Post 2010 IPAA National Conference Message
So what did we conclude about “Bringing it Together”, the central them of the 2010 Conference?
The most obvious answer was getting out of our silos and looking for an overall integrated solution that best meets the needs of citizens. But the risk with trying to dovetail each others’ work is that if something goes wrong will we all band together to fix it or duck for cover?
Recent failures with the school halls, home insulation and green loans programs were each traced to poor planning, design and execution where responsibility got too shared and diffused within one or two tiers of government to hold anyone personally accountable.
Yet users of services such as health, social security, education, law enforcement and transport want joined up government so that each entry and exit point is not a distinct and unique experience.
For instance different public transport modes such as bus, ferry and rail should take account of each others’ timetables. Hospitals, general practitioners and community health services (e.g. breast cancer screening) should access common patient records. Children moving state should be able to relate to similar school curricula. Remote communities should have their problems diagnosed and addressed by cross-disciplinary teams.
This conference was about exploring how to meet growing citizen demands for seamless services without abandoning the proven precepts of successful management, namely clear delineations of responsibility, authority and accountability.
Can this be done or is it a pipe dream?
Our speakers explored alternative ways to coordinate multifaceted services. They also related case studies of successes and failures. Conference participants shared their own experiences on what works and what doesn’t.
The 2010 Conference challenged us to think not only about how to make collaboration work but to distinguish the situations when sharing responsibility is necessary and when it’s not. This is important because collaboration and consultation are resource intensive so should not be applied to every circumstance. For most things the public expects government to get on with it rather than get bogged down in analysis paralysis.
Yet partnerships, networks and alliances are critical when particular services and outcomes are required across agency and/ or jurisdictional boundaries. Consultation and consensus and even abdicating authority are necessary when the impact of reforms are large and those affected have the power to veto change either by opposing it or withholding their cooperation.
The presentations by our speakers generated a treasury of knowledge about why, how and when to Bring it Together that public sector practitioners throughout Australia can now draw upon for both lessons and inspiration.
The 2010 IPAA National Conference was hosted by South Australian IPAA with the assistance of the National Office. My thanks to all involved for making it a success.
Percy Allan AM
Institute of Public Administration Australia