Sometimes, we get the feedback, that some recommendations, a paper or presentation that we do, are a bit “theoretical”. Well, that’s exactly what we are striving for: to substantiate our findings and recommendations with a conceptual framework (which by its nature is always theoretical). It’s our conviction, that many development initiatives, plans and reports are ineffective, headless and without meaning, precisely because of the lack of a conceptual/ theoretical basis. You may know, as Kurt Lewin (the father of Action Research) said, there is nothing more practical than a good theory! So we put particular emphasis and effort on overcoming this weakness – and consequently we are happy if people comment that we have successfully done so!
However, it is clear, that this may never result in simple “cookbook recipes” on what to do and how to go about a particular thing. In development work, when the complexity of situations and tasks are is too high, simple action plans and recommendations don’t work (you may know that the last space shuttle crash was partly due to ignoring the complexity of the situation, among others through bullet lists (–> PowerPoint), reductionist thinking and the like). If we would give simple recommendations in our reports, presentations etc., they would rely too much on particular moments, occurings and views. Therefore, on the opposite, we try to provide a framework, which goes beyond a particular moment or perspective. This however requires that everybody engages with it, plunges into it, puts efforts in understanding, sense-making and translating – and eventually that everybody takes ownership and responsibility for the steps to take, that conclude. There is no other way.