This unit concerned decision making and there were quite a few angles to it – the theory of decision making, processes for decision making and examples of decision making. This unit gave me cause to come to the view that decision making thinking in the next few years is going to have to be totally re-examined with due to changes in technology and society.
The unit spent quite a bit of time looking at ‘consensus conferences’ and asked why had there not been more? I must say, I have been in public policy circles for quite sometime now and I hadn’t seen or heard much of consensus conferences. The last one I can recall was Kevin Rudd’s 2008 conference on good ideas for Australia. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_2020_Summit). A Wikipedia entry said: “Some of the delegates themselves expressed criticism of how the summit was conducted. In particular, claims were made that the final paper which purported to represent the resolutions of the sub-groups did not reflect ideas which they had espoused or did include ideas which they had not discussed, possibly reflecting an agenda which had been determined before the summit. Others were concerned that hard issues, such as terrorism in the group examining foreign affairs and security issues, were ignored.”
This goes to the heart of why I think decision making models and theory will have to be re-examined. Politics and ‘politics of the day’ these days are of far greater concern to public policy makers. The decision makers want a positive story, no controversy or a quick fix. Rational decision making is going out the door. Good policy is not always popular policy but decision makers only want popular policy. The public is more cynical of decision making. They will require greater convincing. Politics is more partisan than ever and the two sides rarely agree and monitor parties grandstand. The vast diversity of new media airs more views on issues and they become more outrageous to attract attention. The public is more vocal thanks to social media. Add to this, some decision making is taken out the hands of humans thanks toe a great reliance on big data and algorithms. There are some advantages and disadvantages in what I have just said but on the whole, it is a whole new era for decision making.
I think a good example of good public policy or decision making is being done by the NSW Roads and Maritime Services Authority. It concerns the Coffs Harbour bypass. They’re undertaking community consultation. Here’s a link to their document which I think explains well their thinking and process. But the process itself is interesting…. this has been going for 15 years.
Again, this highlights the political expediency involved in decision making these days.