Do the right thing

Doing the right thing doesn’t seem too difficult, does it? In international development, in spite of – or perhaps because of – the best intentions, people struggle to do the right thing. Politics, bureaucracy, personality, commercial imperative or fuzzy altruism seem to get in the way.

The Springfield Centre has always strived to do the right thing. To fight for more effective development, to expose bad practice, to challenge us all to be better. It’s fair to say that this stance hasn’t made us universally popular, but people know where we stand and what we stand for, like it or loathe it. No single person is more responsible for this culture of doing the right thing than Alan. He was insightful, articulate, passionate and witty. He was courageous and principled. He had conviction, but most of all he had integrity. He always knew what the right thing to do was.

The late Nico Colchester, of The Economist and The Financial Times, once made the distinction between things that were soggy and things that were crunchy. He characterised sogginess as ‘comfortable uncertainty’: actions that are defined by compromise, grey half-truths, fence-sitting and face-saving. Crunchiness, on the other hand, leaves you in no doubt where you stand, for better or worse: actions that are defined by clarity, evidence, commitment and conviction.

Alan was crunchy. He did the right thing. He made a difference.

Let’s not mourn the loss of Alan. Let’s honour and embrace his legacy. Let’s go out and redouble our efforts to do the right thing. Let’s be crunchy.

Alan Gibson 1961 – 2018

Read Tributes to Alan and Donate in his Memory
Alan Gibson

A memorial service will be held for Alan on Wednesday 7th March, around 2pm at the Radisson Hotel in Durham.

More details to follow. If you would like to be kept informed about this, please email us:


Our Mission:

Doing development better to ensure sustainable benefits
for the greatest number of poor and disadvantaged people


Our Approach:

Changing the way systems work to align with the capacities
and incentives of local actors to deliver sustainable benefits


Our Expertise:

We are a leader in the market systems approach to development
in low and middle-income economies – also referred to as
making markets work for the poor (M4P)


We offer high quality independent advice connecting development policy and practice. Our services include programme scoping and design, technical implementation backstopping, organisational strategy and change, monitoring and results measurement support, reviews and evaluations, and technical advisory services to funders.


We undertake applied research related to development practice - rigorous outputs relevant to different audiences. Our research, and our active participation in development debates, builds on our commitment to advance wider learning and practice. Our activities include journal articles, our own working paper series, programme case studies, soapboxes, policy contributions, and contributions to other media outputs.


Training has underpinned our work since we were established and is the activity that connects all our work. Training is where the learning from research, implementation and advisory work finds a coherent and useful form, relevant to others trying to make sense of complex development challenges. We offer our internationally renowned Making Market Work programme as well as occasional short courses.

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