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Bringing together a wealth of public service experience and expertise across a broad range of disciplines and methodologies, the Public Service Research Group– launched on May 16 – uses a fresh approach to gain new insights into effective public service implementation and evaluation.
“People tend to focus on the design of policy and assume if you get that right, everything will be okay,” explains PSRG Director, Associate Professor Helen Dickinson. “We know that's not the case and we’re more interested in the messy side of policy and public service, such as what happens around implementation, or when things don't quite go to plan.”
Partnering with organisational clients, integral to the group’s research is that there will be a practica benefit for those who work in public service.
“We put a lot of effort into knowledge translation and making evidence more useful to practice,” says Dickinson.
Consisting of around 20 academics across the School of Government Business with backgrounds ranging from political science to health, systems theory, project management, economics, accountancy, HR, environmental studies, geography, public management, public administration and industrial relations, the PSRG has recently recruited eight experienced career researchers. The PSRG also works with an expert network of both national and international associates to ensure they have the best range of skill sets for any task at hand.
The PSRG’s inter-disciplinary, inter-methodological approach sets it apart from other research groups of its kind, with Dickinson highlighting its relevance given the changing face of modern public service.
“The reality of public services today is they're designed and delivered by more than just the public sector,” she says. “There's been a big expansion of contracting out services into private and not-for-profit community organisations and there's a greater expectation that different groups and people have a say in policy-making processes. We think it's extremely important to bring together those different sectors in the works we do, because that's the nature of contemporary government.”
This collaborative approach also allows the PSRG to “work closely with clients to solve real issues they’re dealing with, rather than take a cookie cutter approach to research and problem solving,” explains Dickinson.
While working across a broad range of issues, the Group’s research will centralise around three themes, led by internationally renowned academics. The first, led by Dr Gemma Carey, focuses on large scale systems change and reform, the second, led by Dickinson, looks at diversity, equity and inclusion, while the third, led by Professor Deborah Blackman, focuses on public service capability.
“Those three themes, which were developed to address ongoing public service issues, encapsulate what we do, providing a practical framework for us to build on,” says Dickinson.
For interviews or further information, please contact PSRGinfo@unsw.edu.au