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AMSRS 2019 ACT Conference Evidence, insights and beyond: Enhancing Government policies, programs and services

Hello all!

I’m excited to Chair the 2019 ACT Conference, and to have helped the AMSRS team develop a conference program that will support more effective design, delivery and evaluation of Government policies, programs and services.

What can you expect from the one-day conference?
Through the theme of ‘Evidence, insights and beyond: Enhancing Government policies, programs and services’, this year’s ACT Conference will explore:

Evidence – The current state and future directions of the many, varied types of evidence that we can access to enhance Government policies, programs and services, including academic literature (behavioural insights), integrated data (linked administrative, program, survey and other data), primary data (quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods market & social research)

Insights – Case studies where insights have been derived from meaningful analyses to genuinely influence outcomes, as well as exploring the all-important yet often overlooked value of ‘knowledge translation’ (i.e. putting insights to practical use)

And beyond – The strategic context in which we are all doing this, how we collaborate for even greater impact, and how we can build and promote a culture of evidence‑informed practice across Government and other sectors.

The conference is a next, logical step for the AMSRS in supporting Government
What Governments do and how they do it are rapidly evolving. 

In his recent address to the Australian Public Service[1], the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, reflected on the challenges and opportunities facing Government, including in relation to:

  • The “digital revolution” and implications for the increasing amount of data we have access to and our enhanced ability to process these data
  • The importance of setting and tracking “targets and metrics” to understand how well we are delivering on priorities and desired outcomes
  • Actively looking for ways to use “data and analytics for better policy and service delivery”.

Whether we work in Government or outside Government in a supporting capacity, we all have a role to play to deliver on the strategic intent outlined by the Prime Minister.

To deliver this value, Governments will need to increasingly work across domains or portfolios (e.g. health, education, employment), and work collaboratively with other sectors (consultants, academics, etc).  In this context, forums such as the 2019 ACT Conference become particularly important mechanisms through which to explore and develop shared language and understanding of key challenges and opportunities to enhance public value.

Many AMSRS members have historically played important roles in delivering value for and with Governments and the broader public sector.  And the AMSRS itself, through its conferences and other forums, has facilitated these valuable interactions and dialogues.

It is a natural progression for the AMSRS to support this more actively with a more deliberately Government-focused event in Canberra.

Who are the key note speakers?

I’m particularly excited to introduce the five key note speakers to you:

  • Dr Gordon de Brouwer (APS Review panellist and ex-APS Department Head) – Gordon is highly respected in the senior inner circles of the public service.  He will set the scene through exploring the APS Review and its implications for all of us whether we’re inside or outside of Government.
  • Kelly Hand (Deputy Director, Research, Australian Institute of Family Studies {AIFS}) – Kelly sits on the AIFS Executive team and oversees all aspects of AIFS research.  Drawing on insights from some of Australia’s most important longitudinal studies (and other sources), Kelly will provide an overview of the societal context of families in Australia – important for all of us whose work impacts Australians’ lives.
  • Nicholas Gruen (CEO, Lateral Economics) – Nicholas is one of our nation’s pre-eminent public policy thinkers.  Nicholas will share his views on how Government can achieve better outcomes through leveraging more considered research practices, along with exploring associated capability implications.
  • A/Prof Gemma Carey (Research Director, Centre for Social Impact, UNSW) – Gemma is an NHMRC Fellow who leads the UNSW contingent of the Centre for Social Impact, and who has published four books and over 70 journal articles.  Gemma will explore issues relating to accessing and using data, including across portfolios and sectors.
  • Brian Lee-Archer (Managing Director, Accenture, Government and Health practice) – Brian is often engaged to lead international efforts at the intersection of data and public policy.  Brian will share with us his views on how we can leverage data to optimally tailor Government approaches to achieve better outcomes.

The final session will culminate in a panel discussion that will involve at least four of the five key note speakers who will collectively explore “So what, and what’s next?”.  With so much varied expertise on the final panel, you won’t want to leave early!

What break-out sessions will there be?
In addition to the plenary sessions involving the key note speakers we have six break-out sessions, which offer a little something for everyone:

  • Influencing our society through research – Including some fantastic case studies of using market and social research to inform real-world Government challenges
  • Making the most of integrated data – Providing an overview of the integrated data (linked administrative, program and survey data) landscape across Government and some examples of recent work and future opportunities
  • Enhancing our evaluation capability – Exploring practical ways to enhance evaluation capability within organisations
  • Getting value from behavioural insights – Providing an overview of behavioural insights within an Australian Government context, and exploring key case studies
  • Leveraging technology for better outcomes – Exploring three great examples of how technology is being – and can be – used by Government and private and academic sector partners to deliver better outcomes
  • Maximising our impact – Exploring how to design and (co)deliver research and insights in a way that enhances its influence on outcomes.

As you can see, it really will be an action-packed day!  If you’re disappointed that you can’t get to everything you want to see, then we’ll chalk that up as a win!

In summary
As the Chair of this year’s ACT Conference I commend the program to anyone with even a passing interest in how we can support Governments to deliver better outcomes for people living in Australia.  And I commend AMSRS for their leadership and commitment to advancing the application of evidence, insights (and beyond!) to enhance the society in which we all live.

The recently outgoing Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Martin Parkinson AC PSM, quoted the British novelist and short story writer, L. P. Hartley, in his Valedictory speech: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

If you’re interested in using evidence and insights to support better public outcomes and you don’t attend this one-day conference, you’ll likely find yourself waking up the next morning in a foreign country: unaware of ‘why’ and ‘how’ the world of using evidence and insights to achieve better public outcomes has moved on without you.

I look forward to seeing you there so we can help shape the future together.

Adam Rowland
Chair AMSRS ACT Conference 2019

[1] Source:

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