Joined-up government: does it connect the policy dots?

Experience in implementing joined-up government initiatives shows that structures with intuitive appeal don’t necessarily work. But are we learning from our mistakes?

We often hear of evidence-based approaches to policy, but what about implementation? Experiments in joined-up government — often referred to as a “whole-of-government” approach — have revealed serious barriers, but some worry these lessons are not being heeded.

Governments need to resist the temptation to keep setting up program structures with intuitive appeal but little evidentiary basis, says Gemma Carey, research fellow at the ANU’s College of Medicine, Biology and Environment and co-leader of social policy forum Power to Persuade.

Carey points to the Rudd government’s Social Inclusion Agenda, which incorporated cross-collaboration between different government agencies, and between government and the civil society sector, as an example where the principle didn’t work well.

Significant problems in the implementation of the SIA included too strong a focus on top-down authority, unclear or unchanged lines of accountability despite a new working context, and unchanged allocation of resources. It’s concerning, she adds, that Victoria’s “Services Sector Reform project is a carbon copy of the Social Inclusion Agenda, but without any of the lessons”.

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