Reading recommendations around our emerging vision for better government

Danny Buerkli
Centre for Public Impact
3 min readDec 19, 2019


Our emerging vision for better government is based on three core beliefs:

  • Most of the challenges we face as society are complex in nature
  • The quality of human relationships matters a great deal
  • Progress is best achieved through continuous learning

As we have been developing our views on the future of government and the Shared Power Principle we have come across a large number of excellent books and reports that have helped shape our thinking.

The books below are a selection of the many we have come across. Taken together they form the latticework that supports our emerging vision, although we’ve tried to cluster them under each of the main headings.

If you’d enjoy a more complete list of books we recommend looking at this Twitter thread.

Embracing Complexity

Cover of Donella H. Meadow’s “Thinking in Systems”

Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems

Accessible, plain-language introduction to complexity and complex systems. Things that are ‘complex’ aren’t just very complicated. Complex systems have unique characteristics that shape how we can and should interact with them.

Further reading:

  • Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams — New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
  • John Kay, Obliquity — Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly

If you prefer podcasts: Mark Foden’s “Clock and the Cat” podcast provides a great introduction to complexity.

Taking a more human approach

Hilary Cottam, Radical Help

Hilary lays out a new way of thinking about the importance of relationships. She does so in the context of the British welfare state but the basic idea holds beyond that.

Further reading on the importance of human relationships:

  • Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer, The Gardens of Democracy
  • Julia Unwin, Kindness, emotions and human relationships: The blind spot in public policy [a report by Carnegie UK]

If you prefer podcasts: listen to this episode of R Talks with Hilary Cottam

Adopting a learning mindset

Cover of Peter Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline”

Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline

This is a long read (but it is a management classic) in which Senge outlines the five disciplines it requires to become a learning organization. The five disciplines represent approaches (theories and methods) for developing three core learning capabilities: fostering aspiration, developing reflective conversation, and understanding complexity.

Further reading on the learning mindset:

  • Dr Carol Dweck, Mindset: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential
  • The Agile Manifesto

There’s an interview with Peter Senge here that covers the main points and takes 0.3% of the reading time than the full book.

Taken together, the implications of all this are that our organisations need to look and feel very different from the traditional models we are used to. Which is why we need to…

Reinvent our organisations

Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organisation

An important book that speaks to all three of our core beliefs. The book is relevant because it describes variants of self-organisation but also because much of it has broader applicability.

If you’re more of a visual type we recommend the illustrated version of the book.

Further reading on new organisational forms:

  • Aaron Dignan, Brave New Work
  • Samantha Slade, Going Horizontal

If you prefer podcasts: Lisa Gill’s “Leadermorphosis” podcast has lots of interviews with individuals who explore new organisational forms.

Happy reading and do share links to any other materials you find useful!

There’s more important thinking out there, what we’ve listed here is just a small selection (Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash)