UNESCO CFRC Lunchtime Webinar Series: Complexity Theory for better Child Protection & Welfare and Public Services

Date Released: 14 September 2023

UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre  

In Association with the  

Institute for Lifecourse and Society, University of Galway   

Lunchtime Webinar Series    

Title: Complexity Theory for better Child Protection & Welfare and Public Services 

Complexity is a feature of modern public service provision. Rather than fear and seek to simplify it, we need to harness complexity. This webinar series explores complexity theory and related aspects for public service and child protection and welfare work. We aim to increase insights into how complexity theory frameworks and approaches can help practitioners, managers, leaders and academics to better understand and engage with complexity at practice, service and system levels.   

Webinar 3: The complexity of finding out what works

The limitations of the randomised controlled trial methodology are explored, and a case made for giving more attention to the mechanisms of how change is achieved.   This draws attention to the causal impact of organisational factors that impact on the front-line worker. 

Date and Time: Wednesday 18th October 2023, 1:00-200pm (GMT)   



Eileen Munro. Professor of Social Policy, London School of Economics


Eileen Munro is Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics. Professor Munro has researched and written extensively on how to improve reasoning in child protection work, covering how best to combine intuitive and analytic reasoning and also on the importance of understanding how the organisational system influences workers’ actions. In 2011, she completed the Munro Review of the English Child Protection System and subsequently was able to test the feasibility of her recommendations by conducting action research with the Signs of Safety organisation as they sought to implement them and improve practice with families in ten English agencies. Returning to her roots in philosophy, Eileen was a member of a team project that explored the implications of complex causality for using research findings in a new location and how this challenges traditional evidence-based practice. She is currently continuing this line of research with Professor Nancy Cartwright with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 


Dr. Cormac Forkan, Discipline of Applied Social Science, School of Political Science and Sociology, UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, University of Galway

Dr. Cormac Forkan is an academic in the Discipline of Applied Social Science, School of Political Science and Sociology and a Senior Researcher at the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, University of Galway.  Cormac and his Team are approaching the end of a five-year study funded by Rethink Ireland, exploring how the implementation of a social return on investment methodology can help in establishing a narrative on and evidence for ‘social value’ created by a portfolio of 25 projects, each innovatively addressing educational inequality and improving mental health outcomes for children and young people.  Using this evidence to further improve frontline practice and inform smart and efficient policy-making is a complex process, due to the personal, organisational, political and societal factors involved.


Presentation is available here

Watch the webinar here