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Handling Complexity in Policy Evaluation: Training and Support

Online, Multiple Dates

Our new CECAN training and support series ‘Handling Complexity in Policy Evaluation’ will provide you with knowledge and practical advice to allow you to deal with complexity in policy analysis and evaluation.

Complexity is present in many social and natural systems and is an important factor accounting for the success or failure of policies. Making complexity explicit can result in better policy development and delivery. Ignoring complexity risks policies that are ineffective, fail or behave in unexpected ways.

The training will be based on the Supplementary Guide to the Government’s new edition of the Magenta Book on evaluation: ‘Handling Complexity in Policy Evaluation’, which was developed by CECAN. It combines online workshops that will provide you with a solid foundation in complexity and evaluation with the option of personalised support to enable you to translate this knowledge into practical action.

The training comprises:

  • Workshops: a series of three online workshops (each lasting 6 hours over a day), focusing on key aspects of the complexity challenge
  • Complexity Challenge ‘Drop In’ Surgeries
  • One to One Coaching: with a CECAN expert, focusing on a specific challenge you are currently facing
  • Action Learning Sets


These activities are facilitated by authors of the Magenta Book Supplementary Guide and other members of the CECAN team. They are designed to support policy makers, analysts and evaluators facing complexity challenges in their work, as well as offering organisations resources to help build evaluation capacity among their staff. They are currently being delivered online.


Complexity does not pose new challenges to evaluation, rather it intensifies the challenges practitioners already tussle with. CECAN aims to provide practitioners and commissioners of evaluations with the approaches and tools they need to explore uncertainty with rigour and provide the information needed to reach robust decisions.


Please see below for further details about each of the training and support options. If you would like to discuss any of these, please email cecan@surrey.ac.uk


Online Workshops

The workshop series provides an opportunity to explore how information and advice from the Magenta Book Supplementary Guide on handling complexity in policy evaluation can be applied to your particular situation. The series consists of three modules, which can be attended individually or as a sequence. Numbers will be limited to enable the facilitators to respond to individual issues.

Registration is now open for these workshops

Please click on the links below for full details of each workshop and to reserve your place. We recommend attending all three modules, which have been designed to complement one another, but this is not essential and the workshops can be attended individually.

Workshop Fees: Each workshop can be purchased individually for £250 per person, or book all three workshops and save 10%. Those who attend all three workshops will also be able to attend two ‘Complexity Challenge Drop In Surgeries’ free of charge (further details on the drop in surgeries are included below).


Module One: Complexity and its Challenges for Policy and Evaluation (Wednesday 8th September, 10:00 – 16:00)

This workshop will describe key features of complex systems and the challenges these present both to policy makers and to those planning, commissioning and undertaking evaluation of policy interventions. Click here for full details and to reserve your place.

Module Two: Commissioning and Managing a Complex Evaluation (Tuesday 14th September, 10:00 – 16:00)

This workshop will focus on the general challenges that complexity presents for the management and commissioning of a policy evaluation. Click here for full details and to reserve your place.

Module Three: Selecting an Appropriate Evaluation Approach (Thursday 23rd September, 10:00 – 16:00)

This workshop will provide guidance on how to select an appropriate evaluation approach in complex circumstances, review some of the wide range of different evaluation approaches available, and indicate when these are most useful. Click here for full details and to reserve your place.


Research on evaluation capacity building suggests that one off training activities are more effective when followed up with tailored support and advice to put new learning and skills into practice. To complement our workshop series, we are therefore offering the following options (a prerequisite for attending these is that you have attended at least one, and ideally, all the workshops above):


Complexity Challenge Drop In Surgeries

These open sessions will provide the opportunity for you to bring a particular challenge – whether large or small – for comment from a member of the CECAN team and other attendees facing similar issues. You will be able to sign up for the surgeries up to one week in advance, and will be asked, at the time you sign up, to provide a brief description of the challenge you would like to discuss.

Format and Fees: Hosted via Zoom, the drop in surgeries are 1 hour 15 minutes in duration. Two sessions are included in the registration fees of those who attend all three of the above workshops. Otherwise, the cost is £60 per delegate per session.

Further details will be announced soon, click here to register your interest.


One to One Coaching

Coaching sessions are available for you as an individual to explore a particular complexity challenge in the planning, commissioning or delivery of an evaluation. A member of the CECAN team with relevant experience will provide the coaching support.

Format and Fees: Hosted via Zoom, one to one coaching sessions are 1 hour in duration and cost £200

Further details will be announced soon, click here to register your interest.


Action Learning Sets

An action learning set consists of a group of between 5 – 7 people who agree to meet together on a regular basis to discuss work-related issues, or to develop skills in an area of common interest. It provides time to explore issues that you need to resolve in an environment which is empowering; helping you to find a solution with the support of the facilitator and the group, rather than being told what to do. Initially, we will work with you to set up the action learning sets, meeting monthly over a four month period. You will then have the option to continue for longer if this is the wish of the participants. A key aim will be to transfer the facilitation over to group members, so you do not remain reliant on external support in the longer term.

The main requirements for joining the group will be a commitment to attend all sessions (as far as is possible) and to have issues related to complexity evaluation that you wish to explore or a general interest in developing your experience and skill in this area.

Further details, along with associated fees, will be announced soon. Click here to register your interest.



Preparation of the Handling Complexity in Policy Evaluation training and support series has been partially supported by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) 

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