"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do" - Sir William Deane, former Governor General of Australia.
As it enters its final few months of existence, Superu is looking back at its history and forward to what comes next. In December we published an In Focus on What we’ve learned about families and whānau. This was authored by our former CE Clare Ward, and summarises what Superu and the Families Commission have learned about: the nature of families and whānau, working with families and whānau, and creating a social services system that uses evidence. Our Evidence to Action conference in April will also have a flavour of families and whānau, past, present and future.
In January I attended a five-day course on Futures Thinking presented by the University of Houston in Texas. While I was there, Texas effectively shut down due to snow and ice. Being trapped in our vast and largely empty hotel, course participants couldn’t help thinking of The Shining, with a possible side of Agatha Christie. Fortunately, no one perished in the parlour. We all survived and I came away with some useful tools and a new appreciation of the importance of futures thinking. Indeed, there is a case to be made for boosting futures (aka foresight) capability in Aotearoa New Zealand. But any new initiatives need to take into account things that have been tried in the past. Interested readers can find ‘A partial history of futures thinking in New Zealand’ in February’s Policy Quarterly.
February has also seen the launch of Social Investment: A New Zealand Policy Experiment, a book edited by Jonathan Boston and Derek Gill. Reading across 21 excellent chapters, it is clear that the debate is far from over on what social investment is, what it can realistically achieve and how it can best be implemented. Hopefully that debate will be informed by an appreciation of alternative perspectives, including what has been learned from past experiences in the social sector.
Dr Malcolm Menzies
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