Creating Public Value – Reimagining Public Purpose Partnerships

At the 2021 BiiG Network Innovation Conference in February, IPAA Queensland’s breakout sessions examined the holy grail of public purpose work creating public value. Day 2’s session focused on the HOW of public value, reimagining how to identify and achieve better policy solutions for clients and communities through the lens of cross-sector partnerships.

The session provided a spirited and candid discussion exploring the myths and realities of public purpose partnerships with our speakers sharing important insights and

lessons for realising the power of partnerships to create greater public value. Our speakers –

Christine Castley, Chief Executive, Multicultural Australia (MA) kicked off the session with a keynote Reimagining public purpose – Doing better on the who, how, what and why.

Dr Michael Kane, Executive Director Innovation, Economic Development Queensland shared the story of two new residential developments underway in Carseldine and Oxley showcasing the future of sustainable living in Going Green – 100% solar and battery neighborhoods in Queensland.

Belinda Drew, Chief Executive, Community Services Industry Alliance (CSIA) spoke to the Community Services Industry Covid Plan and the power of cross sector partnerships for delivering public value … during a global pandemic!

Some excerpts from the session are provided below, including a link to a short video.

Reimagining public purpose – Doing better on the who, how, what and why.

Multicultural Australia’s vision is to be a trusted Queensland not-for-profit, a care agency, who creates welcome and inclusion. Part of this vision is that we will work with each other, so partnerships are core to our being. Innovation is the other piece that’s core to our being.

Christine shared MA’s story, including the value of partnerships for achieving its three strategic pillars:

  1. Inclusive and prosperous communities – where all feel valued, safe and where others are drawn to live
  2. Changing the conversation – advancing a multicultural Australia, creating welcome and belonging for new-comers
  3. Keeping fit for the future – investing in leadership, knowledge, technology and social business to shape a better future for all.

Luminous Festival

The Luminous Festival is the public face of MA. It’s held at Southbank each year and features the Luminous Lantern Parade. The Festival is delivered in partnership with over 18 organisations including the Queensland Government, Brisbane City Council and various business sponsors such as Suncorp and SBS.

Be clear about your purpose and what you want but also be a bit agile and responsive; see what develops – that’s the power of partnerships.

In 2019 almost 40,000 people registered to attend Luminous reinforcing the impact of the event for MA’s reach across communities. In 2020, MA pivoted quickly from the Luminous Lantern Festival to a two-week event called Reimagine that entailed reimagining how MA could deliver presence in community.

One of the things we had to do in terms of partnerships was have some very quick conversations with our multiple partners, sponsors and talk about how we could rejig those sponsorship arrangements and contracts and everyone was very receptive to being open to doing that. We moved to a mix of digital content in terms of delivering those events. We created small in-community events where people had lantern making workshops and delivered small scale neighborhood events – so this was about community connection. But we also thought about how we could use some of those funds that we had access to (that would have used for the event) to reinvest in other industries and other partners who were also doing it tough during those times.

So the two-week event was bookended by two concerts where we paid about 112 artists to do their gigs as part of the event using some of that redirected money, … we created an online virtual marketplace where a lot of social enterprises and small business were able to promote their restaurant business or their local business and we did get a lot of feedback that people saw increased business as a result of that profiling on the marketplace.

To illustrate the power of partnerships, Christine also spoke about the work undertaken by MA to build inclusive and prosperous communities, including providing settlement services for refugees and newly arrived Queenslanders, and its efforts to keep future fit to constantly think of ways to improve, innovate and deliver better services.

Our learnings are that you actually need to be very clear about what is your public value proposition so that you can easily find your partners who have a proposition that’s aligned with yours. It doesn’t need to be the same, it simply just needs to intersect. And, try to be smart about it and think laterally. And that’s what we’ve tried to do at Multicultural Australia. … But we recognize we can always do better, and our belief is that the best way to do better is to do it together.

Going Green – 100% solar and battery neighborhoods in Queensland

Michael Kane shared the story of two new residential developments underway in Carseldine and Oxley that showcase the future of sustainable (and affordable!) living. The neighborhoods are among the first in Australia to deliver net zero emission homes through 100% solar and battery along with a range of smart energy and living initiatives. They are fantastic examples of the positive impacts for realising public value through industry partnerships.

Partnership is in the lifeblood of what we do.

Carseldine Village is a mixed-use precinct with 94 terraces and an innovative sporting precinct. Residential aged care is being developed and also future retail, some commercial, and some residential apartments. It also includes an existing childcare centre. Carseldine first and second stage dwellings have already sold out, and stages three and four are selling before being built.

Songbird at Oxley is a smaller project with 80 residential lots. It’s quite hilly and has an existing childcare which is going to be relocated out of a flood area. Oxley is also selling well.

Partnership is in the lifeblood of what we do. We work with local governments, the development sector, we worked with the community to add value and we work with government agencies to create new economic development opportunities and new communities.

Now delivering 100% solar and battery, there’s a series of aims here that we’re trying to do, and these relate to what our partners want and need, because as a developer we’re trying to do something innovative and demonstration, but we just can’t turn up and say, this is what it’s about. We had to spend three years listening to work out how to do it.

Basically, two projects, very different in some respects, but we’ve delivered a similar outcome using different methods and different partnerships. Partners in each have similarities and differences.

EDQ is doing solar and battery, so at both projects are two dedicated solar battery supplies. At Carseldine, it’s a business called UV Power and using a battery called Alpha. At Songbird, it’s a different type of development with a different approach – using a large national company called Natural Solar and Tesla. Both projects involve Energex and Energy Queensland who are the infrastructure provider in terms of the electricity network. There are also consultants and contractors who build the development.

Partnerships are about relationships, about listening and understanding what the key motives and drivers are
for your partners and then it’s about setting up a relationship that delivers for that partner.

Having a shared vision is very important, but you need to know everyone’s goals. That’s very essential. EDQ is about commercial innovation but it needs to be very much customer-centric and commercial innovation can be clever but needs to be simple. And infrastructure innovation is complex and difficult, and it needs time and really needs you to work on their relationships over quite a long time.

Community Services Industry Covid Plan

Belinda Drew outlined the plan which brought together senior executives from 30 community services across Queensland and key state and commonwealth departments in a Covid Industry Taskforce. The taskforce facilitated the development of critical resources to support community organisations and their clients, including a new digital recruitment platform, practical tools and resources, and distribution of PPE on behalf of government.

Partnerships and collaboration … it’s an essential ingredient in what we do. 
The only debate really is how well we do it. What character we bring to it.

 Belinda asked the audience to think about two things while she told her story:

  1. the barriers and challenges that exist to getting on with things in collaboration with their colleagues and partners on a daily basis, and
  2. their end beneficiaries.

My story is as I said is one about the work that we did during the course of the COVID 19 pandemic where a bunch of organizations across the community services space needed to find new ways to deal with this unprecedented event.

And while they’d experienced a range of challenges and disasters, indeed one might say that on a daily basis many organizations experience all sorts of human challenges and sometimes disasters, this was new.

Two things emerged quite quickly. One, that we needed to be really practical, highly pragmatic, and think about what needs doing now. And the other was to think at the same time simultaneously in a strategic way with an openness to learning – pragmatic and practical but clever and strategic with an openness to learning.

So, we did what all good peak bodies or industry bodies like ours do, we formed a task force.

Embarking on a series of weekly meetings, chief and senior executives committed to getting together every single week for two hours. Each was highly motivated by the uncertainty and by this idea of coming together and collaborating to try and solve it.

We put aside busyness and we made the time.

The discussions immediately started to identify issues of concern in their day-to-day business – keeping their people, their workforce, and also the people that their organisations served safe and well.

Some of it was about thinking through issues of capability and doing that in a really rapid way, again in order to try and think about how to solve things people felt uncertain about. And some of it was about simple engagement. Just being present to each other, listening, learning, sharing and reaching out across their organizational divides.

The taskforce developed a hotline; they developed endless tools and templates, policies and procedures, things that would fast-track the effort of organisations to get from a zero business continuity plan in place, to not just a business continuity plan in place but an infection prevention management plan, a pandemic response plan for clients and so on it went.

We had incredible intelligence from industry itself from organizations about what they needed, plus we also had the value of their effort in order already delivering all of that and an inclination to share.

And then really importantly and simply we had clinical support from Queensland health to meticulously check every single one of those resources to make sure when they were out on the ground being used by organizations that they had been checked from a health point of view.

The taskforce as a PPE distribution company

At the peak of the concerns on COVID, one of the things that organizations were worried about was access to PPE, and through our discussions with the Queensland Government we managed to secure a very decent supply of hand sanitizer. We then formed a partnership in the space of about two weeks with Uniting Care Queensland because they have a statewide logistics capability that we didn’t possess. We had the capacity to engage across the industry and communicate about the availability of this and over the course of six weeks or so, we distributed that PPE across the across the state.

Two final messagesvalue the time that people contribute to getting together and working together and using it judiciously and carefully – it’s such a valuable resource and genuinely respect each other’s roles and responsibilities as you go about the work that sits inside partnerships. We all have something to bring.

How do you keep public purpose partnerships fresh? 


About IPAA Queensland

IPAA Queensland advances the professionalism, capability and integrity of public administration and public purpose work and promotes pride in service.

If you’re a public servant or engaged in public purpose work, we encourage you to get to know and connect with IPAA Queensland. Find out more about us by reading more on our site or through joining as a member here.

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