The latest manifestation of the country’s restructure mania is the recently passed Public Service Act 2020, which repeals the State Sector Act 1988 following a comprehensive review of it.

Flavia’s research is currently concentrated on the main administrative trends embodied by the Act.

She began researching government restructuring in 2017 while a teaching fellow at the LSE. Her main area of study then was Latin America, why countries in that region kept importing reform ideas from abroad, and whether that benefited them.

One of the reasons she came to New Zealand two years ago was the potential to research restructuring here.

Another current project for her is exploring what drives the frequent reforms and innovation.

“I’m planning an analysis of social networks in Wellington to test the hypothesis that one of the reasons the public sector is so innovative has to do with the role of social networks and the flow of ideas between government and academia.

“The assumption is that networks and good information flows foster innovation, and because Wellington is such a small and well-connected place, ideas diffuse relatively quickly and therefore reforms are relatively frequent.”

One aspect of the latest shake-up is the push for public health reforms, which Flavia describes as an important first step in implementing the broader aims of the Public Service Act.

Healthcare is one of the biggest, most complex areas of government, she says.

“It directly affects the entire population, it has a really high allocation of government resources, and it tends to be highly controversial.”

“Wellington is such a small and well-connected place, ideas diffuse relatively quickly and therefore reforms are relatively frequent.”
Dr Flavia Donadelli

She agrees with the four main themes identified in the report released earlier this year after a major review of the health system.

These include ensuring consumers, whānau, and communities are at the heart of the system, more focused leadership, more effective Te Tiriti o Waitangi-based partnerships within health and disability services, and a system with a longer-term focus.

“These are certainly valuable areas for improvement. Improving the equity of health outcomes to all New Zealanders is paramount,” says Flavia.

“There should also be sufficient social and political consensus for it to become a sustainable and long-term process that would not get trapped by electoral cycles, and a concerted effort made to address the broader causes of unequal health outcomes, including socioeconomic, educational, cultural, and other reasons.”

She says changes should take place incrementally, so minor alterations can be reversed if necessary without too much cost.

“There also needs to be strong coordination across the policy areas, as a healthcare-only reform is unlikely to make a big enough difference to the sector.”

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