Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN)


The world is complex: it is made up of many different interacting components which interact in messy, adaptive and unpredictable ways. Complexity poses great challenges to policy-making and evaluation because complex systems are fundamentally unpredictable. Ignoring it brings the risks of making costly inadequate decisions and policies failing unexpectedly. In contrast, understanding and embracing complexity means exploring uncertainty with rigour and the possibility of more effective policy-making.

Aims and objectives

This national research hub is developing new ways to measure the effectiveness of domestic policies on energy, water, environment and food (the ‘nexus’), and how they affect wider society.

The focus of the centre is to pioneer, test and promote evaluation approaches and methods across the energy, environment and food nexus where complexity presents a challenge to policy interventions, and so contribute to more effective policymaking.

The centre fosters an 'open research' culture of knowledge exchange founded on a growing network of policymakers, practitioners and researchers – whilst at its core is a strong group of academic and non-academic experts with many years' experience.

Work at CECAN includes developing and enhancing methods for the evaluation of policies in complex settings; piloting these methods on a range of evaluation projects; organising educational programmes for practitioners, academics and policymakers; and publishing guides and toolkits for evaluators, those commissioning evaluations, and policy audiences.

Project activities and publications

To view the research outputs of this project visit the CECAN Resources webpage

Related links

To find out more visit the project website

Principal investigator


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • Environment Agency
  • Food Standards Agency
  • Risk Solutions
  • Tavistock Institute 
  • IOD Parc 
  • Collingwood Environmental Planning 

Related links

To find out more visit the project website