Token participation to engaged partnerships: Lessons learnt and challenges ahead for Australian not-for-profits


Excerpt from Strategic Issues for the not-for-profit sector

by Dr Rose Melville. UNSW Press.  Editor Jo Barraket

This excerpt outlines some key characteristics and historical challenges faced by the community services sector in Australia, which affect capacity to negotiate government compacts



Following overseas trends, the rhetoric of 'partnership and participation' is increasingly promoted by governments in Australia as the way to forge new and more meaningful relationships with the not-for-profit sector. In this chapter the focus of analysis is on the community services sector, a subset of not-for-profit organisations. This chapter outlines some key characteristics and historical challenges faced by the community services sector in Australia, which have a direct bearing on its capacity to successfully negotiate government sector-wide formal partnerships or compacts in the current policy environment. A number of important issues confronting the sector in developing effective partnerships with government are identified. The discussion then shifts to an analysis of the formation of compacts/partnerships in Australia and overseas and to the strategic lessons learnt from these processes. In contrast to overseas developments, most community sector-government compacts/partnerships in Australia have occurred at the state government level, resulting in piecemeal and ad hoc arrangements and not a genuine whole of government-community sector enterprise. The chapter draws on existing literature and current empirical research on government sector-wide partnerships.1 It is argued that the community services sector needs to engage in critical self-reflection so that it can strategically reframe its own partnership agenda and seize political opportunities within the current institutional context. Comparative policy analysis combined with frame theory is employed in this chapter examine the use of government-community sector partnerships in Australia (Beland & de Chantal 2005).2

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Empirical study

The chapter draws on findings of an empirical study that examines the way formal government-community sector partnerships and agreements impact on the advocacy and policy-making roles of community services sector organisations.3 A case study methodology (Yin 2003) was adopted. It involved the selection of twelve comparative, matching-paired organisational cases across New South Wales and Queensland. Organisations were selected from the fields of disability, child and family, housing and homelessness and environment, and on the basis of size and institutional characteristics. Twenty-four in-depth structured interviews were conducted with senior executives. The study also involved an ethnographic observational methodology, and the collection of relevant minutes, correspondence, reports and other secondary documentation. In-depth interviews were conducted with key informants involved in the development of government-community sector partnership agreements in New South Wales and Queensland (Onyx, Dalton, Melville, Casey & Banks 2007). The interviews and documentary data was analysed thematically (ten Have 2004). While the following discussion is informed by the findings of this project, it is not a full report on the data analysed.

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Partnership: What is it?

The notion of partnership is a highly contested one. It is used in a wide variety of ways by governments, business, academics and the community services sector. Existing definitions drawn from management, business and organisational theory do not adequately capture the characteristics of partnership agreements that are being formed between government and the community services sector. Goddard (2006: 1) argues that the term 'partnership' 'is being used by government to describe a preferred relationship with the CSS [community services sector]'. It is often asserted that formal government-community sector partnerships will provide improved opportunities for the community services sector's political participation in policy-making activities. White argues that the two processes are fundamentally different: 'participation is political' in nature and 'partnership is about (inter) organisational and institutional' relationships between the CS [community sector] and the state' (2006: 4). Furthermore, Pascal (1996, cited in the Voluntary Sector Roundtable 1998) argues that the term 'government partnership' is an oxymoron, given that governments have considerable difficulty sharing power and decision making. Findings from the current empirical study show that many in the community services sector do not view partnerships positively. Instead they are viewed with some suspicion. They are seen primarily as a relationship based on operational-managerial imperatives associated with the contract and tendering funding arrangements developed during the 1990s (Brown & Ryan 2003; Melville 2002). McGregor-Lowndes, in this collection, claims that the (legal) relationship between government and the community services sector is often most similar to that of employer and independent contractor.

However, some writers (Perkins, Nelms & Smyth 2005) assert there has been a significant shift by government to more collaborative working relationships, and that such relationships should be embraced. Others suggest the contract culture has given way to a new partnership culture based on network governance models (Considine & Lewis 2003). Our study indicates that there is no consistent empirical evidence to support this proposition (Onyx, Dalton, Melville, Casey & Banks 2007). Furthermore, the introduction of the notion of partnership into the policy mix has only served to complicate the day-to-day operational and political relationship between government and community services sector.

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Key characteristics of the community services sector

The community services sector's ability to negotiate partnerships with government is influenced by a number of important factors, including its degree of internal unity and coherence. The sector is made up of a diverse range of small to large institutions. Their mission, values, role and purpose in pursuing social justice goals vary considerably (Lyons 2001). Some of the older institutions emerged out of the concept of charity of early colonial times, whereas others grew out of church-based and church-sponsored institutions and programs. The large majority (and these are mostly small organisations) came out of the 1970s and 1980s social movements based around 'identity politics' and special population groups. That was also a period where 'expert professional and disciplinary practices' were increasingly challenged by consumers of health and welfare services, and there were debates and contestation over power (Drake 1992).

A large number of these emancipatory organisations were successful in receiving state funding, with the largest growth occurring during the above period. This in turn has structured the relationships they have had with the state (Sawer & Jupp 1996). Social movement organisations have experienced periods of 'contentious politics' (Tarrow 1994), and of collaboration, but their relationship with government has always been tempered by a wariness about co-option and; goal displacement. Social and human rights movements emphasised a new style of 'participatory governance' - drawn from theories of deliberative and associational democracy (Dryzek 1990; Mansbridge 1980). The community services sector embraced deliberative democracy as a fundamental tenet underpinning management and service delivery practices (Simmons & Birchall 2005).

This organisational and political diversity within the Australian community services sector is both a strength and a weakness. The diversity of organisations has facilitated successful claim-making on the state by marginalised groups; the state has been forced to fund new and emerging needs. However, several important weaknesses balance this achievement. The sector is often perceived as fragmentary and unwieldy (Lyons & Passey 2006). It struggles to develop coherent vertical and horizontal broad-based coalitions.4 It also has difficulty developing a strong sense of value and self-identity.5
However, it is important not to problematise the community services sector in isolation from wider social policy developments. A number of key social, economic and political factors have affected the community services sector's ability to seize opportunities to strategically frame government-community sector partnerships in its favour. Community services organisations occupy a more marginal space in social policy in Australia than they do in countries such as Britain, where they have traditionally played a more central and significant role in state policies and service delivery (McDonald & Marston 2002: 376-79).

The Australian community services sector was swept up in the macroeconomic and industry reforms (such as competitive tendering and contracting of human services) introduced by the Hawke-Keating government (1983-95) and extended by the Howard Government (1996-2007). The competitive tendering and contracting culture had a significant impact on the community services sector's internal and external functioning. The sector tried to strategically respond to these impacts by proposing the development of a national industry plan (ACOSS 1995), but was unable to obtain sufficient support for this within the sector or from government. In effect, the sector has been largely sidelined by government. As changing social conditions and changes to governance arrangements have expanded the community services sector's role over the last two decades, government investment has not kept pace with increasing costs or needs. Consequently, parts of the sector continue to experience critically low levels of funding, which has resulted in reduced investment in infrastructure and personnel. There is a glaring absence of systematic workforce planning and development and industry training strategies (ACOSS 2007). In recent years, the political legitimacy of community services organisations' advocacy and lobbying roles has been under increasing attack (Maddison & Denniss 2005; Melville & Perkins 2003), adding further to a sense that they are devalued by government and discredited in wider society.

A major claim made by the community services sector is that it has the moral right to be involved in the policy-making process, particularly in relation to social and personal services and programs. This legitimacy comes from two sources. First, as service providers, the sector is directly involved in the implementation of policy, and second, the sector acts for consumers of welfare services. In fact, these organisations occupy a difficult position: as traditional 'interest groups' (working for their own industry) and also sometimes as activists for those who are consumers of welfare.

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Formal government-voluntary sector agreements: Lessons learned from international experience

Britain and Canada have led the way in the development of formal partnership agreements between governments and the community services sector. The incoming Blair Government influenced by 'Third Way politics' (Giddens 2001) set up a formal Compact in 1998 with the voluntary sector (Home Office 1998). Meanwhile, in Canada, the voluntary sector spent seven years negotiating a formal agreement (Accord) with the federal government. The Canadian initiative arose out of different conditions, of course.

Before considering in detail the experiences of the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, it is important to contextualise the analysis by pointing to some obvious differences between the three countries. The United Kingdom has a unicameral system of government in which local government plays a key role in social and personal social services. It also has a voluntary sector that was institutionally embedded in the mainstream delivery of welfare service during the post-World War II welfare state era (McDonald & Marston 2002: 376). In contrast, Canada - like Australia - has a three-tiered system of government, although as White (2006) notes, the variation among states/provinces is quite significant. This in turn has considerable impact on how agreements or relationships between government and the sector are played out. In Canada, this is affected by linguistic, cultural, historical, social, political and economic geographies as well as by the indigenous community services sector (White 2006: 7-11).

The community services sector has developed differently in different states and territories in Australia, too. In fact, there is much more variety - at the state, regional and local levels - than community services sector scholars tend to acknowledge. In addition, the complex relationship between the federal and state levels of government, arising from our unique form of federalism, also impacts on the sector. Although the federal government plays a role in policy development, the vast bulk of personal and social services are provided by state governments. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in reforming state-federal relationships, known as 'new federalism' (Saunders 2002). This would be conducive to the development of a formal partnership between government and the community services sector.

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The British experience with partnerships

In the United Kingdom, both the Blair Government (1997-2007) and the voluntary sector were committed to the development of a formal agreement which set out the broad terms of their relationship. In one sense it was a policy 'idea for its time'. The voluntary sector was in desperate need of major reform - and of resources. Prior to the 1997 election, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations had conducted an independent inquiry (NCVO 1996) into the voluntary sector. This landmark inquiry highlighted several important issues. First, it revealed that the infrastructure support for voluntary organisations was critically low. They would not sustain an expanded role in service delivery. Second, it found that there was a chronic shortage of trained paid staff, and that those staff had only poor career paths in low-paid jobs available. Third, volunteers - upon which the sector relies extensively - were increasingly deterred from working in organisations by the 'contracting and competitive tendering culture' (Russell & Scott 1997).

The Blair Government viewed the Compact as part of its central policy agenda. This commitment did not wane once in government; in fact the two most senior officials (Prime Minister and Treasurer) were its strongest advocates (Lyons & Passey 2006: 98). Many politicians in the Blair Government had worked in the voluntary sector, so they understood its organisational and political culture. They played the role of 'policy entrepreneurs' within government and public service departments (Kingdon 1995, cited in Kendall 2000). For example, they were sympathetic to the 'participatory culture of deliberative democracy' in the sector and pushed public servants implementing the Compact to use these processes (Lewis 2005). A concerted effort was made to appoint 'local champions' within government agencies to promote the voluntary sector and the Compact (Craig, Taylor & Wilkinson, with Bloor, Munro & Syed 2002).

Within the voluntary sector much work was done to 'reframe' the sector's role and contribution to society in a more positive light. Voluntary sector organisations spent time and effort improving their political legitimacy and accountability with government and the general public (Taylor & Warburton 2003).

The Blair Government embarked on a major series of legal, economic and operational reforms aimed at improving the conditions in which the voluntary sector operates. Lyons and Passey have identified over '27 distinct policy initiatives directed towards building the social economy' (Lyons & Passey 2006: 92). In addition, four key government departments (Home Office, Treasury, Taxation, and Trade and Industry) took a leading role in promoting policies aimed at improving the capital and infrastructure base of the voluntary sector, which had declined significantly under 15 years of a contracting regime (Lyons & Passey 2006; Lewis 2005).

There is ongoing institutional support to maintain the Compact. The UK government has established a Commission for the Third Sector and appointed a government minister with specific portfolio responsibilities related to it (UK Cabinet Office 2007). The success of these initiatives has led Kendall (2000) to claim that the voluntary sector has been successfully 'mainstreamed' into government policy agendas. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations estimates that around 90 per cent of local authorities in England have developed or are establishing a local compact (NCVO 2005, cited in Casey & Dalton 2006: 31). The findings of formal evaluations of the Compact are, however, somewhat mixed (Craig et al. 2002). There remains some degree of scepticism about whether it has improved the voluntary sector's capacity to shape policy-making agendas rather than simply their implementation (Lewis 2005). But overall the Compact appears to have helped to positively frame the voluntary sector and its relationship with government, among government departments, business and the general community.

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The Canadian experience with partnerships

The Canadian experience was very different from that of the United Kingdom. White (2006) has systematically documented the factors leading to the development and subsequent collapse of the Canadian Accord. As in Britain, the original impetus for the Accord came from a 1997 pre-election promise at federal government level (White 2006: 13). This took the voluntary sector by surprise and pre-empted its call for a partnership agreement (White 2006: 13). Outside government, the main impetus for a formal agreement came from an elite group of executives of large and mostly conservative voluntary sector organisations. This proved problematic for a number of reasons.

First, this group could not provide unified leadership within the sector and was not seen as representative of it more generally. Distrust grew between organisations working towards an accord and those left outside it. Second, there were no government champions, and no significant support at the highest level of government. Third, and more importantly, in Canada, government funding and interaction with community services occurs at the state/provincial level, not with the federal government. Fourth, the group was not able to frame the sector in a way that convinced government that formal recognition of the sector would improve the working relationship between government and the voluntary sector (Voluntary Sector Roundtable 1998; White 2006: 13-14). In Canada, White (2006) found that voluntary sector participation in policy and advocacy work decreases when partnerships with government are established. This is a somewhat disturbing finding.

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Australian lessons in state-sector agreements

In contrast to the experience in Britain, there has to date been no attempt within the federal government in Australia to initiate or support a national partnership agreement with the community services sector. All partnership agreements in Australia are between the sector and state government funding bodies. Lyons and Passey (2006) have argued that the conditions necessary for the development of a British-style Compact are missing in the Australian context.

At a broader level, the policy drivers for the development of partnerships between government and the community services sector have come from several sources. At the international level, transnational organisations such as the World Bank have actively promoted partnerships since the late 1990s (OECD 1996). A diluted version of 'The Third Way political discourse' was adopted in Australian politics by politicians (Latham 2001), as well as by public servants searching for ways to move beyond the economic rationalist paradigm (Adams & Hess 2001; Reddel & Woolcock 2004). The discourses of community, social capital, capacity building and neighbourhood renewal have been attractive to some governments under siege from a range of global and local imperatives (Adams & Hess 2001). These imperatives include a declining distrust in the efficacy of politicians, and political institutions (Nye, Zelikow & King 1997), inability to control and manage increasing risks in complex societies, ageing infrastructure and reduced levels of resources, and increasing social and economic inequality within local communities. Consequently, the discourse of partnership may have seemed very attractive as a strategy to entice business and the community services sector to assist in 'soaking up' some of the fallout from the above concerns. However, in Victoria - where third way initiatives that focus on capacity building in specific locales have become popular - Wiseman (2006) has suggested that these initiatives have not in reality represented a major shift in policy development. Rather, they have been superimposed onto existing performance measurement and management imperatives.

Since the late 1990s, all state and territory governments have been involved in drawing up formal partnerships with the community services sector. Casey and Dalton (2006: 32) provide a good overview of these on a state-by-state basis. However, there is very little documentation of the particular factors driving these developments at a state level and there are few documented narratives of the development of the community services sector in individual Australian states.6 The development of government-community services sector partnership agreements is in its infancy in Australia, so there is little evaluative data available. This discussion therefore focuses on preliminary data analysis of an empirical study examining the role of advocacy and lobbying within the context of partnerships.

We do know that there has been considerable transfer of policy ideas between the United Kingdom and Canada and among Australian state governments and public servants, as well as peak bodies and leaders within the community sector. For example, the director of the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) travelled abroad on a Churchill Fellowship to study the Compact and the Accord during the 1990s. Respondents in the current study have noted that New South Wales and Queensland had starting work on an agreement early in the 1990s, before the Compact in Britain emerged.

In Queensland, an attempt was made to set up a partnership arrangement with the community services sector as part of the election promise of the Beattie Government in 1998. Once elected to office, the state Labor government set up a social policy unit in the Department of Premier and Cabinet with responsibility to develop a partnership agreement between the sector, government, various line agencies and Treasury. The unit was located in this department because of its power to force departments which fund the sector to engage in the planning, development and implementation of any partnership arrangements across the government. In Queensland the initiative to develop a partnership came from the community services sector and was 'sold' to a government looking for 'social policy ideas'. Several members of the Beattie Government had worked in the sector and were knowledgeable about and supportive of it.

The Queensland plan was very ambitious. The partnership agreement formed only one part of a much larger Community Services Strategy (Department of Premier and Cabinet 1999), the cornerstone of which was the development of a comprehensive Industry Plan (Ryan, Parker & Brown 1999), which sought to redress a number of critical issues. These included: the historically low level of human services funding in Queensland; the problems associated with competitive tendering and contracting; training and labour force development needs; and accountability issues confronting the sector (QCOSS 1996). One aspect of the plan included the development of a single streamlined funding agreement for use across all funding agencies. The partnership agreement contained nine core principles which were to guide the relationship between the state and the community services sector.

Despite the Premier of Queensland signing a partnership agreement in 2000, it was never implemented (Department of Premier and Cabinet 2000). A number of key informants stated that the Community Services Strategy had stalled by 2001. The factors leading to the demise of this initiative are complex and contestable. They include the vagaries of insider and outsider politics, changing priorities within government, the gradual movement of 'key champions' from strategic institutional positions, and major disquiet about various aspects of the Community Service Strategy - in particular the Industry Plan - within the community services sector. One sticking point was a proposal to establish an industry body independent of government and the community services sector to monitor the partnership. This proposal was rejected outright by the state government and by some parts of the sector.

However, the commitment to implement a formal partnership agreement between government and the sector has been kept alive by several public servants and parts of the community services sector. In 2005, the Queensland Department of Communities funded QCOSS to develop a suite of policies under the umbrella of the Strengthening Non-Government Organisations strategy. The government committed $26.9 million over four years to the project (Department of Communities 2007). A considerable amount of work has been done within the sector on developing a draft compact parallel to this project and many within the sector hope such a government-community services sector compact will in fact emerge from this process. It is seen as a long-term endeavour. Others who are more cynical see it as an exercise in increasing the accountability of the sector and aligning it more closely with government.

The Western Australian government has sought to establish a whole-of-government agreement with the sector - similar to the early Queensland effort and in contrast to states such as Victoria. A vital component of this agreement is an Industry Plan between state funding agencies and the community sector (Western Australian Government 2004). Responsibility for implementing the Industry Plan lies with the Social Policy Unit in the Premier's Department - this was intended to ensure that the Plan was adopted widely across all funding agencies and that it was viewed by both government and the community services sector as a policy priority, something to be taken seriously. Its starting point was to map the community services sector's activities as an industry and to establish the base level infrastructure it required to function. This was done by guaranteeing the annual indexing of wages and costs in every state budget. This symbolic framing of the sector as an 'industry' was pivotal in ushering in a new era of working relationships between the state government and the sector. In practice, it seems that there have been problems in the implementation of the Industry Plan - the Western Australian government has realised that it has to be truly comprehensive, that it will take considerable time and resources, from government and the sector, to develop, and that it will need to be implemented in planned phases and include clear mechanisms for review and evaluation.

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Current partnership agreements

An analysis of current state partnership agreements shows that they use some common language about shared visions, the roles and responsibilities of government, and the way in which the agreement will be put into practice. Each agreement stipulates that it is not a legal document and not binding on all parties. Just as in Britain, community sector organisations are given the opportunity to opt in or out of the agreement. The rhetoric of partnership and collaboration are stressed in the document. This is illustrated through the framing of 'sustainability' in the Victorian agreement:

It is assumed that in a complex and ever more rapidly changing society where existing and emerging needs far outstrip available funds there is a need for mutually agreed processes for planning, developing and delivering health, housing and community services which are based on the principles of sustainability. (Victorian Government 2002: 3)

The framing of the South Australian agreement within the language of mutuality, common ground and shared approaches is very appealing, as it is speaks of a more caring and more localised approach:

South Australians want to live in a community that is compassionate and inclusive. South Australians also want a balance contributing to the common good with the opportunity to excel in their chosen field of endeavour ... The partnership created opportunities to pool knowledge and resources, to identify issues, resolve problems and develop new approaches to improving health and wellbeing ... Common Ground provides a basis for the Government and the Community sector to work together to achieve mutually agreed goals. (Government of South Australia 2002)

The language is not that of harsh economics; it is of increased participation and involvement of citizens. The document acknowledges that ordinary citizens engage much more effectively at the local level than with politicians, who have become somewhat remote, or with democratic institutions, which are seen as less responsive.
There is considerable disquiet in the sector about the way in which the advocacy role of community services sector organisations is recognised in partnership agreements (Dalton & Casey 2006). Although these roles are recognised, government is framed as the major partner and the sector as the secondary one, as indicated by the emphasis on government functions in the extract below:

The purpose of this Partnership Agreement is to affirm agreed expectations of a working relationship between the Victorian Department of Human Services and the independent health, housing and community service organizations that it funds. It recognizes that the Department and service organizations have legitimate differences in governance, roles and responsibilities ... It is assumed that government will administer public funds and address program development in accordance with the policies of the elected parliament of the day and in accordance with existing statutes and regulations. (Victorian Government 2002: 3)

The community services sector is not a viewed as a partner in the sense aspired to by many in the sector. The language of state agreements appears to spell out a mutual and respectful working relationship with the sector. But in reality that may not be so, when put to the test. Participants in the current study voiced some apprehension that their organisational autonomy and political voice will be compromised by these new agreements.

However, there are several state models where the language and tone indicate a more inclusive approach to partnership. For example, the ACT Chief Minister, in the foreword to the Social Compact (ACT Government 2004), notes that government acquired considerable social learning out of the bushfire recovery process, where government and community sector organisations worked very closely together. In a similar way, the NSW agreement titled Working Together for NSW frames the relationship between government and the community sector as an 'interdependent one' (NCOSS 2006). This provides the opportunity to frame the partnership as one of co-production of goods and services. This potentially opens up opportunities for a co-governing relationship between the state and the community services sector (Fung 2006).

In contrast to Britain, government-community services sector agreements in Australia have generally been made with specific funding bodies, not as whole-of-government exercises (with the exception of Western Australia and the early Queensland attempt). This seriously limits their strategic utility. However, sector informants indicate that these agreements (however limited) do play an important role in establishing a 'symbolic framework' for the way funding bodies work with the sector. What they would like to see in these agreements is a guarantee of the sector's independence from government and the inclusion of formal mechanisms for dispute resolution between the parties. They are especially concerned that unless their political and organisational autonomy is restored, there will be ongoing micromanagement of their internal affairs by government. The broad principles contained in the agreements set out the values and boundaries of the relationship, and though they are only a beginning, they are a very important one in terms of reframing the sector.

Preliminary analysis of Australian community services sector-state partnership agreements indicates that they still reflect a top-down and hierarchical view of policy making (Bishop & Davis 2001; Reddel 2002). In essence, the community services sector plays a limited role in policy making - notably in the areas of consultation and implementation. However, given the major challenges facing governments in dealing with intractable and 'wicked policy problems', new spaces are opening up. Renewed interest in citizen participation (including partnerships between the state and the not-for-profit sector) has spawned extensive debates in the policy literature about the potential of 'network governance' to move closer towards deliberative and associational forms of democracy (Fung 2006; McBride 2005; Hendricks 2002).

A number of writers (Cooper, Bryer & Meek 2006; Fung 2006; Patten 2000/2001; Hendricks 2002) provide some excellent cross-country examples of how this can work; these are mainly in local neighbourhoods and in small cities. For new participation models to emerge, government will have to do 'policy business differently' (Boxelaar, Paine & Beilin 2006; Reddel 2002) - placing some of its power, legitimacy and resources in the hands of citizens. However, the potential is there for more collaborative arrangements to emerge and to be incorporated into the way government-community services sector agreements operate in Australia. There is room for them to reflect what Fung (2006) has called a co-governing institutional design of policy making. However, achieving this will require considerable commitment from government, the public service and the community services sector.

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Governments around the world, including state governments in Australia, are attempting to redefine the meaning of 'partnership' and 'citizen participation' as they relate to the community services sector. This chapter has examined some aspects of the historical evolution of the sector and outlined a number of strategic challenges confronting the development of successful government-sector formal partnerships/compacts. We can learn a number of important lessons from international experience of such partnerships. However, given the marginalised position of the sector in Australia, it is essential that government's political and institutional relationships with the sector first be dramatically realigned, so that the role and value of the sector in the delivery of services is properly appreciated, and its role in political participation and policy making is strengthened. The community services sector needs to take some time out to reflect on its aims and its practices. Arguing that it is dealing with some pressing internal issues has become something of a constant chorus, aimed at garnering more strategic traction in the Australian political landscape. This is understandable given the hostility of the Howard Government in recent years, which has led to a reduction in infrastructure support and in cultural and political legitimacy. Various windows of opportunity are available to the sector now - though they may still seem limited in comparison with the progress made in other countries, such as Britain. But it is imperative to explore these opportunities, within the wider reconfigured welfare state reforms, so that community service organisations can enhance the social citizenship rights and agency of those most affected by them.

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  1. The NSW government signed off on a sector-government partnership agreement in 2006. The Queensland government initiated a partnership agreement with the community sector during 1998-2000. It was never implemented. Since 2005, there has been a renewed attempt to revive this process.
  2. Beland and de Chantal (2005: 238) have successful combined frame analysis (Goffman 1974) with policy analysis to map the way in which 'specific ideas influence policy outcomes'.
  3. This discussion is based on preliminary findings of an ARC Linkage Grant (LP0667785) entitled 'Advocacy in the Age of Compacts'. The chief investigators are Jenny Onyx, Bronwen Dalton, John Casey and Rose Melville.
  4. This is in marked contrast to the situation in the United States. Gronberg (1987) found that an increase in competitive tendering led to greater collaboration, not competition, between not-for-profit organisations. In addition, the not-for-profit sector has a strong philanthropic identity and employs professional lobbyists to work on its behalf in Washington DC and at state government level (Gronberg 1987).
  5. One of the main reasons for the lack of a strong self-value and identity is due to the large number of volunteers working in the community sector, along with the low pay and skills levels in certain fields in the sector.
  6. This is part of the ongoing ARC Linkage Grant, 'Advocacy in the Age of Compacts'.

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