Agile Actors on Complex Terrains (2008-present)

This bulk of this research was undertaken during a two year Research Fellowship from the UK Economic and Social Research Council (Award RES-063-27-0130) during 2008-2010.

It arose from dissatisfaction with conventional approaches within social policy and related studies to the conceptualisation and measurement of dynamic change. In complex and rapidly changing societies, these weaknesses hinder researchers in offering critical advice for policy makers and the wider public.

The research draws on two principal literatures, hitherto largely ignorant of each other, to establish an appropriate conceptual and methodological basis. One is complexity science, applying to the social sciences insights and methods that have been developed largely in relation to physical and biological processes. The second is institutionalism. The research brings these together, in a conceptually coherent and methodologically novel synthesis.

The research develops models and indicators for public policy. A range of approaches within complexity analysis - agent-based modelling, genetic algorithms and some forms of network analysis - are re-assessed, to take more adequate account of institutional dynamics. The research also demonstrates a series of empirical applications, some in collaboration with colleagues from other disciplines, notably Mathematics and Computer Sciences.

The principal output has been two books dealing with these conceptual, modelling and empirical challenges:

Room, G. (2011), Complexity, Institutions and Public Policy: Agile Decision-Making in a Turbulent World, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Room, G., 2016. Agile Actors on Complex Terrains: Transformative Realism and Public Policy. Routledge. (Complexity in Social Science)

Among the new activities that are foreseen, a priority is to develop usable tools and guidelines for policy makers and practitioners. The book includes a Policy Toolkit. This website will be developed as a forum bringing together practical experience with this toolkit.

Other Publications

Room, G., 2013. Evidence for agile policy makers : The contribution of transformative realism. Evidence & Policy, 9 (2), pp. 225-244.

Room, G., 2012. Evolution and the arts of civilisation. Policy & Politics, 40 (4), pp. 453-471.

Room, G., 2011. Social mobility and complexity theory: towards a critique of the sociological mainstream. Policy Studies, 32 (2), pp. 109-126.

Room, G. (2008) Social Policy in Europe: Paradigms of Change. Journal of European Social Policy, 18 (4), pp. 345-352.

Room, G. and N Britton (2006), The Dynamics of Social Exclusion. International Journal of Social Welfare, 15 (4), pp. 280-289. Mathematical Annex: Schools