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exploring novel forms of partnership for food, energy, water, and the environment

Government stopping use of PFI and PF2 contracts


Challenges in food, energy, water, and environmental sectors, requiring joined-up thinking


Let's reimagine what public-private, cross-sector, multi-stakeholder partnerships can be 

Making new partnerships


This is the website for Dr Pete Barbrook-Johnson's UKRI Innovation Fellowship on understanding innovative public-private partnerships at the food-energy-water-environment Nexus. Pete is a Senior Research Fellow based at the University of Surrey, and hosted by CECAN and CRESS.

The fellowship is supporting the re-imagining and accelerated use of novel forms of public-private partnerships (including cross-sector and multi-stakeholder partnerships) in the economy and society. Pete will be spending three years (Jan 2018- Dec 2020) studying innovative partnership models, and developing, testing, and applying an innovative framework for the appraisal and evaluation of partnerships in food-energy-water-environment Nexus domains, with a particular focus on infrastructure projects. The fellowship is underpinned by a complexity-appropriate, Nexus-aware approach.



Public-private, cross-sector, multi-stakeholder partnerships are partnerships between government, businesses, and third sector organisations. You may be familiar with one common but controversial type of public-private partnership - private finance initiatives (note, in the October 2018 Budget the government announced it would set up no new private finance initiatives) - but partnerships can take many other forms. They are particularly common in health and education areas, but are increasingly important in areas related to the food-energy-water-environment Nexus. In Nexus domains there are exciting opportunities for innovative partnerships.



Infrastructure is a cornerstone of the economy and society; investment in infrastructure is vital for their health. PPP for Nexus infrastructure might be setup to help build and run, for example, energy plants, waste management infrastructure, reservoirs or water treatment plants, or green infrastructure such as parks and forests. Partnerships of these types are a key delivery mechanism for many of the UK Government's Industrial Strategy goals. The Strategy repeatedly makes clear the importance of PPP in delivering innovation, sustainable development, and infrastructure.



Complexity science is an approach to understanding the world which embraces the fact that it is made up of many diverse components, which interact in adaptive and nonlinear ways within ‘complex systems’. Key characteristics of complex systems include: adaptation to changes, feedback loops, multiple scales, thresholds for change, areas of relative high and low stability, past states influencing possible future states, being highly dynamic, and being an open system, impossible to bound. These result in complex systems, both social and ecological, exhibiting tipping points, emergent new properties, and unpredictability.



The food-energy-water-environment Nexus is an approach to understanding the tensions, interdependencies and trade-offs between the food system, energy production and security, water systems, and the environment. Taking a Nexus approach means acknowledging these areas are linked, and efforts to improve sustainability in one domain without consideration of the others is likely to fail or have unintended consequences. The Nexus also emphasises connecting the social sciences to the natural sciences, and connecting academic research with decision makers in policy, business, and civil society.



Black Sluice and the South Lincolnshire Water Partnership

Pete is working with Anglian Water and other partners of the South Lincolnshire Water Partnership to support their innovative and ambitious partnership plans.

Read a scoping document on the governance options facing the partnership here.


PPP Review, and Appriasal and Evaluation Framework

Pete and CECAN will be publishing: (i) a comprehensive critical review of partnerships at the Nexus; (ii) an appraisal framework for Nexus partnerships; and (iii) an evaluation framework for Nexus partnerships.


See publications for more.


Evaluating large Renewable Heat Incentive applications

Pete is working with CAG consultants and BEIS, using complexity-appropriate methods to support their evaluation of large consortia applicants to the RHI.


Read more here.


UK Peatland Programme Evaluation

Pete is currently working with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature UK Peatland Programme, supporting an evaluation of the first ten years' of their activity, using participatory systems mapping.


Watch this space for updates.



Fellowship outputs

PUBLISHED here: report on the innovative partnerships I found with a focus on food-energy-water-environment in the UK.

Related documents

Policy Evaluation for a Complex World

by CECAN (Pete Barbrook-Johnson lead author)

A Participatory Systems Map of the Energy Trilemma

by Pete Barbrook-Johnson and Alex Penn

Full report / Briefing note / Map


Coming soon-ish...I am working with methods and analysis experts in CECAN and beyond to explore all of the appraisal methods we can bring to bear on partnerships. I will be particularly focussing on when which methods are appropriate, and in what combination(s) they than can be used.


Coming soon-ish...I am working with methods and analysis experts in CECAN and beyond to explore all of the evaluation methods we can bring to bear on partnerships. I will be particularly focussing on when which methods are appropriate, and in what combination(s) they than can be used.

Public Infrastructure and Private Finance Can there be a happy ever after?

by Henry Leveson-Gower

Green Book supplementary guidance: valuing infrastructure spend

by HM Treasury

A Framework for evaluating the implementation of Private Finance Initiative projects

by The National Audit Office




Previous (click for slides)




Interested in hearing more, or collaborating?

Get in touch:


BIOPete is a Senior Research Fellow based at the University of Surrey and hosted by CECAN and CRESS.

Alongside his interest in innovative Nexus partnerships, his research interests are in environmental policy, social science, and complexity science. He has used a range of research methods in his research including agent-based modelling of social and policy systems, participatory system mapping, and qualitative and quantitative social research methods.

He has conducted research with and for the likes of UK government departments/agencies such as Defra, BEIS, the Environment Agency, and the Health and Safety Executive; and businesses such as Anglian Water and Risk Solutions. Internationally, he has collaborated with, and/or produced research for, the eThekwini Municipality Government (Durban, South Africa), the Emilia-Romagna Regional Government (Italy), and CGIAR centres in Ethiopia.

Previously, Pete was one of CECAN's 'Knowledge Integrators', a Research Fellow at the Policy Studies Institute (PSI), and a PhD student and then Research Fellow at CRESS.

Pete studied Economics at the University of East Anglia, before completing his MSc in Environmental Technology (specialising in Environmental Economics and Policy) at Imperial College London in 2008. 

As part of his fellowship, Pete is grateful for the mentorship of Ian Christie (University of Surrey), Henry Leveson-Gower (Defra), and Steve Moncaster (Anglian Water).



The list of research, appraisal, and evaluation methods below gives a sense of the types of methods that will be utilised or recommended during the fellowship.


You may also be interested by the tools and approaches presented at

Suited to evaluation

Suited to appraisal


                                         Participatory Systems Mapping

                                                                          Qualitative Comparative Analysis

                                                                          Theory of Change Mapping 

                                                                                       Bayesian Updating

                                                                                       Process Tracing

                   Agent-based Modelling

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