Inspired thinking on how 21st century guerilla groups are embracing principles of complexity, decentralization and collaboration to wage a new kind of warfare, with implications for humanitarian response strategy.
John Robb, author of Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, provides some insightful insights into the dynamics of complexity and new collaboration techniques that are relevant to the humanitarian community.
In a recent post on emergent communities dedicated to war, he outlines how highly networked terrorist groups are taking advantage of complexity principles to achieve their aims. He notes that such groups are:
What are the implications of this organisational style for humanitarian collaboration? There are obvious and important differences between networked terrorist organisations and humanitarian organisations, not lease of which is their purpose. Despite these differences, however, an understanding of the tactics, strengths, and weaknesses of this approach is desirable in order to more effectively operate in a sphere where such groups exist and wield power.
Robb argues, for example, that these groups and their tactics are particularly effective against large, cumbersome systems such as centralised bureaucracies because they understand system dynamics and are able to leverage small actions against their weak points to great effect. 9/11, Mumbai, etc. are relevant examples. While it is unlikely that humanitarian agencies will adopt the organisational style of such groups, knowledge of how they think and operate may be essential to adapt and respond to their actions in the future. His post on on cascading systems failure, for example, identifies strategies and mechanisms for attacking critical infrastructure that any agency responsible for their protection must be aware of. Browse his site in more detail for an engaging read on the future of decentralised, networked collaboration.