An inspirational high school teacher in Canada helped Dr Seanna Davidson see that geography was about making sense of the world, setting her on a career path that ultimately laid the groundwork for her current role in systems thinking with the Prevention Centre.
“In geography, it’s about seeing the connections and thinking about relationships,” Dr Davidson says. “The principles of that apply to so much more and it’s definitely the root of my systems work now – how everything connects and what’s the sum of the whole.”
In her initial degree, Dr Davidson became interested in environmental management and governance. When she graduated, she started working in water policy and then took a Master’s degree in environmental studies which focused on water governance.
“I was very motivated to understand the processes of decision making – who gets to make the decisions and who decides who gets to be a part of that process,” she says.
She became increasingly frustrated with the governance approaches she encountered. “Particularly in Canada, I found it was very old-school traditional management that would have really improved with some creativity and innovation. And of course as a consequence, we weren’t really seeing change in our governance problems.”
During her PhD, she was exposed to innovative theories and concepts to bring people together around complex problems. She also spent a lot of time developing her own facilitation and hosting capacity by continuing her professional development.
In 2015, the Prevention Centre invited her previous research team at Monash University to do some systems workshops to try to define and understand the chronic disease prevention system in Australia. In 2016, Seanna joined the Prevention Centre as Manager of Systems Thinking and Capacity Building.
Dr Davidson’s multi-faceted work includes providing systems expertise to research projects such as Prevention Tracker, developing curricula and resources, and delivering capacity building activities for systems thinking.
“A team may have a complex problem that they want to sort out, so I’ll design and facilitate a process to unpack that, make sense of it and provide some direction.” For example, it might be an issue around obesity, or collaboration across diverse organisations in the prevention system, or contending with cultural norms and values around alcohol use.
When she is not working, Dr Davidson enjoys being physically active in nature. In Canada, she was an avid canoeist. In Australia she surfs, kayaks and hikes.
Read more about systems thinking at the Prevention Centre