In the Thick of It 

My Peer Input session was a highlight - it came at a time when I was second-guessing my approach to, and gut feelings about, collaboration for systems change. The support, practical advice and reassurance provided by a group of informed and experienced peers was invaluable for setting me on a solid course towards playing an impactful role in leading a systems change initiative.
— Participant, Cohort 1
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What’s the deal?

Working systemically creates a series of specific challenges; from navigating power and challenging relationships, to learning how to collaborate in new ways, and understanding your own role in the system.

It requires a mindset shift as you slowly get used to the idea that you are not going to transform a system overnight, rather you nudge it in a better direction, over the long-term.

This can feel disheartening.

You see the urgency of the problem and the change does not feel fast enough. A combination of the seriousness and the messiness of this kind of work has an impact on the people leading it.

On top of this there is a need to constantly skill up; to learn new frameworks, tools and processes that can help you do your work more effectively. The skills you need will not always be immediately obvious, they emerge as your initiative develops.

We understand the challenges of systems leadership, because we’ve been there.

The Systems Sanctuary was founded on a deep understanding of the unique challenges systemic change work presents and a drive to provide both the emotional and strategic support for those willing to take it on.

Our approach has had a transformational impact on the people who are part of the process and our culture is at the heart of this impact.

While we both have significant experience on the field of systems change practice, we believe in putting the experience of the systems leader at the center of our work and supporting them to become the leaders they want to become.

Who is this for?

It is open to people who have been leading a systems change initiative for at least two years.

We seeking a diverse, international cohort, who are working on different systems and challenges.

Previous Cohorts have included participants working on economic development and food security, immigration, aging, sustainability, technology, water, climate change, criminal justice system, social justice, to cross cutting topics like racism, gender equity, health and education.

We prioritize participation from people who are working from lived experience of unjust and unhealthy systems, and we welcome applications from people all over the world. We will work out time zones as to fit our cohort.

In the Thick of It: Australia & New Zealand

We’ve noticed that many of our applications come from Aussies and Kiwi’s, so we are creating a special Cohort specifically for them. This will be an opportunity to build the ecosystem of systems change in the region, in a way we hope will last after the program has ended.

NB. If you are interested in meeting a more international crowd, you are still welcome to apply for our standard In the Thick of It program.

What will it involve? 

  • Our programs are hosted on a monthly basis virtually via Zoom

  • The second program will be run monthly from January - August 2019

  • Each session is 1.5 hours long

  • Participants are required to commit to all 7 sessions in order to take part

What will happen on the calls?

Each session will involve small group gatherings of up to 6 people with a different person sharing a challenge each month, followed by peer-to-peer coaching.

Through this process we surface inquiry and patterns, exchange resources, learning and tools. The groups will be facilitated by either Tatiana or Rachel.

Proposed dates of calls

Final details will be set to meet the needs of our participants, where possible.

  • Feb 21/22

  • March 21/22

  • April 25/26

  • May 16/17

  • June 14/15

  • July 12/13

  • August 25/26

Read more of our thinking on systems leadership

Our summary of the main themes and challenges that emerged from the first In the Thick of It program - We See You.  

See Rachel’s blog on ‘The Challenge of Systems Leadership’.  


There is a sliding scale for different types of organization. Price is in USD.

  • Corporate and Foundation: $3,000, Early Bird (before Jan 18, 2019) $2,400

  • NGO: $1,500 Early Bird (before Jan 18, 2019) $1,200

  • Independent $1,000 Early Bird (before Jan 18, 2019) $800

We can spread the cost of your participation out over 4 months in a 0% interest payment plan.

We are committed to convening a diverse, high impact Cohort. If this feels like exactly what you need right now, but the cost gets in the way of applying, please complete this application for a discount.  

Deadline for applications

  • Early Bird 18 January 2019

  • Final Deadline for applications 25 January 2019


The System Sanctuary is committed to ensuring participation of system leaders from diverse backgrounds and contexts. We recognize that system leaders are working in various ways that may impact economic security. If the proposed fees are a barrier to your participation, we offer a sliding scale.

Please fill out this form to apply for a sliding scale.

You must also have filled out the full Registration form, in order for us to process your sliding scale application. We will get back to you within 2 weeks.