Future Thought Leaders Program

The HC Coombs Policy Forum, in partnership with the Australian Public Service Commission and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, will host the Future Thought Leaders Program, an experimental pilot project for outstanding public servants and researchers in the early stages of their careers.The concept underpinning the program is that good public policy is promoted by better engagement and integration of researchers and policy makers.The program is designed to allow early to mid-career public servants and researchers to explore the concepts, methods and values underpinning best-practice policy-making through the experiences of and candid discussions with leading senior public servants, policy advisors and scholars.

Features of the program

The program seeks to identify a group of Future Thought Leaders in public policy: the public servants and researchers who will lead Australian public policy over the coming decades. It aims to develop the skills and to build the relationships needed to facilitate closer engagement between the spheres of government and academia. The HC Coombs Forum will draw on the Future Thought Leaders to inform and shape future activities.


The Program will be offered to 16 young public policy professionals. For the experimental pilot, the participants are anticipated to comprise:

  • Eight Commonwealth public servants currently serving in substantive APS6-EL2 positions**
  • At least four academics from the ANU with up to seven years’ postdoctoral experience or equivalent
  • Up to four researchers from other Australian universities, research organisations or think tanks with up to seven years’ postdoctoral experience or equivalent

** The Australian Public Service Commission is coordinating selection of participants drawn from the APS. The HC Coombs Policy Forum is responsible for selection of researcher participants. For further information, please see the researcher application process below.


The program will be delivered as three two-and-a-half-day workshops held at the ANU over the course of three months. The dates for each workshop will be as follows:

  • 27 - 29 August 2012
  • 24 - 26 September 2012
  • 22 - 24 October 2012

Participants will be expected to attend all three sessions of the Program.

Each workshop will be interactive with sessions structured around four themes in public policy: ideas, evidence, leadership and politics. Workshops will involve a range of activities including short presentations and discussion sessions with key public policy thinkers from Australia and overseas, as well as more interactive ‘think tank’ sessions on Policy Research Program-related topics. The program will be conducted under Chatham House Rule to enable a frank exchange of ideas. Under guidance from senior public policy leaders, participants will also undertake a joint project addressing a long-term policy challenge facing Australia.

Researcher application process

A selection panel of public policy leaders, supported by the HC Coombs Policy Forum, will be responsible for examining applications, short-listing candidates and making the final selection of participants. Applicants will be interviewed as required at the discretion of the panel.

Click here to download the application form.

Selection Criteria

Applicants must be early to mid-career researchers with up to seven years' postdoctoral experience or equivalent. Although there are no age restrictions for the program, applicants are expected to have the majority of their contributions to Australian public policy still ahead of them. In selecting candidates for the program, factors considered by the panel will include:

  • Strong demonstration of and/or potential for leadership within Australian public policy;
  • Demonstrated capacity to collaborate well with others;
  • Evidence of strong analytical and creative ability;
  • Capacity to translate high-level principles or theory into practice;
  • The applicant’s personal statement and curriculum vitae; and
  • Ability to attend all program sessions.

Application deadline:

Applications will close at 5pm AEST on Thursday 26 July. All applications should be sent electronically to coombs.forum@anu.edu.au.

Participants will be informed by the HC Coombs Policy Forum in early August 2012 of their selection. Travel expenses for interstate applicants selected to participate in the Program will be covered by the Coombs Forum.
The decision of the Program's selection panel and its managing partners is final.

Further information:

Questions related to the Future Thought Leaders Program can be directed to its coordinators, Katherine Daniell and Andrew McLeod, or to the Coombs Forum secretariat at coombs.forum@anu.edu.au


Updated:  19 February 2015/ Responsible Officer:  Crawford School Marketing/ Page Contact:  CAP Web Team