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Towards an evaluation framework for complex social systems

McDonald, D. and Kay, N. (2010) Towards an evaluation framework for complex social systems. In: Unifying Themes in Complex Systems: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Complex Systems. Springer Publishing, pp. 146-153.

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Abstract

While there is growing realisation that the world in which we live in is highly complex with multiple interdependencies and irreducibly open to outside influence, how to make these 'systems' more manageable is still a significant outstanding issue. As (2004) suggests, applying the theoretical principles of Complex Systems may help solve complex problems in this complex world. While Bar-Yam provides examples of forward-thinking organisations which have begun to see the relevance of complex systems principles, for many organisations the language and concepts of complexity science such as self-organisation and unpredictability while they make theoretical sense offer no practical or acceptable method of implementation to those more familiar with definitive facts and classical hierarchical, deterministic approaches to control. Complexity Science explains why designed systems or interventions may not function as anticipated in differing environments, without providing a silver bullet which enables control or engineering of the system to ensure the desired results. One familiar process which might, if implemented with complex systems in mind, provide the basis of an accessible and understandable framework that enables policy makers and practitioners to better design and manage complex socio-technical systems is that of evaluation.