A Vision for Better Government
There is a growing movement of government changemakers around the world, who are pushing beyond the current debate about what government does, in order to address the more fundamental questions of how government should be: the beliefs, values and principles that drive government action.
Why do we need to reimagine government?
Our models of government are broken and in urgent need of reform. They are based on a flawed “industrial” mindset that seeks to manage and control. As such, they don’t recognise the true nature of the challenges we face, fail to tap our collective potential to address those challenges and offer static solutions to dynamic problems.
As a result, governments around the world are facing deficits in both effectiveness and legitimacy. A deficit of effectiveness because our models of government are ill-equipped to tackle some of the most urgent issues we face as a society. And a deficit of legitimacy because people feel increasingly disillusioned with government and see it as distant and impersonal.
Making government more effective and legitimate requires more than simply changing processes and practices. We need a refreshed vision for government founded on a new set of beliefs, values and principles.
From what we’ve observed, this emergent vision for government is founded on three core beliefs:
Most of the challenges we face as a society are complex in nature. They involve many actors, interacting in a variety of ways. Outcomes are the emergent properties of these systems.
The quality of human relationships matters a great deal. We assume positive intent and trust people, sharing power and supporting each other to make the best decisions.
Progress is best achieved through experimentation and a process of continuous learning. Because change is constant, and failures are inevitable in the face of complexity, we should seek to maximise public systems’ capacity to learn and adapt.
The core values of more effective and legitimate government.
because no individual (or individual organisation) can achieve sustained positive change in a complex system by themselves.
because working in the open is the best way to allow the free flow of ideas and inspiration.
because in seeking to understand others we broaden our perspective and create the conditions for stronger relationships.
because strong human relationships are built on honest, authentic connections
because this gives people the agency and motivation to act and helps create the conditions for sustainable change.
because this focuses our attention on what we don’t know and challenges us to increase our understanding.
because diversity of thought and diversity of practice accelerates learning and demographic diversity strengthens legitimacy.
These values apply to individuals, teams and organisations and system-wide. They help to foster mutual respect and collaboration between those seeking to achieve positive social change.
The beliefs and values lead to a set of principles that can help guide action. While not a complete list, this indicative set of principles – when taken together with the beliefs and values – informs how government's actions, from high-level policy to the human interactions that shape our day-to-day experience of government.
Think systemically, act locally
Our actions should be informed by an awareness of the system but focused on encouraging local ownership.
Share power with those best placed to act
Devolve decision-making rights to those with the information and agency to make a difference.
Challenge unnecessary hierarchy and collaborate across boundaries
Where possible encourage multi-disciplinary teams working in flat structures.
Seek out strengths and build on them
This helps create a more positive foundation for change.
Champion the voices of those who are heard the least
This helps to promote diversity of thought and create a more inclusive conversation.
Optimise for learning rather than control
The capacity of the system to learn is more important than for someone to be in charge.
The vision in action