12 February 2024

Today a special issue of Policy Quarterly has been published around the theme ‘international perspectives on the future of public administration’.

Our Chief Policy Advisor, Rodney Scott, was the guest editor of this special issue.

“New Zealand’s public administration system, and its goals and challenges, are unique; but they’re not so different that we can’t learn from others. So, we suggested a special issue where we would ask leading international thinkers to write about a topic that they thought would be of interest to New Zealand readers,” says Rodney.

The issue features 7 articles that explore new ideas and concepts from international authors to help inform New Zealand practice.

Rodney explains: “We started with a wishlist of people whose work we found interesting. These people are exceptionally busy, whether writing more books and papers than perhaps anyone in the field, working with the United Nations on the rights of indigenous people, or as the Co-Chair of the Global Future Council at the World Economic Forum. We are therefore very grateful to the authors who freely gave their time because they wanted to help New Zealand public servants.”

Topics include how our future is influenced by our relationship with the past, the role and context of the public service, the people of the public service workforce and the challenge of coordinating between the many component parts of government.

  1. Institutional Amnesia in Government: how much is enough? – Alastair Stark explores institutional memory and institutional forgetting: too much forgetting means lessons are never learned; too much remembering can act as an impediment to trying things again.
  2. Zombie Ideas: policy pendulum and the challenge of effective policymaking Guy Peters and Maximilian Nagel explore the policies that continued to be tried despite never working – ‘zombie policies’ – and how we can transcend these patterns.
  3. Must Indigenous Rights Implementation Depend on Political Party? Lessons from Canada – Sheryl Lightfoot looks at policies in the context of the relationship between indigenous and colonial people, institutions and practices.
  4. Beyond Control Towers, Vending Machines, Networks and Platforms: towards more dynamic, living metaphors for governance – Aaron Maniam looks at the metaphors we use to talk about public administration and how the choice of metaphor affects the solutions we employ: public administration has previously been described as leviathan, an iron cage, a machine, a network and a platform, but this article explores metaphors of cathedrals, bazaars and moral ecology to imagine different roles for public administration.
  5. First Nations First: First Nations public servants, the future of the Australian public service workforce – Lisa Conway and colleagues reveal the experiences of indigenous Australians in participation in the public service, of culturally unsafe workplaces and being asked to carry a cultural load on top of their stated role.
  6. Adopting a Purposeful Approach to Hybrid Working: integrating notions of place, space and time – Fiona Buick and colleagues explore the shift from physically present office-based roles to increasingly flexible and hybridised ways of working, and the implications for how we think about the nature of work, teamwork and performance.
  7. The Future of Public Service and Strategy Management-at-Scale – To solve the biggest policy problems, John Bryson and colleagues contend, departments will need to be able to develop strategies at a scale that spans department boundaries.

Policy Quarterly is a free public policy journal by the School of Government at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

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More research

We have a collection of research papers on our website that have been commissioned, written or contributed to by Commission staff members in order for us to get a better understanding of various challenges facing the Public Service.

Find them here