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Article Article May 9th, 2024
Delivery • Innovation

Introducing the Stewardship Matrix: Uncover your approach to systems stewardship

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What is your stewardship style? @CPI_foundation's @JessDFuller & @allinote introduce the Stewardship Matrix - take the quiz to learn yours!

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Are you an unlocker, enabler, catalyser, or caretaker? Learn about @CPI_foundation's Stewardship Matrix and explore your stewardship approach.

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.@CPI_foundation developed the Stewardship Matrix, a tool to help think about the different stewardship approaches and styles we might embody in different contexts. Find out about your stewardship style!

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If you work in or around the public sector, stewardship is perhaps a concept you’ve noticed coming up more and more. We’ve found ourselves exploring it frequently with our partners in government who want to explore approaches that embrace complexity, learning, and relationships.

What is stewardship, and what does it look like in practice?

There are several definitions of stewardship in the public sector. For example, at the Institute for Government in the UK, Hallsworth describes stewardship as overseeing and steering policy and systems. Meanwhile, Katie Moon and colleagues from the Public Research Group at UNSW see stewardship as empowering actors to take responsibility and accountability for delivering outcomes.

Governments embracing stewardship each bring their unique perspective. For example, the Aotearoa New Zealand government has committed to Kaitiakitanga - a Māori term for the concept of guardianship. In this context, stewardship is described as caring for resources that exist for the benefit of others. In Australia, the Federal public service recently enshrined stewardship as one of its values. The Australia Public Services Commission (APSC) suggests that stewardship goes beyond effective planning and resource management, saying,

“It takes on the mantle of ensuring the long-term interests of the Australian community, through fit for purpose and innovative policy advice, regulation and services to meet changing priorities and circumstances.”

So, while there is no single definition of stewardship, it is clear that a stewardship approach requires governments to move away from the belief that they can have complete authority and control over outcomes. Instead, they must move towards an approach that embraces long-term outcomes, caring for systems, empowering others, and the complex adaptive nature of policy. This means that our stewardship practice can vary according to the unique context in which we operate.

The Stewardship Matrix

For these reasons, we developed the Stewardship Matrix, a tool to help us think about the different stewardship approaches and styles we might embody in different contexts.

Informed by literature and our work with partners in governments and public services, the matrix focuses on understanding one's orientation as a steward (Y-Axis) and what your stewardship is in service of (X-Axis). This results in four quadrants encapsulating different yet equally important types of styles and approaches to stewardship: The Unlocker, The Enabler, The Catalyser, and The Caretaker.

What is your stewardship approach?

To understand your approach to stewardship, it’s helpful to consider where your orientation lies along the spectrum of ‘being and doing’. The doing, which sits at the top of the Y-Axis on the matrix, refers to our behaviours and what we do. The being, which sits at the bottom, focuses on the values, mindsets, and assumptions that drive our behaviours.

It’s important to note that while this is presented as a spectrum, being and doing are not opposites. In fact, they are connected; the being informs and drives the doing, while the doing can reinforce or change the values, mindsets, and assumptions that inform the being.

What is your stewardship in service of?

The X-Axis asks us what our stewardship is in service of at this time - is it efficiency or relationships? Stewardship in service of efficiency prioritises making things happen and working effectively, while stewardship in service of relationships focuses on empowering people and enabling relationships.

Again, it’s important to note that both focuses are equally valid. The purpose of contrasting them along this spectrum is to help us consider when our approach is in service of one more than another and why that might be.

The four stewardship styles

This makes four quadrants encapsulating a different yet equally important style of stewardship:

  • The Unlocker is motivated by a ‘doing’ orientation. Their stewardship is in service of efficiency, and they enact stewardship by being action-focused, ensuring systems are working seamlessly and delivering outcomes as promised. 

  • The Enabler is also motivated by a ‘doing’ orientation. However, they focus their stewardship towards relationships and empowering others, enabling people to take action and achieve outcomes. 

  • The Catalyser has a stronger orientation towards the ‘being’ and efficiency. They focus on connecting with the values, mindsets, and assumptions that drive the system to unlock progress and action. 

  • The Caretaker is oriented in the ‘being’, and their stewardship is in service to relationships. They embrace the power of relationships and work patiently with others to shift systems and enact deeper, slower changes.

The stewardship quiz

We’ve developed a quick quiz as a playful way to support partners in thinking about their current stewardship style. Give it a try below!

What does the Stewardship Matrix tell us?

While these tools are designed to provoke deep thought around our approaches, not provide a comprehensive diagnosis, the results can reveal things about ourselves, our biases, and our settings.

For example, when we ran this quiz in the past, most people sat towards the ‘doing’ end of the spectrum. This could be indicative of a bias towards action that exists in government. But, it could also reflect the natural preferences of the people drawn to public service and the promise of delivering value for the public.

This matrix can also help us think about how we might show up as a steward in other ways.

A case study: How Alli used the Stewardship Matrix in her work

We were meeting with new partners and finalising a timeline. As we discussed budgets and delivery dates, the time for discussing how we wanted to work together and what we hoped for from this partnership was dwindling. With thirty minutes left, I noticed a strong inclination towards skipping that section and moving on to the next steps. 

However, thinking about the matrix helped me notice I was being led by the efficiency side of the spectrum. I questioned the potential cost of empowering people to get things done if we skipped building shared understandings of how we want to work together. I also remembered that this project was about building relationships, which helped me step into a different mode of stewardship and ask the group how we wanted to spend the remaining time together. We realised that we all hoped for more relationship-building, so we revised our timeline to include more time for relationship-building through the co-design process. 

This seemingly small adjustment paid off dividends as the project encountered unexpected hurdles, and the team could refer back to our shared values and commitment to working relationally, an opportunity provided by shifting my stewardship style to best suit the moment.

How we support systems stewardship in the public sector

At CPI Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, we support people in the public sector to embrace a systems stewardship approach in their work. Our bespoke offerings range from a 2-hour online masterclass, a 5-day residential, a 6+ month learning journey, a year-long learning partnership, and almost anything in between.

If you want to learn how we can support you and your team to embrace systems stewardship in your work, please get in touch.

We are constantly developing our work and welcome feedback, so we’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and comments on the matrix or quiz.

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