On 11th July nearly 200 delegates attended CECAN’s annual conference in the elegant and central London venue of One Birdcage Walk. Just across the road is HM Treasury, so as we enjoyed our tea and lunch, we were able to peer through the windows of the UK government policy-making machine and ponder how it is addressing the complexities of the policy and evaluation challenges now facing the UK, and also how it might benefit from the rich and insightful discussions taking place at the conference.
The Challenges of Complexity for Government
On April 25, BEIS and CECAN held a workshop bringing together members of the CECAN team with analysis and policy leads in BEIS, responsible for the £505million Energy Innovation Programme (EIP).
The workshop explored options for the development of an evaluation strategy for the programme; it is the first activity in the ongoing support CECAN will offer in this key policy area.
The programme is made of many projects with diverse aims and contexts, and has key objectives around energy innovation, meaning there are many evaluation challenges.
Brian Castellani, CECAN Fellow, recently ran a workshop at Warwick University along with Pete Barbrook-Johnson.
They met with Tim Sunderland of Natural England and what Brian describes as a group of great people from DEFRA and Natural England!
The purpose of the workshop was to continue to design the COMPLEX-IT software to make it better for policy evaluation and to help the participants think better about their policy evaluation from a complex systems perspective, including what types of databases and methods would be necessary to do so, such as agent-based modelling, systems mapping and case-based modelling.
It was noted that case based modelling and COMPLEX-IT may be particularly useful in natural capital efforts.
To find out more about the COMPLEX-IT toolkit please visit Brian’s blog.
CECAN Fellow Joanna Boehnert has recently published a poster associated with her funded fellowship project entitled, "The Visual Representation of Complexity."
The poster provides a definition, examples, and a simple diagram to visualise a range of complexity concepts.
Sustainability practitioners have long relied on images to display relationships in complex adaptive systems on various scales and across different domains.
These images facilitate communication, learning, collaboration and evaluation as they contribute to shared understanding of systemic processes.
Joanna's research has addressed the need for images that are widely understood across different fields and sectors for researchers, policy makers, design practitioners, and evaluators with varying degrees of familiarity with the complexity sciences.
Joanna worked with the CECAN team in design workshops to help them clarify and illustrate their definitions of some key characteristics of complex systems.
CECAN recently ran a systems mapping workshop at BEIS with a range of stakeholders from industry and government, looking at biogas and biomethane production and usage, as part of our case study on the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
Pete Barbrook-Johnson, Alex Penn and Anna Kaxira helped to develop a systems map of the biogas and biomethane production/use system. They are now working on verifying and refining the map. The final map and an associated report to BEIS will be used to: (i) inform theory and data collection in the ongoing evaluation of reformed RHI, and (ii) inform future policy planning in relevant policy areas.
Summary Report - CECAN International Symposium on Complexity Approaches to Evaluate Global Nexus Policy Challenges
On the 9th and 10th November 2017 CECAN proudly hosted a two-day International Symposium at Barnett Hill in Surrey, UK. The event was part of the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science and brought together national and international academics, practitioners and policymakers involved in policy evaluation to explore how complexity approaches can and are being used to evaluate and reframe policies in the nexus.
The Symposium offered a unique opportunity for key figures in the international evaluation community to come together and share their expertise and experiences whilst highlighting some of the latest methodological insights, best practice, and evaluation approaches for addressing complex nexus issues.