Monday, July 20, 2015

Assignment 1: Public policy roles and relationships

 Blog: Introduce yourself briefly and discuss a public policy issue where there have been changes to the roles and relationships across government and the private and community sectors (500 words)

Compulsory education (schools)

The ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ reforms of New Zealand’s school sector in 1989 saw a shift from highly centralised command-and-control system of governance to highly devolved  “self-management” model. A key feature was the creation of community-based Boards of Trustees which were given responsibility for governing their individual schools. These Boards are accountable to their local community as well as the government.
At that time, ‘governance’ and management were still framed as sub-branches of administration rather than disciplines in their own right. The reforms therefore focussed strongly on administrative compliance with centrally-determined policy. That understanding has persisted within both the sector and the Ministry. As Openshaw (2014) notes, “although teacher unions have remained sceptical of these changes, and reservations still remain concerning the impact of the reforms, few critics appear to have advocated any serious alternative to the present reformed system. Any suggested changes appear to be more along the lines of tinkering, rather than wholesale change.”
Alongside the formal governance roles of the Ministry and school boards of trustees are sector-level relationships of government agencies1 and education NGOs. The command-and-control approach inherited from the pre-1989 Department of Education has been strongly evident until the last 18 months or so, when it has begun to soften into a more collaborative and genuinely consultative approach to policy development and enactment rather than implementation.
The present Minister of Education (Hekia Parata) and Secretary for Education (Peter Hughes) have introduced a strong and clearly stated focus on the Ministry as ‘the steward of the system’ rather than the ‘sector leader’ role of previous years. While this is taking time to permeate through the layers of Ministry bureaucracy, the new stewardship role (which is much more closely aligned to the original vision of the Picot Report) now appears to be gaining traction and credibility with sector groups.
The most notable examples of this shift have been the Ministerial Cross-Sector Forums instituted in 2012, and the Investing in Educational Success (IES) announced in January 2014 which have both placed a strong emphasis on communicating strategic policy intentions and building consensus with NGO sector stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of the policy issues and co-design sector-wide responses.
This new direction is strongly aligned with the views expressed in the World Economic Forum’s 2013 publication The Future Role of Civil Society and raises interesting possibilities for further evolution of policy development and implementation for the future.
The main challenges that the new model of shared policy development in the New Zealand school system must continue to overcome include
  • strengthening bureaucratic capacity;
  • intense and longstanding distrust between agencies and the Ministry and between individual schools
  • information asymmetry (public engagement)
  • fragmentation of funding; policy initiatives and community capability


1Notably the  Ministry of Education, Education Review Office (ERO), New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC), replaced on July 1 2015 by the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (EDUCANZ) and the Office of the Auditor General (OAG)
2  These include teacher unions (New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI Te Riu Roa), Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)), principals’ groups (New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF), Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand (SPANZ), Special Education Principals’ Association of New Zealand (SEPANZ) boards of trustees (New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA)) and others (New Zealand Area Schools Association (NZASA), New Zealand Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools (NZAIMS), New Zealand Catholic Education Office (NZCEO))


Openshaw, R. (2014) Picot Report/Tomorrow’s Schools. Dictionary of Educational History in Australia and New Zealand (DEHANZ),7 January. Available
Picot, B. et al. 1988 Administering for Excellence: Effective Administration in Education.
Phillips, S. and S. Rathgeb Smith (2014) A Dawn of Convergence? Third sector policy regimes in the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ cluster, Public Management Review
Tanzi, V. (2010) ‘The Role of the State’ in Government versus Markets: The Changing Economic Role of the State, Cambridge University Press.
World Economic Forum (2013) The Future Role of Civil Society

Another dimension

This semester I've enrolled in Victoria  University's Master of Public Management programme. It's a new programme being offered by the School of Government, and a companion programme to their Master of Public Policy.

It's another dimension in my formal study, ans one that for me intersects nicely with my earlier education studies through USQ.

So, after a 3- or 4-year hiatus I'm back to the blog to record my progress through the course, thoughts on the course materials and how they interact with my existing understandings, and the insights I've gained from it.

It's taken me a while to get back into the rhythm of post-grad study,  but with the first assignment safely under my belt now I feel as if I'm on my way...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Valuing Social Capital

I've been having an interesting conversation on Google+ with Patricia Kokinos of Change the Schools about the significance of the Occupy movement in the US.

Obviously, this is not a unique phenomenon - similar public uprisings against the injustice and inequality of "the establishment" have occurred in a number of countries around the world in the past year.  And, with the world in the grip of what is rapidly proving to be the biggest "global financial crisis" since the 1930's it is hardly surprising that the same kind of grass-roots demonstrations are showing up.

In that conversation, I posted:
Seems to me this genuinely may signal "the end of the world as we know it" - i.e. the collapse of the communist-capitalist industrial revolution social economies. The interesting question (apart from what else can we expect before the end of the Mayan Great Age in 2012?) is - what will [we] replace it with?

One of the critical factors for me that has eventually contributed to the downfall of both these post-classical social/economic models is the failure to find a way of accounting for - and therefore valuing - social capital, for example the value to society of parents being able to afford to spend time focusing on parenting their children well instead of being forced out into paid employment.

On what planet is spending 40 hours at a desk, or on a production line of more value to society than spending those 40 hours providing emotional and physical security for your children? And yet we have structured our society so that staying home to concentrate on providing those things for your children has no "value" because no money changes hands. Ironically, if somebody else cares for your children, that does have "value" because their motivation is financial.

So how do we - especially those of us involved in education and other social profit activities - change this?

Finding an answer is crucial. And urgent.
As I have been thinking about that some more, I've found myself wondering: if part of the issue is indeed "the failure to find a way of accounting for - and therefore valuing - social capital" appropriately in the economic fabric of our societies, (over-valued in the communist regimes, under-valued in the capitalist ones) then might the answer come from the "triple bottom line" concept?

 We have already got the beginnings of an Emissions Trading Scheme, where we assign a  value to the costs or benefits of various activities in terms of their contribution to carbon emissions. The idea of "green dollars"is not new either. So what about a system of transferrrable Social Capital Credits that recognise the social costs and benefits (as opposed to the private costs and benefits)  that activities have?

So for example, a teacher, nurse or counsellor might accrue SCCs as part of their salary package, as these activities have a social benefit as well as the private benefit to clients. Those credits could be traded off later to finance parental leave or vacation time.

Students would accrue Social Capital Credits as they progress through the education system,  since a more educated workforce has social benefits as well as private benefits for the individuals concerned.

People who are not in paid employment, but who work as caregivers in the home, or who do volunteer work in the community, would accrue Social Capital Credits to reflect the value of that work - which could be traded in to provide an income stream.  So parents could afford to stay home and take care of their own children, rather than being forced into menial "work" while someone else gets paid to do it.

The value of social profit (I don't like the term non-profit, and they're not all 100% unpaid /voluntary) organisations would become transparent, and could be accounted for in the national accounts. 

Presumably, activities deemed anti-social would attract Social Capital fines as well as or instead of simply financial penalties or  imprisonment.

It's a simple concept. Not necessarily an easy one to implement, but perhaps an idea whose time has come?