Systems, Design & Futures Thinking

The Centre for Policy Futures supports government, industry and civil society to address complex challenges by applying leading approaches from systems, design and futures thinking. Policy makers and practitioners face an increasingly complex world with changes that are disrupting society, the environment and business practices. How we navigate these changes can mean the difference between impactful outcomes, and failure. By collaborating with partnering organisations, we can help to build their capacity and leverage their existing experience in new ways. 

Our strategic research applies tried and tested methods to help decision-makers navigate this complexity and design more effective initiatives. Our projects draw on the extensive disciplinary expertise that UQ has in areas such as – but not limited to - Ethics, Philosophy, and Decision Science.

Researchers at the Centre for Policy Futures work independently and collaboratively to:

  • Scan the horizon for emerging drivers of change which may disrupt an organisation, its supply chain, and its operating environment;
  • Develop scenarios to support more robust decision-making;
  • Evaluate social, environmental and economic issues influencing policy and regulation;
  • Applying design methods to make sense of, and reframe contested issues to support more creative and innovative solutions;
  • Help decision makers and stakeholders to identify critical uncertainties and develop probable and preferred futures;
  • Facilitate interdisciplinary and cross-sector engagement with diverse stakeholders in complex and contested issues;
  • Map an organisation's pathways to impact to identify critical barriers and opportunities for success;
  • Develop decision support tools, frameworks and scenarios to build long-term capacity in systems, design and futures thinking throughout teams and organisations; and
  • Provide professional development training for government, industry and civil society.

Our research applies these approaches to support policy development and decision making on a wide range of areas, most notably across our four research themes (suggest these be hyperlinked):

  • Science, technology and society
  • Security, development and foreign policy
  • Energy, environment and sustainability
  • Justice, rights and empowered communities


Ray Maher
Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Futures, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences 

Dr Jennifer Yarnold
Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Futures, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences