Policy design and complexity
: Community relations policy in Northern Ireland since The Agreement

  • Jacqueline Irwin

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctorate in Governance


This research makes an original contribution to the knowledge of policy design and implementation in complex environments by linking it to an examination of evolving government strategy on community relations in Northern Ireland. Complexity theory is used for the first time to conduct an analysis of the most recent government consultation on community relations with a view to examining the implications for future policy making. The research concludes that due to the emergent nature of the issues, there are limits to the role linear strategies can play in this area of public policy. Community relations policy design and implementation in Northern Ireland must work in and with the intricacy of its dynamic and complicated domain. This intricacy is not an obstacle to be wholly overcome by policy. Nevertheless, policy has a part to play even when intricacy is inherent to the nature of community relations and the domain is understood as an organic open system. In this study a co-evolutionary, flexible process between policy makers and the complicated open system they seek to influence is explored through the stakeholders’ role in the emergence of community relations policy. Engaged citizens are a more important component of successful community relations policy than has been acknowledged up to this point.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorPeter Doran (Supervisor) & Sally Wheeler (Supervisor)


  • Policy design
  • policy implementation
  • Complexity and policy
  • Complex peace processesmunity Relations; Co-design and policy; Northern Ireland
  • community relations
  • co-design and policy
  • Northern Ireland

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