Ronald Woods has more than 30 years' Australian and international experience in social policy and the human services, including work as a social work practitioner, educator and research consultant. After completing his undergraduate degree in 1982, Ronald practised as a social worker and academic in Australia, South Africa and Hungary. His practice, research and teaching has included substantial research consultancy experience. He has an interest in public policy and social service provision, research and program evaluation, and the training of community service practitioners and public administrators.
Ronald has been involved in the development and delivery of the Master of Local Government and Graduate Diploma of Local Government Management courses at the Centre, including subject coordinator for Local Government Principles and Practice; Organising and Managing in Local Government; Research in a Local Government Context; and Enhancing Local Government Service Delivery. He has contributed to the research and publications output of the Centre, focusing on issues such as decentralisation and federalism; local government capacity; innovation and creativity in local government organisations; and Neighbourhood Renewal.
Member of the Australian Association of Social Workers
- Decentralisation and federalism
- Workforce development and learning organisations
- Development and review of community development and interorganisational programs
- Social research, evaluation and policy review and development in the areas of health, disability, ageing and employment
- Practitioner research
- Local government principles and practice
- Organising and managing in local government
- Research in a local government context (capstone for Masters' students)
- Local government research project (capstone for Grad Dip students)
- Enhancing local government service delivery
- Social planning and community development
- Strategic planning
- Comparative local governance
The theoretical benefits of decentralisation (political, administrative, and fiscal, for example) have been the subject of debate across a range of polities and supra-national political economies for several decades. However, the question of how finance might best follow function – and the attendant oversight of this process – is less resolved. Against the backdrop of mooted reforms to the Australian federation that may well have an impact upon the design of and scope for local and regional governance arrangements, this paper provides an account of the formation and functioning of the Local Government Finance Authority of South Australia (LGFA) the New Zealand Local Government Funding Agency (NZLGFA) and the Municipal Finance Authority of British Colombia (MFABC). The case studies suggest that own-source sub-national finance can be augmented through the use of such instruments. The broader introduction of such financial instruments is also considered.
Ryan, R & Woods, R 2015, 'Decentralisation and subsidiarity: Concepts and frameworks for emerging economies', Forum of Federations Occasional Paper Series, vol. 15, pp. 1-54.
A global trend towards decentralisation, particularly in emerging and transitional economies, is well underway. At the same time, there are many different meanings assigned to the concept, and it is frequently left undefined, even while it is being implemented. Written under the auspices of the University of Technology Sydney, Centre for Local Government, this paper argues that enhanced understanding of concepts and theories can contribute to improved practice during decentralisation reforms, and consequently be of benefit to governments and to their citizens. Drawing on the theoretical, research and policy literature, an approach is adopted that aims to draw benefits from this literature for public policy and administration in particularly the emerging and transitional economies. The material in the paper is used as a foundation for putting forward a recommended synthesis-framework for decentralisation implementation that draws attention to: appreciating the theoretical scope of fiscal decentralisation; focusing on the country and its goals; considering the design of the system of multi-level governance; focusing on central and local capacity; and adopting flexibility, supported by feedback mechanisms, in the process of decentralisation.
This paper analyses how effectively local government in Australia performs its functions as a key element of subnational governance. Service delivery and local democracy are identified as the core functions of local government. The analysis takes into account paradigms of public administration, democracy and management, the public organization, accountability and capacity. The concept of 'capacity' brings together many of the issues discussed in this paper. Questions of capacity relate to whether local governments are effectively performing their institutional functions, how they do so with regard to principles of good governance, and whether the dimensions of their capacity can be reformed if there was the need to meet additional demands
Woods, R, Artist, S & O'Connor, G 2015, 'Learning in Australian local government: A roadmap for improving education and training', Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, vol. December 2015, no. 18, pp. 108-126.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Faced with a context of national and state reform agendas as well as resource scarcity, Australian local government has pressing workforce development issues. This level of government is small in scale, geographically dispersed and subject to variations in state jurisdiction. These factors represent structural constraints to identifying and advocating a national approach for addressing workforce needs such as the provision of tailored education and professional development. This paper documents a sector consultation process exploring education and professional development for local government which aimed to identify needs on both supply and demand sides. The research found that aspirations for education and professional development tailored to the needs of local government aim to support the development of better local governance and leadership, and to address critical skills shortage issues. This may provide empirical grounds for promoting, planning, implementing and evaluating capacity-building initiatives in this third tier of government in the Australian federation.
Ryan, R & Woods, R 2019, 'Women's political empowerment: Lessons for subnational levels of government - Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Indonesia' in Gender and Diversity: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications, IGI, USA, pp. 406-426.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2019 by IGI Global. All rights reserved. Political participation by women is central to development and the empowerment of all citizens. This chapter argues for the recognition of opportunities for women in leadership, political participation, and the strengthening of democracy at the level of subnational governments. A key reason for focusing on gender equity in political life is that women constitute slightly more than half of the world's population, and they contribute to the social and economic development of all societies to a greater degree than men because of their dual roles in the productive and reproductive spheres. At the same time, their participation in formal political structures and processes, where they can contribute to decisions on the use of societal resources generated by both men and women, remains far below parity. Drawing examples from a range of national parliaments and countries, this chapter demonstrates lessons for increasing political participation by women in subnational governance.
Grant, B, Woods, R & Tan, SF 2017, 'Subnational finance in Australia and China: The case for municipal bond banks' in Handbook of Research on Sub-National Governance and Development, IGI Global, USA, pp. 150-166.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2017 by IGI Global. All rights reserved.The political and economic benefits of decentralization have been cogently represented, to the extent that decentralization and devolution comprise identifiable programs of reform across a range of polities. However, the public policy question of finance following function - and the oversight of this process - is less resolved. Further, concerns over the financial sustainability of sub-national governments continue across a range of polities. Against the backdrop of reforms to municipal finance in both Australia and China, this chapter provides an account of the formation and functioning of two successful sub-national financial institutions, the Local Government Finance Authority of South Australia (LGFA) and the Municipal Finance Authority of British Colombia. The case studies suggest that sub-national finance may not be the thorn in the side of decentralization it sometimes appears to be. The broader introduction of such financial instruments is considered.
Ryan, R & Woods, R 2017, 'Decentralization and Subnational Governance: Theory and Praxis' in Ryan, R & Schoburgh, E (eds), Handbook of Research on Subnational Governance and Development, IGI Global, Hershey, USA, pp. 1-33.View/Download from: Publisher's site
A trend towards decentralized systems of government and the strengthening of subnational governance is underway globally. However, decentralization has many different meanings, and it is frequently left undefined, even while it is being implemented. This chapter argues that enhanced understanding of concepts and theories can contribute to improved practice during decentralization reforms, and consequently be of benefit both to governments and their citizens. Drawing on the theoretical, research and public administration literature, an approach is adopted that aims to inform decentralization praxis, that is, the interplay of policy, strategy, implementation and review. The material is used as a foundation for presenting a synthesis-framework for praxis that draws attention to: appreciating the theoretical scope of fiscal decentralization; focusing on the country and its goals; considering the design of the system of multi-level governance; focusing on central and local capacity; and adopting flexibility, supported by feedback mechanisms, in the process of decentralization.
Ryan, R & Woods, R 2017, 'Women's Political Empowerment: Lessons for Subnational Levels of Government: Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Indonesia' in Ryan, R & Schoburgh, E (eds), Handbook of Research on Sub-National Governance and Development, IGI Global, Hershey, USA, pp. 385-405.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Political participation by women is central to development and the empowerment of all citizens. This chapter argues for the recognition of opportunities for women in leadership, political participation, and the strengthening of democracy at the level of subnational governments. A key reason for focusing on gender equity in political life is that women constitute slightly more than half of the world's population, and they contribute to the social and economic development of all societies to a greater degree than men because of their dual roles in the productive and reproductive spheres. At the same time, their participation in formal political structures and processes, where they can contribute to decisions on the use of societal resources generated by both men and women, remains far below parity. Drawing examples from a range of national parliaments and countries, this chapter demonstrates lessons for increasing political participation by women in subnational governance.
Woods, R 2017, 'Not forgetting the public servants: Capacity building to support subnational governance and development implementation' in Schoburgh, S & Ryan, R (eds), Handbook of Research on Sub-National Governance and Development, IGI Global, Hershey, Pennsylvania USA, pp. 504-524.View/Download from: Publisher's site
This chapter draws attention to the importance of the public service as a key agent in the implementation of subnational governance and development initiatives. A framework for teaching-learning and capacity-building more broadly is provided that builds on a model of decentralization implementation. It gives rise to a program of training that focuses on helping public servants: to improve their understandings
of decentralization and on the country and its goals; to consider the design of the system of multi-level governance; to focus on both central and local capacity; and to adopt flexibility, supported by feedback
mechanisms, in the process of decentralization. Each element is discussed in some detail, and illustrated by means of examples from the author's experience as an educator in Australia as well as contributor to
initiatives in countries adopting federal systems of government, including Nepal, Indonesia, and Pakistan.
Woods, R & Grant, BJ 2015, 'A critical note on local government 'failure' in Australian local government', 14th Australian Society of Heterodox Economists Conference, Australian Society of Heterodox Economists Conferences, Society for Heterodox Economics, UNSW Business School, pp. 92-103.
Local governments in Australia are subject to a range of systemic problems, including corruption and impropriety, ongoing concerns with operational efficiency and financial sustainability and variable quality in management practices. In examining these issues, many of which have been brought into focus by regular inquiries and reform initiatives in all state and territory jurisdictions, some commentators have described these problems as examples of local government 'failure'. We argue that this claim is misplaced and rests on a conflation of the concept of 'government failure' with 'market failure'; an equivalence that ought to be avoided due to the morally superior status of government, particularly those that are democratically elected, when set against the mechanism of the market. Further, we argue that a more accurate and more useful conceptualisation of local government failure can be derived from examining the challenges and pitfalls of decentralised government.
Grant, BJ & Woods, R 2014, 'Good capital? Examples of successful municipal bond banking and implications for Australian public policy', Tackling persistent economic problems: Heterodox perspectives, Australian Society of Heterodox Economists Conferences, Society for Heterodox Economics, UNSW, Sydney.
This study seeks to understand how local government can address place focused renewal by collaborating with communities. It aims to explore:
• The role of local government when working with communities, particularly in areas with a focus on local renewal;
• How a tool such as the 'collective impact framework' can be utilised by governments in community collaboration initiatives; and
• Key elements for success in local government led collaborations that involve a range of community stakeholders.
This report provides governments and stakeholders involved in local and place-focused renewal with conceptual framing and case study examples that can help inform and shape new community collaboration initiatives for their own contexts.
Bennett, J, Woods, R, Bower, N, Bruce, S & O'Connor, G Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government 2015, Creative councils for creative communities: The Marrickville creativity project, pp. 1-48, Sydney.
Report based on a teaching and research collaboration between UTS and Marrickville Council NSW
Gooding, A, Gibbs, M, Woods, R, Pillora, S & Smith, R Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government 2015, Sister cities and international alliances, pp. 1-110, Sydney.
A joint initiative of the Australian Local Government Association and the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, this research-based report explores the role local government plays internationally through sister cities and other alliances. The report – which includes a literature review, a quantitative Australian-wide survey, case studies, and guided discussions with stakeholders – characterises the current practice Australian local government engagement in international relationships, assesses their value to Australian councils and communities, and provides practical guidance for councils interested in establishing such relationships, or building on existing ones.
Why Local Government Matters is a major piece of social research on community attitudes to local government by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG), undertaken with substantial expertise from staff of the Centre for Local Government at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS:CLG). The research aims to better understand how and why the activities of local governments, and their roles in society are valued by communities.
Ryan, R, Hastings, C, Woods, R, Lawrie, A & Grant, B Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government 2015, Why Local Government Matters: summary report, pp. 1-20, University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
This report explores motivations for, and facilitators and barriers of, inter-council learning. The study identifies how information, ideas and inspiration is accessed from peers and then taken further and embedded within their own organisations.
The Centre for Local Government (CLG) at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) has been engaged by the State Library of New South Wales (State Library of NSW) to undertake research to explore and recommend regional management models for NSW public libraries.
Woods, R NSW Department of Education & Communities 2011, Meeting the Psychological and Emotional Wellbeing of Children and Young People: Models of Effective Practice.