The Visual Representation of Complexity

The visual representation of complexity


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 Hosts Systems Mapping Workshop at BEIS.

CECAN Hosts Systems Mapping Workshop at BEIS


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.


Systems Mapping

Summary Report - CECAN International Symposium on Complexity Approaches to Evaluate Global Nexus Policy Challenges

CECAN International Symposium


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.


CECAN Webinar: Evaluating Policy for Food Security – Before and After Implementation.

CECAN Webinar: Evaluating Policy for Food Security – Before and After Implementation.

Our warmest thanks go to Dr Martine Barons of Warwick University who kindly gave up her time on 4th May to give a webinar on evaluating policy for food security.
Household food security is a classic complex system.  Countries that are food secure when viewed at country-scale may nevertheless have considerable food security problems at household scale.  Furthermore, local government wishing to design policies to ameliorate food insecurity and poverty for its citizens may find that their administrative boundaries cut across social boundaries and the areas covered by agencies required to collaborate may be misaligned.
In order to provide decision support of local government, we have developed a method that networks together relevant data sources, models and expert opinions to evaluate candidate policies’ relative effectiveness before implementation.  The hard thinking required by stakeholders to fully populate this integrating decision support system and use it to compare and them select policies, can be leveraged to guide interim and end-