International Conference on Complexity And Policy Studies


We are currently witnessing a world undergoing a rapid series of transformations and crises, and it is apparent that social policy has not kept pace with these changes. In large measure, the failure of social policy is due to a linear approach to policy in the midst of a complex world, leaving many institutions ill-equipped to manage disruptive, emergent processes. This disarray has direct consequences on the lives of individuals and their communities.

The Complexity and Policy Studies (CAPS) conference offers a forum for addressing the mismatch. Aiming to build on insights from the study of complex systems it brings together researchers, public policy practitioners, and funders in a space that fosters interaction and collaboration. Participants can share their experiences and insights, discuss their views, reflect on their cognitive constructs, and conceive of joint projects. The conference aims to advance social good and does not shy away from asking fundamental questions, such as:

  • How can we use our emerging understanding of complexity, human action, and dynamic social systems to the benefit of human societies and populations?

  • How can knowing more about the complexity that shapes our personal relations, collective action, and the sustainability of social institutions lead to healthier lives and increased well-being?

A complex systems perspective offers a path by which policies may become better able to engage with and address the transformations and crises of the complex world. By transcending an Enlightenment heritage that revolves around concepts like predictability, universality, linearity, and reducibility, and embracing notions of unpredictability, context, non-linearity and emergence it opens up fresh vistas on human life. Human life appears as ever-evolving, embedded in socio-ecological niches, and filled with social interactions. System-wide patterns and trends that arise from interlinkages come into focus. These vistas should allow a clearer view of current developments and the formation of more effective organizations. Common features of the new vistas are the following:

  • social systems are complex adaptive systems 

  • social systems are embedded in specific socio-ecological environments

  • socio-ecological environments are the result of a long, historic processes

  • invisible system variables such as values and beliefs strongly affect outcomes

  • change in social systems results from ongoing interactions between multiple variables

  • interactions between system variables are mostly nonā€linear 

  • straight causal relations are not sufficient to understand social change as effects are non-linear and largely unpredictable

The CAPS 2019 conference will showcase participants who aim for social good and incorporate complex systems thinking into their research and practice. Ongoing, non-linear interactions between a diverse set of participants in a policy-focused coworking space will be at the center of the conference experience. The organizers hope for the emergence of unpredictable and desirable system-wide patterns.

  • Mirsad Hadzikadic (Chair), UNC Charlotte, Director Complex Systems Institute

  • N. Gizem Bacaksizlar, UNC Charlotte, Ph.D. Student

  • AnaMaria Berea, University of Central Florida, Assistant Professor

  • Elizabeth von Briesen, UNC Charlotte, Ph.D. Student

  • Ted Carmichael, TutorGen, Senior Research Scientist

  • Dave Dixon, University of New Mexico, Lecturer

  • Bernd Durrwachter, Analytic Dimensions, Principal

  • Ivan Garibay, University of Central Florida, Assistant Professor

  • Jerri Husch, 2Collaborate Consulting, President

  • Liz Johnson, Journal on Policy & Complex Systems, Managing Editor

  • Anu Miller, MetLife, Director Data Science

  • Mark Orr, Virginia Tech, Associate Professor

  • Bianica Pires, Virginia Tech, Assistant Professor

  • Bernard Ricca, St. John Fisher College, Associate Professor

  • Martin Schmidt, International Development Consultant

  • LeRon Shults, University of Agder, Professor

  • Felesia Stukes, Johnson C. Smith University, Assistant Professor