CECAN provides support to Defra

News | Posted on Tuesday 6 March 2018

The Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN), a YESI supported project, held a successful workshop helping Defra map out the “Future Agriculture, Environment and Rural System.”

Like so many areas of current UK policy Brexit has an impact, providing both risks and opportunities. One of the prime opportunities Brexit presents for the UK Government is to develop new agricultural and rural development policies and evaluation strategies fit for UK priorities. Amid the need to formulate new policies in preparedness for leaving the EU, there is also the opportunity to remedy the current linear approach to policymaking and evaluation that has been a feature of agricultural policy and embed complexity thinking and approaches at the beginning, ensuring that future policy is both more effective and complexity appropriate.

With that purpose in mind, the Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN) recently (Tuesday 27th February 2018) held an ambitious and successful “systems mapping” workshop with Defra to help them co-produce and map out the “Future Agriculture, Environment and Rural System.” Defra policymakers and analysts from four key business areas (Animal and Plant Welfare, Rural Economies and Communities, Transition and Productivity & Risk and Resilience, and Environmental Land Management) came together, for the first time in this format, to engage in jointly mapping out their policy areas from a “whole-systems” perspective, considering the connections and inter-dependencies between each other’s policies and the wider system – putting their policies in a real-world and complex systems context.

This workshop will now be followed-up by further work to translate those maps into digital systems maps that can be refined and analysed and used by Defra as a platform to further develop their ongoing policy work across these areas in a more integrated and coherent way. As the Defra lead for Future Farming stated afterword:

“CECAN recently supported us to create a systems map to aid the design of a complex evaluation framework for a very large programme of policy changes. The CECAN team were invaluable in the project; helping us understand the value of this approach in our complex policy setting, how the maps are produced and can be used, and took us step by step through the project, aiding us to gather the policy insight needed so that the project was tailored to our programme needs. As a project manager I found the team a pleasure to work with, their experts were genuinely interested in our project and dedicated a huge amount of effort to making it a success. As part of the project they led all the planning and running of a large workshop with officials, which allowed my team to obtain valuable products for the evaluation and also allowed delegates to take away insights and ideas for how to better their own work areas. Without CECAN we would never have had the capacity to generate this valuable tool for evaluation and policy making and our projects will certainly be of a far higher quality due to their involvement.”