Adopting complex ways of working:

tools for using systems thinking in practice

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This course currently has no scheduled dates. To express interest in this course or to discuss bespoke options for yourself or your organisation, please submit an expression of interest or contact the Professional Education Team on +61 2 5114 5573 or


2 days

Delivery mode




Standard price


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Effective policy design, implementation and evaluation requires consideration of the whole, often complex, system under consideration.  Being able to maintain a view or understanding of the whole is a recognised challenge, often discussed when researching wicked or complex problems. This masterclass will explore the hopes and realities when developing effective policy responses in complex systems, through the lens of complexity-informed public management. It will provide the latest thinking on how complexity-informed public management can be planned, implemented and evaluated.  The leadership and performance management approaches which will inspire and bring together those from across a policy system are presented and discussed.

This masterclass will explore a range of tools used to support the design, implementation and evaluation of interventions designed to shape the structure of complex systems to drive particular outcomes.

Course content

The workshop will take an interactive style of delivery which includes expert input, group discussion and personal reflection. International case studies will be used alongside findings from research and evaluation. Resources for further exploration will be provided for self-study of topics of interest. Participants are encouraged to bring a case study from their own practice which they would like to consider over the workshop.

Learning outcomes

Skills/competencies/knowledge that would be gained through this course:
  • Use the language and concepts of systems, explain systems thinking and complexity to others, and recognise their implications for public policy and management.
  • Describe specific types of system traps and archetypes that may be at play within complex problems.
  • Apply a range of practical tools and methodologies to different policy contexts to respond more effectively to complexity.
  • Explain how to use systems thinking in a variety of policy contexts.
  • Develop an action plan to deal with a problem or opportunity from their own practice.

Who should attend

The workshop will be relevant to those who have an interest and/ or role in designing, implementing or evaluating public policies/ programs in complex environments. This will include policymakers, leaders, senior managers and commissioners from the statutory and/ or voluntary sectors and social/ human services settings.


Dr Luke Craven, UNSW Canberra

Dr Luke Craven is a Research Fellow in the Public Service Research Group at the University of New South Wales, Canberra. Luke’s research focuses on developing new tools to understand and address complex policy challenges. He works with a range of public sector organisations to adapt and apply systems frameworks to support policy design, implementation and evaluation. Luke is known for developing the System Effects methodology, which is widely used to analyse complex causal relationships in participatory and qualitative data. He is also involved in number of collaborative projects that are developing innovative solutions to complex policy challenges, which includes work focused on food insecurity, health inequality, and climate resilience. Luke holds a PhD in Political Science at the University of Sydney, where he remains affiliated with the Sydney Environment Institute and the Charles Perkins Centre.

Professor Deborah Blackman, UNSW Canberra

Professor Deborah Blackman is a Professor in Public Sector Management Strategy and Deputy Director of the Public Service Research Group in the School of Business at UNSW, Canberra. Her research interests include Public Sector Policy Implementation, Organisational Change, Systems Thinking, Employee Performance Management, Organisational Learning and Organisational Effectiveness. She has published journals such as Public Administration Review, Management Learning, Management Decision and the Journal of Knowledge Management. Deborah was the lead researcher on a joint collaborative project with the Australian Public Service Commission entitled the “Strengthening the Performance Framework”. The result was a new framework for diagnosing the effectiveness of a performance management system and the tool is being used in a range of contexts and organisations. Past research projects also an ARC grant considering Whole of Government from which she developed a new diagnostic model to support effective joined-up working.

Dr Karen Gardner, UNSW Canberra

Karen is a health services researcher with a background in sociology and population health. Her research focuses on quality improvement, primary care performance monitoring and management, and the co-design, implementation and evaluation of complex interventions. She has worked in community sector, government and academic roles and for the past ten years, has been working in partnership with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and in general practice and community health settings. Karen has more than 50 working papers, technical reports, book chapters and peer reviewed publications and is a current member of the Evaluation Working Group, Health Care Homes, Australian Department of Health (2016-2019). Karen is the Deputy Director of the Public Service Research Group

Cancellation policy

Courses will be held subject to sufficient registrations. UNSW Canberra reserves the right to cancel a course up to five working days prior to commencement of the course. If a course is cancelled, you will have the opportunity to transfer your registration or be issued a full refund. If registrant cancels within 10 days of course commencement, a 50% registration fee will apply. UNSW Canberra is a registered ACT provider under ESOS Act 2000-CRICOS provider Code 00098G.