Table of Contents

Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy

Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy

Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series

Edited by Robert Geyer and Paul Cairney

Though its roots in the natural sciences go back to the early 20th century, complexity theory as a scientific framework has developed most rapidly since the 1970s. Increasingly, complexity theory has been integrated into the social sciences, and this groundbreaking Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy has brought together top thinkers in complexity and policy from around the world. With contributions from Europe, North America, Brazil and China this comprehensive Handbook splits the topic into three cohesive parts: Theory and Tools, Methods and Modeling, and Application.

Chapter 20: Complexity theory and collaborative crisis governance in Sweden

Daniel Nohrstedt

Subjects: politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


This chapter considers the relationship between adaptive capacity and the performance of local-level emergency preparedness collaborations in Sweden. Adaptive capacity is a critical resource for communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from various extreme events (Comfort et al., 2010; Norris et al., 2008; Paton and Johnston, 2006). Organizations and networks engaged in crisis planning need to prepare for a range of known and unknown contingencies, which require the development of generic capacities to learn, adjust and change. Emergency preparedness is typically characterized by substantial uncertainty regarding the nature and timing of events, and the viability of established structures and practices for response. In return, managers need to mobilize information and resources from multiple stakeholders in order to increase collective capacities to ‘bounce back’ and recover from extreme events. Crisis and emergency management provides a useful case for complexity research. In order to prepare effectively for various contingencies, actors need to cope with at least two sources of complexity related to problems and responses. First, the problems that managers face in this domain cover a range of known and unknown challenges. Most contingencies are routine events but some are complex emergencies, characterized by attributes that are ill-defined and largely unknown (Demchak, 2010; Handmer and Dovers, 2008; Nohrstedt, forthcoming).

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