Exchange Programmes and Secondments

Exchange programmes and secondments where public servants and the public spend time in each other’s organisations and environments would build empathy and create awareness of the value of public participation. 

exch prog2

What it might look like: Secondees or exchanged staff could work in teams for a long period, or even just spend a day or two integrated in or just shadowing a different team.


Why the contribution is important

Public servants often aren’t aware that the public is not always a ‘stakeholder to be managed’ but rather experts who are ready, willing and able to add value to their work. This Concept aims to help build awareness of this.

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Add comments: What do you like? What would you change?

  • Can you think of examples of how people have done this well in the past?
  • Or is there some better way to build empathy with the public?

by ProjectTeam on February 23, 2018 at 12:51PM

Current Rating

Average rating: 4.5
Based on: 10 votes


  • Posted by gkend February 26, 2018 at 20:18

    Secondments, even short term ones, are a great way to build awareness of the expertise that exists outside our own places of work. I think it works both ways too - other organisations can get a better idea of the work going on in government, and learn how to meaningfully engage with it. And the APS can get an awareness of the expertise that is out there. It's also about putting faces to names and building those personal connections that mean you can reach out to experts and they can reach out to you.
  • Posted by deanowilliams March 01, 2018 at 10:20

    This would be beneficial to all parties, as long as it is not used by agencies to "offload" underperforming resources.
  • Posted by jgibbons March 02, 2018 at 23:55

    This is a really valuable idea and could help 'demistify' the work of government to the public. It will also help public servants reconnect with the public we serve and step out of the 'Canberra-centric bubble' that can often exist. It could also be very useful for encouraging innovation and new ways of working in the APS; it can sometimes feel like as an organisation we are the last to embrace different ideas.
  • Posted by WorkinginCivic March 05, 2018 at 13:33

    I think seconding members of the public into the public service would be difficult - setting up IT requirements, potential security clearances and other paperwork is difficult enough for public servants just moving to another agency. I'm also not sure a short secondment - unless it were focused on a service directly relevant to that person's life - would be that illuminating for the secondee, or long enough to change their perceptions of the public service.

    Where I think this idea has potential is in sending public servants to accompany people who are 'interacting' with government (i.e. visiting a Centrelink shopfront, filling out forms etc). This would allow public servants to identify problems in real-time, and as jgibbons pointed out, get us out of the Canberra bubble.
  • Posted by markimark March 07, 2018 at 12:11

    A 'doing' idea that proposes movement, collaboration and engagement between agencies on how to better engage the public. I see this idea working when public servants simply go out for days at a time to engage and get feedback for whatever it is that they need to consult on. The DTA has a good example of how they have used this approach -
  • Posted by TPhillips March 11, 2018 at 08:11

    I gave this a relatively low score.

    Let me be clear: I think secondments are great. They build amazing levels of awareness and understanding for the specific people and teams that participate. I have personally learnt enormously from secondments and having secondees.

    But I don’t think it can achieve the goal of “getting the public involved in the public service’s work”. It just can’t scale. This idea would be great for *stateholder engagement*: eg seconding someone from an interest group/NGO/business to see how the APS works on the inside. But stakeholder engagement is not a substitute for public engagement.
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