Need for ‘Policy Communities’ to Help Deliver Social Services
6 October 2016 at 1:43 pm
Australia’s public sector needs to engage better with the social services sector to implement policies and deliver services within a changing framework of public expectations, competition and a tight fiscal environment, a conference in Melbourne has been told.
The head of the Australian Public Service, Dr Martin Parkinson told the third Biennial Australasian Implementation Conference, co-hosted by child welfare charity Save the Children and the University of Melbourne, of the need for “policy communities”.
Parkinson said both the public and non-government sectors needed to update their traditional way of thinking about implementation so the government could work better and smarter with providers to deliver services to Australians.
“I am interested in exploring how the public sector might better engage with the social services sector,” Parkinson said.
“In my view, creating ‘policy communities’ – of those who are making policy, those implementing policy on the ground or those working in think tanks – enables us to be constantly environment scanning, allowing us to see earlier and more clearly the opportunities for better outcomes, as well as identifying the emerging or inherent risks in our approaches.
“Such communities would allow lessons to feed back into the policy process and create constituencies for positive change.
“If we are operating in this way, innovation is not a shock. Rather, it becomes the product of iterative experience which allows policy makers to operate at the forefront of policy thinking and implementation design, bringing lessons with us from the past while simultaneously thinking about new approaches for the future.
“What we should be aiming for is, rather than a ‘set and forget’ linear approach to policy making and implementing, is a continuous and adaptive feedback loop between policy design and implementation.”
Parkinson said one model he found “intriguing” was the WA Partnership Forum.
“Comprised of government leaders and experienced social services sector CEOs, the forum presents a model connecting policy makers and implementers to work through complex social policy issues, with a very strong focus on implementation,” he said.
“It looks from afar to be a successful way to maintain a regular – and most importantly – meaningful information flow. But are there other models which could work?”
He called on the Not for Profit sector to make contact on how the two sectors can work better together to deliver better outcomes.