SEGS Research: Complex Adaptive Systems


  • Addressing contemporary societal and environmental problems requires understanding their system components as well as the complex ways in which they interact. As understanding advances, management practices are adapted. SEGS lab researchers examine how governance networks can be re-envisioned and structured to best function within the complexity inherent in social ecological systems.

  • Publications

  • Governance Informatics: Using Computer Simulation Models to Deepen Situational Awareness and Governance Design Considerations.

    Koliba, C. and Zia, A.

    2015. Johnston, E. editors. Governance in the Information Era: Theory and Practice of Policy Informatics. New York: Routledge Press. 189-212.

  • Complexity Theory, Networks and Systems Analysis.

    Koliba, C., Gerrts, L., Rhodes, M-L., and Meek, J.

    Accepted for Publication. Torfing, J. and Ansell, C. (eds.) Governance Handbook. New York: Springer.

  • Managing Networks as Complex Adaptive Systems.

    Koliba, C. and Koopenjan, J.

    2015. Loeffler, E. and Bovaird, T. (eds.) Public Management and Governance (3rd edition). New York: Routledge Press.

    In this chapter we address a persistent and often obtuse element of public administrative practice: grappling with the complexity of “wicked” problems. We offer a deeper look at the nature of wicked problems, recommend complexity theory and governance networks frameworks as useful analytical tools, and posit a definition of “situational awareness” that provides practicing public managers with some avenues for negotiating the complex systems that confront them.
  • Educating Public Administrators and Policy Analysts in the Era of Policy and Governance Informatics.

    Koliba, C. and Zia. A.

    2015. Janssen, M., Wimmer, M.A., and Deljoo, A. (eds.). Policy Practice and Digital Science: Integrating Complex Systems, Social Simulation and Public Administration in Policy Research. New York: Springer.

    In this chapter, two ideal types of practitioners who may use or cre- ate policy informatics projects, programs, or platforms are introduced: the policy informatics-savvy public manager and the policy informatics analyst. Drawing from our experiences in teaching an informatics-friendly graduate curriculum, we dis- cuss the range of learning competencies needed for traditional public managers and policy informatics-oriented analysts to thrive in an era of informatics. The chapter begins by describing the two different types of students who are, or can be touched by, policy informatics-friendly competencies, skills, and attitudes. Competencies ranging from those who may be users of policy informatics and sponsors of policy informatics projects and programs to those analysts designing and executing policy informatics projects and programs will be addressed. The chapter concludes with an illustration of how one Master of Public Administration (MPA) program with a policy informatics-friendly mission, a core curriculum that touches on policy infor- matics applications, and a series of program electives that allows students to develop analysis and modeling skills, designates its informatics-oriented competencies.
  • Governance Network Performance: A Complex Adaptive Systems Approach.

    Koliba, C.

    2013. In Agranoff, B., Mandell, M., and Keast, R. editors. Network Theory in the Public Sector: Building New Theoretical Frameworks. New York: Routledge Press. 84-102.

    In this chapter the author draws on a governance network analysis lens to situate network performance management as a necessary condition of network learning and knowledge transfer that takes into account network performance outcomes and processes. Contemporary theories of performance management and organizational learning are blended with complexity and network science to advance a theory of network learning that may be applied to theory development, empirical analysis and network management practice.
  • Complex Systems Modeling in Public Administration and Policy Studies: Challenges and Opportunities for a Meta-Theoretical Research Program.

    Koliba, C., and Zia, A.

    2013. In L. Gerrits and P.K. Marks (Eds.), COMPACT I: Public Administration in Complexity. Litchfield Park, AZ: Emergent Publications.

    Five theoretical frameworks of policy and governance systems including the multiple policy streams, punctuated equilibrium, institutional analysis and development, advocacy coalition, and governance network frameworks are presented as some of the meso-level, “complexity friendly” frameworks that incorporate whole systems properties, tend to avoid reductionism, allow for emergence and path dependencies, and accommodate dynamic systems characteristics. The extent to which these frameworks are accommodating to complex adaptive systems modeling and how they may be used to generate lines of inquiry that may be tested, within limits, using complex adaptive systems modeling is assessed. Further, the potential utilization of complex systems modeling tools to inform a meta-theoretical research program to compare and refine alternate theoretical frameworks is discussed. Implications for a meta-theoretical research and modeling program are explored.
  • Governance Network Analysis: Experimental Simulations of Alternate Institutional Designs for Intergovernmental Project Prioritization Processes.

    Zia, A., Koliba, C., and Tian, Y.

    2013. In L. Gerrits and P.K. Marks (Eds.), COMPACT I: Public Administration in Complexity. Litchfield Park, AZ: Emergent Publications.

  • More Complex Complexity: Exploring the Nature of Computational Irreducibility Across Physical, Biological, and Human Social Systems.

    Beckage, B., Kauffman, S. Zia, A., Koliba, C., Gross, L.J.

    2013. Zenil, H. editor. Irreducibility and Computational Equivalence. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. 79-88.

    The predictability of many complex systems is limited by computational irre- ducibility, but we argue that the nature of computational irreducibility varies across physical, biological and human social systems. We suggest that the com- putational irreducibility of biological and social systems is distinguished from physical systems by functional contingency, biological evolution, and individual variation. In physical systems, computationally irreducibility is driven by the interactions, sometimes nonlinear, of many different system components (e.g., particles, atoms, planets). Biological systems can also be computationally irre- ducible because of nonlinear interactions of large number of system components (e.g., gene networks, cells, individuals). Biological systems additionally create the probability space into which the system moves: Biological evolution creates new biological attributes, stores this accumulated information in their genetic code, allows for individual genetic and phenotypic variation among interacting agents, and selects for the functionality of these biological attributes in a con- textual dependent manner. Human social systems are biological systems that include these same processes, but whose computational irreducibility arises from sentience, i.e., the conscious perception of the adjacent possible, that drives social evolution of culture, governance, and technology. Human social systems create their own adjacent possible through the creativity of sentience, and accu- mulate and store this information culturally, as reflected in the emergence and evolution of, for example, technology. The changing nature of computational irreducibility results in a loss of predictability as one moves from physical to biological to human social systems, but also creates a rich and enchanting range of dynamics.
  • From the Habit of Control to Institutional Enablement: Re-envisioning Governance of Social Ecological Systems from the Perspective of Complexity Sciences.

    Zia, A., Kauffman, S., Koliba, C., Beckage, B., Vattay, G., and Bomblies, A.

    2013. Complexity, Governance and Networks. 1(1).

  • Transformations Towards New Public Governance: Can the New Paradigm Handle Complexity?

    Koppenjan, J. and Koliba, C.

    2013. Symposium Co-Editors. International Review of Public Administration. 18(2) 1-8.

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  • Performance Management in Governance Networks: Critical Concepts and Practices.

    Koliba, C. Symposium Editor.

    2011. Public Performance Management Review. 34(4): 515-597.

  • Governance Informatics: Utilizing Computer Simulation Models to Manage Complex Governance Networks.

    Koliba, C., Zia, A., and Lee, B.

    2011. The Innovation Journal: Innovations for the Public Sector. 16(1). Article 3.

    This article introduces an informatics approach to managing the performance of inter-organizational governance networks that are designed to create, implement and evaluate public policies and the range of activities undertaken by practicing public administrators. We label this type of information flow be used to collect, categorize, and analyze performance in inter-organizational governance networks. We discuss how governance informatics may be able to assess and re-design the accountability and transparencyregimesofinformationflowsininter-organizationalgovernancenetworks. The integration of a governance informatics-driven performance management system into an existing regional transportation planning network is presented as an application of the framework.
  • Governance Networks in Public Administration and Public Policy.

    Koliba, C., Meek, J. and Zia, A.

    2010. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.

    What do public administrators and policy analysts have in common? Their work is undertaken within networks formed when different organizations align to accomplish some kind of policy function. To be effective, they must find ways to navigate complexity and generate effective results. Governance Networks in Public Administration and Public Policy describes a variety of trends and movements that have contributed to the complexity of these systems and the challenges that must be faced as a result. Providing a theoretical and empirical foundation in governance networks, the book offers a conceptual framework for describing governance networks and provides a holistic way to conceive their construction. The text details the skills and functions of public administrators in the context of networked relationships and presents the theoretical foundations to analyze governance networks. It identifies the reforms and trends in governing that led to governance networks, explains the roles that various actors take on through networked relationships, highlights the challenges involved in the failure of networked activities, and illustrates how policy tools are mobilized by these relationships. Features • Identifies the reforms and trends in governance that have given rise to the evolution of governance networks • Explains the roles and motivation that various actors take on through networked relationships • Promotes understanding of how policy tools mobilize governance networks • Describes the skills and functions of public administrators in this context of networked relationships • Presents relevant theoretical foundations to analyze governance networks