CPI & ANZSOG Present… Reimagining Government

Image courtesy of ANZSOG

The Centre for Public Impact has partnered with The Australian and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), a global leader in education and government-focused research relevant to the public sector.

Together, we are hosting a webinar series focusing on how governments should and can be better for citizens; something we call “reimagining government”. The first installment, held on the 21st May, explored the idea of “the enablement paradigm” – a new model which believes that the core role of government is to create the conditions in which communities can flourish. Over 400 people registered for this session, demonstrating genuine enthusiasm to explore what a reimagining of government means and looks like. We at CPI, together with ANZSOG, are proud to be playing our part in providing spaces for these critical discussions.

Download the webinar chat summary

The Panel Discussion

The three panellists, Terry Moran, Catherine Althaus and Thea Snow were hosted in conversation by James Button.

James began by introducing the series, then moved into a conversation about central control versus localism. The Panel discussed why central and national governments often fail to understand the complexities of local communities, and why pulling levers from the centre often fail to translate into meaningful results on the ground.

Localism in action

Terry Moran offered an example of an initiative which demonstrates the reality that complex problems cannot be meaningfully tackled by centrally- driven solutions; but rather, requires local knowledge and action.

In Western Australia, the Wyndham trial is seeking to address the challenge of placing newly arrived refugees into work.

This is a high priority goal of governments around the world; how do you quickly and effectively integrate new arrivals, especially refugees so that they don’t draw public funds for too long?

In Wyndham they have adopted a holistic approach to addressing this challenge. Instead of pushing their clients for unsuitable roles, or without proper support, the Council has adopted a multi-agency approach. This acknowledges that the challenge goes beyond jobs; it requires an investment in providing training and skills, and housing and language support to newly arrived refugees. It was a remarkable success.

Community engagement

Beyond localism, the enablement paradigm also challenges traditional notions of power, and suggests that any reimagining of government must involve a greater role for communities and citizens in designing services, policies and programmes that affect their lives.

Thea Snow suggested that the kind of community engagement imagined requires a shift in mindsets and beliefs, as much as shifts to structures and practices. 

Catherine Althaus agreed with this, noting that current structures mean that government is well placed to do things to and for communities, but not very well placed to do things with the community.

Catherine also stated the importance of bringing different voices and sources of knowledge to the conversation including, in Australia and NZ, the unique perspectives of First Nations peoples. 

Thea offered the Social Landlord Framework, currently piloted by Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as a remarkable example of an initiative seeking to not only consult with the community, but also treat them as partners in the project. The Framework, which seeks to improve outcomes for those living in public housing, has been shaped – from its inception – by members of the community. They continue to play a critical role in not just shaping the vision, but in implementing the program of work.

Is this the moment of seismic change?

The panel felt that there were strong currents of change around the world, with many questioning the value of the old systems and approaches. The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated change upon organisations and public authorities; forcing innovation and change in unprecedented ways. 

Right now, the future is being shaped.

Hosting discussions about reimagining government is ever more important, equipping those interested in change with knowledge and inspiration to influence the thinking of those in power. 

We know many are turning their attention to “what next”, asking questions such as “how do we reshape the world that COVID-19 has laid bare?” or “how do we as a community gather our thoughts and push forward with this agenda for change?” 

We have five more webinars in the “reimagining government” webinar series, ranging from “thinking in systems” and “relationships first”, to “sharing power” and “lead with humility”. If you are interested in continuing this conversation, register here to participate:

Register for the 'reimagining government' webinars

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