Data

General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Social Welfare
Governance & Political Institutions
Specific Topics
Child Care
Human Rights
Ethnic/Racial Equality & Equity
Location
Adelaide
Australia
Scope of Influence
Regional
Links
democracyCO Official Website
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Approach
Co-governance
Spectrum of Public Participation
Collaborate
Total Number of Participants
38
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Recruitment Method for Limited Subset of Population
random
Targeted Demographics
Indigenous People
Racial/Ethnic Groups
General Types of Methods
Collaborative approaches
Deliberative and dialogic process
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Propose and/or develop policies, ideas, and recommendations
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Deliberation
Stakeholder Group Process
Online Deliberation
Strategic Questioning
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Formal Testimony
Storytelling
Information & Learning Resources
Written Briefing Materials
Expert Presentations
Decision Methods
General Agreement/Consensus
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
Type of Organizer/Manager
For-Profit Business
Community Based Organization
Non-Governmental Organization
Funder
democracyCo
Type of Funder
For-Profit Business
Individual
Non-Governmental Organization
Staff
No
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior
Changes in how institutions operate
Implementers of Change
Elected Public Officials
Stakeholder Organizations
Formal Evaluation
Yes
Evaluation Report Links
People’s Policy on Children’s Wellbeing 2018

CASE

People's Policy on Childrens' Wellbeing

First Submitted By democracyCo

Most Recent Changes By Jaskiran Gakhal

General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Social Welfare
Governance & Political Institutions
Specific Topics
Child Care
Human Rights
Ethnic/Racial Equality & Equity
Location
Adelaide
Australia
Scope of Influence
Regional
Links
democracyCO Official Website
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Approach
Co-governance
Spectrum of Public Participation
Collaborate
Total Number of Participants
38
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Recruitment Method for Limited Subset of Population
random
Targeted Demographics
Indigenous People
Racial/Ethnic Groups
General Types of Methods
Collaborative approaches
Deliberative and dialogic process
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Propose and/or develop policies, ideas, and recommendations
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Deliberation
Stakeholder Group Process
Online Deliberation
Strategic Questioning
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Formal Testimony
Storytelling
Information & Learning Resources
Written Briefing Materials
Expert Presentations
Decision Methods
General Agreement/Consensus
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
Type of Organizer/Manager
For-Profit Business
Community Based Organization
Non-Governmental Organization
Funder
democracyCo
Type of Funder
For-Profit Business
Individual
Non-Governmental Organization
Staff
No
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior
Changes in how institutions operate
Implementers of Change
Elected Public Officials
Stakeholder Organizations
Formal Evaluation
Yes
Evaluation Report Links
People’s Policy on Children’s Wellbeing 2018

A collaborative approach to policy making around the issue of child welfare and the foster system. This was the first use of the People's Policy method which attends to build legislation from the bottom-up: from citizen to government.

Problems and Purpose

The People's Policy was a collaborative engagement process in South Australia that aimed to flip policy making on its head. Rather than having politicians develop policies and present them to the public for consultation in the lead up to a State election, the People’s Policy enables citizens to work directly with stakeholders to develop policy which is then presented to all South Australian political parties.

This approach seeks to address a specific problem in both policymaking and the democratic malaise. Trust in Australia’s politicians and political system is at a low ebb.[1] Whilst governments and public servants scrabble to rebuild trust in democracy, many democracies around the world are currently suffering the effects of populist policy making: short-term, simple solutions to inherently complex problems.

The People’s Policy attempts to redress this imbalance by bringing together everyday citizens with stakeholders to develop a cohesive, evidence-based and considered solution to one such complex policy issue: child well-being. The precise question to be addressed was:

What needs to happen to increase the number of children living safely at home and avoid the need for them to be removed from their parents and family?[2]

Background History and Context

Childrens' Wellbeing in Australia

In 2017, the number of children living in care away from their family topped nearly 3,500, with the number rising every year. In the same year, numbers showed that by the age of 10, 1 in 4 South Australian children were the subject of at least one notification of child abuse or neglect. While these statistics vary across communities, their severity in Aboriginal communities is especially stark. It was clear to many in South Australia that a major overhaul of the child wellfare system was needed and that it must be created with the input of those on the frontlines of the crisis and gain sufficient political backing. It was time for a new method of policy making. In the words of political commentator George Megalogenis, "[W]e don’t have a plan. We know we need one, written jointly across government, business, trade unions and civil society. But we keep finding excuses to return to the trenches of our prejudice."[3]

The People's Policy - a New Method of Democratic Innovation

South Australia has a strong record of improving public engagement with politics and implementing deliberative democratic processes under the leadership of Labor Premier Jay Weatherill. The Reforming Democracy Policy to improve public engagement and create meaningful dialogue between government and citizens was launched in 2013. Since then SA has seen five individual Citizens’ Juries as well as dozens of other deliberative programs.

However, the People’s Policy is different from previous processes such as the South Australian Citizens’ Juries in that it has not been commissioned by a government department, as has previously been the case in SA. By contrast, the People’s Policy explicitly identifies itself as non-partisan and not funded through the government. Instead, all political parties have been invited to receive the panel’s final recommendations.[3] The process was timed to fit in with the lead up to the state election in March 2018. The resulting policy proposal was intended to be presented as an election policy for each party -- an antidote to election policies presented by politicians that are simply oriented to please the electorate before voting.

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

The People’s Policy method was created, initiated and led by DemocracyCo , a South Australian company with extensive experience in facilitating, organising, and managing deliberative and public engagement processes. A crowdfunding campaign was initially proposed as a potential funding mechanism, but was decided against for the pilot. The majority of the funding ended up coming directly from DemocracyCo in the form of pro bono facilitation and organisation services.[4] The organization estimates that their costs for this project exceeded $100,000 AUD (approx. $81,000 USD).[5]

Extra funding for the project was provided by a range of a non-governmental and philanthropic organisations such as the South Australian Council of Social Services, The Wyatt Trust, Uniting Communities, Community Centres SA and the Aboriginal Family Support Service, and an anonymous funder.  These organisations formed the ‘Coalition Partners’ - a steering group of key stakeholders who oversaw the process and helped ensure credibility, accountability and transparency.[6]

The coalition partners played a key role in developing the question/area to be addressed by the panel. According to Emily Jenke, Co-CEO of DemocracyCo, The partners helped design the methodology and, together determined the topic of child wellbeing. Jenke hopes that future People’s Policy initiatives will include citizens in the topic selection process: “We envisage that this could be a deliberative process in itself – where a citizen group comes together and determines the policy topics that [People’s Policy] would be best used for.”[7]

A significant number of individuals volunteered their time to DemocracyCo for this iniative. Every day of the People’s Policy saw approximately 6 volunteers working alongside organizers, helping to run the process. Volunteers included student counsellors who provided support to the panel members as they grappled with the tragic and confronting stories they heard, administrative aids, facilitators, and refreshment providers. The entire process saw 20 volunteers provide over 200 hrs of their time to help run the pilot.[8]

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The People’s Panel who ultimately answered the question at hand and developed the policy was originally to be a representative sample of 50 South Australians, drawn from the Australia Post database. Unfortunately, due to funding constraints, DemocracyCo was forced to undertake the recruitment process on their own. However, DemocracyCo is an established company with years of experience in the field of participatory organizing, so it was able to use social media and draw from their ‘deliberative army’ database consisting of Australia Post and previously sourced individuals who had expressed prior interest in deliberative processes. Over three months, the organization received nearly 200 expressions of interest. Unfortunately, the pre-screening survey revealed that most of these individuals were very well versed - and possible worked or had a vested interest - in the child protection system. However, DemocracyCo was undeterred and with advice from their coalition partners reduced the number of participants to 38 to better achieve a random, stratified sample.[9]

Methods and Tools Used

A range of tools and techniques were used during the People’s Policy on Child Wellbeing. The People’s Policy method involves a combination of in-person facilitated deliberation and an online portal for panel members to continue conversations. (The tools used will likely vary according to the topic and structure of future uses of the method.) In this case, Citizen Panellists met for a total of four days over a three-month period. The in-person deliberations were also open to the wider public for people to observe the process. Techniques used during this event included:

  • Briefing and induction processes - to allow participants to meet and greet and aso to brief them on the topic being considered
  • Facilitated workshops - facilitated by a deliberative facilitator, including consensus techniques
  • Evidence consideration from business, industry, government, community and academic sources from jurisdictions all over the world
  • Self-managed work and advocacy - research study groups, surveying of friends and family members
  • Interviews and conversations with people affected/impacted
  • Online platforms to support out-of-session deliberations
  • Celebration events at key milestones
  • Requirement of participants to be advocates for the work.

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

The People’s Panel met over four days to deliberate on the topic of child wellbeing and how to reduce the number of children removed from their homes. The initial planning document follows a four phase process for the project from establishing the panel to deliberations to final decisions and implementation. The outline below has been adapted from DemocracyCo’s invitation sent out to potential participants[10].

Phase 1: Establishment

  • A range of question options were developed with the partners of the process. In future uses of the People’s Policy the aim will be for citizens themselves to determine the topic under discussion.
  • A stakeholder group was convened with the 'Coalition Partners' listed above. The group’s role was to oversee the process and ensure credibility, transparency and accountability, as well as to advocate for the policy, once finalised.

Phase 2: Panel

  • A panel was established consisting of 38 citizens, following the participant selection process outlined above.
  • In addition to the panel, other participants took part online through a communications campaign, and undertook surveys designed by the panellists to further inform their work. Panel participants recruited the survey respondents themselves through social media and their own networks
  • The panel was informed by evidence from expert witnesses who were chosen by the panel and the stakeholder group (see below for details).
  • Panellists met over a total of four days for learning, thinking and discussion, and to participate in online discussions. These included whole- and part-day sessions. Partners joined the group for some of their deliberations.

Phase 3 - Launch

At the end of January 2018, the panel and partners launched the policy. This very public news media launch was preceeded by delegations of panelists meeting with political parties. These meetings were set up and led by panel members, with no involvement by democracyCo. Where appropriate, the panel invited specific partners to these meetings. The meetings involved panel members explaining the process and the purpose of people’s policy, and then walked the news media and other observers through the final policy document. During these meetings, sitting politicians from all 6 major and minor parties in South Australia agreed to adopt some or all of the policy recommendations in their election policy platforms.

The public launch was led by the partners, with democracyCo stepping back from the process. This ‘handover’ was vital for the policy to obtain the traction the panel envisaged for it. As a citizen created policy, its implementation and advocacy needed to be citizen led.

The launch was covered by major media outlets in SA and panel members conducted a range of TV and radio interviews.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The outcomes of the panel follow the deliberations in Phase 2 of the process. As of February 2018, the majority of Phase 3 (the launch) has been completed while Phase 4 (implementation) is in progress:

Phase 3: the launch

1) The Panel produced a policy document (supported by democracyCo) that answers the question developed by the primary funders. The launch of the report was covered by three newspapers and three TV news crews. An ABC interview with panelists and organizers was aired over national radio.[11]

2) The final policy was provided to all major and minor party leaders (6 in total) and parties were invited to state specifically whether they will or won't support the recommendations of the Panel. As of February 2018, this is underway, with the intent being that party support will assist South Australians making their choice at the ballot box at the March 2018 state election.

3) Media interest has been sustained deep into the election campaign in SA with major newspapers calling for policy changes to child protection laws using the Peoples Policy document as source reference. [12]

The Policy

As a method, a People’s Policy differs from citizens juries in their final product. People’s Policies deliver comprehensive, long-term policy proposal/s that are more detailed and in-depth than the final report produced by most citizens juries. The people’s policy is an actual policy document written by the citizen panelists rather than a set of recommendations or decisions on an existing piece of legislation. In this case, the panel’s policy specifically details ways that children can be supported from an early age through:

  • Community awareness and education to grow understanding of what a Child Friendly South Australia looks like, including empowering notifiers to play a bigger role in preventative approaches;
  • A focus on supporting children to thrive in their first 1000 days;
  • Greater coordination of services and support for children and families;
  • New opportunities for community based peer-to-peer supports for families; and 
  • Exploring a number of additional specific initiatives to build stronger, safe and healthy Aboriginal families.

The full text of the policy is available at: http://www.democracyco.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/PPCW_Report_CLIENT.pdf

Phase 4: Promotion and Implementation

4) A publicity campaign was run throughout the process. This campaign was supported by the Primary funders and by the Stakeholder Group.

5) A sub-group of the panel has been formed to promote the panel’s work and to advocate for implementation of the panel’s recommendations. This advocacy work will focus on the political parties and government, but may also include other key stakeholders who play an important role in implementation.

6) Participation on this group is voluntary and has the support of the entire panel.

7) The partners are supporting this group by training them in skills of advocacy.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The Jefferson Centre are conducting an independent evaluation of the process which will be released mid-2018.

From observation and the information currently available as of February 2018, it can be broadly concluded that The People’s Policy is an inherently interesting and innovative case, given that it is non-partisan and is funded and organised by a range of organisations and stakeholders. It is also notable in being timed to coincide with upcoming elections. This firstly offers an opportunity for the resulting policy to be taken up during the election campaign and have immediate impact. Secondly, it offers a non-partisan, long-term policy at a time when short-term promises and partisan politics are at their most potent.

democracyCo intend to train interested organisations in how to conduct a people’s policy, with many inquiries being made since the process began.

Funding

Running a pilot project using an innovative method did present some difficulties around funding. While crowdfunding was initially considered, organizers were advised that sourcing money from the public only works when the process is demonstrably understood to provide “real value.”[13] The untested nature of the pilot project and ‘People’s Policy’ method also made it difficult to attract organizational funders. This provides a key lesson for other organizers of similar processes: while interest in the initiative and its potential benefits may be high, most backers will not commit without the ‘proof’ that it will work. This creates a bit of a “chicken-and-egg” problem whereby many organizations lack the funds or resources necessary to run a pilot to provide the proof necessary for external funding. In this case DemocracyCo was able to handle the costs and - depending on the final analysis of the method - they will have less difficulty securing external funding for future People’s Policy initiatives. A positive outcome and analysis of the pilot will also make crowdfunding more viable - especially if there is sufficient media and/or public attention given to the participatory process and resulting policy decisions. 

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The funding limitations also had important effects on the recruitment process, namely that DemocracyCo was unable to fund a randomized sampling from the Australian Post database. According to Emily Jenke, reducing the size of the group from 50 to 38 allowed them to approximate, as best they could, a random, stratified sampling from the approximately 200 individuals recruited through social media and DemocracyCo’s own database. However, this obviously reduced the size of the group which “created some problems”. Jenke stated that participant recruitment “was probably one of the most significant issues we experienced – we did the best we could given the circumstances of having no funding (and to run the pilot), but we would not run a people’s policy again if we didn’t have the resources to recruit properly.”[14]

See Also

Peoples Policy 

democracyCo 

References

[1] Mark Evans and Max Halupka “Who do you trust to run the country? Democracy, trust and politics in Australia.” University of Canberra and Museum of Australian Democracy (2017): http://www.governanceinstitute.edu.au/news-and-media/news/105/who-do-you...

[2] DemocracyCo, The People’s Policy: developing common sense policy together, DemocracyCo. PDF.

[3] DemocracyCo, “Launching the People’s Panel,” August 2017, http://www.democracyco.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Press-release_L...

[4] DemocracyCo, “People’s Policy,” August 17/2017, http://www.democracyco.com.au/our-projects/peoples-policy-2/

[5] Emily Jenke, e-mail message to organizer, Jan 2018.

[6] DemocracyCo, “People’s Policy.”

[7] Emily Jenke, e-mail message to organizer, Jan 2018.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] DemocracyCo, “Launching the People’s Panel,” August 2017, http://www.democracyco.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Press-release_L...

[11] Emma Rebellato and Sarah Hancock, “SA child protection recommendations offered by Democracy Co community panel,” ABC News, Jan 30/2018, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-31/child-protection-recommendations-b...

[12] http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/lauren-novak-child-protection...

[13] Emily Jenke, e-mail message to organizer, Jan 2018.

[14] Ibid.

DemocracyCo. People’s Policy, Aug 17/2017: http://www.democracyco.com.au/our-projects/peoples-policy-2/ [BROKEN LINK]

DemocracyCo. People’s Policy on Children’s Wellbeing 2018, Jan 2018: http://www.democracyco.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/PPCW_Report_CLIENT.pdf

DemocracyCo, The People’s Policy: developing common sense policy together, DemocracyCo. PDF.

DemocracyCo (2017b) Launching the People’s Panel on Child Wellbeing [Media Release], available at: http://www.democracyco.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Press-release_LAUNCH_FINAL.pdf

Evans, M, Halupka, M and Stoker, G. “Who do you trust to run the country? Democracy, trust and politics in Australia.” University of Canberra and Museum of Australian Democracy (2017): http://www.governanceinstitute.edu.au/news-and-media/news/105/who-do-you-trust-to-run-the-country

External Links

http://www.democracyco.com.au/

Notes

This initial version of this entry was written in collaboration with Lucy J Parry.