Creating Public Value

The Holy Grail of Public Purpose Work

Featuring content from Michael Eales
Managing Director ANZ and Strategy Designer, Business Models Inc

This article first appeared on on February 25 2021.

For those of us engaged in public purpose work, the policy challenges we face are extensive and complex and many have been exacerbated by the pandemic. At the same time, responding to the pandemic has demonstrated possibilities – innovations and positive impacts – not previously thought.

At last week’s BiiG Network Innovation Conference, IPAA Queensland’s breakout sessions examined the holy grail of public purpose work – creating public value.  They provided an opportunity to fundamentally rethink responses to pressing policy challenges, to identify and progress further innovation for better solutions.

Day 1’s session focused on the WHAT of public value, reimagining value and better policy solutions for clients and communities.

IPAA was delighted to have Michael Eales, Strategy Designer and Managing Director, Business Models Inc ANZ, kick off the session with a keynote address – Reimagining trust in public purpose work. Michael took participants on a journey, challenging them to reimagine the way they look at public purpose work and new ways for creating greater value. He challenged the audience to understand the designer’s mindset. Referencing 2020 – dramas on a global scale including the COVID health crisis, political upheaval and culture wars which shattered prevailing world views during a time of unsettling technological change and environmental shifts. He asked –

Are we living in a post COVID-19 world yet?

Will the social and economic aftermaths of the pandemic live on beyond the health impacts?

What is the future role of the state, and the purpose of government from here on?

Is it time for all of us to rethink our role, the role of public sector institutions and the social contracts around which they stand?

To create public value and reimagine public purpose work (in the time of COVID), what does it mean for your responsibility to step up to the possibilities of a real re-set  … to reimagine, shape and lead a new wave of public service work with the skills and endurance needed?   One word underpins this, and that word is trust.

I propose that for you to shape and ride this new wave and reimagine the purpose of public purpose work you must give yourself permission to reimagine trust. This includes reimagining your capacity to adapt and learn. To realign public services with citizen needs is one of the most important jobs you have to do in the time of COVID. Finding new ways of resourcing the problems society faces and adopting new ways of working to move beyond the capacity constraints faced by public sector.

So your challenge is to reimagine your capacity, the capacity of your team and your whole organisation …   to think beyond the binary separation of public and private, to think toward how we can mobilise private activities towards the achievement of public goals and doing this in a sustainable and scalable way.

You must embrace the uncertainty and not seek to control the overwhelming complexity of the modern world.

To meet the future in front of you – Embrace the mindset, the skill set and the tool set of design.  

And the most important for you today is to understand the designer’s mindset. Understanding, learning and adopting this mindset is the most important task I ask of  you today.

Consider – Where is public value created next?  What is possible?  What possibilities can you imagine?  What if you focus more on what is possible and consider the positives about what’s already happening out there in Queensland.

Could you shift your focus to exploring emerging policy areas and how government around the world are prototyping different policies to reimagine public purpose work and the desired outcomes?

What if you took a more adaptive position to anticipating risks from here on, including supporting civic institutions and civil leadership out there in our community, and partnering more with industry?

Michael offered participants three key messages in a call to action –

Drive collaboration across the public sector, work with industry and academia to solve the non-technical probs, the urgent crises. Such problems tend to overwhelm our capacity. They’re complex, they aren’t simple, they’re often ill-structured with no clear definitional boundary, where the experts disagree on what to do. But note – This ultimately presents a space for new solutions and exploration, where best practices and what we’ve done in the past won’t get us to where we need to go.

Create community which comes from strengthening the muscle of collaboration. This is about connectedness – between humans and for relationships that bind the organisations in our community.

Build trust – focus on building trust by fostering the communities of practice and creating the products and services the public is willing to put their faith in – this is your job.   

Michael shared exciting stories of where creating better public value is already happening, highlighting the Global CoLab Movement with examples from overseas and closer to home here in Queensland. These collaborative laboratories are bringing industry, academic, government, not-for-profits and civic leaders together, where participants are reimagining transformative, sustainable, and scalable solutions – in youth mental health, housing, the environment, and community infrastructure.

IPAA will feature more from this breakout session in our next edition of Insights – stay tuned!

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