Prepared by Rosemary O’Leary, August 2014
with funding from the sponsors of the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy
Rosemary O’Leary is the Edwin O. Stene Distinguished Professor of Public Administration at the University of Kansas, and Founder of Rosemary O’Leary and Associates – a firm providing training, presentations, coaching, and workshops on all aspects of collaboration. She is author or editor of eleven books and more than 100 articles and book chapters on public management. She is an elected member of the US National Academy of Public Administration and has won multiple national awards for her work.
Rosemary received her PhD in Public Administration and Public Policy from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and a JD (Law) from the University of Kansas.
During Rosemary’s seven month Ian Axford Fellowship exchange to New Zealand she was based at the State Services Commission in Wellington, researching collaborative governance in New Zealand.
The human world is fragmented. Boundaries divide regions, jurisdictions, organisations, and land owners. Yet public policy problems do not conform to these tidy lines. Responding to today’s challenges including climate change, water pollution, disaster response, health and wellness, poverty, housing, food safety, and sustainable development requires boundary-spanning action. This report examines collaborative governance in New Zealand from a public management perspective. Catalysts to collaboration in New Zealand were found to be: The need to achieve results; directives from the top; systems perspectives and systems incentives; organisation culture and organisation incentives; people and their relationships; collaboration “under the radar”; cultural diversity; and fair, inclusive and creative public processes.
Challenges to, or inhibitors of, collaboration in New Zealand were found to be: An unfinished agenda from the New Public Management reforms of the 1980s and 1990s; a bureaucratic culture in which individuals are positively reinforced for working in silos; different understandings of the word “collaboration” and what it means to collaborate; difficulties delivering the collaboration message to the bureaucracy; public servants with enormous responsibilities with little room to try something new; tensions between central and local governments; tensions between central government and non-governmental organisations; fear of loss of power, loss of credibility, loss of control, suboptimal outcomes, loss of resources, and loss of authority; a risk-averse culture; lack of trust; lack of funding or slack in the system; people, personalities and relationships; the media; and lack of knowledge concerning how to collaborate.
Recommendations include incentivising collaboration; carefully defining the terms surrounding collaboration to promote mutual understanding and common expectations; expanding the analysis that leads up to the decision as to collaborate or not; training managers in new ways of leading in a shared power world; and developing the collaborative mind set of public servants.
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