Public service policy implementation, stewardship and gender equality top of research agenda

| 30 Nov 2017

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UNSW Canberra’s Public Service Research Group (PSRG) is setting the agenda for the Australian Public Service (APS) with new research on policy implementation, stewardship and gender equality.

It has launched a Papers Series addressing topical themes in the APS.

The first two issues papers: Not Another Review About Implementation? Reframing the Research Agenda and Is All Stewardship Equal? Developing a Typology of Stewardship Approaches were released on Wednesday, along with the first research brief: Embedding Gender Equality in the Australian Public Service: Changing practices, changing cultures.

The implementation review explores the importance of context in policy implementation.

Authored by Dr Katie Moon, Professor Deborah Blackman and Associate Professor Helen Dickinson, the paper argues that context is not sufficiently considered when policies are designed, and governments need better tools to analyse the environmental factors that affect policy outcomes.

“Although current implementation research mentions complexity and context, it is largely given as an excuse to explain why a policy failed, rather than forming a core part of the decision process,” Dr Moon said. 

The paper on stewardship, by Associate Professor Helen Dickinson, Dr Katie Moon, Dr Dru Marsh and Dr Gemma Carey, grapples with the evolving role of the APS.

It suggests that workforce skills may need to evolve as the role of government agencies change.

“There is a real gap in terms of the evidence in this area,” Dr Dickinson said.

“If stewardship is going to be the new way government works, what kind of workforce skills and competencies will be needed to discharge that function?”

The research brief, by Dr Sue Williamson and Dr Meraiah Foley, addresses gender equality and shows the 2016 APS Gender Equality Strategy has had a positive impact.

“It enabled managers to talk about the ways they could progress gender equality within their teams and organisations,” Dr Williamson said.

“We heard about many great initiatives being implemented, from job-sharing between employees of different levels, to SES working flexibly.”

It also found managers were committed to tackling unconscious bias in employment processes.

“Unconscious bias training has been very effective at giving people a language to talk about the negative effects of stereotyping,” Dr Foley said.

“Many of the people we interviewed were acutely aware of the potential for unconscious bias to influence employment decisions, and were very motivated to prevent that.”

The paper series aims to outline the existing evidence base around important topics, set out future research priorities and provide accessible summaries of new research.

It comprises two different forms of publications; research briefs and issues papers. The research briefs are short papers that summarise the findings and implications of a recent piece of PSRG research. Issues papers are more substantial pieces that are an original exploration of a theme relevant to the APS.

The PSRG Paper Series is available here.

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