01 August 2022

Agencies (and other organisations) co-locate offices or particular staff on local teams.

The basics

  • When to use this tool

    • When aiming to improve tacit knowledge sharing and relationships between agency staff
    • To explore the extent of potential overlaps or synergies (before considering other options)
  • How to agree goals/outcomes

    • Agencies voluntarily agree to co-locate staff to facilitate knowledge sharing where needed
    • Work with property functional lead as required
    • Consider potential partners outside public service where appropriate (for example, local government, NGOs)
  • Governance model required

    • Self-governing or
    • Location manager provided by one participating agency (if required)
  • Ministerial relationships required

    • Usual separate ministerial relationships through agencies or
    • Place-based ministerial portfolio (if required)
  • Incentives required

    • PSLT/ministerial encouragement
  • How to manage the funding

    Any combination of: 

    • shared costs
    • shared administration
    • one agency to provide manager (if required)

About this model

Physically co-locating staff from different agencies can be highly effective for gaining commitment and improving information sharing, relationships and synergies. Bringing people from different agencies together can make it much easier to draw on different perspectives and capability to address complex problems and improve integration.

Using co-location as a stepping stone can be very effective. It allows for agencies to investigate where overlaps in delivery may be present and how they could be leveraged for better delivery of services. It also requires the navigation of agency interests — even if it is in respect to internal issues, it is a useful experience of interacting in an agency-neutral manner.

Co-location should not require extensive governance arrangements or joint funding. It is normally governed by an agreement between the lead agency (which holds the lease) and other co-locating agencies. It is also possible to co-locate with NGOs and Crown entities.

The Government Property Group, in their guidance on co-location solutions identified a range of benefits from co-location and detail the process of setting one up.

​​Co-location | New Zealand Government Procurement and Property

Case study: Auckland Policy Office

The Auckland Policy Office (APO) is a co-location arrangement for government agencies in Auckland. In addition to cost-saving benefits, it provides agencies with a community in which to share and coordinate policy issues that cut across institutional boundaries. It also provides a system-wide view of Auckland for central government as an enabler for collaboration, shared data and evidence, escalation, evaluation, risk management and a facilitator of connections.

The APO is based on a very ‘soft’ governance structure reliant on individual leaders and staff members choosing to collaborate.

Accountabilities

There are no accountability mechanisms in place to assist with ensuring the collaboration of the government agencies who use the APO space. There are no direct reporting lines from senior leaders of agencies in the APO to the Director of the APO, nor from the Director to the portfolio ministers for APO agency issues, such as the Minister for Transport or the Minister for the Environment.

Although APO agencies initially agreed that approximately 10% of staff time be freed up for collaborative work, this doesn’t necessarily happen in practice, and there is no real way to hold agencies to account for ensuring staff honour this commitment.

Incentives

Incentives to join the APO, particularly for small government agencies in Auckland, include:

  • Efficiency/cost savings of co-location
  • Convenience of proximity to other agencies, and a central location

Incentives for agencies to actually work collaboratively once they have joined the APO include:

  • the ability to gain multiple perspectives on cross-cutting policy and strategic issues
  • relationship development opportunities with agencies working on similar or related issues
  • access to a closed door, trusted environment where officials from different agencies can discuss policy development at an early stage and in confidence
  • opportunity for government agencies to take on risk in new ways and tackle the challenges that present themselves first or most severely in Auckland — successful ideas can be rolled out to benefit the rest of the country.