11 recommendations to create the future of government


The Institute of Public Affairs of Australia (IPAA), the professional association supporting senior Australian public service executives, is not prone to rash statements.

Thus it is very encouraging to see its new policy paper, The Future Course of Modern Government, provide some pointed insights and recommendations on how to create the government of the future.

I have put the 11 recommendations provided at the end of the report at the bottom of this post. The full policy paper is absolutely worth a read for anyone interested in the topic.

A few quick comments on the recommendations copied below:

* For anyone exposed to Government 2.0 ideas, some of the recommendations are fairly obvious and straightforward, such as using social tools to facilitate collaborative and flexible work, and making public sector information available (see my earlier post on Government 2.0 initiatives).

* Other recommendations are bit more of a stretch for traditional government officials, such as the use of crowdsourcing techniques, the co-design of polices, and shared spaces for innovation.

* Yet others cut to the nub of the issues at stake, such as reviewing clearance systems to distinguish between situations when an official stance is required, and when open conversation is appropriate. Even more pertinently, this has to have at its heart a redefinition of accountability, with this shifting to being far more directly to citizens and communities rather than intermediated by politicians.

It seems that around the world conversations at a senior level in government and public administration are increasingly shifting to the real fundamental issues at stake.

Recommendations from The Future Course of Modern Government – IPAA Policy Paper

IPAA recommends that governments actively and energetically engage the following activities as essential investments in effective reform and renewal

The role of technology
1. The Government should embrace the recommendations and proposals from the Government 2.0 Task Force and ensure that the tools and platforms of Web 2.0 and social networking become an increasingly common part of the work style and workplaces of the public sector, lifting the quality of collaboration and accelerating the rate of learning for innovation.

2. Distinctive issues of clearance and authorization in government often make it harder for public agencies to adopt the more spontaneous and interactive rhythms of the social web. These should be systematically addressed and resolved to distinguish between those situations in which relatively open and direct conversation is appropriate, as opposed to those situations in which governments need to speak authoritatively.

3. The Government should ensure that various techniques of crowdsourcing and collaboration are used to provide a prominent role for front line staff and services users are key contributors to innovation in services and policy development.

4. The federal public sector should provide workplaces that are connected and properly provisioned with the tools and platforms to allow open, collaborative working, work practices that allow for flexible work on an “anywhere, anytime” basis.

5. Picking up the recommendations of the Government 2.0 Task Force, the Government should accelerate the release of public sector information (PSI) as an indispensable catalyst to new waves of public innovation and creativity, much of which will be led from the edge and by people and organisations outside government.

6. The Government should accelerate the development of a Mindlab initiative in the public sector to create a shared space and a set of tools and skilled resources that can sustain a program of innovation in services, program design and organizational change.

Services reform
7. A distinct and growing practice of co-design in the development of new policies and better services should be nurtured, ensuring that agencies invest time and resources to trial co-design methods and share the results of their work with other public sector agencies and the wider community.

8. In many cases, the people receiving services can provide them as well, or at least in some measure be part of the service itself. Service design should look for opportunities to spread ideas already being tested by communities and individual innovators as well as creating more formal, traditional service structures.

9. Governments should be looking for tools and platforms for engagement and contribution that are easy, attractive and rewarding to use. They should enlist the widest possible contribution from those outside government as well as those already working in the public sector, who have skills and experience in this field, to help them create the new tools.

10. Governments should be investing in the accumulation of a body of reliable evidence with which to evaluate the use of these new social media and collaboration tools. In particular, the Government should assess the extent to which new collaboration methods improve the quality of decision-making and policy outcomes and deliver a “trust dividend” in terms of great confidence by staff and citizens in the outcome of decisions.

11. A systematic investment should be made to evolve new models and methods of accountability in a more open and connected model of governing. The investment should look at better ways to define accountability for public servants that combines traditional “upwards” accountability through Ministers to Parliament with new “downwards” accountability to serviced users and to communities.