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Social Outlook – 10 years in the Future

28 July 2003 Speech Notes

Social Outlook – 10 years in the Future
Social Development in a Knowledge Society

Address to the Local Government New Zealand conference. Millennium Hotel, Queenstown.

Kia Ora your worships, councillors, ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased to be with you here today.

This morning we have already heard a demanding agenda for our country and its regions. The previous speakers have shown that we need to find effective ways of establishing our place on the world stage, achieving economic growth, meeting the needs of our changing population and protecting our natural environment in a sustainable way.

You get the sense of the scale of the changes that are occurring and the scope of the response that will be required to meet the demands of the world that is taking shape. This will stretch out political and social imagination.

To respond appropriately to the scale of the renewal required we need to understand the changes around us. We need to identify key social trends. We need to anticipate what the most important social policy issues will be. And we need to plan carefully how to address them.

That is what I want to spend my time with you talking about.

In meeting these challenges we must constantly bear in mind that the overall goal is to improve the social well-being of all New Zealanders. I want to explain a little of the social development approach which lies at the heart of our commitment to improve outcomes for all New Zealanders both now and in the years to come.

I want look at our society today and what it might become in the future. And to share some thinking about what we need to do now to prepare for the changes ahead.

Central and local government both have key roles to play in this enterprise. The Local Government Act 2002 places a mantle of responsibility on the shoulders of Councils to promote well-being and improve outcomes for your communities. The partnerships we make will be crucial in achieving our shared objective.

With this common purpose in mind I want to highlight some areas in which we will need to concentrate our joint efforts in preparing for the future. And I want to present to you the Mosaics guide which provides a practical resource to help us work better together.

Social development is needed to build the knowledge society

So what do we need to do?

The government is committed to building a society in the future in which social outcomes continue to improve. Just as we are committed to making sure our economy grows and develops, we also want to create a society which is prosperous, inclusive and environmentally sustainable. A society characterised by opportunity for all to participate and achieve their potential.

To realise this vision we need a holistic social development approach to addressing New Zealand's complex social needs.

What does this mean in practice?

Social Development involves co-ordinated social change to improve well-being for all members of our society. This means we need to understand and address the underlying causes of people's problems rather than throwing money at the symptoms. We need to know which interventions are effective so we place our investment in ways we know will help us avoid problems of dependence and exclusion in the future.

Social Development in the knowledge society requires a commitment to world-class social policies in areas such as health, housing, education, social assistance, families and development policies for Maori and Pacific communities.

And these policies must be translated into the practical design and delivery of local services.

New Zealand society now - a snap shot

To plan where we are going in the future we first need to know where we are now. This is why we created The Social Report to provide a clear picture of the well-being of New Zealanders today.

The report shows us where we are making progress and where we still have work to do in ensuring that all New Zealanders experience the best possible outcomes and can participate actively in society.

The second volume of The Social Report has just been published. It paints a picture of broadly improving social outcomes.

This graph shows how social indicators have changed across a range of different areas. Movements away from the centre of the ‘wheel’ show an improvement in this area since 1996.

So what does this graph show us about wellbeing in New Zealand?

The health of New Zealanders is improving: we see gains in independent life expectancy, suicide rates, and prevalence of smoking.

New Zealanders are increasingly better educated: there have been significant gains since 1996 in early childhood education, the educational attainment of the adult population, and the tertiary participation rate.

In the area of paid work we see improvements in employment rates and work/life balance with fewer people working very long hours.

The economic standard of living of New Zealanders is improving with higher market incomes and fewer people with low incomes. Income inequality is not falling, but this is because the wealthy are getting richer, not because the poor are getting worse off.

Our civil and political rights record is good: although voter turnout has fallen, this is part of a long term international trend and New Zealand’s voter turnout remains high by international standards.

In the area of cultural identity we see an increasing amount of local content on television.

Our drinking water quality is high by international standards, reflecting the generally good state of our environment.

Finally, in the area of safety, we see significant improvements in the road casualty rate. This is in part due to improved infrastructure.

It is particularly positive to see that mostly these gains are shared by all New Zealanders. Although average outcomes for some groups – such as Maori and Pacific peoples – are poorer than the national average, the Social Report shows that outcomes are improving for these groups, and in many cases the gap is closing.

We are moving towards a knowledge society

But just having an understanding of our social wellbeing is not enough. The New Zealand we and our children will be living in ten years from now will be a different place from the one we know today. We need to understand what that world will look like, and to identify the crucial factors for success in this new environment.

Technology is changing the way we live, do business, access services, use our leisure time and communicate with each other. And the rate at which new technologies appear and are taken up for use in society is accelerating.

We are experiencing an information revolution similar in scope to the agricultural and industrial revolutions which preceded it. We will increasingly rely on computer-based information and communications technology, and biotechnologies, to add value in our traditional industries –agriculture, food and fibre and tourism. This is crucial in allowing us to sustain and improve the living standards of our society in the face of global economic competition.

Technological innovation will also underpin the development of new strengths, based on a broad set of creative skills – in art and design, science and engineering. And these creative industries will provide new modes of expression for traditional Maori and Pacific cultures.

Globalisation is another key trend which is shaping the future and changing our relationship with the rest of the world. It is changing the needs of our economy, exposing most of our activities to international competition. But it is also providing access to valuable research and innovation which can be applied to New Zealand.

The new global world is changing the face of our population by creating a constant movement of people and skills between New Zealand and overseas countries. And it is changing our sense of place and identity as New Zealanders.

But the greatest driver of change is knowledge. Increasingly success in business, in work and in all aspects of life depends on our ability to access and use information.

Knowledge is the key to our future development. It is by harnessing knowledge that we will increase our capacity to compete economically in competitive global markets. It is by harnessing knowledge that we will also be able to improve well-being.

This is the knowledge society.

The characteristics of a successful knowledge society

Obviously we cannot know with certainty what the future holds. But from these changes we are seeing we can be reasonably sure what some of the key elements will be:

We can be confident for example that in the knowledge society, improving outcomes will depend on how well we invest in knowledge.

We will need to enable people to access and share information. We can also be sure also that, since knowledge creates value, we will need constant investment in the creation of new knowledge.

We will then need to apply what we learn to build innovation in the economy, creativity in the way we design and deliver services, and confidence and self-reliance in communities.

And we will need to invest in human capital.

That means investing in people to ensure they acquire the appropriate skills, which allow them to participate in the knowledge society throughout their lives.

But ‘knowledge’ is not simply about facts or understanding new technologies.

‘Knowledge’ is also held by all people in the way they perceive, experience and understand the world. It is our collective wisdom, the tacit knowledge we have of our culture and the values that drive the way we behave, as individuals and communities.

Investing in social capital will also be key. This means strengthening the links between us so share this knowledge and build a clear understanding of who we are, an appreciation of our similarities and our differences, and a clear picture of what we want for our society.

Some of the social outcome areas which are part of the current picture of wellbeing will therefore take on particular salience in the knowledge society. Success in this world will require robust social participation and involvement, a strong sense of identity, and respect for diversity.

Let’s examine these elements in more detail. We could imagine building another wheel like the first one to highlight the crucial elements and provide pointers for measuring our progress towards creating a successful knowledge society.

Investing in Knowledge. Accessing and sharing knowledge

If people are to succeed in a knowledge society they need access to information.

Increasingly the Internet will provide the tool for individuals, businesses and communities to access information from around the world. Service providers, too, will rely more heavily on technology to communicate with service users and to develop new on-line services which can be accessed from anywhere in the country.

To build a successful knowledge society we therefore need:
- an increasing number of households with access to computers and the Internet.
- and new developments in infrastructure such as broadband access in regions.

Knowledge works best when it is shared. It used to be thought that IT would reduce the need for people to meet together to communicate and do business, but that has not proven to be true. Social interactions, contacts and networks both locally and internationally are as important as ever for sharing the information so vital to promoting economic innovation and developing innovative and responsive social services.

- the number of successful business or educational clusters within a region will therefore be one of the characteristics of success in building a knowledge society.
- in the public service sector we can add the number of effective intersectoral networks and information-sharing initiatives. Collaborative initiatives of this kind have a key role to play in supporting strategic planning and service development to address local need.
- of course sharing knowledge also means sharing our perspectives on the world. So we would also see high levels of effective consultation with stakeholders and communities as a measure of success.

I’ll return to the themes of how we work together, and with our communities, a little later.

Creating new knowledge

Building a knowledge society means a constant focus on creating new knowledge. At present we undertake only 0.1% of the world’s research, so most of the knowledge which is applied in New Zealand is not created here. This means we need to support innovation, in academia and in business, but also in designing and implementing innovative approaches to service delivery.

If we’re successful in these endeavours we’ll see:
- significant levels of research and development in our communities.
- the development of intellectual property shown by an increase in the number of patents issued.

Understanding and applying knowledge

To succeed in the knowledge society people will need to understand and apply knowledge. New ideas, new products, new processes and better services for communities should be the result. If we are successful in this area we would expect to see:
- a high rate of new business start-ups, innovation funding, and entrepreneurship
- we would also expect to see increasing numbers of knowledge workers who are specialized in accessing and creating new knowledge and translating it for application into practice.

More broadly, we need to support the growing momentum towards evidence-based policy and practice when developing social policy interventions. We need to build on our knowledge of “what works” to be sure we invest wisely in new initiatives and target need effectively. We also need to make an active effort to learn from what we do.

A measure of success would therefore be:
- a clear evidence-base for policy, and consistent and evaluation of services and initiatives which demonstrates their effectiveness in improving outcomes.

Investing in human capital. Building Skills

But the ability of our society to apply and understand knowledge will also require preparation on our part. We need to invest in human capital. We need to equip New Zealanders with the appropriate skills and qualifications.

And it starts with the basics - foundation skills such as literacy and numeracy.

- The test of our success will be an increasing number of adults who reach level 3 of the OECD Adult Literacy Survey. This is considered to be the minimal requirement for individuals to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work in the emerging knowledge society. In 1996, a little over 50 percent of New Zealanders aged 16 to 65 reached that level. This is therefore a key area where we need to make significant progress in the future.

But we want more than simply the basics for this country. We want New Zealanders in well-paid work. In the knowledge economy, this will increasingly require specialised skills and qualifications. In a successful knowledge society educational attainment will be as important, or even more important than it is today.

We would expect to continue to see:
- an increasing proportion of school leavers with NCEA level 3. Currently 64% of school leavers gain Sixth-form Certificate and 18% leave school with Bursary qualifications. Key improvements need to be made here.
- we would also want to see an increasing percentage of the population gaining tertiary qualifications, especially in new technology –based studies in the arts, design, science and engineering.

What is more we need to make sure that these improvements touch all groups in our society. This means we need to start by investing in our children and young people to ensure they can participate in the knowledge society in the future. This is a priority identified in the Sustainable Development Programme of Action. We need to focus on addressing educational under-achievement so that those who start from a low base have an equal opportunity to achieve their potential. Indeed, another key to building a successful knowledge society is the ability to tap our widest possible human resource. Successful investment in children and young people would be shown by:
- increasing rates of participation in high quality early childhood education, particularly amongst Maori and Pacific children
- and in the older age group we’d expect to see successful youth transitions marked by a greater proportion of 15-19 year olds moving seamlessly from school into work, training or education.

Moreover, all people will need to focus on ongoing development and acquire new skills throughout their working lives.

- This will mean a greater number of people involved in lifelong learning including work- related training and community and third-age education.

Investing in Social Capital. Social participation and involvement

Social participation is an important means of sharing both factual and tacit cultural knowledge. People need to be actively involved in decision-making and other activities that shape their own futures and those of the country as a whole. Investing in social capital will therefore also be crucial in building a successful knowledge society. The challenge is to encourage participation of all groups, within our communities.

Our connections with others start with the interactions we've experienced within our families. Family life provides the environment in which children learn, particularly in the early years of life which are vital for their future development. We know too that a good relationship between spouses fosters personal well-being. In developing our knowledge society we therefore need to foster an environment that supports good parenting and builds strong families.

The knowledge society should also uphold that old kiwi value of giving people a “fair go”. It should provide support and opportunities for all to participate socially and economically.

Again social development can fuel much of our response to these challenges. It is the means through which we can remove the many barriers to participation.

It gives us the means to tackle persistent disadvantage, to address underlying health, housing, educational and social problems, and to develop sustainable employment.

The social development approach can also help us to build social capital. Fostering strong connections both within and across groups of people in communities is an important investment in future well-being. In a successful knowledge society we would therefore also expect to see:

- strong social ties where people report being actively involved in family and community activities; and being members of clubs, associations and other groups.
- a vibrant and active community voluntary sector.
- and high levels of participation in local and national democratic processes.

A sense of identity

A strong sense of who we are as a nation can help to bind us together as we build a cohesive and effective knowledge society. We need to create this sense of self by exploring the understandings and insights we share.

We also need to recognise what makes us unique. And for New Zealand it is our relationships with Maori, our first people, that allow us to develop a truly distinctive identity in the world.

Looking 10 years out, we would expect to see:
- our cultural identity reflected in high levels of New Zealand content in our broadcasting.
- increasing recognition of New Zealand symbols and icons at home and abroad – We can call this the paua and pavlova indicator!
- we also expect to see highly effective partnerships with iwi and Maori organisations that are advancing Maori development.

Value and respect for diversity

Within the identity we have as a nation we will also need to recognise the diversity which exists within our different communities. This will be important in our ability to design policy and services to meet people’s needs and support them to participate effectively in the knowledge society.

New Zealand society in the future will be more ethnically diverse. With a younger average age and higher fertility rates, Maori and Pacific populations are growing more rapidly as a proportion of our overall population. An increasing proportion of New Zealand society is of Asian origin.

The range of ethnicities within the New Zealand population is also becoming more diverse. As migration patterns change we are seeing more immigrants from a broader range of countries than in the past. In 1991, 16% of the population was born overseas, and by 2001 this had increased to 20% of the population.

Ethnicity and diversity is a complex picture. Already a growing number of New Zealanders identify with more than one ethnic group. In 2001 one fifth of all babies born in New Zealand had parents from different ethnic backgrounds. This is inherently changing the ethnic mix of those calling themselves New Zealanders.

A diverse community brings great rewards. Difference provides the spark of creativity that arises when diverse experiences and perspectives are brought together.

But diversity also brings challenge. To realise the benefits we need to create tolerant, open communities which recognise and value diversity.

If we successfully build this environment, we will see:
- New Zealanders acknowledging that they recognise and value diversity in their communities. Already in the Big Cities Report the majority of residents in major urban centres say that increased diversity has made their city a better place to live.
- we'll also see a greater number of new migrants in employment appropriate to their skills and migrants readily settling into life in New Zealand and participating actively in their local communities.

We would see progress towards a successful knowledge society as each of the points moves towards the outside of the circle.

Partnerships are key

Creating an effective knowledge society through social development is a joint enterprise. This approach requires new and strengthened partnerships between central and local government. It requires us to work with other stakeholders, with businesses, with Iwi and Maori groups and with our communities to improve well-being.

Your role in this is pivotal. You are closest to your communities. You best understand their needs and priorities. You are the first port of call in representing their interests. The Local Government Act increases your flexibility to improve well-being within your community. It provides the impetus for you to take an active role in advancing social development.

As such you are a significant player in achieving positive social outcomes for this country. This government cannot achieve our social objectives without you.

But the relationship goes two ways. Central government sets the overarching policy to address key social issues. We fund and deliver the majority of services to communities. This means that you need us to help you achieve the improvements in outcomes that your communities demand.

The development of Long Term Community Council Plans provides the framework for us to work together to improve outcomes. The partnerships we build together to promote social development will play a major role in creating an effective knowledge society.

Collaborative work that paves the way ahead is already underway. Many of you are involved in initiatives with central government. I'd like to take a few minutes now to highlight a few that illustrate well the direction we all need to take.

Investing in our young people

Fifty-six mayors are involved in the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs. They are working in partnership with central government agencies to achieve the shared goal to have all 15-19 year olds engaged in appropriate education, training, work or other options leading to long-term economic independence and well-being. The challenging timeframe set for achieving this is 2007.

Addressing regional skills and training needs

A series of regional employment and skills forums have been set up to promote discussions between central government agencies and regional stakeholders. The forums provide the opportunity to focus on each region’s skill and labour issues and jointly develop action points for working together.

Building stronger links with tertiary education providers will also be important in equipping New Zealanders with the skills for the knowledge age. The Tertiary Education Strategy is encouraging tertiary education providers to work more closely with their local stakeholders including businesses and communities.

The Canterbury Development Corporation provides one example of how this agenda is being driven forward in practical ways. The corporation has brought together local tertiary education providers and businesses to develop training opportunities that meet the needs of local businesses and communities.

Another collaboration is also providing a blueprint for facilitating networks to build skills. The Marlborough District Council and the Marlborough Economic Development Trust are partnering to pool regional resources to create a cluster of excellence in education and training.

Building social development in local communities

There are many ways in which local authorities give shape to local communities. Councils provide libraries, implement community development initiatives, develop infrastructure and run planning and consultation processes. All these activities are important in facilitating the way people access and share information, and build functioning social networks.

Local authorities therefore have a key role to play in the development of strategies to promote regional social development. Government agencies like the Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand Corporation are leading “whole of government” initiatives, working with Councils on local projects which aim to improve a broad range of community outcomes.

These include:
- the Northland Social Development Strategy which has been developed through a partnership between the Northland mayoral forum and Northland intersectoral forum - a collective of key government agencies. Complementing the economic development strategy, the social development strategy supports collaborative community planning and housing initiatives in Kaipara, Raumanga and Kaeo.
- another good example is the Aranui Community renewal scheme. The local council, the Aranui community trust and a variety of government agencies including Housing New Zealand, the Ministry of Social Development and Child Youth and Family are all working together in uplifting a deprived community. Other such community renewal schemes are underway in Auckland, Rotorua and Porirua.

Ensuring quality affordable housing

Adequate housing is a fundamental plank of social well-being. And this government is developing a housing strategy to ensure all New Zealanders have access to affordable, sustainable, quality housing appropriate to their needs.

Councils play a pivotal role in enforcing housing standards and ensuring that land development supports the supply of affordable housing. Input from local councils will be crucial in achieving the government’s housing objectives.

Moreover, central government alone cannot meet the demand for housing to support the vulnerable in our communities. We need partners to help make this goal a reality. As the country's second largest provider of social housing, local government is our most effective ally.

In recognition of our joint roles in achieving these objectives, in this year’s budget we have committed $63 million over four years to build a partnership with local authorities and the Third Sector in providing housing. We will use this to encourage local authorities to keep housing stock and to develop social housing demonstration projects.

The Housing New Zealand Corporation is leading a sector meeting here tomorrow on housing partnership opportunities with local government. This session will greatly benefit metropolitan local authorities to learn more about the New Zealand Housing strategy the housing initiatives. I strongly encourage you to attend.

These initiatives are good examples of the momentum of partnership we’re keen to build.

Fostering good collaborative practice

While we have been making good progress in building partnerships – we need something more. We need a tool that provides a guide for us working together better in the new environment created by the Act.

Today, I’m very pleased to introduce you to such a tool: the Mosaics guide. This guide provides a road map for good practice in regional co-ordination and integrated service delivery. It offers practical advice on what we need to focus on to work together more effectively.

Mosaics shows how we can jointly develop strategic planning to improve outcomes at local level, and effective services which meet local needs. This guidance will be particularly useful as you put in place the processes to develop your Long Term Council Community Plans. The guide strongly emphasises the need for us to build on the successful partnership approaches already established between us in many parts of the country.

The good practice lessons show that:
- We need to know where we’re going. To work together effectively we need to have a clear sense of what we want to achieve.

This requires us to identify which local outcomes we want to improve and to be clear about how working together will help us to achieve them.

Right now these processes are new and it will take time to get them right. It will take time to understand what is achievable and to work out our respective roles.

- We need to see the big picture – We need to understand how addressing local priorities fits into the wider context.

This requires us to consider how local activities will meet regional and national objectives. And we need to think also how they will build sustainable foundations for the future as well as meeting present needs.

This will take vigilance. We’ll need to constantly identify where we have common interests and shared objectives with others across a region or amongst government departments. And we’ll need to work together to avoid duplicating activity or leaving gaps in some areas, and ensure we develop solutions at an appropriate level.

- We need to understand each other better. The Act requires you to work with others who can influence the achievement of community outcomes. This gives you a key role in facilitating communication amongst your key partners - central government, business, Iwi and Maori groups and the community sector.

You will need to involve these partners right from the beginning as you define community outcomes; as you establish what is possible and what is not. We therefore need to meet together, to engage in dialogue. We need to build better understanding of each other's perspectives, priorities and constraints.

Further, we need inclusive approaches to solving problems and addressing needs that avoid playing off the interests of one group or sector against another.

And we need to support others in the community to work with us as partners.

- We need to share what we know. We need to build a common picture of how local communities are doing, and what they need to move ahead

We need to approach consultation together to determine community needs. Let’s avoid the risk of consultation fatigue.

We need to share data that helps us measure outcomes in local areas. Collaboration that ensured consistency between the outcome indicators in the Social Report and the Big Cities Report was an important step in this direction. And we’re seeking to extend this.

- We need to be accountable. This requires us to demonstrate that what we do serves the interests of communities, at both local and national levels.

To do this we need a clear understanding of the diverse perspectives that exist within communities. We need to ensure that all voices are heard, and the interests of all groups are effectively represented.

We need to show that we take account of these needs in the way we develop policy and plan and deliver services.

The way ahead

The world we are moving into is a different place from the one we grew up in. It is a world shaped by technological innovation and our links to a globalised world. Above all it is a world in which knowledge and information are driving change.

We know then that the key to our future success as a knowledge society will depend on the ability of businesses, educators, service providers and communities to access and create new knowledge.

We need to work together - in our regions, in business and service clusters, and with communities to share what we know.

We need to support all people to learn and gain new skills to meet the new demands, and to go on learning throughout their lifetime, because a successful knowledge society is one which offers opportunities for all New Zealanders to participate and succeed.

We need to build a strong sense of who we are and what we stand for. And in doing that, to value the diversity of cultures, perspectives, and experiences that exist within our communities.

For all of us in central government and in local government this presents both great challenges and great opportunities. Neither of us can achieve the objectives we want for our communities alone. We need to work together to build the knowledge society.

This is an exciting agenda for partnership in the years ahead.


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