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Publication Detail
Dynamics of short-term and long-term decision-making in English housing associations: A study of using systems thinking to inform policy design
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Authors:
    Zhou K, Zimmermann N, Warwick E, Pineo H, Ucci M, Davies M
  • Publisher:
    Elsevier BV
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    EURO Journal on Decision Processes
  • Volume:
  • Article number:
  • Status:
  • Language:
  • Notes:
    © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of Association of European Operational Research Societies (EURO) under a Creative Commons license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Incorporating consideration of causal mechanisms of complex policy issues and goals is critical for policy design, but tools to support exploration of the interconnections, trade-offs and unintended consequences of a focused policy issue are limited. Understanding how to undertake systems-based policy design is crucial for designing effective policy interventions. Through a case study with two housing associations (HAs) in England, this paper explores how group model building (GMB) workshops, as a systems thinking tool, can elicit complex causal mechanisms to inform policy design. The paper presents a causal loop diagram (CLD) describing English HAs’ decision-making around sustainable and healthy housing in response to housing policies. The CLD illustrates how frequent policy changes and disjointed objectives can create disruptive challenges for HA's long-term decision-making, increasing short-term decision-making, and compromising the delivery of housing policy goals as an unintended consequence. We argue that the systems perspective of the interlinkages between policy design, specifically inconsistencies and changes, and housing organisations’ reactions highlights the importance of the systems thinking approach of policy design to support HAs’ organisational decision-making for sustainability and social issues. Policy design elements that facilitate HAs’ long-term decision-making are discussed. Through the case study, we contribute to the housing policy literature by explicitly showing how policy changes affect HA's decision-making. We advance the integration of policy design and soft operational research fields by describing the systems thinking approaches are used not only on the content of policy design to enhance a particular policy, but also on increasing our understanding of its process, by generating insights about the nature of decision-making dynamics and challenges faced. Limitations and implications for future research are discussed.
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