CECAN Ltd’s expertise is in providing advice, development and delivery of complexity-sensitive policy analysis and evaluation.
We have a particular expertise in Participatory Systems Mapping and related systems thinking approaches but can offer the full range of methods and approaches outlined in the CECAN-authored Handling Complexity in Policy Evaluation (a supplementary guide to the Magenta Book, the government’s guide to policy evaluation). These include:
- Participatory, emancipatory, adaptive approaches, such as development evaluation or action research,
- Theory-based approaches,including qualitative systems mapping such as Participatory System Mapping or generative causation designs such as realist evaluation or contribution analysis,
- Configurational approaches such as Qualitative Comparative Analysis or Dynamic pattern synthesis,
- Counterfactual approaches such as experimental and quasi-experimental approaches,
- Predictive designs based on simulation modelling such as agent based models and systems dynamics or statistical modelling approaches such as regression models or Bayesian Networks,
- Statistical association approaches such as longitudinal and econometric studies or cluster analysis and AI-based approaches.
We can provide advice, development and delivery on these approaches and help commissioners and users of evaluation develop feasible approaches appropriate to their evaluation purpose and needs, the attributes of the system they are working within and the resources available. As we explain below, getting to grips with complexity is important if policy outcomes are to be delivered effectively.
Complexity and what it means for policy design, implementation and evaluation
‘Complexity is a concept that has major implications for policy development, implementation. In day-to-day use, the word complexity is often used as a synonym for issues that are considered challenging, difficult or intractable. Paradoxically, complexity is quite a simple concept to grasp and once understood it can change people’s way of looking at and responding to policy challenges. Managing and responding to complexity demands different approaches, building on traditional policy analysis and evaluation methods.
Complexity is present in many social and natural systems and in the major policy challenges we need to address. It is also an important factor accounting for the success or failure of policies. Making this complexity explicit can result in better and more effective policy development and delivery. Ignoring complexity risks policies that are ineffective, fail or behave in unexpected ways, all of which waste limited taxpayers’ resources.’