, DFID staff must interact with unpredictable systems of political, organisational and individual behaviours and incentives.
This demands sophisticated management and DFID increasingly recognises that complex problems require flexible systems to support testing, learning and adaptation. However, structural questions of management remain. When, how and why should DFID deploy their staff resources? How can DFID design and approve programmes with ambitious goals but realistic management requirements?
This briefing note is the outcome of an ongoing process within DFID to confront these issues and answer the question: how can DFID design and manage programmes to address complex development challenges without creating too much staff workload?