Blog Article Collection

A Hard Answer for the Public Sector

Added on: 10-Jan-18 12:00am

Author: John Dengate

In our experience, the public sector struggles with collaborative processes, even though it is publicly recognised as crucial for tackling the complex social policy issues.

It's almost as if such processes are incompatible with how the sector thinks and acts.

However, we are seeing hopeful signs that mirror emerging evidence of growing awareness and application:

  • being OK with ambiguity and uncertainty, and recognising the importance of providing some 'handrails' so people develop sufficient confidence to stay on a collaborative track while the results emerge 
  • recognising and building the internal and external relationships that are the 'glue' that builds resilience in the team, allowing them to hold the collaborative frame during the challenging discussions crucial in tackling vexed and wicked problems
  • the importance of dedicating the time and resources, and the willingness to take the time and go slow to build the foundations (like the relationships) that will sustain the participants
  • being able to keep people "safe" during the process - this extends not just to those directly involved so they can be authentic and show some vulnerability around both the content and relational challenges essential to tackling the dilemma, but also the executive and other crucial decision makers (e.g. Ministers) who need to both provide assurances and be assured when the collaborative processes go outside traditional business as usual norms
  • generating some form of 'operating system' that provides confidence but does not fetter collaboration in practice - for instance, reworking the traditional structural elements (like milestones, TOR, project plans, etc) for work in the uncertain and emergent environment.

We noted recently that our experience is reflected in this article which makes some interesting observations from initial data gathering around good collaborative practice in the public sector.

Or as the article suggests, the growing evidence may offer some tantalising signposts for Australian policy practitioners that it's not too hard to collaborate.

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