Courses Overview >> Short courses >> Addressing Complex Problems – The EMK Method

Addressing Complex Problems – The EMK Method

Course dates: 
Monday, 6 November, 2017 to Sunday, 12 November, 2017

With Prof. Eve Mitleton-Kelly

Complex problems often appear not only difficult but intractable, and seem not to have an effective solution. The main reason is that the approach used is often inappropriate. Complex problems have many aspects and multiple interacting causalities, yet we often focus on a few or even a single cause. We also insist on finding a ‘solution’ when such a solution would only be applicable within a certain set of circumstances and may no longer be relevant when those circumstances change.

Prof. Eve Mitleton-Kelly has worked with the sciences of complexity for over 20 years to address practical problems in both the private and public sectors. She has worked with the UN, the European Commission, advised 5 Government Administrations and many organisations in the private, public and voluntary sectors. In the process she has developed the EMK Complexity Methodology to address these problems.

The course will introduce students to some key concepts in complexity science that underpin the EMK Complexity Methodology and have been found to be of particular relevance when looking at organisational challenges. Students will be trained on how to analyse their findings as part of a group analysis. But this exercise will require that they have completed their individual analysis before attending the course. The unique and distinctive feature of the approach will be to identify the ‘critical co-evolving clusters’ in the problem space, i.e. those issues which are not only closely linked, but which influence each other and change the behaviour of the interacting entities. Using those clusters the participants will be shown how to help set up ‘enabling environments’ that address the critical clusters sustainably.

The core of the methodology is the identification of the complex problem space and the critical co-evolving clusters. The latter allow policy makers to make decisions, without being paralysed by the enormity of multiple and diverse issues that have to be addressed. It also makes it possible to create an environment that will enable the organisation to effectively address its challenges. Complex problems do not have simple and single solutions, but Enabling Environments that themselves evolve over time to meet changing circumstances are far more effective in addressing complex challenges sustainably.


Course description: this is a shorter version of the two-week course, which run in October 2016, designed specifically for those unable to attend a two-week course. To make the 7-day course possible, however, students will need to do a fair amount of preparatory work. A set of interviews, which were completed by the October course students will be sent to new students to be read and analysed, and Guidelines on the analysis will be provided. Furthermore, students would be strongly advised to organise their own interviews as the experience and process will be explored during the course, to improve their interviewing skills. Again Guidelines on how to conduct semi-structured interviews will be provided. The focus of the interviews and the analysis will be leadership. Ideally the interview undertaken should be transcribed in English  and sent in advance of the course, to be shared with the other students. The transcript should be anonymous.

There will be very little time during the course to read and analyse the interviews and students will be strongly advised to do this preparatory work before attending the course. Also if you actually do an interview, as recommended in the Guidelines, your learning and experience will be significantly enhanced. Also any ‘free’ time you will want to spend with your fellow students!



Prof Eve Mitleton-Kelly is Senior Fellow in IDEAS, the Centre for the Study of International Affairs, Diplomacy & Grand Strategy, LSE; founder and Director of the Complexity Research Programme, LSE; CEM (Construction Engineering Masters Programme) Fellow, Cambridge University; visiting Professor at the Open University; member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Complex Systems (2012-2014); Scientific Advisory Board member of the ‘Next Generation Infrastructures Foundation’, TU Delft; on Editorial Board  of ‘Emergence: Complexity & Organisations’; Policy Advisor to European and USA organisations, the European Commission, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the UN OCHA and UNEP, several UK Government Departments; an Indonesian Government Agency on deforestation; Scientific Advisor to the Governments of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, Singapore and UK.

EMK’s research has concentrated on addressing apparently intractable problems at organisational, societal and global levels and the creation of enabling environments based on complexity science. She has led, and participated in 45 research projects funded by the EPSRC, ESRC, AHRC, the European Commission, business and government to address complex problems. She has developed the EMK Complexity Methodology, based on Complexity Science to address complex problems. She has edited, co-edited and co-authored 5 books and has written extensively on the application of complexity theory to address complex problems. Publications etc. at EMK has been commissioned by Edward Elgar to edit a Handbook on Research Methods in Complexity Science to be published in 2017.



£ 920.00
Course fees include basic accommodation, all meals, field trips, materials and all teaching sessions. The programme will run from Monday to Sunday afternoon, and includes six nights private accommodation plus all vegetarian meals from the first lunchtime you arrive through until the lunchtime before your departure. We ask you to arrive between 11:30 - 1 on the first day of your course so that the group can begin the experience by dining together. We recommend attending this course as a fully residential participant however you may choose to book as a non-residential participant. Please call 01803 847237 for more details.