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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 wanted to share some reflections about reimagining government in ANZ so far. But before I do, it is probably worth briefly recapping what I mean when I talk about reimagining government. …


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.

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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 haven’t spent much time sharing why we wanted to do this and what we hope to get out of it. …


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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 about how the world works.”


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.

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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 also at a moment in time where we are witnessing the undoing of institutions and architectures that felt undoable. Historically, dramatic events like those we are currently experiencing have acted as a catalyst for radical policy and paradigm shifts. …


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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.

Stories

The ritual of the Passover seder is the re-telling of the Passover story. Each year families come together and, through a combination of prayer, recitation, discussion, questions, and song, recall the story of the Jews’ emancipation from slavery in Egypt. …


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 — even on safari! — I observed people who, instead of experiencing and enjoying their surrounds, had their heads down, looking at other people’s lives via their Insta feeds. …


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 an appeal against the veneration of data and technology as the answer to public sector challenges. As Nesta’s Competency Framework for Experimenting and Public Problem Solving (see below) suggests, technology can only be an effective tool when we invest in understanding how well it works in real life, and whether it’s meeting people’s needs. …


Originally published by Apolitical on 3 January 2020.

Co-authored with Abe Greenspoon, organisational health lead at Statistics Canada.

Change-washing (noun): the process of introducing reforms that purport to bring about change but fail to result in any substantive shifts in systems, services or culture.

If you were to look up the word “change-washing” in the Oxford English dictionary, you wouldn’t find it. That’s because we made it up. But it seems to us to be a helpful word to describe the experience of many public sector employees.

People in government often talk about “change fatigue”. This is generally interpreted to mean that everyone is tired of change. In fact, our experience working in and around the public sector in Australia, Canada and the UK, suggests that many people are tired of a lack of change. …


Originally published at https://www.nesta.org.uk on 9 October 2019

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to represent Nesta at a number of events and meetings, which have focused on exploring the power of data and technology to address social challenges.

In New York, I attended the 3rd Global Data Commons workshop. I also met with Stefaan Verhulst from GovLab to talk about his work on data collaboratives and the 100 Questions initiative. And I met with Alexandra Mateescu, from Data & Society to discuss her report, AI in Context.

Closer to home, I spent last Thursday at the anthropology + technology conference in Bristol. …

About

Thea Snow

Reimagining government

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