I thought I might finish these posts with sharing an offline exchange between myself and colleagues working on education policy. He had asked about “complexity as a framing tool” and would it have anything to offer as an approach to why some people go to higher education and others don’t. I had just finished another conversation with a senior official who was leary of complexity being introduced into the policy discourse as experience had showen that it tended to imobilize the discussion and provoke a “let’s study it more before we act posture”. I believe it allows us to move to action more quickly.
I started by using some distinctions that help differentiate complicated from complex problems (terminology changes from speaker to speaker). It is also worth noting that a policy space will likely have a mix of domains. It is why I believe that workshops that expressly explore the policy space from a complexity context can be very useful. Access to PSE is a good example where the financial dimension can be treated as complicated while the residual considerations affecting PSE participation are predominantly complex. Things slow down when the complex aspects are treated as if they are complicated and we can see that when we look at how we approach the research supporting a policy discussion.