Handling Complexity in Policy Evaluation Online Workshop: Module One – Complexity and its Challenges for Policy and Evaluation

Wednesday 23rd February 2022, 10:00 – 16:00, Live Online Training (via Zoom)

Tutors: Martha Bicket and Helen Wilkinson

Due to popular demand, our ‘Handling Complexity in Policy Evaluation’ workshop series is returning for 2022; providing 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.

Comprising three modules, the training is 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.

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.

Course Details:

This first workshop focuses on material presented in the first two chapters of the Supplementary Guide, which describes 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.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this workshop, participants will:

  • Be aware of the main properties of complex systems and be able to recognise these in policy-making processes and their own work,
  • Have a shared language for discussing and exploring complexity,
  • Understand the implications of complex systems for policy-making, analysis and evaluation – the importance of context, the limitations in complex settings of ‘traditional’ standardising and controlling approaches and the need for flexibility in managing and delivering evaluations.

Intended Audience:

These workshops are designed to support policy makers, analysts and evaluators at all levels facing complexity challenges in their current work.

Tutor Biographies:

This workshop is led by Martha Bicket and Helen Wilkinson.

Martha Bicket is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Surrey and CECAN. Martha works at the interface of research and policy, working closely with senior policy-makers and analysts across local, national and international levels of government towards the goal of better-informed decision-making and policy. In her work with CECAN, Martha has collaborated with academics, practitioners and UK Government departments and agencies such as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to advance policy evaluation that is fit for a complex world. Martha is a co-author of the HM Treasury 2020 Magenta Book Supplementary Guide “Handling Complexity in Policy Evaluation”.

Helen Wilkinson is a director of Risk Solutions’. She has over 25 years’ consulting experience delivering assignments supporting policy formulation, development of management systems, and all aspects of evaluation and review. She has worked at senior levels for the UK government, reporting for example directly to ministers in Defra. She leads one of two teams delivering quality assurance of the National Audit Office’s (NAO) value for money (VFM) evaluation reports. Helen, with Martha, is a co-author of the HM Treasury 2020 Magenta Book Supplementary Guide “Handling Complexity in Policy Evaluation” and Defra’s complexity evaluation framework.

Course Fees:

Tickets for this workshop are £250 + VAT per person. However, we are offering a 10% early bird discount for those that book their place by 7 Jan 2022.

How to Book:

Reserve your place by registering and paying via our Eventbrite page. Payment can be made by credit/debit card, Paypal or by requesting an invoice.

If you have any questions, please contact CECAN by emailing admin@cecan.co.uk


CECAN Ltd is the commercial arm of the ESRC funded Centre for Evaluating Complexity across the Nexus (CECAN). It offers access to innovative policy evaluation approaches and methods to support decision makers