The new synthesis - create increased welfare and value

What is the new synthesis?

How do we navigate through complex welfare challenges - wild problems - that cannot simply be eliminated, but rather improved? One potential answer is found in 'the new synthesis', a pragmatic theoretical framework designed to improve public sector practice and policy development.

The new synthesis is the result of an extensive, international research project led by Canadian researcher and former top civil servant Jocelyn Bourgon. This ambitious project spanned a decade and included a broad spectrum of participants - public leaders, policymakers, practitioners and researchers from a number of different countries, including Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, England, Brazil and Singapore.

The aim of the project was to explore innovative and sustainable solutions to complex social challenges. The results of this extensive research have led to the formulation of the New Synthesis. This theoretical approach offers a dynamic and flexible method for dealing with such 'wild' problems that go beyond traditional, linear problem-solving strategies.

The new synthesis highlights the importance of collaboration, interdisciplinary action, and the involvement of different actors in solving complex welfare challenges. It is an approach that promotes innovation, adaptation and learning as key elements of effective policy and practice development in the public sector.

Understanding the new synthesis is essential for anyone working in public sector management and policy development. It can give us the tools to better navigate and respond to the challenging, complex and sometimes conflicting demands facing public organizations in the 21st century.

Wild problems and the new synthesis

The public sector is experiencing a series of wild problems. Large cohorts in the labor market are retiring, while smaller cohorts are taking their place. This results in more older people living longer and a smaller labor supply. Many older people will have complex medical records with multiple diagnoses. At the same time, healthcare is struggling to find and retain enough employees. These are just one example of simultaneous and intertwined problems.

Add to this, for example, climate change and refugee flows, as well as the growth in obesity and chronic diseases. And many other wild problems that call for action.

Can they be solved by demanding that we do more for less? No, not according to the theory of the new synthesis. Instead, it requires a broader perspective that engages and builds on the resources of society and citizens. This can lead to long-lasting solutions.

Four connected focus areas

So resources are not getting bigger. On the other hand, the complexity of society is growing. How will the new synthesis contribute more concretely to balancing the two scales?

The new synthesis identifies four interrelated focus areas for public sector leaders to address. They are:

Compliance: Even as society changes, some tasks remain the same. One of them is to ensure that the law is upheld and that the civil service lives up to the classic virtues. In short, the foundation must be in place. Always. It is extremely difficult to manage change without fundamental stability and well-functioning public institutions. In other words, it doesn't make sense to talk about innovation and creation if you don't have the foundations in place first.

Performance: With a solid foundation in place, you can continuously focus on optimizing and streamlining the way the public sector achieves its political ambitions. Some of the management approaches used to improve efficiency are LEAN, optimization and operations management.

Compliance and performance reflect common management practices. This means that we must ensure that the rules are followed and focus on performing our tasks more cheaply and efficiently.

This governance can no longer stand alone. Challenges like health, safety, climate, inclusion and employment are so intricate, complex and resource-intensive that the new synthesis says we need to add two additional elements.

Emergence: Emergence means to emerge. It refers to the formation or emergence of new properties in a complex system that cannot be explained by the properties of the individual parts.

In this context, emergence means that the public sector can develop opportunities for citizens to become co-producers of welfare. It also means that political leadership can establish environments that encourage and rely on collaboration, public innovation and collective problem solving.

Resilience: The last of the four connected focus areas is resilience. The focus area identifies an ability to learn to adapt to new situations and deal with problems, crises, disasters and unforeseen events in society.

In order to adapt and deal with these issues, society must be resilient. This means having strong social bonds and relationships between people, businesses and organizations that are based on trust and a belief in the goodness of others.


We help you work with a new structure

At LEAD, we offer advice on how you can apply the theory of the new synthesis in your organization.


Inspiring research-based presentations on the new synthesis for all levels of your organization


Sparring in connection with the implementation of the new synthesis as a management model.


Facilitation of active workshops focusing on the new synthesis at management and employee level.

LEAD's approach to working with new synthesis as a management model

At LEAD, we help our customers adopt and optimize the new synthesis in their governance model. We believe that this holistic approach to governance can allow for innovation and flexibility while increasing efficiency and resilience in the public sector.

We start by understanding the current governance structure and the unique challenges our customers face. This gives us a solid foundation to tailor an implementation plan that ensures a smooth transition to the new synthesis.

We emphasize the importance of multidisciplinary efforts and collaboration across sectors. We therefore recommend an inclusive approach that encourages participation from all levels of the organization - from management to frontline staff.

As part of our strategy, we also work to foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. We believe that by creating an environment where experimentation and mistakes are an integral part of the improvement process, organizations can better adapt to the changing needs and challenges of their environment.

Combining our in-depth understanding of the new synthesis with a tailored, client-centric approach, LEAD is dedicated to helping our clients transform their governance model and realize the benefits this revolutionary theory offers.

Contact us to learn more about what we can do for your organization

Are you facing an organizational change? Do you need strategic advice or a cultural development program?

Contact us and together we will tailor a process that develops the exact competencies and structures that strengthen and future-proof your organization.

Kristian Dahl

Business Director, Founder

Cand. Psych.

Tel: +45 28 74 22 20