On 4th October 2019, CECAN held a briefing and workshop session with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on dealing with complexity in policy evaluation. Held at the BEIS conference centre in central London, the session was well attended by over 20 BEIS policy-makers and analysts.
Chaired by CECAN Deputy Director, Ben Shaw, the briefing session was opened with a presentation from Dione Hills (Tavistock Institute/CECAN) and Helen Wilkinson (Risk Solutions/CECAN) providing an overview of the principles of complexity and their important implications for delivery of effective policy evaluation and analysis. This included a taster of some of the issues included in the forthcoming Annex on complexity to the revised Magenta Book – the Government’s guidance on evaluation.
Simon Shrimpton, Defra and Martha Bicket, CECAN/University of Surrey then talked about the development of Defra’s Complexity Evaluation Framework (CEF). This framework, developed by CECAN Ltd for Defra and about to be publicly released, provides concise actionable guidance to policy-makers and analysts tailored to the settings of Defra’s policy responsibilities. Comprising a short, actionable checklist and 30 page support document it provides a framework of considerations to guide the scoping, commissioning, management and delivery of complexity-appropriate evaluations.
Alex Penn and Pete Barbrook-Johnson, CECAN/University of Surrey concluded the briefing session with a practical example of complexity appropriate methods being used in government. This focused on Participatory Systems Mapping – one of a growing number of options for addressing complexity in policy evaluation and analysis – and its use and value in exploring and negotiating complexity in evaluation with BEIS and Defra.
In the following workshop session participants were able to talk about and explore with the CECAN team their experience and questions on conducting complex-appropriate evaluations. This demonstrated an enthusiasm for the complexity agenda in policy evaluation and analysis and desire to both do and find out more which we hope CECAN can contribute to in the coming months and years.