#5PAPERS – Week 4 Day 1

by Nivek K Thompson

  1. Reference to the Article 

Manwaring, R. (2010). Unequal Voices: ‘Strategic’ Consultation in South Australia. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 69(2), 178-189. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8500.2010.00682.x

  1. What attracted me to this Article?

A couple of things made this article stand out to me:

  • it critically evaluates a South Australian consultation process (and one of my case studies is South Australia)
  • it uses a framework that I’m not familiar with to undertake this evaluation i.e. Pratchett’s (and I’m keen to learn about a range of approaches to critically assessing consultative processes).
  1. What is it about? (Problem / Purpose / Research Questions)

Evaluating the 2006 consultation on South Australia’s Strategic Plan (SASP) from two perspectives: the effectiveness of the process generally and the value of using ‘consultations for embedding mid-to-long range strategic policy agendas.’ p.178 The State Strategic Plan was developed in 2004 with minimal consultation, however the plan included civic engagement targets as well as a commitment to significant consultation and revision of the plan every 5 years.

  1. Where does this come from? (Literature / Theoretical Framework)

Manwaring identifies that typologies of consultative processes are not useful as evaluative tools i.e. once you identify where a process sits in a particular typology e.g. on Arnstein’s ladder, how do you decide whether it was an example of a well done or not so well done type? M. adopts Pratchett’s principles: responsiveness and representativeness (1999).

  1. What did they do? (Methodology & Method)

Manwaring reviews the consultation process (design and delivery) noting that

  • the consultations targeted organisations rather than individuals
  • of the four broad elements (regional, thematic, community forums followed by a Community Congress) all bar the community forums were well attended.

This paper is a case study from his Phd research which involved interviews with senior public servants and representatives of community organisations who participated in the consultations plus a review of government documents.

He considers a number of evaluation frameworks and chooses Pratchett’s two principles to evaluate the SASP:

  • responsiveness – looking at the influence of the participants on the revision of the SASP, and
  • representativeness – looking in particular at inequality – both in terms of who participates and their roles in the consultation process

Responsiveness:

  • at the completion of the consultation process the SASP Update Team drafted the recommendations arising from the consultation process; the government response was mainly positive
  • whilst this is a broadly positive outcome Manwaring notes that going into the consultations the Govt had set clear expectations that there would be no ‘radical overhaul or re-prioritising of the Rann government’s objectives’ p.184
  • the policy activism by public servants sometimes crowded out other voices and many community groups who participated where well aware of their dependence of govt funding and what would be acceptable and what wouldn’t
  1. What did they learn? (Results / Discussion)

Representativeness:

  • SASP consultation wasn’t designed to be representative and it achieved this with regional voices, politically & civically engaged groups, professionals and government officials predominating; whilst other groups such as women, ATSI, low income groups, people living in Adelaide, smaller community organisations and the private sector where under-represented
  • Government agencies took on the role of being policy activists especially around the needs of particular groups such as women and ATSI
  • there was very little public engagement i.e. individual members of the community as opposed to community organisations and no evidence of attempts to engage traditionally under-represented groups
  • and yet the in the Foreword to the revised plan the Premier claimed that the plan took into account ‘the views and priorities of the thousands of South Australians we spoke to…’(SA Govt, 2007: 2).

He notes that the failure to engage with the broader community was not only a process one but that it has the potential to limit the level of broader community and business input into delivery of the SASP that the Govt was hoping for.

  1. What did I learn?

I need to read Pratchett and Beetham’s work – it’s interesting that they are coming at this from a democratic perspective, despite not dealing with initiatives which overtly hold themselves out to be ‘democratic’ in the way democratic innovations do. This goes to a key issue in my research – what is the difference between consultation processes and democratic innovations?

Interestingly, Manwaring notes that typologies don’t assist in evaluating particular initiatives as either good or bad versions of a particular type. However Pratchett’s framework doesn’t specifically relate to a process clearly stated as being ‘consultation’ which, based on  Arnstein’s ladder, involves ‘hearing’ but not ‘heeding’ – if this is the definition of consultation then the responsiveness principle may not be relevant to this ‘type’ of participation process.

Manwaring mentions the (upcoming at the time of publication) 2010 consultations on the SASP. I wonder if these happened and if anyone did an evaluation of those consultations? It would probably be helpful for my research to consider other evaluations of SA government engagement processes.

Advertisements