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ANZSOG’s mission is to lift the quality of public sector leadership in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, through seeking to:

  • educate public sector leaders to improve their skills, capacity and management, and expose them to the best thinking on public administration.
  • enrich the discipline of public sector leadership through focused research, which has a practical application and meets the needs of our owner governments.
  • connect diverse people, cultures, institutions and jurisdictions – it is a meeting place where public sector leaders come together to be inspired, share, learn and debate accepted practice and new ideas. We also connect senior public service practitioners and academic, and provide a bridge between theory and practice.
  • inspire public servants to make a positive difference to the lives of people in Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand.

ANZSOG’s Research Insights series supports this mission through disseminating conceptual and practical reflections from our network of expert practitioners and academics, ranging across the span of ANZSOG’s work.

ANZSOG brings together expertise from across jurisdictions in a range of forums designed to share insights around challenges the public service faces. These publications aim to capture those discussions and present them in a way that provides practical support for public servants.

Ministers and Officials – how to get the relationship right

Relationships between ministers and officials are fundamental to our system of government. The foundation of those relationships, like any relationship, is trust and mutual respect. It needs to be based on honesty, openness, and an understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities. ANZSOG ran a series of events to explore both the supply and the ‘demand side’ of good policy and good decision making, and the crucial relationships at the political administrative interface.

The ANZSOG series of conversations involved politicians and public servants, and were designed to shed light on what both sides can do to ensure the relationship is working at its best.

Building foresight capability

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that few governments are able to effectively predict and prepare for future disruptive events. Foresight is increasingly recognised as a key function of good government and an essential input to policy design and strategy. It helps to identify emerging challenges and opportunities, and is essential for rigorous long-term policy advice.

Several ANZSOG jurisdictions are working to improve their foresight capability and to embed that capability within the work of government, making foresight as an essential element of policy design, policy capability and policy stewardship. ANZSOG convened a ‘curated conversation’ to bring together senior officials from the Commonwealth, NSW and South Australia, to share lessons and approaches to improving foresight capability and to engage with the Singapore Government, considered a world leader in government foresight capability.

This ‘conversation tracker’ captures the key themes of a broad-ranging discussion which have broad relevance to all jurisdictions looking to future-proof policy and build foresight into their work.

Building policy capability – an infrastructure approach

Many organisations and jurisdictions recognise that their policy advisory systems need improving. They report remarkably similar challenges, including concerns about the quality of policy advice, shortages of skilled senior policy advisors, a lack of investment in future capability, and weak systems for collaboration, alignment and prioritisation.

ANZSOG works with a range of organisations and jurisdictions to support them to improve their policy advisory systems by taking a systemic approach to develop an effective ‘policy infrastructure’.

Among those organisations are several education departments. ANZSOG convened a curated conversation to bring together senior officials from: the South Australian Department for Education, The Ministry of Education in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

The conversation explored questions around the context and drivers for policy capability improvement initiatives. This ‘conversation tracker’ captures its key themes, which go beyond the education domain to provide insights into how agencies can address the challenge of building an effective policy infrastructure.

Leadership Capability Framework for the Queensland Public Sector – Interim Evidence Review

As the public sector environment becomes more complex the issue of leadership development becomes more important for public services that want to increase their capability.

Through its Research Model, ANZSOG is collaborating with the Queensland Public Service (QPS) and the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) on a research project to address system-wide challenges of leadership development, including career transitions and generational transformation in the context of capability planning for the QPS.

This interim evidence review compares leadership enablement approaches from across several jurisdictions, as well as gathering insights on QPS’s existing leadership foundations.

Use of Public Opinion Data to Inform COVID-19 Policymaking

ANZSOG’s Research Model project Trust, Transparency and the Use of Data in Informing Policy Responses, co-funded by the Australian Public Sector Commission (APSC), is being undertaken by Monash University’s Sustainable Development Institute This project, to be completed in late 2024, will develop best practice guidance for public sector collection, evaluation, and use of public opinion data, for the purpose of developing public policy that integrates, and gives proper weight to, the opinions of those affected by it.

The first output from the project is the Use of Public Opinion Data to Inform COVID-19 Policymaking rapid evidence review on the utility of public opinion data, within the context of decision-making during the COVID crisis. This review aimed to address the question: How was public opinion data (POD) used to inform policy responses during the COVID-19 pandemic? It examined approximately 20 studies that have in some way drawn upon public opinion, and during crises – an acute context for decision making.

The Purpose of Small Statutory Agencies: Insights on their Functions, Form, and Practices

This original ANZSOG research examines the complex authorising environment of small statutory agencies and demonstrates the importance of them interpreting their formal independence and their practical reliance on larger government departments.

It provides practical guidance about the establishment, governance, and operations of this increasingly important part of the machinery of government, and the realities involved in effectively balancing functional relationships.

It was produced as part of a larger project, commissioned by ANZSOG in partnership with the Public Sector Commission of Queensland and the Public Sector Commission of Western Australia, investigating the governance and operations of small statutory agencies.

Would adopting more co-governance arrangements with communities build trust?

This scoping study is the first component of a larger ANZSOG-sponsored research project examining co-governance practices and especially trust between governments and communities.

The project is being undertaken by the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), UNSW Sydney, funded by ANZSOG and key NSW Government Agencies (the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, as well as Customer Service, Regional NSW, and the NSW Public Service Commission).

The purpose of this scoping study is to identify methods to operationalise and implement co-governance, and expectations of co-governance outcomes. This report presents the findings of the scoping study and is informed by a search of the literature (both academic and practice). It identifies general principles that can be applied to different contexts, and includes illustrative examples of co-governance in specific jurisdictions and policy areas.

The Governance and Operation of Smaller Statutory Agencies – Evidence Review Report

ANZSOG has partnered with the public sector commissions of Queensland and Western Australia to commission a research project investigating small statutory agencies, with the goal of producing best practice guidance for establishing, governing and operating these increasingly important and numerous arms of government.

Research for this this paper was undertaken by the University of Western Australia’s Public Policy Institute. It is the first output from the project. The paper reviews some relevant scholarly and grey literature and finds that while there has been significant consideration of governance issues in general, there have been fewer studies aimed at the interaction of these issues with the size of agencies.

This analysis summarises the literature and its contribution to identifying issues facing small agencies, and also reveals critical gaps which will provide future directions for this research project and the field more broadly.

Flexible working in the Australian Capital Territory Public Service (ACTPS)

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of flexible work amongst public sector workers and the ACTPS has positioned flexible working as central to their vision to be the most progressive Australian jurisdiction for workplace practices and an employer of choice for employees seeking flexibility. This report, undertaken by the University of NSW’s Wales’s Public Service Research Group and funded by ANZSOG in partnership with the ACTPS, examines the impact of flexible working on productivity, wellbeing and effectiveness, and identifies factors that can lead to more effective flexible working. The report contains detailed insights for any agency trying to develop optimal ways of managing a flexible workforce. It finds there are four essential elements needed for effective flexible working: an outcomes-oriented approach to working, a purposeful approach to working from the office, a team-based approach to working, and improved managerial support and development. The ACTPS will draw upon the findings to inform and confirm its flexible work policies and practices.

Research Paper for Victorian DTF: Implementing the Early Intervention Investment Framework

The Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) is implementing the Victorian Government’s Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF), a new budgeting tool designed to guide investment in early intervention initiatives with rigorous quantification requirements, and engaged ANZSOG to develop a research and practice paper to aid in the refinement and implementation of the EIIF. The origins and goals of the EIIF are discussed in this DTF paper The Early Intervention Investment Framework which looks at the importance of measuring impact through outcomes and avoided costs, and how the Victorian Government is continuing to grow EIIF’s effectiveness and re-balance the system toward more early intervention over time.

This ANZSOG paper considers what the most effective features are for the EIIF to support budgetary decision making on long-term social services investments, and what is required to realise this. It does so with a focus on the feedback loop that exists between the technical aspects of the EIIF – the systems and tools within the budgeting process and broader government – and organisational and individual behaviours and attitudes, as well as the changes that will support the implementation of the EIIF and continue to build it long-term.

Senior Executive Service Case Studies

These Research Insights papers are a series of eight case studies which summarise how senior executive arrangements in the public service have evolved since the 1980s in Australia. The series includes the Commonwealth, all six states and the Northern Territory. The papers cover the legislative and policy changes that have influenced the work of each public service over recent decades, and provide a snapshot of recent arrangements for senior public servants in each jurisdiction through to around 2021.

They are being published as a resource that may assist students and researchers who want to understand more about the comparative arrangements across jurisdictions. The papers were compiled by a research team led by Brian Head, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Queensland, and Linda Colley, Professor of Work and Employment at CQUniversity. Valuable research assistance was provided by Shelley Woods, Chris Salisbury and Prue Brown. The production of these reports has been made possible by funding from the Australian Research Council.


Queensland Building and Construction Commission: An analysis of governance, regulatory approach and capability

As part of our advisory work, ANZSOG was commissioned to provide independent research to inform a review into governance arrangements for the Queensland Building and Construction Industry.

The research covers the background and context for regulation of the building and construction sector in Queensland, sets out comparative practices in other jurisdictions and best practice evidence drawn from OECD research. Consistent with the brief, ANZSOG has not put forward recommendations in this report, but instead offered a number of observations for further consideration in the review process, which we believe have relevance in other jurisdictions considering reform in this area.

How do place-based services evolve in a world of virtual, physical and hybrid service delivery?

These papers outline the findings of an ANZSOG research project, co-sponsored by the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet (NSW DPC), to identify the emerging considerations for governments in designing and delivering hybrid (i.e. virtual and face-to-face) services and hybrid place-based initiatives (PBIs) – specifically those relating to social services.

The research was carried out by a team from the University of New South Wales’s Social Policy Research Centre (SPRCS) and draws on the recent experiences of governments in finding new ways of working in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It examines the effect of using virtual and hybrid modes of service delivery on stakeholders, and identifies the policy settings and resources that will support the ongoing transformation of place-based service delivery.

Building strategic policy capability – the vision, the journey and lessons learnt

This paper, written by Peter Meere from the South Australian Department for Education, outlines how the Department developed and implemented a best-practice, repeatable and scalable model for strategic policy development, as part of its 10-year vision to provide a ‘world-class’ education system. It outlines the process of diagnosing existing capability, developing a Strategic Policy Model and related tools, and the deliberate approach to governance, collaboration and co-design to ensure take up and use of the Model. This work was done with assistance from ANZSOG and this Research Insights paper is published, with the permission of the Department, because ANZSOG believes it has broader application across jurisdictions as an example of how a model for strategic policy can be designed, implemented, and used to drive an agency’s long-term strategic goals.

Developing Agency Capability

This paper, by Donald Speagle, Shaun Goldfinch and Rory Dufficy, is based on a report commissioned from ANZSOG by the Western Australian Public Service Commission to assist them to implement a program of reviews in Western Australia. ANZSOG acknowledges with gratitude the willingness of the WA PSC to allow us to share with other governments and with scholars what we learnt in the course of that project.

Changing Experiences of Virtual, Physical and Hybrid Service Delivery across the Social Care (Child and Family Services) Sector

This rapid evidence review was conducted to inform a study on how place-based services evolve in a world of virtual, physical and hybrid service delivery. The review sought to identify innovations and attempted enhancements facilitated by changing technologies, and unplanned changes brought about by COVID-19 and the responses of different agencies and services.

ANZSOG/Central Party School COVID-19 Dialogue Papers: How has technical and expert policy advice been used for rapid response decision-making in Australia?

This paper, written by Professor Allan McConnell, was commissioned for ANZSOG and China’s Central Party School’s joint dialogue: Public administration reflections on the COVID-19 response in China, Aotearoa-New Zealand and Australia, which was held in October 2020

ANZSOG/Central Party School COVID-19 Dialogue Papers: How effective have localised community action and targeted messaging about policy decisions been?

This paper, written by Dr Barbara Allen, was commissioned for ANZSOG and China’s Central Party School’s joint dialogue: Public administration reflections on the COVID-19 response in China, Aotearoa-New Zealand and Australia, which was held in October 2020

10 pillars of Youth Justice

A research paper prepared by independent expert Lisa Ward for an ANZSOG cross-jurisdictional Problem Solving Workshop on youth justice held in November 2019

Ensuring a world-class Australian Public Service: delivering local solutions

An ANZSOG research paper for the Australian Public Service Review Panel by Catherine Althaus and Carmel McGregor

Working better with other jurisdictions

An ANZSOG research paper for the Australian Public Service Review Panel by Ben Rimmer, Cheryl Saunders and Michael Crommelin

2030 and beyond: getting the work of government done

An ANZSOG research paper for the Australian Public Service Review Panel by Janine O’Flynn and Gary L. Sturgess

Being a trusted and respected partner: the APS integrity framework

An ANZSOG research paper for the Australian Public Service Review Panel by Nikolas Kirby and Simone Webbe

Being a trusted and respected partner: the APS’ relationship with Ministers and their offices

An ANZSOG research paper for the Australian Public Service Review Panel by Anne Tiernan, Ian Holland and Jacob Deem

Evaluation and learning from failure and success

An ANZSOG research paper for the Australian Public Service Review Panel by J. Rob Bray, Matthew Gray and Paul ’t Hart