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Welcome to The Mandarin — the venue for public sector leaders

The Mandarin is for public sector leaders and those interested in their work. We want The Mandarin to be the place that connects and helps people manage Australia better — for intelligent showcasing, discussion, collaboration and learning about public work and the people and many challenges behind it.

To build this site we have consulted widely with hundreds of current and former public servants from around the nation and all tiers of government. We particularly thank the Institute of Public Administration Australia and president Terry Moran for assisting these discussions, and more importantly for their vision and support for a quality destination for public sector collaboration, insights and information.

We were taken by the hunger to collaborate and share, and to reinstate the public sector as the place where the best and brightest work to find solutions for a better Australia.

We also were struck by the sense that Australia is at a major pivot point in public sector thinking. The causes can rightly be argued, but include: very real budgeting and resourcing constraints; the injection at a political and bureaucratic level of a heartfelt desire to challenge how best to deliver public outcomes — and a willingness to look outside traditional bureaucratic structures; the rethinking digital technologies is allowing; and an honesty that the traditional command and control hierarchical public sector structures and organisational models are no longer serving the country well.

Two examples of refreshing new thinking are the rollout of social impact bonds being championed through the NSW Department of Family and Community Services and the Victorian Police blue paper led by Chief Commissioner Ken Lay.

For us, this underscored just how dynamic the public sphere has become and the site reflects our best instincts for what you, our public sector audience, is wanting. It is real users and their feedback that will enable us to develop the site and its content to best meet your needs, so The Mandarin launches as a beta site to reflect our desire to gather this feedback, analyse and continue to develop the site accordingly.

The site has been purposefully built to be flexible, with a full expectation it will change as we respond to users. This prototype approach is consistent with the agile, user-centred design methodology now finding good support in many public sector programs, including in the latest version of australia.gov.au by Canberra’s Department of Finance.

By providing a thoughtful and respectful venue for the discussion of policy and programs we believe — and want — The Mandarin to be a platform for agency heads and their executives to share current issues and challenges facing public administrators in a complex, demanding and rapidly changing world.

Leading a public agency has never been so challenging. The Mandarin will provide advice, thoughts and learnings from Australia and around the globe for professional public managers and administrators, seeking to transform their agencies to better serve Australia’s many communities.

The Mandarin comes to you through the Private Media group and is founded on quality, trusted journalism presented in a considered, balanced and informative style. We want many voices to be heard and will be openly soliciting quality contributions from current and past public leaders, commentators and academics with a genuine interest in helping build a vital best-of-breed Australian public sector.

We have assembled a high-quality advisory board comprising some of Australia’s most respected former public leaders, to help guide our work and to provide wisdom and insights from their experiences as frontline leaders and continued interest in public administration.

We are excited to be able to provide a bridge between public agencies, industry and community groups. We genuinely hope The Mandarin will improve the quality of discourse and engagement for all. Our commercial content partners have deep expertise in advising and supporting government and we will be presenting their ideas and insights as part of the collaboration we are seeking to promote.

At a time where traditional media revenue models are challenged, we genuinely believe this collaboration between our public sector audiences and the large group of commercial and community groups wanting to engage government officials offers a unique opportunity to create a self-funding platform for civic engagement. Partner content will be presented in context with relevant editorial content and will be clearly marked to ensure users are fully aware of its pedigree.

The Mandarin is born of the modern digital world and we will seek to engage in the forums, media, applications and devices relevant to our audiences. The inbox remains an important part of all public officials’ work and shortly we will launch a daily email summarising the day’s events and pointing to some featured content.

And while The Mandarin will have a focus on leadership and its challenges, we want the site to be relevant to the many public servants working creatively at the frontline or pressing their executives to embrace change.

Some of the most innovative and interesting change projects are happening away from traditional programs in localised environments, and we aim to highlight these trials and prototypes as examples of progressive change, using new techniques such as co-design, community boards and digital engagement tools.

Much of this is organic and self organising. Just this weekend two major collaborations were occurring. In Queensland the Department of Science and Department of Science Information Technology Innovation and the Arts collaborated with PricewaterhouseCoopers‘ Digital Change group to host an open innovation hub. At the same time over 400 people gathered across all the mainland capital cities to be part of a GovCamp unconference. The national meet-up was part of innovation month, a cross-agency collaboration exercise out of Canberra. On a tragically big day in world news, the conference trended on Twitter – real evidence of the hunger for new civic thinking.

We hope to play our part in this new thinking — to help users try the new site we are offering a free three-month trial of The Mandarin. No credit cards are required, simply go to our members area and enter your basic details. Or if you really love The Mandarin and want to access all of the site for an introductory $15 per month, then head right over to our sign-up page.

Author Bio

Tom Burton

Tom Burton is publisher of The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He has served in various public administration roles, specialising in the media and communications sector. He was a Walkley Award-winning journalist and executive editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. He worked as Canberra bureau chief for the Australian Financial Review and as managing editor of smh.com.au. He most recently worked at the Australian Communications and Media Authority.