The Social Complexity Lab empowers policy and business actors with decision-relevant analysis and tools that provide insight into complex issues, enabling them to act with greater clarity and confidence on a range of urgent and intractable problems.
© 2020 by SCLGE.
About the Lab
The most pressing societal challenges—such as hunger, disease, and violent conflict—are driven by complex interactions. Public and private stakeholders working to advance societal and environmental well-being, in the context of these complex issues, invest substantial resources in their resolution. Their ability to identify potential solutions and manage risks can make the difference between success and failure, life or death.
What is Social Complexity?
As individuals, we carry multiple identities and make thousands of conscious decisions every day. And as social beings, we are embedded in numerous, diverse, and often cross-cutting networks in which we learn and adapt our behaviour, while in turn shaping the actions of others and our evolving environment. The social outcomes that emerge as a result are indeed complex. Yet, complexity need not imply the absence of order. By studying the key properties of individuals and collectives, their decision-making rules or heuristics, patterns of interaction and adaption, and the pathways to outcomes of interest, social complexity can be better understood.
Why a Social Complexity Lab?
Solving the toughest public policy challenges has always been elusive. Complex issues are driven by multiple variables from identity to inequality, cohesion to fragmentation, mobility to inertia. Each of these drivers is complex in itself and deeply interrelated. Improved data collection and models have provided more insight into these connections, but traditional models have their limits. The Social Complexity Lab embraces these challenges with new approaches to help partners uncover deep underlying relationships and design intelligent, cost-effective, and measurable interventions.
We help clients manage complexity through tools adapted to purpose. Starting with the data and the challenges, we work with clients to assess potential lines of analysis from individual to group-based perspectives, or across an entire network of actors.
We employ a combination of analytic approaches, focusing on evidence-driven computational models that enable a shift from creating models that describe the real world to using real-world data to shape interventions.
What Can You Do With It?
The principal benefit of working with the Lab will be insights that incorporate nuance and differences rather than excluding them. The insights gained enable clients to more deeply understand their challenges, formulate analytics, and design interventions.
The shift to data-driven intervention enables teams to react to changes that can be isolated and simulated in near real time, making them active partners in solving problems.
The Benefits of Our Approach
The value produced by the Lab is iterative, forward-looking, and learning based. Investment in such approaches accrue to the future rather than being left in the past. Our partners move from looking via fixed frames of reference to a constant learning-analysis-assessment approach.
As a highly adaptable Lab, we effectively overcome the “one-size-fits-all” constraints of many existing services, offering value at the cutting-edge of your discipline and ours.
The Social Complexity Lab supports the capabilities of decision makers to effectively navigate complex challenges in new ways. We offer agile, efficient approaches to organisations motivated to break through, generating impact, reducing risks, and lowering costs of action.
We align your analytic activities and sharpen your value proposition.
We generate tools your organisation can use to grow beyond our interventions.
We draw on the deep wells of existing and emerging practice to give your organisation an edge in analysis and action.
Our approach is tailored to the specific needs of clients, drawing on the raw material available for solving the challenge—yours and others—and applying the appropriate models, methodologies and emergent strategies that can generate new insights. Employing the most recent advances in distributed computing, natural language processing, machine learning and geo-spatial analytics. We also help design your data science strategy as well as efficiently implement Artificial Intelligence powered software.
Our team combines the depth of academic experience in complexity science, applied policy experience, and an entrepreneurial mindset. As a team, we are committed to generating exceptional insights and appropriate strategies that empower clients. From single studies to the creation of tools that empower teams on a daily basis, to embedding innovation into multi-partner projects over years, we bring an understanding of nexus issues and a rigorous approach to problem solving to bear on your challenges.
We partner with international and domestic NGOs, as well as with public and private decision makers to advance sustainable development on issues such as violent conflict, hunger, and migration, among others.
Our partners need to solve tough problems, demonstrate added value, or make breakthrough changes by identifying key challenges, developing methodologies, and putting together the partners needed to achieve their combined goals. For example, our evidence-driven computational modelling work in the four year, DfiD-funded MERIAM project provided donors and aid agencies the tools needed to understand and act on acute malnutrition in conflict-affected settings.
Our experience enables us to partner with large organisations already housing expert teams of data analysts to shift their focus from improving existing models to dynamic strategies, employing new tools and approaches that are better able to deliver targeted policies, influence systems, and attract investment.
We teach and train policy makers and stakeholders working on intractable problems in their daily work through executive training and education. Our experience as academics and entrepreneurs helps us teach professionals and students what is possible from inception to transformation, enabling them to transform their own organisations from the inside out.
Engaging the Lab
Engaging the Lab is flexible and encompasses a range of roles from low cost, short term engagements to the conception and co-management of multi-year projects.
Single Projects. We tackle challenges using your diverse data sources and public data to tell a more detailed story. We turn this into a profile prospectus or a mini study that can be used to guide project planning, support larger project proposals, and engage funding and substantive partners.
Embedded Initiatives. We work with diverse client teams, on project or institutional basis, to develop knowledge systems that draw on available data, generate new data streams, and the apply these to client challenges and ongoing tracking issues for action.
Organisational Transformation Initiatives. We join existing advanced data analytics teams to design the methods and infrastructure for getting more out of organisation analytic undertakings and assets.
Tender Partner. We contribute innovative approaches in data generation and complexity analytics to multiyear, multiparty projects.
Training. We teach and collaborate with senior professionals to empower them to bring emerging analytic methods and tools to bear on their challenges in the context of their own organisations.
Ravi Bhavnani holds a Ph.D. in Political Science, a Degree Certificate in Complex Systems, and a Masters Degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His doctoral training involved additional time at the Santa Fe Institute and Stanford University. His research, which uses a variety of methods, has been published in leading academic journals including the American Journal of Political Science, Complexity, Comparative Politics, Journal of Artificial Societies and Simulation, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, and the Journal of Politics. He has worked on large funded projects for Save the Children Fund, Action Against Hunger, the U.K. Department for International Development, the U.S. Department of Defence, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, and the DARPA-COMPOEX program. Ravi's contribution to the lab involves project oversight, model development, and fieldwork.
Andrew Crosby contributes more than 20 years’ experience to the Lab in empowering people for public good via the start-up and scaling of ventures that reshape policy and practice through knowledge-building, engagement, and advocacy. With skills in management and operations, communications and publishing, and facilitation and consensus building, he has played key roles in launching successful organisations that have changed their fields in the domains of international economic policy, electoral politics, and philanthropy and nonprofit management. Attracted to the Lab through his work on complex issues over the course of his career, Andrew is motivated to help the team generate new understanding and tools that make navigating a complex world less risky and more impactful. Andrew has a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard, John F. Kennedy School of Government, and an undergraduate degree from New York University. He is a US citizen who has lived in Geneva for more than 15 years.
Karsten Donnay has a graduate degree in Physics from TU Munich and a Ph.D. in Computational Social Science from ETH Zurich. He is currently Assistant Professor of Political Behaviour and Digital Media in the Department of Political Science at the University of Zurich and a member of the university's Digital Society Initiative (DSI). In his work, Karsten addresses substantive, policy-relevant questions in political science with state-of-the-art quantitative methodologies. This includes developing and adapting quantitative/ computational approaches tailored to social science applications. For example, Karsten has substantial experience processing, analysing and visualising big and spatial data and has developed approaches for statistical analysis and causal inference in these settings. In the past, he has worked extensively with different modelling approaches, computational and otherwise, and has run experiments both in the lab and online. In the lab, Karsten serves as a primary point of contact for various aspects of data analytics and modelling.
Davide Orifici is a Public and Regulatory Affairs and Corporate Communication Professional with more than 20 years experience. He served as a Swiss diplomat in the Swiss Foreign Office (Bern and Brussels - NATO) starting 1997 and worked for a Swiss foundation on Humanitarian Demining, where he was responsible for analysing mine action, explosive remnants of war (ERW) and cluster munitions policy at the diplomatic level. Over the past eleven years, he has been active in the energy sector, both at the Transmission System Operator (Swissgrid) and a Power Exchange (EPEX SPOT). After completing his undergraduate studies in Political Science at the University of Pavia, Italy, he earned a 'Diplôme d'études supérieures' in International Relations at the Graduate Institute of International Studies (Geneva) and wrote a Ph.D. thesis on Co-operative Security Relations in the Western Mediterranean. In 2007, he obtained an Executive MBA from the University of Geneva. Beside his native Italian language, he is fluent in English, French, (Swiss-) German and Spanish.
Maxime Stauffer has a background is in international relations and complex systems. He currently works as a science-policy officer at the Geneva Science-Policy Interface, where his task is to build bridges between scientists and the United Nations. He is also the founding co-president of Effective Altruism Geneva. Previously, he was research lead at EA Geneva, research assistant at the Graduate Institute in International Studies, and an advisor to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre. A significant part of his time is currently dedicated to co-writing a book on placing "longtermism" at the core of policy-making.