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Emergence: Complexity & Organization (14.4) - Special Issue on Complexity and Public Policy

Written/Edited by: Simone Landini & Sylvie Occelli
2012, ISBN 9781938158063 (180 pages), Emergent Publications

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Innovative Public Policy—The Role of Complexity Science (vii-xiii)
Simone Landini & Sylvie Occelli


Urban Sprawl And Public Policy: A Complexity Theory Perspective (1-16)
Göktug Morçöl
The epistemological and methodological implications of complexity theory for understanding urban sprawl are discussed. It is argued that urban spatial forms, such as sprawl, emerge from nonlinear, self-organizational, and dynamic urban processes. Because of this, there cannot be a universal theory of sprawl and each case should be investigated within its context. The micro–macro problem provides the conceptual grounding for these investigations. Agent-based simulations can be used to investigate the micro–macro transformations in urban systems. Implications of complexity theory for understanding the role of urban policies are discussed.

Management As System Synchronization: The Case Of The Dutch A2 Passageway Maastricht Project (17-37)
Stefan Verweij
On the one hand, the importance of flexibility and adaptiveness in the design and management of human activity systems to deal with complexity is stressed. On the other hand, existing frameworks of procedures, practices and rules often require strict planning, design and implementation. This raises the question how flexibility and adaptiveness comply with these existing frameworks to arrive at effective and efficient project realization. A grounded analysis of the Dutch infrastructure project A2 Passageway Maastricht, instigated by the question how the influence of the management system on the provisional outcomes of the project can be explained, found that it involves system synchronization: combined system fragmentation and integration.

A Systems Perspective On U.S. Foreign Policy In The Middle East: A Propositional Analysis (38-50)
Peter Daniels
This paper explores the contribution that complexity science might play in the development of U.S. foreign policy in regard to the Middle East. Three cases grounded in history, language, culture, and other social phenomena illustrate the extent to which United States policy actors are challenged to grasp the nature of foreign nations as complex systems. The different issues in each case—a linguistic case in Egypt, a religious/political case in Lebanon, and religious/political/economic case in Saudi Arabia—display relationships characteristic of complex systems that substantially affected each situation. Five propositions are then offered as potential means to counteract this tendency to organize policy responses on a simplified cognitive frame, thereby giving complexity science a larger role in the development of U.S. foreign policy.

Dealing With Violence, Drug Trafficking And Lawless Spaces: Lessons From The Policy Approach In Rio De Janeiro (51-66)
Kai Lehmann
Until recently, Rio de Janeiro was one of the most violent cities on the planet. Many of Rio’s hundreds of shanty towns were controlled by heavily armed drug gangs taking advantage of the absence of the state. However, since 2008, a policy of pacifying some of the city’s most strategically important and violent shanty towns through community policing overseen by so-called ‘Unidades Policicias Pacificadoras’ (Pacifying Police Units, UPPs) has led to a significant reduction in violence. This article argues that this success is down to the fact that this policy treats the issue of violent crime as Complex Adaptive Systems. As a consequence, it seeks to facilitate a process of self-organization balanced between order, flexibility, rules and freedom. The article will show how Complexity has been applied, what benefits it has brought, what problems remain and what broader lessons can be learned from this experience for public policy-makers elsewhere.

A Policy Paradox: Social Complexity Emergence Around An Ordered Science Attractor (67-85)
Alice E. MacGillivray & Krista G. Gallagher
This paper explores the question of whether people involved with a successful watershed policy initiative embraced and/or negated the complexity with which they worked. The setting was Lake Simcoe, in central Canada: an area important for fisheries, agriculture, tourism, recreation and citizens’ identities. Human activities had impacted water quality, and planned development posed further threats. Although government had supported considerable scientific data collection, citizens became frustrated by what they saw as a lack of regulatory and enforcement work. Citizens embarked on a range of creative pressure tactics for change. In early stages, citizens felt marginalized, but over time they were included in increasingly meaningful ways. This paper explores several complex system themes in interview transcripts, including initial starting conditions, attractors, and boundaries. A key finding is that citizens used scientific data as an attractor to enable their inclusion for a more complex range of agendas and benefits.

Health Care Policy That Meets The Patient’s Needs (86-104)
Joachim Sturmberg
Healthcare policy in most countries is fragmented—the focus is on discrete diseases, on technical approaches and on specific domains. Many patients miss out on health care that addresses their specific circumstances, be it their medical, social or environmental needs. What is lacking is as much a coherent understanding of health and disease, as a policy framework that acknowledges the interconnected dimensions affecting the health of people, and that proposes strategies to facilitate the development of local solution to a meaningful global goal. This paper proposes the notion of a health care vortex as a pragmatic metaphor to shift policy towards meeting the patient’s needs.

A Tao Complexity Tool: Inducing A Paradigm Shift In Policy-Making (105-123)
Caroline Fu & Richard Bergeon
This article introduces a Tao Complexity Tool for local and global public policy-making and analysis across a multiplicity of human affairs. This tool provides policy-makers with an understanding of the basic undergirding meta-dynamics in complex situations. Rather than dissecting a situation into discrete material components and examining each component separately, this tool helps policy-makers induce a paradigm envisioning the whole as an energy-being. The energy-being, an abstraction, is a system of activating forces in constant interwoven motion emerging from the past into the present, as a manifestation of observable patterns. Understanding the energy in an at-the-moment being contributes to knowing and informs policy-making of becoming. This article, briefly describing the tool, provides its philosophical foundation, language basics for communicating thoughts, and examples illustrating its use in policy-making practice.

Philosophy Paper

Complexity, Acceleration, And Anticipation (124-138)
Roberto Poli
Anticipatory governance is a system of prescriptions explicitly addressing the interplay among complexity, acceleration, and policy. Specifically, anticipatory governance provides a way to use foresight, networks, feedback and hierarchical links for the purpose of reducing risk and increasing the capacity to respond to events at their initial stages of development. In order to deal with acceleration, organizations must acquire a much greater sensitivity to weak signals concerning alternative futures and learn to respond them with increased flexibility and speed. The idea of anticipatory governance is expounded against a network of concepts and tools, including the difference between strong and weak signals, anticipatory systems, regulation, resilience, and the Foresight Maturity Model.


Life’s Irreducible Structure (139-153)
Michael Polanyi (with an introduction by Jeffrey Goldstein)


Adjacent Opportunities: Building a Healthy Economy (154-157)
Ron Schultz

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