Manual Design, Meaning and Choice in Direct Democracy: The Influences of Petitioners and Voters

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I. Introduction

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Media and Elections

Would you like us to take another look at this review? No, cancel Yes, report it Thanks! You've successfully reported this review. The changes will require the active support and encouragement of portfolio ministers so that the somewhat elevated risks associated with innovation, devolution and collaboration do not constrain public servants who are traditionally conscious of political and career damage should an experiment fail or a mischief arise.

The practical and attitudinal changes envisaged for a citizen-centric public service are substantial. Increasingly, we will need to reward the capacity to work collaboratively both internally and with external partners no less than we reward the one-upmanship which often passes for high-quality policy advice. This means we will need to promote staff who achieve value through working with others as well as being able to stand out from the crowd because of their conceptual dexterity. We need to reward those who go the extra mile in assisting people to find their way through the incredible opaque maze that is often the public face of government agencies.

These are characteristics which are not evident in the large, complex organisations that dominate the public sector. They therefore require a conscious, sustained effort on the part of the leaders and managers to change the cultures of our agencies to make them the core behaviours which are valued and rewarded.

Related themes have emerged in the literature that further elevate the challenges confronting public servants, namely, the discursive nature of the policy process, and the influence of policy narratives. For this reason, at both the institutional and individual level, a reflective and self-aware approach to the framing of policy narratives is vital. Citizens, politicians—and yes, even policy analysts It is not that the facts do not play a role; rather it is that they are embedded—explicitly or implicitly—in narrative accounts. What frequently seems to be a conflict over details Given that public participation by citizens—as opposed to, say, peak bodies and industry groups—in policymaking is currently far from the norm, the burden of responsibility for initiating, facilitating and sustaining citizen engagement falls heavily on public servants.

As expressed by the prominent public management theorist Robert Reich, the role of the modern, citizen-oriented public servant is no less than:. The ethical dimension of public service is also worth reiterating here. Web 2. In a professional and respectful manner, APS employees should engage in robust policy conversations. In June , the Australian Government announced the establishment of its Government 2.


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The taskforce report Engage: Getting on with Government 2. These include responsiveness, the need for a major shift in public service culture, harnessing information and expertise, and encouraging innovation. That just underscores the fact that, along with open data Gruen nevertheless remains alert to the potential and the uncertainty that attends the pursuit by the public service of online engagement with citizens:.

Government 2. Before them lies a vast field of promise, but one that is still new. The wider literature on digital engagement and e-government reflects the same potential and uncertainty expressed by Gruen. Yet much of the debate is still on the potential opportunities and risks of Government 2.

Media and Elections —

There is a broad consensus, however, that online engagement opportunities for citizens, to be truly effective, require embedding in a broader context of government openness and transparency that includes robust legislative regimes for freedom of information, public service codes of conduct, public ownership and re-use of information gathered and generated by government, and society-wide access to high quality broadband networks.

Australia appears to be making progress on all these fronts—and in some respects is already relatively well-positioned. Macnamara also raises as an important consideration that of government being the host to a consultation site as opposed to leveraging existing online discussion sites. In the broader concept of online citizen engagement proposed, there is a strong argument that government should go to the people rather than making people come to it.

Opening up government consultation beyond formal government sites, and even opening up some government information and data to third party applications, is strongly endorsed by the UK Power of Information Task Force. This has both a pragmatic and social equity rationale.

A second reason for government departments and agencies to participate in public forums hosted by third parties is that discursive practices within government sites inevitably remain bound by a significant imbalance in power relationships which can limit participation levels and the effectiveness of government-hosted and managed online consultation sites. The barriers to greater online citizen engagement in policy-making are cultural, organisational and constitutional not technological.

Overcoming these challenges will require greater efforts to raise awareness and capacity both within governments and among citizens. Shortly before the federal election the Gillard Government announced that, if it were returned to office, the APSC would still undertake its expanded role as planned but would not receive the full extent of the funding specified in the Budget.

The gap between the ideals of the APS engaging with citizens in a full-bodied way, and what is currently on the horizon in terms of political commitment and applied resources, does not give grounds for hope that reform will be rapid.

The Government remains committed to the Blueprint reforms, even though the Budget situation requires the Commission to implement them as far as possible within a more heavily constrained budget. Engagement concerns While engagement can develop in its own way, and along its own lines, it is clearly an area in which the values of public servants and their political masters are of prime importance in determining the extent to which it occurs and the extent to which policy is altered as a result. In short, public servants will engage with citizens, and will collaborate in co-production of policy and public services, only to extent that ministers prescribe, department heads direct, and budgets allow.

As stressed throughout this paper, robust engagement with citizens is highly desirable, and a foundational element of democratic governance. But it can be bruising and frustrating, and it must accommodate the various modes of both online and face-to-face participation. Again, it is hard to overstate the cultural shift involved in creating a public service that is truly citizen-centric in its thinking and acting. It requires sustained political commitment from ministers, vigorous leadership from the Senior Executive Service and effective professional development and training for all involved.

Participation by citizens in the governance of their society is the bedrock of democracy. There is also much work to be done in acquainting citizens with, and building their capabilities for, participatory and deliberative practices of policy development and service delivery. This paper has acknowledged, without resolving, the challenges that this entails, and has noted the additional complexity encountered where marginalised or disempowered citizens and groups are concerned.

It has also suggested that preparing citizens for engagement would not involve some kind of superficial induction course but rather a long apprenticeship to democratic decision-making through participation and socialisation within family, educational, social and work environments. The Australian Public Service is one of our pre-eminent institutions. To remain robust, resilient and relevant it must continually evaluate its own performance and test its worth in the court of public opinion. The blueprint for reform, Ahead of the Game , is frank about this requirement.

A Secretaries Board has been established to pursue reform and determine strategic priorities. Public servants, in frank and fearless mode, have a role in shaping the discourse of citizen engagement and influencing the attitudes of their ministers. The APS blueprint has already carved out some solid territory for such a discussion, and it is reasonable to assume that its advocates remain influential upon decision-makers.


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  • Meanwhile, the concept of co-production gathers momentum. It especially requires:. The World Bank contends that collaboration is not a matter of style but rather one of stance. It is a useful differentiation because it attends to the crucial matter of perspective that informs the entire combination of elements that Commissioner Sedgwick has identified for success.

    The collaborative, engaging stance means that participants and stakeholders together:. These are tall orders for a traditional, or even a progressive public service. They represent the opposite end of the spectrum from a command-and-control stance, and indeed reach well beyond the consultative approaches to engagement that currently apply. Whether such challenges will prove a bridge too far is the question of the moment. This paper has noted that some Australian governments and local authorities have already taken steps to embed citizen participation, or at least substantial consultation, into their service design and delivery mechanisms.

    Some of the most striking examples, in fact, are to be found in developing countries—rural poverty alleviation in Albania; low-income sanitation and participatory budgeting in Brazil; energy reform in Colombia; communal irrigation in the Philippines. The following case studies illustrate various types of effective citizen and stakeholder engagement in the development of policy, and the design of services in particular. They reflect approaches to policy and services that have been pursued within, or are potentially relevant to, an Australian context.

    What is also common is the existence of strong mutual commitments to making partnerships between agencies and citizens work, and allowing collaborations to proceed in a manner and a timeframe that suits both the people and the purpose. The expectation was that the knowledge and understanding of community economic development processes built over time through such active engagement with communities and community groups would contribute at many levels including:.

    Scanning the wider policy arena for opportunities is imperative. This is likely to be an ongoing challenge and dilemma for any government engagement effort for two reasons. The core principles of engagement such as mutual trust, reciprocity and commitment to the process mean that one cannot pull out of the engagement.

    Centrelink was established in as a one-stop-shop for the integrated provision by the Australian Government of various human services and social support payments. It rapidly earned an international reputation for its cutting edge approach to service delivery. What is unfolding are initiatives which move beyond the existing service system, to create, together with other groups, new opportunities for participation.

    The most successful partnerships engage people all over the community. Centrelink has already developed a strong track record of on-the-ground activity in achieving its four key aims of communicating, coordinating, collaborating and creating opportunities for participation. Given such dispersed accountability for the use of funds, a small scale experimental, path-finding approach was seen as most feasible. Centrelink established six teams, operating in seven geographic locations, that were given a relatively free hand to develop holistic and customer-centric service delivery practices, and to build community capacity through collaboration.

    They included the long-term unemployed, youth leaving care, people with mental health problems, refugees, and itinerants sleeping rough. In one instance, those involved were not current Centrelink clients, nor accessing any local support services, notwithstanding their high level of need. Local reference groups and action research teams assisted in monitoring the initiatives and helping to modify their practices as the work unfolded, as well as measuring and assessing the success of the innovations. The initiatives proved strikingly successful. Initiative staff are exposed daily to situations where policies of different agencies and different levels of government intersect and where the collective impact effectively contributes to the disadvantage or exclusion of the customer.

    For best effect these two levels must be brought together and the intelligence and experience of the direct service providers must be made available in the policy development arena. Centrelink and the social policy agencies of government should develop an appropriate mechanism for feedback concerning the impact of intersecting policies on the most disadvantaged customers from their own frontline staff.

    An extension of the principles adopted in the Place Bases Services program to other places, and in some cases, across the Centrelink network, would be a central element of such a development. Effective engagement with Indigenous people in the development of policies and services has been an ongoing challenge for governments at all levels.

    A COAG reform process has given new impetus to improving remote service delivery and human services policy under the national Closing the Gap strategy. In July under the National Indigenous Reform Agreement all governments committed to the following service delivery principles for Indigenous Australians:.

    Priority principle : Programs and services should contribute to Closing the Gap by meeting the targets endorsed by COAG while being appropriate to local needs. Indigenous engagement principle : Engagement with Indigenous men, women and children and communities should be central to the design and delivery of programs and services.

    Sustainability principle : Programs and services should be directed and resourced over an adequate period of time to meet the COAG targets. Access principle : Programs and services should be physically and culturally accessible to Indigenous people recognising the diversity of urban, regional and remote needs. Integration principle : There should be collaboration between and within government at all levels and their agencies to effectively coordinate programs and services.

    Accountability principle : Programs and services should have regular and transparent performance monitoring, review and evaluation. To commemorate National Sorry Day 26 May the Australian Government launched the Partnership as a mechanism for collaboration with Stolen Generation members on the development of a comprehensive national policy response to support members of the Stolen generation and to help heal their grief and trauma. The big difference was that the idea of the Working Partnership was brought to us before it went ahead and our involvement discussed. We were able to add our thoughts and recommendations to an early draft and we met and talked it through some more.

    It came back to us for further comment, and we got to see the input from all parties before it was finalised. So we had a chance to create it together from the beginning. The consultations inspired us to think of what could be possible if we continue to work together in cooperative partnership with government instead of providing feedback and then losing sight of the process in the policy formation and implementation stages and finding the end result looks nothing like the original feedback provided.

    An initial steering group, selected by key Indigenous figures in water issues, planned a major National Indigenous Freshwater Forum, which in turn proposed and named the Council, and devised both a membership appointment process and draft terms of reference. The involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout this process, and the adoption of a governance model which allowed stakeholders to determine their own next steps, were vital to achieving such positive outcomes.

    Each NEIP must be sponsored by one of a list of prescribed protection agencies that have official duties or responsibilities under the Act. There is a series of steps that the community-based initiator s and their partners must go through to ensure the robustness, and broad community endorsement, of their proposal.

    The sponsor is required to act on behalf of the group to bring the proposal to VEPA for endorsement, and ultimately approval as a plan with legal status that is published in the Government Gazette. A subsequent evaluation of NEIP, published in , revisited some of these issues. Key implications of the study focused on the capacities of potential participants, and the capacities of the public service agencies as facilitators of participation.

    To plan for engagement, a governance structure was established with wide community representation, including teachers, students and parents and a range of other stakeholders. An independent facilitator was engaged to manage the entire process, which was designed to ensure inclusiveness and deliberation. The process was a sophisticated one, involving:. All elements of the process were communicated extensively, including through local newspapers, radio and television, and the representativeness of the range of participants was expanded through additional random selection processes.

    As a result of the process, 58 recommendations were made to the Department. While there was widespread support for some goals and strategies, on others there remained a diversity of views.

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    The engagement process had been exhaustive and well-facilitated, leaving little doubt that the citizens of the Tamworth region had been given a genuine opportunity to influence the educational future of the area. The practical effect of their participation in such an intensive process will emerge as the Tamworth vision unfolds over time. The LAC framework observes a range of key democratic and autonomy-enhancing principles, including:. LAC is essentially an exercise in enabling people with disabilities to co-design and co-produce the services and supports they need while also enabling them to contribute and share their own knowledge, skills and assets through their local LAC-inspired networks.

    If traditional services tend towards pigeon-holing people according to the needs they identify and the available service options before them, many co-produced services start somewhere else — more like: what sort of life does this person want? What does this person feel is a good life for them? LAC is now operating across many Australian states, Scotland, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand, and a valuable body of research on its effectiveness has emerged.

    The LAC methodology has demonstrated personal, community and economic benefits. There has been a very strong commitment to supervision and support in this program and this must be seen as a cornerstone of the success of the program. This has been an important safeguard in enabling the program to meet its objectives not just at the outset but to keep meeting those objectives.

    Emphasis in original. There are two significant implications for the work of LAC in this signpost. First, sustaining practitioners in difficult contexts is a serious challenge for all health and human services in rural and remote areas. Second, the translation of service ideals to the lived experiences of people with disabilities and families has proven to be a complex and difficult task. It is our view that LAC has demonstrated a model for ongoing support and supervision which can begin to address both these challenges.

    In the 21 st century, advanced nations are struggling to deal with the impacts of increased longevity among their citizens. The predominant pattern of ill-health is not one of acute illness but rather chronic disease or long-term illness. Diabetes, arthritis, cancer, dementia, heart disease and stroke are just some of the conditions that are being endured and managed by individuals over longer and longer periods.

    Many health professionals involved in the care of these individuals are acknowledging that their patients understand their condition better than the clinicians do. This knowledge and experience held by the patient has for too long been an untapped resource.


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    • It drew its inspiration from over twenty years of work in user-led self-management programmes developed at the Stanford University School of Medicine under the leadership of Professor Kate Lorig. The mainstay of the Expert Patients Programme is a six-week self care skills training course which is an adaptation of the Chronic Disease Self-management Programme developed in the USA. The course is delivered [in primary care settings] by people who have personal experience of living with a long-term condition.

      Design, Meaning and Choice in Direct Democracy: The

      Under the scheme, a general practice would receive pooled payments to be used to work with patients to develop a personalised care plan, among other things. The doctors would be paid, in part, on the basis of their performance in keeping their patients healthy and out of hospital.

      The Canadian Government operates a website www. Consultations listed on the site are updated regularly by participating government departments and agencies. The site provides:. Any citizen, acting individually or jointly with others, may at any time exercise his right of petition to the European Parliament under Article of the EC Treaty. The petition—submitted by post or via an online form designed for that purpose— may present an individual request, a complaint or observation concerning the application of EU law or an appeal to the European Parliament to adopt a position on a specific matter.

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      Summary Design, Meaning and Choice in Direct Democracy examines the link between political knowledge and participation in direct democracy in the United States.