Member of the Week: Steve Davies

1. Being in Australia, can you give a bit of background on what you do and how it corresponds to a similar role/function in US government?
Have been in Australia 40 years. Came from the UK. Started life as an educator then had opportunities to branch out. Broadly speaking have worked in the human resources/organisational development field with a heavy emphasis on research. For the past nine years worked on an application called SURV in the Australian Taxation Office. Well, dreamt up and nurtured by myself and our fantastic developer Phil Boase. If I had to some up that role it has been about guiding technical development and providing services to clients that really boil done to solving business problems and coming up with solutions. So I guess you could sum up my role as being an odd combination of IT/HR and, in a practical sense, OD.

2. How long have you been in public service and what was your motivation to work in government?
In one form or another I have worked in the public service for 31 years. I have worked in a range of departments – State/Territory/Federal – and on some cross jurisdiction/national projects.My motivation for working in the public service is to help people and make things work better. My pet hate is needless bureaucracy. My belief is that all people can do great creative positive things and we need to free up ‘the system’ to empower public servants to do just that. It really should not be hard for people to create and contribute. As individuals I also think we all need to challenge the systems we work within. Sometimes they are just downright bad.

3. You launched OzLoop a few months ago. What was the impetus/thought process behind its creation? Any good examples of collaboration that’s happening there already?
I decided to launch OZloop partly as I see it as a logical extension of my day job, but mainly because doing something like this really reflects some common threads or perspectives I have gained during my career. Namely, people are creative and want to contribute for the good of their community. I also did so as I see us setting a bit of an example. I say this as the reality is that the use of social networking technologies by public servants for public servants is pretty patchy and people are less vocal on line here than in the U.S. So in Australia there issues of culture, policy and practice to be faced up to. The brilliant report of our Gov 2.0 Taskforce pretty well says that. It is a liberating document. And I can’t of course, ignore that great leadership example set by GovLoop. So thanks Steve Ressler!

4. What are your goals for OzLoop and GovLoop in 2010? How can we collaborate more to solve common problems and share best practices?
Goals for 2010? Encouraging greater discussion, work to shift the culture of public services and identify the sacred cows that hold things back. I think we also need to address the issue of fear. I know from colleagues that some departments are just plain scared of open and public unstructured conversations between public servants. Some are not of course and there is some great stuff going on. But wouldn’t it be great to get everyone on the same page? And to do this from the ground up. My hope would be that if we can work together on these issues we can grow and have a considerable impact. I think the head of our Gov 2.0 Taskforce says it all with this simple statement. ” So Merry Christmas one and all. As for the Happy New Year, I hope for that even more, but as far as this agenda is concerned, it’s over to the government – and you”. Read more.

5. Back to the Government 2.0 Taskforce Report coming out of Australia; it’s considered by many observers to have set the global standard. Any thoughts on it? How/Were you involved with it? How does it impact your role going forward?
I agree – the Gov 2.0 Taskforce Report is visionary, inspirational and engaging. It is very empowering. I think the strength of the report is its sense of balance. Sure technology and systems are crucial, but the report also emphasises organisational culture and practices and the individual. Brilliant in my humble view. My contribution? Apart from comments made online I tried to pull the threads of Gov 2.0, innovation and the need to shift the culture together in my submission to the Reform of Australian Government Administration Project. That submission was also sent to Gov 2.0 Taskforce and the Innovation Project Team so I hope some of the ideas made a positive contribution. For Govloop member who are interested feel free to pick it apart. Personally, I think the report is going to have a major impact. Hard to judge how it will impact systemically as government is still considering the recommendations. However, I think it is fair to say it will impact how public servants engage on line.

6. What are some little known facts about Australia or Australian government that might interest/intrigue GovLoop members?
Little known facts about Australia? Public Service wise one I always find amusing is that our Federal Public Service refers to the other States/Territories as ‘the regions’. Can’t stand it, the bulk of the population lives in the States/Territories.

Australia is a pretty hot place so in 1838 it was decided to make illegal to swim at public beaches during the day! This law was enforced until 1902. In 1954, Bob Hawke was immortalised by the Guinness Book of Records for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. Bob Hawke went on to become the Prime Minister of Australia. And just in case anyone thinks we all live in the bush, Australia is one of the world’s most urbanised countries, with about 70 per cent of the population living in the 10 largest cities. Lastly, people often think the place is basically a desert. Not true. Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory enjoys a typical tropical wet season. Used to work there – a lovely time of the year.

7. If I were to make a trip down under, what would be the three places you’d say are must-sees?
For people making a trip to Australia my must sees are Darwin – Territory Wildlife Park is great and the Mindil Beach Markets are a great cultural experience. Adelaide, South Australia – the Barossa Valley is neat. Can’t go past Cairns – another tropical city. Better not forget our capital city, Canberra.

8. Any New Year’s Resolutions or items for the GovLoop 2010 Bucket List?
Bucket list. Has to be utility companies telling you their electricity or gas is cheaper than elsewhere per unit – until you include fees and charges. They’ve learnt from the Banks! New Years Resolutions? Do something different career wise in the public service – Gov 2.0 springs to mind, grow OZloop and chill out more. Guess the last one is doomed to failure already.

9. Anything I’ve missed that you think we should cover?
The only thing I can think of that is missing is fun. So maybe we should explore the lighter side of Gov 2.0 in 2010.

NOTE: GovLoop has a dedicated group for Australians (and people interested in Australia) to convene: Government 2.0 Australia

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One of my favorites…Steve and OzLoop. What I liked best (besides learning about Bob Hawke) was learning more about Steve’s cool background. I agree that the Taskforce Report is making ripples across the world and is setting a gold standard. Good stuff….