Policy as networks of ecosystems: are they sustainable?

By David Donaldson

July 15, 2016

The Power to Persuade symposium — which aims to connect policymakers, the community and private sectors and academia — will soon return for its fifth year.

The 2016 edition kicks off on August 15 — that’s one month away — in Melbourne. This year’s theme is “creating healthy ecosystems for public policy”:

“Policy is designed and implemented by highly complex networks of actors. Some of these operate at the ‘institutional’ level, like federal or state governments, large corporations and universities. Others are local actors, such as the community sector or local government. Still other actors work through looser collectives, relationships, and single-issue social action.

“Conceptually, we can think of these networks as ecosystems — made up of formal and informal relationships and collaborations. At any one time, changes are occurring in different parts of the ecosystem that create ‘ripple’ effects which are felt in other areas.

“How can we make sure public policy ecosystems are healthy and robust? How can we ensure they are sustainable, and can survive ‘ecological shocks’ (eg. changes in government and/or policy shifts)? Diverse open systems are healthy systems: collaborations are one way to ensure systems are open – or are they?”

The symposium’s list of speakers draws from several sectors:

  • Andrew Tongue, Associate Secretary Indigenous Affairs, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Helen Sullivan, Foundation Director, Melbourne School of Government
  • Brendan Lyon, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia
  • David Tennant, Family Care
  • Dr Ben Spies-Butcher, Macquarie University
  • Leilani Frew, Head of Commissioning and Contestability, NSW Treasury
  • Lesley Russell-Waldrope, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney
  • Professor Evelyne de Leeuw, Centre for Primary Healthcare and Equity, UNSW
  • Michael Perusco, Yarra Community Housing
  • Professor Robyn Keast, Southern Cross University

The following day will see a Women’s Policy Forum, a Power to Persuade offshoot that casts a gender lens over policy design and implementation in selected key areas impacting women’s wellbeing. Speakers there include:

  • Helen Dickinson, University of Melbourne
  • Summer May Finlay, University of South Australia
  • Kristen Natalier, Flinders University
  • Lyndall Strazdins, ANU,
  • Elena Campbell, RMIT
  • Keran Howe, Women with Disabilities Victoria
  • Pauline Spencer, Magistracy of Victoria
  • Ainslee van Onselen, Westpac
  • Susan Feldman, Monash University
  • Jan Breckenridge, UNSW
  • Rob Hulls, RMIT
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