This paper documents the findings of research into a rare example of successful school-based education reform. The reform commenced within the South Australian Department of Education and Children’s Services in 1999 and is ongoing. It drew explicitly on systems thinking in establishing change principles. Subsequent research into “what worked” reinforced the value of following practices consistent with loosely coupled and complex systems theory. This paper compares the approach adopted in South Australia with the more commonly adopted managerialist or so-called new public management approaches and elaborates on the relevance of complexity as a base for planning and implementing reform. The paper demonstrates that complex systems ideas have profound implications for the policy underpinning institutional change and provides evidence of their relevance and value in practice.
The past 10 years or so have seen a rapid growth in the literature pointing, more or less loosely, to an association between the developing science of complexity and social and organizational sciences. This article critically examines the dynamical assumptions of organizational paradigms and compares more traditional approaches with those resulting from the application of […]