The rise of social media and convergence of mobile and computing technology are catalysts for a major shift in how the Australian public sector involves citizens in decision-making processes.
The Allen Consulting Group, which helps organisations understand ways to best influence their external operating environment, has released its third landmark study into public sector stakeholder engagement.
‘Towards Participation 3.0: Stakeholder engagement in the public sector’ (2011), involved 22 Commonwealth, state and territory departments and agencies.
Participation 3.0 is the culmination of three main changes in broader public policy since the 1990’s, and the ensuing perspectives on stakeholders and stakeholder engagement. The previous two main changes were highlighted in our 1999 and 2005 studies.
The Allen Consulting Group Director Wayne Burns says:
‘We knew the landscape had changed markedly since our last study in 2005. Our 2011 study confirms a paradigm shift towards a more stakeholder-centric management paradigm, in how and why public sector entities engage stakeholders. We call this shift Participation 3.0, as it is made possible by the emergence of new online applications that share information, encourage collaboration, participation and user centred-design.’
The Allen Consulting Group’s 2005 study examined emerging and best practice in public sector stakeholder engagement.
The study found increased community expectations for more transparent decision making in government.
In turn, this expectation was influencing the way government departments and agencies in Australia and internationally engaged with stakeholders.
In collaboration with 22 Commonwealth, state and territory departments and agencies, the Allen Consulting Group’s 2011 study concluded that the public sector is moving rapidly towards Participation 3.0.
In effect this means government departments and agencies are:
The study suggests that in many liberal democracies - including Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany, there is significant community cynicism about governments and how they make decisions.
The desire of many government departments to address negative perceptions and involve stakeholders in public policy development and service delivery planning is driving a paradigm shift in how and why public sector entities engage stakeholders.
This shift includes citizen expectations to be able to participate in government decisions beyond simply casting a vote to elect a government.
It also reflects growing consensus in many government departments and agencies that the best public policy and service delivery outcomes are achieved by involving the community and other stakeholders in policy development processes.
‘Our study found that the phenomena of rapid take-up and use of social media in many sections of the community is also driving stakeholder behaviour,’ Wayne says.
‘Many individuals believe they have a right to have a say and participate more in government deliberations and decisions. They also want to use social media platforms and channels to have their say more readily, and at a time and place most convenient for them.’
However, these trends and developments identified in the 2011 study are neither uniform nor linear.
Australian government departments and agencies are at different stages of engaging their stakeholders, including the broader community, in policy development and service delivery.
Many are just beginning efforts to understand how seeking stakeholder participation can deliver better policy outcomes for the community.
But the study makes clear the shift is on nationally. Participation 3.0 will continue to develop, and more rapidly as social media penetration increases.
Throughout this development the online issues that challenge individuals and corporations in their respective personal and commercial domains are the same issues that will also test governments in their relationship with citizens in the Participation 3.0 environment.
These issues are:
We expect our study and its findings to contribute to how the public sector acclimatises to the new stakeholder engagement paradigm, not only in Australia, but internationally.