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US innovation expert to work with NZ policy makers

Media Release:

3 November 2013

US innovation expert to work with NZ policy makers

Co-Creative founder Russ Gaskin in New Zealand A strategic change and innovation expert is being brought to New Zealand to help policy makers and senior public sector managers push the boundaries, while spending tax dollars more effectively.

Russ Gaskin is a world-class facilitator of strategic change and an expert in Polarity Thinking from Washington DC. Through his consulting practice CoCreative Russ helps corporate, public sector and non-profit clients develop breakthrough solutions to complex challenges.

He is being brought to New Zealand by strategic design firm ThinkPlace, which is running two ground breaking Trans-Tasman workshops in Wellington and Canberra in November to help policy makers working in highly charged political environments design viable and innovative polices at pace.

Both of these workshops will also feature John Body, ThinkPlace Australia founding partner, a recognised expert in policy and regulatory co-design. John will be fresh from keynoting and facilitating master classes at Design for Public Good Week in Singapore.

Russ Gaskin says policy development can be politically led and announcements are traditionally shrouded in secrecy because of the political dimension.

“Sometimes policy makers are not sharing things because they are anticipating an attack from the other side. They are worried that if they let the cat out of the bag someone’s going to come in and kill their cat,” Russ says.

“Because of what’s been going on in the political scene in the US, it’s unusual for me as an American to come and talk about collaboration, but the polarity approach is even being used in our own government as a way to build trust and collaboration for more open policy design.”

Polarity thinking challenges people to look at those dilemmas and situations where both conflicting points of view are true. It shows policy makers that the tension between seemingly opposite positions can often be leveraged as a strength.

The ThinkCamps will be especially useful for senior public sector professionals who are frustrated by resistance to policy innovations.

Russ Gaskin says often policy is drafted on the basis of opinion or by listening to the strongest agitators, behaviour that’s natural when we operate under intense time pressure.

But he says a collaborative process of designing policy can give you a genuinely useful insight and help recognise what it is that will make the difference.

ThinkPlace NZ partner Leslie Tergas says ThinkPlace wants to help policy makers come up with ideas, approaches and clear alternatives to the way they’re currently working, so that their policy has the right impact and tax dollars are spent more wisely.

“Usually when policy is drawn up there is the political story (what will get us political advantage) and the cost story (can we afford it?) but what often undermines good policy in the end is seemingly irreconcilable values differences.” These ThinkCamps will explore cutting edge approaches to actually flipping these conflicts into genuine collaborations and shared perspectives for better, more sustainable policies.


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