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Article Article March 23rd, 2023
Delivery • Innovation

The models, frameworks, and concepts that support our learning partnerships

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Ever wanted a list of models, frameworks, and concepts that could help your partnerships with those working in and around government? 🤔 @CPI_foundation's Australia team shares some of their favourites.

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From the Cynefin Framework to the Waves Model for Deep Narrative Change, explore some of @CPI_foundation's most loved models, frameworks, and concepts for their learning partnerships.

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.@CPI_foundation Australia & New Zealand have collated some of the frameworks, models, and concepts that they have been using in our learning partnerships in different ways, in different contexts. Dive in to explore!

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Partnering for Learning

We put our vision for government into practice through learning partner projects that align with our values and help reimagine government so that it works for everyone.

Partner with us

At the Centre for Public Impact Australia and New Zealand (CPI ANZ), we work as a learning partner to those seeking to reimagine government. In this role, our work is largely focussed on supporting those we work with to:

  • engage with complexity;

  • think more systemically;

  • invest in relationships;

  • reimagine measurement and evaluation; 

  • and centre learning and reflection as a core practice.

To support our practice, we’re finding that we keep coming back to certain frameworks, models, and concepts - using them in different ways, in different contexts. We wanted to share some of our most used resources so that others can use, adapt, and benefit from them too.

Below we have listed a series of tools we use regularly. We have grouped them into the categories of “Systems Change”; “Complexity”; “Measurement and Evaluation”; and “Other.”

Systems Change

  • Water of Systems Change - John Kania, Mark Kramer, Peter Senge: CPI ANZ has used the Water of Systems Change model in many of its learning partnerships. The framework is very effective in supporting those that we work with to think about the different levels of intervention needed in order to shift the conditions that hold systems in place.

  • Three Horizons Framework, Kate Raworth, drawing on Bill Sharpe’s model: This very clear video is a great way to introduce people to the Three Horizon’s model - a very useful tool for sharing with groups thinking about transformative change.

  • Leverage Points - Donella Meadows: A slightly more complicated and detailed framework than the Water of Systems Change, this model offers a way of thinking about the different places to intervene in a system.

  • The Role and Power of Repatterning in Systems Change - Yunus Centre, The Southern Initiative, Auckland Co-Design Lab: Another model that supports people to think through the different patterns we need to attend to in the context of systems change work.

  • Systems Change Frameworks - System Sanctuary: The team behind Systems Sanctuary have collated a range of tools and frameworks created by themselves and others which support systemic thinking and practice. CPI ANZ has used the “Power Shift Framework” as well as “Building Ecosystems for Positive Change”, but they’re all very simple and very helpful tools.

  • The Waves Model for deep narrative change - Narrative Initiative: This model helps us to think through the role of language, stories and narrative in driving change.

The Waves Model for Deep Narrative Change The Waves Model for Deep Narrative Change


  • Cynefin Framework - Dave Snowden: Teams from across CPI use the Cynefin framework as a way of exploring the differences between complicated and complex challenges.

  • Trojan Mouse - Jackie Mahendra (who learned about it from Gibran Rivera): Often in our learning partnerships we find those we work with (understandably) overwhelmed by the enormity of the change they’re trying to steward. We find the concept of “Trojan Mouse” - small experiments anyone can do to begin to drive change at a small scale - to be a concept that has strongly resonated. It is also a way of realising the “probe-sense-respond” approach outlined in the Cynefin framework.

  • Innovation portfolios for transformation - Sitra: Working in complexity means recognising that there is no silver bullet solution for any one challenge. At CPI ANZ, we often discuss the idea of innovation portfolios for transformation, which focus on connecting initiatives and actors who are working with similar challenges and promoting their coordination and mutual learning.

The Cynefin Framework by Edwin Stoop The Cynefin Framework by Edwin Stoop

Measurement and evaluation

  • Evidence for Innovation - Jamie Gamble, Penny Hagen, Kate McKegg and Sue West: A really helpful overview of the differences and relationship between evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence.

  • Better Evaluation: This website offered information and guidance on more than 300 methods and processes used in evaluation, including evaluation in complexity. CPI ANZ often points our partners to this website as a great resource.

  • An Integrated Approach to Evidence - Dartington Service Design Lab: A recent publication which highlights the importance of blending different approaches to evidence, in particular: the “what works” approach, the “co-production” approach, and the “complexity” approach. 


  • Public Participation Spectrum - International Association for Public Participation: A useful framework for helping people to think about the different ways of engaging others in decision-making, and making sure we’re not calling things co-design when they’re not!

  • Six Thinking Hats - the De Bono Group: At CPI, we adapted the six thinking hats tool and created a Miro activity, which allowed partners to think through the challenge at hand from different perspectives. The freedom of “wearing a hat” allows people to take strong positions that they otherwise might feel uncomfortable taking, and also encourages the surfacing of perspectives that otherwise may remain hidden.

  • Dynamics that Underpin Effective Collaboration - Adam Groves: At CPI ANZ we recently adapted and used this model to explore what was needed to support more effective collaboration between a coalition of partners who we’re working with. The activity surfaced where dynamics were working very effectively, and what might need some more attention.

  • Material Metaphors - A design-inspired method for helping groups externalise mental models. It relies upon the act of material making to elicit different associations, surface implicit understandings, and through collaborative modelling, create shared meaning.

The ‘how’ after the ‘what’

The frameworks above are by no means an exhaustive list. Rather, they are a snapshot into the tools that have resonated with our partners. We’d love to keep adding to this list and welcome additional frameworks, models, or tools that you’ve found useful in your work, and which feel relevant to a learning partner practice. Please feel free to send them our way!

Finally, we feel that it’s important to note that this blog describes the “what” (what are the tools?), but not the “how” (how are they introduced and used?). However, it is often the ‘how’ that requires the most care and attention.

While these frameworks are useful in their own right, the conditions in which they’re introduced matter enormously. If there isn’t trust amongst a group, for example, these frameworks will be vastly limited in what they can achieve. For this reason, we see a core element of our role as learning partner as creating the conditions which enable people to immerse themselves in the deep, and often challenging, work that many of these models ask of us. We felt that the “how” deserves a blog in its own right, so will write more on that soon.

For now, we invite your comments, critiques and suggestions around the list that we have begun to compile above.

Help us continue building this growing list of valuable resources!

If you have additional models, frameworks, tools, or concepts that have supported you in your learning partner practice, please share them by adding to the live, open document.

Explore the live compilation
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