Research Themes

Complex systems

Reform, renewal and refinement are constant features of public services. Research into change in this arena tends to focus on the impact of specific interventions. The process of change in public services, however, involves collaborations between multiple government and non-government organisations and actors; it occurs in complex systems that have multiple boundaries and feedback loops from which new ways of working can emerge in unpredictable ways. We study different aspects of change at multiple levels and work in partnership with policy makers, practitioners, advocates and service users to develop and apply methods in new ways to help understand and solve real world problems.


Theme convener: Dr Karen Gardner 


For many of us the places that we live and work in are becoming more diverse than ever before.  Increased geographical mobility, greater recognition of the rights of minority groups and more people with disabilities living within mainstream communities mean that our societies are rapidly transforming.  Research evidence suggests that diversity in leadership teams, workforces and society are highly valuable and can drive better performance and standards of living.    Yet we know that there are still significant barriers to inclusion and achievement of equitable rights for women, indigenous people, people from ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities, older people and some religious groups.  This theme focuses on the meaning of diversity and the many different ways that this can be conceptualized.  We are also interested in the different policies, services and mechanisms that have been used in an attempt to drive equity and social inclusion.  


Theme convener: A/Prof Helen Dickinson


Increasingly government is less involved in the delivery of public services, with the contracting out of these services leading to them being delivered by non-governmental and private organisations.  Consequently, there have been significant changes to both the organisation of public services and the workforce requirements of the public service.  In this theme we bring together work on issues such as human resource systems, performance management, organisational culture, workforce development and project management to explore the types of changes that are taking place in relation to the capability of public services and the mechanisms required to deliver better outcomes. Of particular note are the changing nature of work and the capabilities needed for the future.


Theme convener: Prof Deborah Blackman