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 16: Managing complex adaptive systems to improve public outcomes in Birmingham, UK

Tony Bovaird and Richard Kenny


This chapter outlines an innovative and challenging approach to modelling how public policy can impact upon the main outcomes which public agencies seek to achieve in a metropolitan area. It draws upon the longstanding literature on cause-and-effect mapping to identify the pathways to outcomes in a key service area and to explore how the relative cost-effectiveness of alternative pathways to outcomes can be calibrated. It then discusses how some aspects of the public sector’s interventions cannot be modelled convincingly in this way, because they have the characteristics of complex adaptive systems. The consequences of this for public policy are then explored. The chapter outlines how strategy maps were developed for a wide range of economic programmes in Birmingham City Council in order to help city decision makers to: Better understand the City’s current resource allocation patterns and the range of potentially interesting future options Highlight areas in which resource allocation is poorly evidenced Structure debate about the likely impacts of major budget reductions on outcomes. The specific case study considered here is the ‘Succeed Economically’ outcome area (see Figure 16.1) in the city of Birmingham in the UK, which has the second largest city council in Europe.

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