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A talk given at the CECAN workshop on "What Good Data could do for Evaluation" at the Alan Turing Institute, 25th Feb. 2019.
In complex situations (which includes most where humans are involved) it is infeasible to predict the impact of any particular policy (or even what is probable). Randomised Control Trials do not tell one: what kinds of situation a policy might work in, what are enablers and inhibitors of the effectiveness of a policy. Here I suggest that using 'fat' data and simulation might allow a possibilistic analysis of policy impact - namely an exploration of what could go surprisingly wrong (or indeed right). Whilst this does not allow the optimisation of policy, it does inform the effective monitoring of policy, and basic contingency planning. However, this requires a different approach to policy - from planning and optimisation to an adaptive approach, with richer continual monitoring and a readiness to tune or adapt policy as data comes in. Examples of this are given concerning domestic water consumption (in the main talk), and in supplementary slides: voter turnout and fishing.