Seminar Complex causation and the case-based approach

25 November 2016, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp

Since a few years, complexity is rising on the agenda. The interest for new or better methods to deal with programmes that intervene in complex situations is growing in circles of health, international aid and development (see Be-cause health working group Complexity), as well as in the field of health policy and system research. However, the uptake of complex systems thinking in actual practice has been slow. Sound applications of complex systems thinking to development and health remain scarce, both in the fields of planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluation of international aid programmes and in the fields of evaluation and research. For this reason, we organise a series of seminars on complexity. We would like to contribute to the debate on how to better take on board complex systems thinking and to help shift the paradigm in the field of research and evaluation in health and development.


We would like to invite you for the second seminar – Complex causation and the case-based approach – on 25 November 2016 at the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp. Byrne and Uprichard argue that cases are complex if causation works through interactive effects that in essence are based on interactions between people. In such cases, causal explanations require analysing interventions from a systems perspective with a case-based (i.e. configurational) and not with a variable-based orientation. In this seminar, David Byrne, the eminent complexity thinker from Durham University, will tackle the issue of complexity and causation, and how research can effectively deal with the challenges through adopting a case-based approach. Benoit Rihoux (UCL) will present how Qualitative Comparative Analysis can be used to make sense of complex causal configurations. Both speakers will have about an hour and the participants will have ample opportunity for questions and discussion.


The series is organised by the Department of Public Health (ITM), in collaboration with the Health Department of the Belgian Development Agency (BTC) and the Institut de recherche santé et société, Université Catholique de Louvain, and with support of Be-Cause health.

Report seminar 25/11/2016



  • 9h00: Registration Campus Rochus, ITM
  • 9h15-9h30: Welcome & Opening
    •  Opening of workshop: Bruno Gryseels (Director ITM)
    •  Introduction, objectives and programme: Bruno Marchal (ITM)
  • 9h30-11h00: Session 1 – Complex causation and the case based approach
    • Speaker: David Byrne, Em. Prof. School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University
    • Discussion Moderator: TBA
  • 11h00-11h30: Break
  • 11h30-13h00: Session 2 – Qualitative Comparative Analysis
    • Speaker: Benoit Rihoux, Ecole des Sciences politiques et sociales / Louvain School of Political and Social Sciences (PSAD)
    • Discussion Moderator: TBA
  • 13h00: Lunch Karibu


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