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

International Symposium

This month CECAN proudly hosted an International Symposium on complexity approaches to evaluate global nexus policy challenges, at Barnett Hill Hotel in Surrey.

The event was part of the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science.

Delegates, including representatives from the European Commission and UK Government, came together to share expertise and join the debate.

We were thrilled to connect with leaders and influencers in the evaluation community, from ten different countries;  Germany, USA, Switzerland, Australia, Senegal, Netherlands, South Africa, Belgium, Ireland and Italy.

Over the course of this two-day event topic areas included; The need for complexity sensitive evaluation, exploring complex thinking for sustainable futures, cutting edge evaluation methods and how to increase the uptake of them, and how to get government to deal with complexity.

CECAN Seminar: "Evaluating Sustainability – Is It Possible? A Case for Focusing on Evaluating Decision-Making for Sustainable Development."

Evaluating Sustainability

CECAN welcomed Dr Dorothy Lucks from Australia to give a seminar on "Evaluating Sustainability – Is It Possible? A Case for Focusing on Evaluating Decision-Making for Sustainable Development."

The complexity of sustainability is immense, yet many policies and plans now have sustainability as an aim. While it is difficult to empirically  evaluate sustainability outcomes, it is possible to evaluate the process of decision-making to identify if decision-making is becoming more informed and working towards balancing social, economic and environmental priorities. Dorothy gave examples from doctoral research of two case studies, one in Australia, one in the Philippines on decision-making processes.

If you missed the seminar you can now view it along with slides online;


Energy Security Policy Evaluation Workshop at BEIS

BEIS energy security workshop

We were delighted to run a successful policy evaluation workshop last week with policy teams and analysts working on energy security and the wider energy ‘trilemma’ (decarbonisation, prices, and security), at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The workshop, led by Dr Pete Barbrook-Johnson (PSI), Dr Alex Penn (Surrey) and Anna Kaxira (PSI), utilised a participatory causal systems mapping approach to share and build knowledge around BEIS’s policies in this area. We will now be analysing the data collected during the workshop, before presenting back to BEIS in future workshops and reports. The findings will help inform BEIS’s evaluation priorities in the coming months and years.

Dynamic Pattern Synthesis Summer School


September saw a successful collaboration between CECAN and Brighton University, who hosted a Dynamic Pattern Synthesis (DPS) summer school.

CECAN sponsored several places to researchers and Government analysts, and those who attended had between 1 – 8 years’ experience.

The results of the summer school survey indicate there is much interest in DPS as a tool and those who attended are eager to receive more information and pursue the method further.

It was unanimously agreed that DPS can easily be combined with mixed methods that include qualitative research and that DPS can improve research that evaluates policy and practice.

With thanks to Professor Phil Haynes for putting the summer school together. We look forward to working on another collaboration again soon.

CECAN Seminar: "Understanding Health Policy in the Third Era Through a Complex Systems Lens."



CECAN Seminar - Understanding Health Policy in the Third Era through a Complex Systems Lens.

We'd like to extend our thanks to Professor David Hunter who gave an excellent talk at BEIS on 12th September.

Health policy is complex, arguably becoming more so.   What have been termed ‘wicked issues’ are a central feature of health policy where there are often no simple or single solutions, if any at all.  This is especially evident in regard to public health issues including obesity, alcohol and substance misuse, health inequalities.  

But health systems more generally are undergoing major transformation in response to changes in epidemiology, aging populations, lifestyle-related illnesses, multi-morbidities, and so on.  We have entered the third era of thinking about health policy which has introduced new challenges and complexities.