Navigating complexity: looking at the potential contribution of a boundary organisation in Portugal to evidence-informed policy

Susana Sobral, Fronika de Wit, Rita Carrilho, Dora Cabete, António Barbosa, Filipa Vala*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Governments deal increasingly with multidimensional problems involving high levels of complexity. These so-called wicked problems, such as climate change, demand coordinated and coherent government action, as well as multi-stakeholder approaches. Boundary Organisations (BO), working at the knowledge-interface of the science–policy–society nexus may contribute substantially to both ends. This paper considers the potential contribution of the recently created Competence Centre for Planning, Policy, and Foresight of the Public Administration (PlanAPP), a Portuguese BO at the centre of government, to evidence-informed policy. To this goal, we focus on two streams of literature, Policy Coordination and Coherence (PCC) and Knowledge Governance (KG). An analytical framework with two dimensions is proposed: the first dimension considers if and how PlanAPP engages in boundary work; the second dimension looks at the activities that PlanAPP implements and their potential for PCC and KG. Our results support the idea that PlanAPP is promoting work on the knowledge-interface for public policy, with the potential to become a main player in supporting governments to address policy issues, including wicked problems, whilst potentially triggering a shift to knowledge governance in Portugal’s public administration. Nevertheless, PlanAPP could further intensify boundary activities, especially by increasing civil society participation and producing shared outputs that all actors involved recognise as legitimate, increasing trust in policy and institutions. This study’s methodology may be replicated to improve understanding of BOs and their contribution to policymaking in other contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number562
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2024


  • Complex networks
  • science, technology and society


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