Economic reform 2.0 . . . . not

I’ve always thought that institutions that are set up at arms length from government to offer independent advice to governments would be an excellent venue for online discussions to start taking place. An easy opportunity, pretty comprehensively passed up was the Public Service Commissions’s various deliberations on what the codes of public service conduct should be. I would have thought it would have been an ideal matter on with those in the APS might have discussed the issues openly on a blog.  After all it’s APS’ professional business, not ostensibly political or policy business.

Some time ago the PC tried a bit of online engagement, but it had all the usual ‘run by the IT department’ problems and didn’t go anywhere. I discovered with some excitement the unit in the Victorian Bureaucracy which was built in the mould of the PC and which I think is doing a pretty good job was getting into the same game.

Alas VCEConnect is the usual disaster.

VCEC’s original discussion starter on state reform – consists of a single unsigned question asking whether people agree on the three priorities in the draft report.  There’s one comment.

Then there’s a thread on another inquiry into education reform. It asks “In your view, what are the key areas the Victorian Government should focus on? And, more specifically, what actions should the Government take in these areas?” There are two comments.

That’s it. Both posts were put up in November.

If I were asked what I think of VCEConnect I would borrow from Mahatma Ghandi when he was asked what he thought of Western civilisation.

I think it would be a good idea.

9 thoughts on “Economic reform 2.0 . . . . not

  1. Hi Nicholas,

    There’s seven issues which regularly come up in these engagement attempts:

    - Don’t consider online a viable channel – senior management doesn’t believe in online as an effective channel, or is only box-ticking (Management failure)
    - Inability to execute – the organisation can’t set up a working system (IT failure)
    - Poor system usability – the system is technically working but unusable for the public (IT/Comms failure)
    - Lack of awareness – no-one is told about the consultation system due to lack of internal support, poor resourcing or poor comms strategy (Management/Comms failure)
    - Lack of familiarity – the audience isn’t familiar with how to use the system and isn’t given adequate support to overcome this (Comms/Training failure)
    - Fear of exposure – people who wish to comment are afraid of doing so because they perceive they might be targeted publicly (Management/Comms failure)
    - Timing – consultation is open for too short or long a time, or during holiday periods (Management/Policy/Comms failure)

    Most of these issues can be addressed with adequate training, support and a solid mandate from senior management.

    Unfortunately these things are the hardest to find at present.

  2. That’s an amazing list of problems for something a precocious 9 year old could set up. That’s no offense to you, since after working in a university, it’s easy for me to understand how things get like that and you are just documenting it! Cynicism aside, Steve Schwarz manages to run a blog on his thoughts at MQ, so it certain isn’t impossible.

    I presume the real problem is that no-one actually cares or knows enough to get things running and write interesting posts, and anyone that does is stifled by bureaucracy — other things like usability and so on are a bit hard to swallow (of course, people will bring them up as problems). If I look at VCEconnect, for example, and compare it to other education blogs of what presumably would be similar scope (often with very primative interfaces), then what you really need is someone that actually knows enough about what’s going on so they can write something every week and respond to comments. Surely there are enough issues including those that arise in the area that this could be done — without sustained posts, people will just forget about it.

  3. Five tweets a day is the goal, my office’s media people tell us. (We’d frankly be lucky to have five things worthy of tweeting in a month.)

  4. However it’s not all gloom and doom and online engagement is not only easy, it is proving to be an excellent economic and information gathering and sharing resource for Allan Fels and the Taxi Industry Inquiry team. The key to success is to avoid all public service ‘norms’ and revert to a basic marketing and selling principle ‘what do people want to buy and then sell that to them’. In this case the Inquiry opted to use existing infrastructure by accessing the widely used social tool, Facebook. If you have a Facebook profile (and if you don’t the author of this note would wonder why?) you can experience a government agency currently and successfully using social media

    Visit us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TaxiIndustryInquiry
    Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/taxiinquiry
    See our website: http://www.taxiindustryinquiry.vic.gov.au

  5. @Liza

    This is about the Victorian taxi industry, but were I not somewhat o-fay with levels of government/who does what I could easily think it was a national initiative. Are you seeking submissions from outside Victoria? It’s not clear one way or the other.

  6. @Dan the Inquiry was established to reform the Victorian jurisdiction – however – we have actively sought information and assistance from other Australia states, have researched jurisdictions from around the world and have captured their interest. There is some discussion that reforms in Victoria could have a ‘knock on’ effect to other states. You would understand that there are added complexities in nation reforms. This is of course another incredible benefit of online and social media – they can watch our progress as it unfolds.

  7. So how would a non-Vic person know that you’re not seeking submissions from them (assuming I understand correctly that that’s what you’re saying)?

  8. I think I know what you’re asking…….we specifically didn’t limit who could send a submission (which permitted ideas to be broad) and the web site clarifies that this is a Victorian reform. We’ve been consulting since May last year and haven’t experienced any confusion, however we did have submissions from interstate and they clearly understand that they are ‘talking to’ a Victorian jurisdiction.

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