Policy models at 20 paces: how does policy 'really' work?

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Policy Essentials


Understanding how policy-making really works has spawned rich debates amongst academics and practitioners over the years with considerable controversy and argument about:

  • what “doing policy” work consists of
  • what processes and systems are at work and how they interact
  • what skills and knowledge are needed to do it effectively.

Using participants’ real-world experiences and interactive methods, this course will develop a more sophisticated understanding of how policy processes work and has the potential to support more thoughtful and relevant design and implementation.

It can also reduce work stress and improve productivity by helping policy professionals better target their efforts towards influential activities and stakeholders. This course will enable you to assess risk better and help you to provide robust advice to decision-makers.

Course overview

This course will introduce a range of models / approaches to explaining policy processes such as:

  • Policy Cycle
  • Advocacy Coalition Framework
  • Multiple Streams Framework
  • Punctuated equilibrium theory
  • Complex Adaptive/co-evolutionary Systems theory

It will explore, drawing on participant’s own experience of policy work, the pros and cons and/or relevance of various explanatory models for their work.
The course will be deliberately structured to avoid ‘lecture’ style presentations (although it may include some didactic elements). Instead, material will be presented to allow small, rotating discussion and learning groups to read and engage with the core ideas, as well as identify and analyse ways to better understand their real-world policy challenges in light of these models.

In this way, there will be high levels of student-to-student interaction as well as targeted student-to-instructor engagement.

Students will gain:

  • some frameworks and concepts to support their ability to make sense of their current and future policy challenges
  • an appreciation that policy work is a complex process that cannot easily be reduced to simple elements
  • tools and strategies to make improved judgements about and/or adjust the development, implementation and/or evaluation of policy issues to take account of the dynamics at play
  • a curiosity and interest to read and understand more in the area.

Anticipated impact for participants

  • Participants will develop a sophisticated understanding of how policy processes work has the potential to support more thoughtful and relevant design and implementation
  • Understanding these frameworks can also reduce work stress and improve productivity by helping policy officers better target efforts towards influential activities and stakeholders, as well as better assess risks and provide advice to decision-makers

Who should attend?

This course is suitable for anyone involved in policy work. It is particularly relevant for staff at the APS5 / 6 and EL1 / 2 level, or equivalent. It has been specifically designed for this level as the staff are often responsible for designing and implementing policy and often lack nuanced ways to approach the task.

Course presenter(s)

Dr Pamela Kinnear

Pamela Kinnear is an experienced policy professional, skilled facilitator and strategic thinker with over 20 years’ experience of high-pressure leadership in senior executive roles across government (including PM&C), non-government (e.g., Universities Australia), as well as research agencies and think tanks. In these roles she has been involved in the development, implementation, analysis and evaluation of numerous national-level initiatives across a wide range of public policy issues. The diversity of Pamela’s public policy experience means that she can understand issues from a variety of perspectives, fully aware of the tensions and challenges involved in time-pressured, high-profile, complex and controversial policy work. She is a skilled facilitator who brings an enthusiasm for interactive experiential thinking and learning methods that support innovative but realistic insights and transformative change for individuals, teams, projects and partnerships.

Dr Stephen Mugford

Stephen Mugford has been an independent consultant and trainer for over 20 years, following a successful and high profile academic career specialising in sociology and social psychology. Trained in the UK, he held academic posts in Wellington, NZ, Berkeley, California and in Canberra, where he taught at ANU from 1974-1996. His unique blend of academic training, practical experience and a lively interest in innovation creates a stimulating and exciting approach to his consultancy, underpinning work in team building for senior managers, change management, executive coaching and the facilitation of meetings and workshops. He has worked with the public and private sectors as well as NGOs in projects as diverse as establishing a senior leadership teams for the RAF in the UK and helping the YMCA deal with change, through to evaluating peace-making programs in South Africa. A 15 year engagement with the RAAF senior leadership team (2000-2015) was recognised with a formal Chief of Air Force Commendation in 2015.

Updated:  25 October 2021/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team