Voluntary participation in a shared initiative to improve some aspect of operations, possibly endorsed by the Public Service Commissioner.

The basics

  • When to use this tool

    • A self-identified group want to work together to improve their consistency, capability, and professionalism
  • How to agree goals/outcomes

    •  Objectives set by members
  • Governance model required

    • No formal governance
    • Leader usually unanimously selected by group
    • Recognised by Public Service Commissioner as leader
  • Ministerial relationships required

    • No direct role for ministers
  • Incentives required

    • Participation in the club is voluntary
    • Normative pressure within self-identified group
  • How to manage the funding

    • Funded from baseline for specific activities

About this model

As a way to organise around shared problems, the voluntary club model is well-suited to situations where there is a sector-wide need for better or more consistent practice in an area and the solution is likely to be more education and learning opportunities, a forum for discourse and tighter professional networks to share knowledge and experience. Voluntary clubs can be used to create and spread models of ‘good practice’ that members aspire to meet.

The self-organising aspect of the voluntary club model means that it is a solution that is most likely to be successful where there are existing groupings — professions and common roles — that can be leveraged. The club model can function as a trial to see if there are more formal functional alignments possible and if there would be benefits from greater system or functional leadership.

Funding for voluntary clubs is likely to be minimal and out of agency baselines, however it is also possible for the clubs to be self-funded. As the model relies on the voluntary contributions and commitment of members and is not necessarily reliant on agency funding, there is a significant independence from agency interests. This means that for the model to be used to organise around shared problems, the members must also recognise the problem and agree on objectives.

The recognition of the club by the Public Service Commissioner can be helpful to provide legitimacy and support for the group and can validate the objectives identified as in the collective interest of the system.

Case Study: Government Economic Network

Formed in 2011, the Government Economics Network (GEN) is an incorporated society that provides a professional forum for learning, development and networking. It aims to encourage the use of economics in public policy decision-making and to stimulate debate and discussion on economic and public policy research. The GEN has three main objectives:

  1. Support economics training and professional development in the public sector: for both economists and non-economists
  2. Develop linkages between economists across the private, public and academic sectors
  3. Strengthen economic advice to government.

To achieve these objectives the GEN runs a range of seminars, training, conferences and social events throughout the year. The group relies on the voluntary contributions of time by members and self-funding through charges to attend its annual conference.

The GEN is governed by a committee which consists of members of the society and has a formal constitution. The group is closely associated with The Treasury — its address is there — but remains independent.

As membership of the organisation is not directed by profession or role — as with similar organisations like GLN —but those with an involvement or interest in the use of economics in the public sector, the voluntary nature of the group is significant.

GEN — Government Economics Network