The visual representation of complexity: Definitions, examples and learning points

This visual overview was developed through a research process that identified, defined and illustrated 16 key features of complex systems. The research addresses the need for images that are widely understood across different fields and sectors for researchers, policy makers, and design practitioners and contributes to an evolving visual language of complexity.

This resource and the following information was contributed by Patricia Rogers (BetterEvaluation).

Authors and their affiliation

Research and design by: Joanna Boehnert (CECAN)

Project mentors: Alex Penn, Peter Barbrook-Johnson, Martha Bicket, and Dione Hills (CECAN)

CECAN: Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus.

Year of publication

2018

Type of resource

Overview​

Key features

This poster identifies, defines and illustrates 16 features of complex systems:

  • feedback
  • emergence
  • self-organisation
  • levers and hubs
  • non-linearity
  • domains of stability
  • adaptation
  • path dependency
  • tipping points
  • change over time
  • open system
  • unpredictability
  • unknowns
  • distributed control
  • nested systems
  • multiple scales and levels

For each item it provides a brief definition, some examples and learning points.

The poster can be easily printed onto an A3 sheet of paper.

Who is this resource useful for?

  • Commissioners/managers of evaluation
  • Evaluation users
  • Evaluators

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

I have printed this out to display in my office to keep these ideas handy when writing, talking or thinking about complexity.  I plan to use this in mt teaching and in discussions when planning evaluations that address complex aspects.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

There is increasing recognition that complexity has potential value for improving how we plan, manage and evaluate interventions.  However, many discussions of complexity in evaluation only address a few of the issues involved – particularly multiple scales and levels, and non-linearity.  

This document presents an informed summary of 16 different concepts that might need to be considered, enriching the discussions about complexity.  The visualisations and concise definitions have the potential to introduce new concepts to people who will find them useful and to improve communication between people who are using different definitions of complexity.

Source

Boehnert, J. (2018). The visual representation of complexity: Definitions, examples and learning points. CECAN. Retrieved from: https://www.cecan.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2018-06/The%20Visual%20Commu...

0
No votes yet
Rate this Resource:
This resource is useful for:
A special thanks to this page's contributors
Resource Suggested By
Director of BetterEvaluation/ Professor of Public Sector Evaluation, Australia and New Zealand School of Government.
Melbourne.

Comments

There are currently no comments. Be the first to comment on this page!

Add new comment

Login Login and comment as BetterEvaluation member or simply fill out the fields below.