David Week suggested KISI is essentially about Adaptive Management. To which I would agree; Adaptive Management is a rather more grown-up term, and doesn’t necessarily exclude simple solutions, but then again I think neither should KISI, so long as you start with simple ones and evolve from there.
David also wanted to know what I thought about Adaptive Management in the conservation / ecosystem management sphere where it originated. I cannot pretend I have come across any practical examples of it out where I work, but then I’m not much into protected area management, and it may be that it is being used there. One important difference: although the unknowns are comparable – how will the community react v. how will the ecosystem react – Adaptive Management tends to be viewed as a technical, managerial system, whilst anything that impacts people necessarily becomes political. Would-be technocrats may lament such interference, but development inevitably takes place in a more contested space than Adaptive Management theorises.
Adaptive Management clearly requires strong management skills, analytical thinking, a capacity for self-criticism, and the imagination to conceive new solutions. Unfortunately these are some of the skills in which I see the greatest shortages here. People who have them are unlikely to be in mid-level management with a government institution: businesses and NGOs will always attract the best people. This does not bode particularly well for a KISI approach in development, but donors can at least set a good example; adaptive management is about a whole lot more than just tweaking the terms and conditions on your next grant.