Governments today face an array of challenges, from the simple to the complex. 


Through discussions with senior public-sector leaders, The Australian Futures Project identified a need for the public service to develop its culture and capability to understand the nature of complex challenges, know how to apply appropriate tools and behaviours to those challenges, and to work effectively in collaborative teams.

The Australian Futures Project worked with six federal government departments to co-design, develop, and test a suitable, fit-for-purpose, response.


At a glance:


Participants learn the latest tools and approaches for developing responses to complex challenges. These tools are practised and applied to real challenges confronting participating departments.


21st Century Service supports staff to...

The program was fantastic! The cross-department groups worked really well and provided the opportunity to see how the approach can be used across a range of policy areas. Facilitation of the course was fantastic and guidance in application of the principles worked really well. The course highlighted the importance of iteration and assumption testing well, with great feedback from the rest of the class.
— Participant, Australian Department of Social Services



The Australian Futures Project specialises in designing tailored approaches to solving complex challenges within government departments. We work with departments to understand their specific needs and goals in order to design a bespoke solution by employing a mixed model. This may include coaching, teaching, mentoring, running workshops on a variety of different learning modules such as strategic leadership and design thinking, to systems thinking, scenarios and futures, or even integrating elements Parliamentary Leaders Program. We also do embedded work with teams working on live projects in an effort to overcome the barriers and lack of confidence some participants may feel when bringing newly learned skills and behaviours back to an entrenched work culture.

One of the best-facilitated training sessions I’ve attended; focused, relevant sessions, clear engaging exercises, focused engagement with new people.
— Participant, Australian Attorney-General’s Department
I learnt about a wide range of techniques appropriate for different stages of the policy design process. I developed networks across the APS. We developed a proposal that we believe is worthy of implementation.
— Participant, Australian Department of Jobs and Small Business
I now have a variety of skills/techniques to draw on when faced with complex challenges, and the confidence to try them out.
— Participant, Australian Department of Jobs and Small Business
21st Century Service is a really great introduction to different approaches in complex policy spaces, I feel that it should be part of core training for all APS staff
— Participant, Australian Deptartment of Social Services



One-day Workshop

A workshop designed to provide participants with an overview of practical tools and approaches for complex problem solving, including design thinking and systems mapping, as well as providing a space to discuss and develop responses to challenges in uncertain times. Working in collaborative teams, participants work on pre-defined challenges developed in collaboration with participating departments and agencies.

This is a good introduction to spark participant engagement, establish a shared language amongst colleagues and reach a large audience (80-100 participants) in a short time frame. The course design is flexible and can be adapted to be run for one department or as a multi-departmental course. Suitable for APS5 - EL2 (or state-based equivalent), or graduate staff.



Six-day Course

An in-depth, immersive, six-day course where participants work in in multi-departmental teams to apply a tool-kit for addressing complex challenges. The tool-kit is applied in response to a real challenge confronting participating departments. with regards to either policy, service-delivery or the way government itself functions. The course culminates with teams pitching their solutions, which may be developed beyond the course. Participants are coached in how to successfully take these tools and behaviours back to their business as usual. Tools taught include design thinking, systems thinking, and rapid prototyping. Participants can opt to undertake two additional assignments to be certified for postgraduate credit from La Trobe University Business School at no extra cost.

This is an immersive experience which builds cross-departmental networks for learning, sharing and support and empowers participants to confidently apply new skills and behaviours to their immediate work challenges. Suitable for APS5 - EL2 (or state-based equivalent) staff.



The Australian Futures Project works with senior staff across the public service to help enable and embed the application of innovative approaches and behaviours to complex problem solving. This includes hosting regular SES breakfasts to introduce the key elements we teach in our Level 1 and 2 courses, to demonstrate how staff are learning to use an expanded toolkit through workshop exercises, and to co-design ways SES can provide an authorising environment for their staff to put their learning in to action in the workplace.

In 2018 we are engaging SES to co-design a Community of Practice (COP) to promote cross-departmental collaboration and share learning around the implementation of innovative tools and techniques to help govern in the face of complexity.



A half-day workshop to prepare participants who have completed the Level 2 Practitioner course to co-deliver the Level 1 course to their colleagues in their departments.




Don’t know where to start? Whether you have a specific challenge your department is facing, or have a general interest in 21st Century Service, we want to hear from you!