NDIS case-study: ‘build learning and adaptation into structure’

To avoid the NDIS becoming compliance-driven and ineffective, the capacity for adaptation must be built in from the start, says Dr Gemma Carey. Previous implementation failures show the need to change how we approach risk in policy implementation.

A greater openness to learning and risk through ‘adaptive management’ should be built into the National Disability Insurance Scheme to avoid some of the problems of recent policy implementation failures, argues Dr Gemma Carey, research fellow at the Regulatory Network at the Australian National University.

Gemma Carey

Gemma Carey

High-profile implementation failures such as the ‘pink batts’ scheme, the social inclusion agenda or the ever-evolving job network scheme highlight the risks to both government and citizens of complex, important programs built without sufficient adaptability to change course during implementation or when problems inevitably arise.

“Once you put a system in place it’s very hard to roll back and start again afresh,” Carey told The Mandarin. The key, then, is to make sure it’s built from the start to allow for continual evaluation and adjustment — something government still struggles with.

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  • Julian Thomas

    From an evaluator’s perspective, I think the adaptive approach to program delivery, informed by intelligent and integrated evaluative effort is critical to program sustainability and success. Happily, we are seeing more opportunities for evaluation professionals to engage with implementation in early stages. It might be fair to say that there is a non-negligible risk of ‘evaluation capture’ – but in my view this is far outweighed by the benefits that accrue from evaluators’ contributing as critical friends to the growth and success of new programs.


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