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ANZSOG works with Aotearoa New Zealand’s Public Service Fale to support better decision making in the Pacific

2 August 2022

News and media


ANZSOG is extending its work on building government policy capability by partnering with the Public Service Fale in the Public Service Commission in Aotearoa New Zealand to develop and deliver a policy capability program for 16 Pacific jurisdictions. 

The program supports Pacific Public Service Commissions and public service leaders to assess and build policy capability through a series of interactive webinars and workshops – with the goal of improving the quality of their advice to decision makers. It draws on ANZSOG’s expertise and recent work on building policy capability, including in the Executive Master of Public Administration and Future public sector leaders series, and brings jurisdictions together to share strategies on building policy capability. 

The Public Service Fale was set up in 2020 with funding from the Aotearoa New Zealand aid program to support Pacific Public Service Commissioners achieve their goals and strengthen public services for their citizens. The Fale’s 16 Pacific Public Service Commission members are: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. 

The Fale’s policy program began in April 2022 with the first of two webinars led by ANZSOG’s Executive Director for Aotearoa New Zealand, Sally Washington, who previously set up and led the Policy Project in Aotearoa’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  

Ms Washington said that Pacific nations were not alone in wanting to improve their policymaking systems. 

“Governments around the world, including Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, have similar concerns about how to design and deliver quality policy advice to ensure better government decisions,” she said. 

“These concerns include policy proposals without adequate evidence; shortages of well-trained policy advisors; weak systems for prioritisation, collaboration, and alignment between departments; problems with implementing policies; and a focus on short-term demands to the detriment of longer-term policy challenges -like climate change, inter-generational poverty, aging populations.” 

“Capability goes beyond people and skills. It includes leadership, policy quality systems, and broad engagement with people likely to be affected by decisions. Together the components form a systemic approach to supporting good policy advice and the capability to produce it.” 

Niue Public Service Commissioner Victoria Kalauni said the Policy series is informing work currently under way at the Commission to develop guidelines and rules of the game to reinforce policy. 

Another participant referred to the value of the Policy workshops saying: “I loved hearing about everyone’s experience and I loved the slides pack for the workshop. I enjoyed the information shared by Sally and how she built on everyone’s shared experience.” 

 The first webinar – Aotearoa’s Policy Project: Improving the quality of policy advice across government – told the story behind the Policy Project foundation frameworks and tools, and how they were co-designed with public servants and launched by the Prime Minister. The second webinar – Building policy capability – an infrastructure approach – set out the key dimensions of policy capability.  

Learning to walk in the minister’s shoes 

The program has now moved into a new phase of interactive workshops that will bring together senior Pacific public servants to share their challenges and approaches. The first workshop on Working with Ministers in June 2022 was attended by over 50 senior officials from 11 nations. 

The workshop provided a structured approach, drawing on recent ANZSOG work (see the Minister-department relationships – key components framework below) on advising and interacting with ministers and their offices, and for discussing these issues within teams, the wider organisation, other departments, and even with Ministers themselves. 

To think about how to best support ministers, participants were asked to ‘walk in the Minister’s shoes’ by understanding political priorities and being politically astute or savvy. Aotearoa’s Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio appeared via video recording and said:  

“My advice to public servants is to be open, be free and be frank, but also they’ve got to be really clear on whether they understand the direction of the government and what the Minister wants”.  

Diagram illustrating Minister-departmental relationships

Source: S Washington, Fixing the ‘demand side’: how the public service can support ministers to be ‘intelligent customers’ of policy advice | ANZSOG


Ms Washington said the workshop had been an opportunity for a broad discussion about policymaking challenges in the Pacific.

“I have been impressed with the engagement and sophisticated talanoa (discussion) with Pacific colleagues. The program provides an opportunity for us to share our common challenges and strategies for good government decision making. No-one has all the answers – we can learn so much from each other,” she said.

Future Fale Policy Workshops will look at Policy Skills and a Framework and tools for developing quality policy advice. The Policy Framework workshop will set out a process for developing policy advice, with a repeatable, scalable model for approaching a policy challenge. The framework can serve as a guide to policy development, to support policy professionals in their day-to-day work. Pacific nations will be able to adapt the framework and tools to the specific context of their own jurisdiction.

Pacific public servants can access the previous webinars and workshops, and get information about future ones, at the FaleOnline website

Other organisations and jurisdictions interested in working with ANZSOG to build their policy capability can find more information about our Advisory services here.

Ms Washington has written two articles on how governments can improve the quality of their policy advice. One on fixing the demand side to make ministers intelligent customers of policy advice, and one on building the infrastructure to support good policy advice.

For more background information on ANZSOG’s work in improving policy capability, our Research Insights series has published a report A model for strategic policy development in education detailing our work with the South Australian Education Department, and a curated conversation between three  departments from three jurisdictions on Building policy capability – an infrastructure approach.