Purpose Matters: IPAA Queensland’s 2019 Annual Forum broken down.

On the 8th August 2019, IPAA Queensland’s was delighted to host the 2019 Annual Forum. Attended by nearly 500 public purpose workers around the state, the event informed, provoked, inspired and engaged participants and provided a platform for deeper exploration and understanding of public purpose work.

IPAA Queensland President, Robert Setter, introduced the day with a thought-provoking scene setting presentation, ‘Purpose Matters!’, that explored the how and why of public purpose work in a rapidly changing political landscape characterised by volatility in politics, distrust of elected officials, increasing polarisation of citizen views and narrowing of the middle grown. He called on all of us engaged in public purpose to approach our work differently to meet this new environment, to engage collectively with each other to rebuild citizen trust and confidence.

“Collective Action Matters. Individuals and place matter. And remember we should see, listen and help.”

“Relevance is a product of purpose. Our shared and common purpose in public purpose work is making a difference – that is how we retain relevance.”

2015 Young Victorian of the Year, Thomas King, shared his inspirational journey into social entrepreneurship and shared four vital learnings for all of us seeking purpose in the work that we do

  1. Think Critically – challenge inherited beliefs
  2. Focus your impact – Your impact isn’t a choice, so direct it wisely
  3. Act with Empathy – Listen and understand before you speak and act
  4. Be Adaptive – Embrace constructive change and maintain a growth mindset

IPAA Queensland was privileged to showcase two case studies of the future of public purpose work in action: the Toowoomba Housing Hub presented by Helen McGrath and Rodney Watton (Lifeline Darling Downs) and Simon King (Dept of Housing and Public Works) and the Cairns Safer Streets program presented by Nick O’Brien (Qld Police) and Riley Myles (Dept of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships). Inspiration aplenty from these stories of creating positive change in the lives of people and communities through ‘working in ways most had never worked before’ for a shared purpose.

Joining the discussion on the delivery of public purpose work, Michael Eales (Business Models Inc Australia) and Jo Sheppard (USQ) shared their insights, calling attention to the value of a prototyping approach (build, test, learn), having ‘yes’ (rather than ‘no’) as a default response, and the importance of community and ‘place’. The case studies are yet another demonstration of the power of cross-sector partnerships and client-centred design for realising more impactful services.

A deeper dive into the intersection of politics, citizens and purpose was explored by Professor Anne Tiernan in conversation with celebrated journalist Annabel Crabb. Their commentary and analysis of the political landscape was a timely reminder that as we undertake public purpose work, we should be less obsessed with what is happening upwards and more focused on getting the job done. As Rob Setter later put it, ‘lets get on and prove’.

The final and capstone session was facilitated by Ben Schramm (Cube Group Pty Ltd) and examined some of the myths and realities of public purpose partnerships with Adam Fennessy (EY), Karyn Walsh (Micah Projects) and Lisa Siganto (QUT). Feedback from participants gathered throughout the day and the panellists’ insights and experiences about partnerships shed light on what may be holding us back in forming constructive partnerships and the actions we can take to make such partnerships a reality – to step into the shared space to make a difference.

The day was superbly emceed by Martin Stewart-Weeks (Public Purpose Pty Ltd) who contributed his nous, knowledge and expertise, appreciation of participant learning, skilful segues across the program, and wit and humour. In wrapping up, he also reminded us that:

“The conditions we find are not immutable. They are not the way they have to be. The great things about the way things are – is that they don’t have to be the way things are.”

IPAA Queensland would like to take this opportunity to thank all the presenters, speakers and attendees for their participation and engagement on the day. We hope that you will take the content shared, reflect and digest it, and apply it to your own public purpose context – today, tomorrow, and going forward.

What does your public purpose future look like now?

Build Connections. Keep Informed. Challenge your Thinking. It’s your IPAA.


Want to revisit the content? Wanted to come along but missed out? Join as an individual member and you can watch the sessions – diving in and out as you like – on our IPAA Queensland member portal. Click here to join or to find out more.