Panel: Measuring Change in Policy Networks: Adaptive Processes, Complex Systems, and Extreme Events
(Tools of Analysis: Methods, Data, Informatics and Empirical Design)

Saturday, November 8, 2014: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Apache (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Louise Comfort, University of Pittsburgh
Panel Chairs:  Louise Comfort, University of Pittsburgh
Discussants:  Anand Desai, Ohio State University

Emerging networks in rapidly changing environments require innovative methods of measurement in order to capture both the organizational structure that allows adaptation to changing conditions, and the degree of social cohesion that enables collective action to achieve a desired policy goal. Significant advances in information/communication technologies have altered performance in organizational, economic, and policy systems and enable methods of tracking and analyzing these seemingly conflicting characteristics of collective action. These methods include timely access to, and rapid transmission of, information regarding risk and changing contexts of action, as well as concepts and methods of analyzing complex, adaptive systems. This sociotechnical transformation in information processing has increased the potential for effective management of extreme events and reduction of risk to communities as they confront complex conditions changing over time and space. Using innovative methods of data collection, network analysis, geospatial analysis, and cross-case comparison, researchers explore both the potential for greater functionality and collaborative performance in complex systems, as well as anticipate points of possible failure and ensuing disruption. Network analytic methods provide opportunity for monitoring and measuring performance of distinct sub-systems, as well as interactions among them as risk escalates to wider scales of operation. Methods of inquiry for complex problems have sought, not always successfully, to capture the dynamic, evolving character of the systems designed to manage risk. This panel will explore different methods of analyzing risk, and different strategies of risk reduction in comparison to standard modes of organizational action. The task for policy makers is to determine how to use network analytic methods to inform decision processes in inter-organizational systems and how to foster cultural values that enable communities to engage in timely collective action to manage recurring risk. Capturing the dynamic evolution of complex systems leads to different modes of measurement and modeling, focusing on computational models that more accurately depict social interaction through decision making and information flow among multiple organizations. This panel will explore the emergence of new networks of interacting organizations in rapidly changing conditions. Two papers compare evolving response systems that emerged following earthquakes in China: 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and 2013 Ya’an Earthquake in Lushan County. Both papers analyze networks of action facilitated by digital technologies and capture significant change in access to, and use of, information following similar events, but at different stages in their adoption and implementation. A third paper focuses on emergence of networks among immigrant-serving organizations, comparing similar policy processes in two different cultural, legal, and economic contexts, South Korea and the United States, using within case and cross-case analysis. A fourth paper examines different strategies of managing resources for local emergency managers in a US county, using geospatial network analysis. All four papers use theoretical concepts from complex adaptive systems as a framework for analysis. By considering context, uncertainty, surprise, and complexity, the panel represents an exploration of the application of concepts from complex systems theory to actual policy problems confronting local communities.