Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy
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Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy

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.
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Chapter 7: The policymaker’s complexity toolkit

Jim Price, Philip Haynes, Mary Darking, Julia Stroud, Chris Warren-Adamson and Carla Ricaurte


As discussed in the introductory chapter, one of complexity theory’s most useful contributions to policymaking and implementation may be the provision of a unifying language between different disciplines and professions, between ‘theorists’ and ‘practitioners’. Whilst not quite yet the ‘Esperanto’ of scientific and social enquiry (Lissack, 1999), the framing of concepts with similar phraseology, models and conceptual metaphors might help both policymakers and practitioners communicate more effectively and begin to promote a common understanding of approaches to enquiry and policy implementation across disciplinary and cultural boundaries (Klein, 2004; Cooper et al., 2004; Price, 2005). Indeed contributors to this chapter come from different disciplines within one academic institution and have all found ‘complexity’ to be a commonly understood framework (if not completely uniformly interpreted), through which productive conversations regarding policy and practice can occur. We introduce the Brighton Complex Systems Toolkit (CSTK, 2012) to represent an example of successful collaborative practice, and frame a modified version as a suggested ‘Complex Practice Toolkit’, advocating a complexity approach, informed by an ‘evolutionary’ discourse, for both policymakers and those implementing policy (practitioners).

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