Systems and Complex Systems Approaches
Systems and Complex Systems approaches in Public Policy and Practice: A knowledge exchange between academics and practitioners.
Systems and ‘complex systems’ have been a major paradigm in the academic community for the last decade. This is reflected in both UK and European research council calls for research, for example the EPSRC call: Complexity for the Real World and the European Commission’s Framework Programme, whole systems approaches. That EPSRC call and response reflects a key moment in evolution of the systems paradigm, as it progresses to the urgent task of creating more applied methods.
This ESRC funded project aims to ensure that systems and complex ideas are integrated into professional and managerial methods and practices. It will create a learning network where there is direct dialogue between participants practising at senior practitioner and managerial level in health and social care services, a local authority and voluntary organisations and will lead to the development of new methods and practices. The project will use a learning interface to form an online community for Knowledge Exchange between the university and practitioners.
Those involved in public policy implementation and operation in the public and voluntary sector face a highly complex policy and practice environment because of its multiple demands and stakeholders. There is always a degree of instability and unpredictability in these systems. This Knowledge Exchange project will identify methods for operating in the challenging and unstable environment of the public services. It will bring together academics and participants into a systems KE based on both online and real time interactions.
Activities of Project Participants
- To be inducted into and join a mediated online community where existing academic materials including video, PowerPoint and academic papers will be available.
- The project started with a real time induction event at a University computer facility. This allowed all the participants (both academic and practitioner) to meet and to ensure that all are able to use the website. An existing online facility, the Cupp Network, was adjusted and is being used with support from an expert administrator.
- Online mediated discussion of the presented materials are taking place via the website. Practitioners will be given advice on how to develop a case study for example a work flow systems analysis.
- Practitioners will be asked to add a poster presentation of their case study to the website. The focus of this presentation will be a practice based method constructed from a core idea in systems methodology. Practitioners will have the option of pairing with an academic member of the network for more specific support, in terms of the development of their method or tool.
- Online mediated discussion will then take place about these new resources.
- Finally all those involved (academics and practitioners) will be invited to a one day conference. This event will focus on what has been learnt about the methods used, and what works best in the case studies. It will include an evaluation of the KE experience created by the academic-practitioner learning method and how such KE can be continued. It will also consider how academic researchers should adjust and develop their future work.
The project will support critical and constructive reflection on managerial and professional development for the practitioners taking part in the project. This will facilitate innovation and new forms of effectiveness in their operational work practices.
The project hopes to increase the impact and relevance of academic research by ensuring that it is applied externally, thereby making more impact on policy and practice.
The developed online learning network will provide a model of how to establish KE partnerships between universities, local authorities and those with direct responsibility for public delivery.
The project runs from January - September 2011.