Development, Climate Change and Clumsiness

Policy disputes over the most effective way to use development aid to cope with climate change are best resolved with solutions that are clumsy, not elegant.

© Jeremy Richards | Dreamstime

© Jeremy Richards | Dreamstime

The project, “Development, Climate Change and Clumsiness: The Lessons From Nepal,” is being done in the form of a book being written by IIASA anthropologist Michael Thompson that uses the theories of elegance and clumsiness to examine the effectiveness of developmental aid from the point of view of those who receive the aid. Thompson presupposes that most development aid, delivered in a top-down fashion by countries or institutions, is not actually aiding development.

The project is based on eight case studies and other research done as part of an earlier European Commission project that shows how aid programs often fail because they are driven by markets and hierarchy. Successes have come primarily when activists and often-ignored civil society actors have forced their way into the process, enabling the emergence of “clumsy solutions.” 

The project uses the theory of plural rationality to look at developmental aid and climate change policies in Nepal, and focuses on the advantage of “clumsy” solutions that accommodate diverse opinions and, according to Thompson, “harnesses contestation to constructive, if noisy, argumentation.”

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Last edited: 25 September 2015


Michael Thompson

Senior Research Scholar

Risk and Resilience

T +43(0) 2236 807 287


2011 - 2014

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313