Sometimes, you learn about an idea that really sticks with you. This happened to me recently when I learnt about “legibility” — a concept which James C Scott introduces in his book Seeing like a State.

Just last week, I was involved in two conversations which highlighted how pervasive the logic of legibility continues to be in influencing how governments think and act. But first, what is legibility?

Defining Legibility

Legibility describes the very human tendency to simplify complex systems in order to exert control over them.

In this blog, Venkatesh Rao offers a recipe for legibility:

  • Look at a complex and…

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

“For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong” — HL Mencken

This week, we had our final CPI team meeting for 2020. To begin, we were asked to share what we were most proud of this year. People offered lovely reflections — “becoming a mother”; “growing closer with my partner”; “joining a new team and building relationships despite never having met anyone in person.”

As I listened to people speak, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. When it came to my turn to share, I went with what felt right at…

Photo by William Navarro on Unsplash

In late January this year, after almost three years in London, my little family and I landed back in Melbourne.

2020 has not been the year we — or anyone — expected. It has been challenging beyond belief (and I say this recognising that the challenges have been, for many people, far more significant than for me). And yet, for me, 2020 has also been one of significant growth and excitement as I’ve begun working with the Centre for Public Impact (CPI) to reimagine government in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ).

As I approach my six-month anniversary with CPI, I…

This opinion paper is part of City of Melbourne’s upcoming“City of the Future Event” and was originally published by the City of Melbourne.

Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash

Imagine you’re a gardening enthusiast named Andy. You’ve noticed that the lettuce in your veggie patch is being damaged. You investigate and discover that caterpillars appear to be the cause. So, you kill the caterpillars.

Problem solved, right? Wrong.

While killing the caterpillars works in the short-term, it doesn’t work as a long-term solution. This is because the caterpillars are (unbeknownst to you) controlling a population of other insects. …

The Centre for Public Impact has partnered with the Australia and New Zealand School of Government to create a series of six webinars about reimagining government. This article shares why we wanted to do this, and what we hope to get out of the series.

Image courtesy of ANZSOG

Last Thursday 21 May, the Centre for Public Impact, a BCG Foundation, and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government hosted the first in a series of six webinars, focused on reimagining government.

We have been very busy designing the programme, securing speakers, and testing out different approaches to audience engagement, which means we…

Photo by Linus Nylund on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I published an article on reimagining government post crisis. Drawing on Adrian Brown’s Manifesto for Better Government, I set out a vision for a shift from “the service paradigm” to “the enablement paradigm”, underpinned by a version of government which: values the importance of relationships; shares power; thinks in systems; leads with humility; and prioritises learning.

Donella Meadows defines a paradigm as follows: “The shared idea in the minds of society, the great big unstated assumptions — unstated because unnecessary to state; everyone already knows them — constitute that society’s paradigm, or deepest set of beliefs…

Historically, dramatic events like those we are currently experiencing have acted as a catalyst for radical policy and paradigm shifts. With this in mind, this piece offers a vision for a reimagining of government post crisis.

Photo by Luz Mendoza on Unsplash

We’re only in April, but it’s fair to say that 2020 is already shaping up to be an incredibly challenging year. Still reeling from the devastating 2019–20 bushfires in Australia, we are now confronting the Coronavirus, which is changing life as we know it.

Right now, we find ourselves at a critical juncture; a confusing, somewhat frightening period in human history. Yet, we are…

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Tonight is Passover.

Over the next 24 hours, Jews from all over the world will be connecting with family (via Zoom) to share a Passover meal and re-tell the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago.

For the last few days, I’ve been reflecting on the Passover story, and the ritual of the Passover seder, and wondering what they might offer in the context of a world turned upside down by Coronavirus.

Three important elements of Passover, which feel relevant to the world right now are: (1) stories (2) change (3) freedom.


The ritual of the…

On our recent holiday in Sri Lanka, I walked past a family sitting on the beach. One child was splashing in the shallow water, while another built sandcastles with her father. The mother sat alongside them while they played happily.

Sounds pretty perfect, right? It should have been. But there was one thing which undermined the beauty of this scene: the mother wasn’t watching her children play, nor soaking up the glorious environment which surrounded her; instead, she sat, phone in hand, scrolling through her Instagram feed.

Our trip was littered with experiences like this. By pools, at restaurants —…

Public sector agencies around the world are increasingly turning to data and technology-led solutions to help them tackle complex, knotty challenges. Governments wanting to show that they’re embracing innovation invest in flashy new apps, or chatbots, or data dashboards, which look impressive. However, it is important to remember that, working alone, these tools cannot address complex social challenges.

In order to drive the sustainable and systemic change that the public sector needs, a multidisciplinary approach is essential.

This is not to say that data and technology are not an important part of innovation — of course they are! Rather, it’s…

Thea Snow

Reimagining government

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