Complexity, diversity, modelling, power, trust, unknowns… Who is this blog for?

Community member post by Gabriele Bammer

Gabriele Bammer (biography)

This is the first annual “state of the blog” review.

This is a blog for researchers who:

  • want better concepts and methods for understanding and acting on complex real-world problems – problems like refugee crises, global climate change, and inequality.
  • are intrigued by the messiness of how components of a problem interact, how context can be all-important and how power can stymie or facilitate action.
  • understand that complex problems do not have perfect solutions; instead that “best possible” or “least worst” solutions are more realistic aims.
  • enjoy wrangling with unknowns to better manage, or even head-off, unintended adverse consequences and unpleasant surprises.
  • are keen to look across the boundaries of their own expertise to see what concepts and methods are on offer from those with different academic backgrounds grappling with other kinds of problems.
  • want to join forces to build a community which freely shares concepts and methods for dealing with complex problems, so that these become a stronger part of the mainstream of academic research and education.

November saw this blog’s first anniversary and this 100th blog post reviews what we are aiming for and how we are tracking. Continue reading

Improving health care services through Experience-based Co-design

Community member post by Glenn Robert and Annette Boaz

glenn-robert
Glenn Robert (biography)

There is lots of talk about the potential of co-creation as an approach to improving public services, but what does it actually look like (and do) in practice?

We describe one specific approach that has been used extensively for improving the quality of health care services: Experience-based Co-design.

Key Features and Stages

Experience-based Co-design draws on elements of participatory action research, user-centred design, learning theory and narrative-based approaches to change.

The key features of Experience-based Co-design are that it: Continue reading

The ‘methods section’ in research publications on complex problems – Purpose

Community member post by Gabriele Bammer

gabriele-bammer
Gabriele Bammer (biography)

Do we need a protocol for documenting how research tackling complex social and environmental problems was undertaken?

Usually when I read descriptions of research addressing a problem such as poverty reduction or obesity prevention or mitigation of the environmental impact of a particular development, I find myself frustrated by the lack of information about what was actually done. Some processes may be dealt with in detail, but others are glossed over or ignored completely.

For example, often such research brings together insights from a range of disciplines, but details may be scant on why and how those disciplines were selected, whether and how they interacted and how their contributions to understanding the problem were combined. I am often left wondering about whose job it was to do the synthesis and how they did it: did they use specific methods and were these up to the task? And I am curious about how the researchers assessed their efforts at the end of the project: did they miss a key discipline? would a different perspective from one of the disciplines included have been more useful? did they know what to do with all the information generated? Continue reading

Should I trust that model?

Community member post by Val Snow

val snow
Val Snow (biography)

How do those building and using models decide whether a model should be trusted? While my thinking has evolved through modelling to predict the impacts of land use on losses of nutrients to the environment – such models are central to land use policy development – this under-discussed question applies to any model.

In principle, model development is a straightforward series of steps: Continue reading

Creating a pragmatic complexity culture / La creación de una cultura pragmática de la complejidad

Community member post by Cristina Zurbriggen

cristina-zurbriggen
Cristina Zurbriggen (biography)

An English version of this post is available

¿Cómo pueden los gobiernos, las comunidades y el sector privado efectivamente trabajar juntos para lograr un cambio social hacia el desarrollo sostenible?

En este blog describo los procesos claves que permitieron a Uruguay lograr uno de los regímenes más avanzados de protección del suelo de tierras de cultivo de secano en el mundo. Una explicación del proceso es la creación de una cultura pragmática de la complejidad, una cultura inclusiva, deliberativa que reconoce la naturaleza compleja del problema y abraza el potencial de lo posible. Continue reading

Two frameworks for scoping

Community member post by Gabriele Bammer

gabriele-bammer
Gabriele Bammer (biography)

How can all the possibilities for understanding and acting on a complex social or environmental problem be elucidated? How can a fuller appreciation of both the problem and the options for tackling it be developed, so that the best approach to dealing with it can be identified? In other words, how can a problem be scoped?

The point of scoping is to illuminate a range of options. It moves those dealing with the complex problem beyond their assumptions and existing knowledge to considering the problem and the possibilities for action more broadly.

Practicalities, however, dictate that everything cannot be included, so that scoping is inevitably followed by boundary setting. Continue reading