Fenner Seminar: Systems thinking for planning and management - An application for general surveillance

About the seminar

When work is busy and complex it can feel easier to narrowly focus upon the immediate job at hand. However, there may be great benefit in taking a ‘step back’ and thinking about the broader system that your work is a part of. There are often interactions within the system and with the broader context that may influence what you are trying to achieve. Likewise, the work that you are producing may have implications for others in the system that is not immediately obvious.

ABARES (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences) social scientists have used systems thinking to research what works well when planning, implementing and monitoring general surveillance programs. General surveillance, also known as passive surveillance, engages people from all walks of life to monitor and report pests, weeds and diseases. These programs are complex systems made up of many interacting components including people and their relationships, technology and data, formal and informal rules and species and their environment. Without considering the state and interactions of these components, changes in one part of the system may unintentionally lead to negative impacts in another part of the system.

We will present the key lessons learnt from viewing general surveillance as a system, and highlight how concepts such as the most limiting factor and positive feedback loops can assist in targeting actions and resources to improve programs. Primary research outputs include Guidelines and checklists for program staff, funders and policy makers, to assist in initiating and sustaining general surveillance programs.