Dr Jo Chaffer

Dr Jo Chaffer

Adjunct Lecturer

B.Sc. (Hons) Biology - focus on ecologies - University of Sussex, UK

MA Development Training, thesis: Cultural Collision in organisational change, Nepal - University of Cumbria, UK

PhD Leadership Development: containment enough. liberating psychological safety through the emptiness of leadership, Lancaster University, UK

MA Counselling - in progress, University Canberra, Australia

Agile SCRUM Master; Prince2 Foundation

Emotional Logic -intro (2021); Clean Coaching – foundation (2017); Master NLP Practitioner (Kerala 2016); Positive Psychology (2012); NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Practitioner (INLPTA); NLP Coach and NLP Diploma (2009); Transactional Analysis (2006)

Wilderness First Aid

Mountain Leader (UK)


UNSW Canberra
School of Business

I'm a global consultant focused on helping organisations, systems and people shift to wherever they need to be. I've worked all over the world, in war zones of many different characters, latterly mostly with higher education systems. My research here at ADFA supports this through inquiry into the practices of leadership and their development, considering the 'emptiness' of leadership and systems approaches to how people and organisations work together to get stuff done.

Currently working on systems approaches to: disaster recovery and wellbeing as an emergent property; optimising collaborative partnerships through re-focusing on foundational processes; creating lead indicators that work; unpacking and problematising assumptions around big, mystical words like leadership, performance, community etc.

I also research around practices of psychological safety developing a new approach to 'containment' or holding environments, moving away from the 'container' metaphor to one of entanglement of relationships and how those limit and enable us. My focus and expertise is on group psychodynamics - the power plays and flows that connect us. I'm applying these ideas in organisational, educational and therapeutic contexts. I hold an MA in Development Training (experiential learning processes) and a PhD, from Lancaster University, UK.

Previous work has involved post-earthquake insurance struggles and the tourism industry in Nepal; mountain workers' conditions, challenges and drivers in across four continents; culture and conflict - roles for UK government agencies.

I also lead treks, climbs and other adventures in the Greater Ranges.

Photo Credit: Nomi Baumgartl

  • Journal articles | 2023
    Blackman D; Prayag G; Nakanishi H; Chaffer J; Freyens B, 2023, 'Wellbeing in disaster recovery: Understanding where systems get stuck', International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 95, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2023.103839

I'm interested in the assumptions that lay behind commonly used terms and the problems / opportunities these create for working and thinking differently, particularly in the choices such new insights provide at the apex levels of systems and organisations. I focus on the relational, that is the places, interconnections and 'in-betweens' of people and place, as the locus of leadership and pretty much everything else.

At UNSW Canberra I'm part of the fabulous Public Service Research Group - a small team, making a big difference.




My Teaching

Previously co-designed and co-delivered MA Sustainable Leadership Development of the Institute for Sustainable Leadership at University of Cumbria in partnership with Impact International. Delivered leadership modules to various undergraduate programs at the same HEI.

Led the design, development and delivery of global researcher professional development programs; strategic leadership programs for Vice Chancellors; leadership development programs for aspirant Vice Chancellors; change leadership programs for university teams as part of sectoral transformation..... and much more