Systems Thinking in Policy Design

This is an open programme and an in-house training course. For further information and pricing contact [email protected] or phone on +44 20 7661 7817.

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Systems thinking is increasingly being recognised as a powerful tool that can support policy development. Systems thinking helps explain why some policy interventions, that do not make use of it, achieve few of their desirable outcomes. It also shows how well targeted interventions can produce a very substantial return on investment. It can help identify where unintended consequences might arise and can improve planning for monitoring and evaluation. It strengthens the case for involving a wide range of stakeholders to co-design a policy and for adopting an iterative and agile approach to policy.

The success of a policy intervention often relies on collective action taken across organisational boundaries, even the boundaries between economic sectors. Systems thinking can help clarify where actions might make the most difference and where there is scope for synergy. Systems in which policies operate have multiple drivers, elements, interconnections, and stakeholders with often conflicting viewpoints. In systems thinking, a system is much more than the sum of its individual parts; it is the connections between the elements of the system that are critical. With a systems perspective we can consider where actions might have more leverage and achieve greater value for money.

Who is the seminar designed for?

This interactive and practical seminar is designed to provide an understanding of systems thinking in policy design (including designing a policy that is feasible and implementable). It is suitable for people working at all organisational levels, in government and non-governmental organisations.

How will you benefit from attending?

Both those working in government and those seeking to interact with government policy will benefit from exploring how awareness of systems thinking can improve policy design and planning delivery.

Learning Outcomes

You will:

  • Understand what systems thinking involves and its relevance to policy and strategic thinking
  • Gain an overview of the practical steps involved in systems thinking
  • Have the opportunity to begin to map the system in which your policy operates.
  • Receive signposts to further information and guidance


Session One – Why Systems Thinking Matters

  • Trainer and delegate introductions
  • Why systems thinking is still a “new way of thinking” in most governments
  • The limitations of mechanistic thinking
  • Feedback loops and unintended consequences
  • “Complexity” is not the same as “complicated”
  • Systems and subsystems
  • Can systems thinking help with “wicked problems”?
  • Discussion


Session Two – Applying Systems Thinking

  • Defining the policy problem and goal clarification
  • Understanding the system
  • Identifying vicious and virtuous circles
  • Looking for leverage points
  • Consultation, co-design, testing and sharing learning
  • Implementation, monitoring, and evaluation
  • Discussion and delegate input


Session Three – Mapping Your Systems

  • Participants will have the opportunity to begin to consider who is in involved in the systems in which their policies operate and what the different types of relationship are
  • Facilitated discussion and delegate input

Conclusions and Final Questions

  • Conclusions
  • Further opportunity for questions


Our L&D ethos

  • We’re here to enable you to perform better!

Our L&D team

  • All former practitioners, now professional trainers, our L&D team have provided open and bespoke solutions for more than 100,000 public servants from 120 countries

Our L&D seminars

  • A vast reservoir of international, transferable knowledge and perspectives about effective, delivery-focused approaches to working smarter in the public sector

Please contact us for further details, or to arrange a conversation with a member of our training team to discuss in-house delivery options, including tailoring the day’s training to your specific needs.
You can email David Leakey on [email protected] or phone on +44 20 7661 7817.

Crown Commercial Service supports the public sector to achieve maximum commercial value when procuring common goods and services.