Applying complexity theory to contracting out…the journey so far

Judy Oakden presented a paper at the Operations Research Conference, Lancaster UK in September 2018. This presentation helped form the early stages of her MPhil research.

Judy discussed some of the issues found in the literature related to contracting out for complex public health and social services. She found evidence in the literature that contracts can:

  • be too tightly specified
  • be for time-frames that are too short
  • support superficial relationships
  • assume linear cause and effect between what is contracted and the desired outcome, rather than allows for the true messiness
  • be taxing on project oversight and reporting
  • focus on accountability with little opportunity for learning

Judy identified five ideas from complexity theory may explain difficulties in contracting. These were: path dependence, emergence, attractors, self-organising and feedback

She sought input from presentation attendees to further progress her research.