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A Danish physicist, Per Bak, and two post-doctoral associates working at the Brookhaven National Labs published an article in Physical Review Letters setting a new concept they called self-organized criticality. They theorized, that Complex behavior in nature reflects the tendency of large systems to evolve into a poised ‘critical’ state, way out of balance, where minor disturbances may lead to events of all sizes. He asked, If you piled sand, grain by grain, until it made cone about the size of your fist, how would you know when the tiny pyramid would have a little avalanche?

Societal problems are like grains of sand, and governance is about choices. Political leaders are often confronted with an inordinate number of challenges related to energy, transportation, housing, water resources, agriculture, waste disposal, public health, education, etc. The organizations that they lead – political parties, often lack the objective, scientifically credible means of analyzing the relative importance of socio-economic and environmental stressors, their impact on population, and the most cost-effective use of their national resources. In the absence of this information, the only metrics that policy makers in developing countries employ while making long-term development decisions is the amount of short-term political advantage that they would gain over their competitors. The inability of governing institutions to fully capture the unintended consequences of policy choices leads to inefficient use of resources, and development that is vulnerable to changes in demography, climate, economic downturn in another region of the world, etc. In a resource constraint environment, misallocation of resources often results in faster decline in socioeconomic conditions, and more importantly, in the viability of the State itself. An evidence-based policy analysis, risk assessment, and communication framework that facilitates a holistic analysis of policy choices is needed, leading to more productive use of available resources.