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Webinar 4: System Stewardship


14 October 2021 | 5pm - 6.15pm AEDT

System stewardship is emerging as a new way of thinking about the role of government.


Described as “a new way of working that allows governments and their agents to effectively influence and steward systems from which outcomes emerge”, system stewardship is seen as being critical to contemporary public service practice. But what does it mean and look like in practice?

Join this conversation to explore the concept of system stewardship, and how to encourage more of it within and across government agencies, so that our systems work to serve the people who they are supposed to benefit.

Speakers:

  • Toby Lowe (Visiting Professor in Public Management at the Centre for Public Impact)

  • Lynn Mumford (Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships, Mayday Trust)

  • Kym Peake (Partner, EY Port Jackson Partners, and former Secretary, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services)

  • Lil Anderson (Chief Executive of Te Arawhiti - the Office for Māori Crown Relations)

Facilitated by:

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Join us

Our Community of Practice is a forum for conversations over the course of the webinar series, as well as a chance to build new relationships with like-minded people passionate about reimagining government. Content in webinars will be brought to life, with interactive sessions and conversations.

Register below, and join us as we reimagine government.

Join our Community of Practice

Materials Hub


To take our webinars further, we’ve collated a wide range of material exploring System Stewardship. Scroll down to explore.

The Webinar


Watch the webinar, and read more about what our community is saying.

  • Webinar recording, chat summary and wrap-up: Check back soon - we’ll be editing and uploading content here shortly after the webinar.

The Theory


Dive more deeply into this topic by learning more through blogs, articles and reports.

  • The journal article “How can systems thinking enhance stewardship of public services?” is a bit of a must read. Karen Gardner, Sue Olney, Luke Craven and Deborah Blackman synthesise existing literature to provide an overview of core systems ideas and theory, and then propose a practical application of systems thinking in four key areas of stewardship.

  • Human Learning Systems: Public Service for the Real World brings together theory and thinking from a diverse group of academics, community organisers and public management thinkers combined with emerging learnings from practitioners working across roughly 50 projects from across the UK and Europe. Explore the HLS site to access other reports, webinars, and resources as well.

  • Is All Stewardship Equal? Developing a Typology of Stewardship Approaches is a UNSW Public Service Research Group article that develops a typology of four stewardship approaches - the Guide, the Gatekeeper, the Giver and the Maximiser – each containing different perspectives in terms of what stewardship should achieve and how it can operate.

  • Systems approaches in the public sector: From theory to practice, is an OECD article that discusses why systems approaches are needed in the public sector, and why they haven’t been widely disseminated throughout the sector just yet.

  • The Dawn of System Leadership by Dr Peter Senge, outlines the core capabilities of a systems leader - “...these leaders shift the conditions through which others - especially those who have a problem - can learn collectively to make progress against it.”

  • In a Mandarin article, CPI’s Thea Snow calls for a shift away from government being about authority and control, and towards acting as stewards of complex systems - offering guidance on what this looks like in practice.

  • System Stewardship: The future of policy making? is a 2011 Institute for Government working paper, that argues that policy makers need to see themselves less as sitting on top of a delivery chain, but as stewards of systems with multiple actors and decision makers – whose choices will determine how policy is realised.

  • Getting the Work of Government Done is an ANZSOG report that explores the importance of commissioning and contracting in achieving outcomes for the Australian public. The authors argue for a more considered, principles-based approach to designing and stewarding systems as the APS engages with third party providers.

  • In Rethinking relationships: clarity, contingency, and capabilities, Professor Janine O’Flynn argues that governments need to move away from a narrow, transactional view of relationships with others if they seek to get the most value from these arrangements. “The APS needs to think of itself as the designer of a much more complicated system, as ‘system stewards’ of a broader set of relationships.”

  • Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System by Donella Meadows discusses the places in a system where relatively minor interventions can lead to relatively major changes in certain outcomes.

  • Sam Rye’s blog post, The Relational Field, discusses the importance of the quality of relationships in the context of social labs and social innovation programs.

  • The Mandarin article, Reform and the (not so) new role of stewardship discusses how without some fairly fundamental reform, the ‘new’ world of stewardship may be unlikely to bring about change.

In Practice


We’ve collated case studies and material to illustrate what these ideas look like in practice, and offer frameworks and tools to support experimentation with a similar approach in your work.

  • Angie Tangaere of The Southern Initiative, works with communities to create local, bespoke solutions to complex social challenges. In her Design Assembly Field Guide, she explains that ways of working at The Southern Initiative open the system up to new possibilities – “the work is always going to be good, because of the way that we work. Whānau-lead and whānau-centered, that means we will always come up with something the system never would have… For the most part, my work is whānau-led and holding systems change at the same time.”

  • Systems Approaches to Public Sector Challenges: Working with Change is an OPSI report that presents and analyses four cases of applied systems approaches: preventing domestic violence (Iceland), protecting children (the Netherlands), regulating the sharing economy (Canada) and designing a policy framework to conduct experiments in government (Finland). 

  • The 2nd webinar of 2020’s Reimagining Government series featured CPI's Adrian Brown, Luke Craven from the Australian Tax Office, and Deborah Blackman from the University of New South Wales, discussing "thinking in systems”.

  • People and Systems — Creating Networks of System Leadership and Practice is an article that reports on a methodology used in Leeds, to create a community of leaders who work across organisations and systems.

Join us

Our Community of Practice is a forum for conversations over the course of the webinar series, as well as a chance to build new relationships with like-minded people passionate about reimagining government. Content in webinars will be brought to life, with interactive sessions and conversations.

Register below, and join us as we reimagine government.

Join our Community of Practice