UTS:CLG Graduate Paper Series: It’s All in the Delivery
Research in a Local Government Context: New Knowledge Generated by Our 2016 Master of Local Government Students
It is with great pleasure that we provide you with summaries of the research conducted by the UTS Centre for Local Government (UTS:CLG) Master of Local Government students in 2016 as an eight-part UTS:CLG Graduate Paper Series. All of the studies are exemplars of practitioner research carried out within the context of our local government studies program.
Supported by our capstone/dissertation subject that includes a phased immersion in real-world research under the supervision of academic staff, our students have generated new knowledge that is rigorous, evidence-based and applied. These studies contribute to the knowledge base for improved local governance in Australia and internationally.
Teaching and Research
The first of the eight-part UTS:CLG Graduate Paper Series is Anne Shearer's dissertation:
It’s all in the delivery: An exploratory case study focusing on the Coffs Harbour City Council Delivery Program 2010-2016
Anne Shearer carried out case study research focusing on the development and implementation of the Delivery Program as one of the strategic management plans in terms of the Integrated Performance and Reporting Framework mandated by the 2009 and 2016 amendments to the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW). In particular, she investigated the experience of Coffs Harbour City Council, focusing her study on three research questions:
- How does Coffs Harbour City Council turn strategies from the Community Strategic Plan into actions, incorporating key Councillors’ activities they have committed to undertake over their four-year term?
- How did Council manage the development and implementation of the Delivery Program (DP) and what did they learn from this process?
- What could Council do to improve the DP?
Solidly located in contemporary understandings of, and debates pertaining to, local public administration and management, a comprehensive literature review grounded the research design and methodology. Data-gathering methods included a review of council and other planning documents, and semi-structured interviews with three councillors and four senior managers.
Findings from the case study highlighted two key issues for strategic management in NSW local government. Firstly, it’s about ‘telling the story ‘of what councils intend to do and what they have achieved in terms of service delivery in a way that engages all stakeholders and conveys ideas in a simple, easy-to-browse format. Drawing on the literature, Anne suggested that the ‘place shaping’ approach may be useful as a means to establish the outcomes to which council activities and services can be aligned; that a ‘networked community governance’ approach should be adopted by local governments as an essential part of modern democracy; and that the creative use of information technology would enable community users to drill down to a level of detail that meets their needs.
Secondly, the research employs the metaphor of ‘we’re all in the same boat’ to suggest ways forward for local government managers to engage with councillors over their four year term. This is in order to enhance the councillors’ strategic thinking and to develop their approaches to collaborating with the public administration and with the community. Anne suggested that this process of councillor engagement would require as much planning and organising as community engagement. Similar tools could be used to explicitly include councillors in the decision space to ensure that public value and democracy are promoted.
As a product of the research, and in keeping with the intention to aim for a coherent synthesis of top-down and bottom-up knowledge in the local government strategic planning process, Anne drafted a short paper entitled ‘It’s all in the delivery’ that could serve as an information sheet and discussion paper for the sector. Conveying its message in an engaging and evidence-based style, a document of this nature could be used to inform councillors, managers and community members about the value of the Delivery Program as a point of reference and accountability, where key elements of the Community Strategic Plan, Resourcing Strategy and Operational Plan come together.
To read Anne's info paper and full dissertation, please follow the links below.