New publication discusses collaboration between departments

By Tom Ravlic

July 1, 2022

Abstract colour swirls
‘Contingent collaboration: when to use which models for joined-up government’ provides a wealth of insight. (Eigens/Adone)

One of the mysteries inherent in public administration is how to make different departments work together effectively.

This might be an easy idea to articulate in words but getting the machine to work properly is something else altogether.

A new publication from Cambridge University Press, called Contingent collaboration: when to use which models for joined-up government brings together theory and practical examples that provides practitioners in the public sector ample food for thought.

Authors Rodney Scott and Eleanor Merton take the reader through a framework for considering how different parts of government work together, with Scott bringing to this particular project first-hand knowledge of the development of a framework for the New Zealand public sector.

Scott is a professor at the University of New South Wales as well as a policy adviser at the New Zealand Public Service Commission The book draws heavily on Scott’s work in New Zealand to illustrate how different agencies can work together. These case studies give the text a necessary colour as well as evidence that will be useful to those seeking a way to work better in government

An example highlighted in the book is a Justice Sector Board, which is an example of a shared-responsibility model that operates in New Zealand. That board is made up of the chief executives of New Zealand Police, Ministry of Justice, Department of Corrections, Serious Fraud Office, and Crown Law Office and it has existed for almost two decades.

Senior players in the sector, Scott and Merton write, know that the sector relies on its hierarchy to get outcomes and their interrelationship with each other was driven by processes.


“The Board operated under a comprehensive Terms of Reference that set out its purpose, membership, accountabilities (collectively, of the chair, and of individual members), support arrangements, meeting schedule, and communication principles,” the book says.

Formal procedures for that board, such as practices that ensured consistent formatting and timeliness of agenda papers, meant that the group developed trust amongst itself.

This mode of operation for a sector-related board is an example of cascading governance where the group collectively briefs its ministers. and the next level of management down meets more regularly to ensure measures that are agreed are met.

The book offers a wealth of essential information for those involved in public administration who want to enhance their knowledge and, more importantly, add value to their organisations and the community they serve.

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