In extremis: what Ukraine 2.0 tells us about reforming government and the public sector
Public Purpose - An Independent Advisory Company
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
9M ago
I don’t know much about judo or any of the similar martial arts, but I gather one of the central features is the ability to use the power and momentum of the attacker to your advantage.When you are attacked, the trick is to turn the aggressor’s energy back on itself. Defence becomes attack. Aggression is transformed into strength.  It’s a clever combination of  physics, deep philosophy and a very practical kind of experiential intelligence. By one account at least, Ukraine is in the midst of harnessing exactly that method to turn the energy of Russian aggression into potent fuel for ..read more
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“We are as gods and might as well get used to it.”
Public Purpose - An Independent Advisory Company
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
1y ago
I’ve borrowed the title for this blog from a recent review article from Foreign Affairs.  It references Stewart Brand’s introduction to the first issue of The Whole Earth Catalog, “an encyclopedic compendium of resources for back-to-the-land living that became a foundational document of Silicon Valley’s techno-utopian culture.” This wonderful review essay is built around a review of three books each of which place the somewhat jaded optimism of the Internet’s early promise in a larger frame and, in the process, asks some unsettling questions power, politics and performance. These are the ..read more
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Why I care about a moonshot for care
Public Purpose - An Independent Advisory Company
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
2y ago
I love the idea of moonshots. There is something stirring and hopeful in the conception of setting a venture for change or accomplishment whose virtue lies primarily in its scale and boldness. Mariana Mazzucato has taken the idea as far as anyone including in her latest book. In her framing, moonshots are not just big and bold, but need also to be  wrangled into actual work whose impact is a function of discipline, direction and actually arriving. As Peter Drucker once pointed out, sooner or later all good ideas degenerate into the need for hard work. As Mariana is fond of pointing out, t ..read more
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What is government for?
Public Purpose - An Independent Advisory Company
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
2y ago
This is the 19 July email from US historian Heather Cox Richardson, part of a free “letter from an American historian” to which you can subscribe here.  If you want to join the comments discussion it will cost you $5 a month. Richardson is a Professor of History at Boston College.  Her emails, to which I have just started subscribing, blend contemporary political commentary with a deep and lively historical framing, a nuanced blend so much of what passes for much commentary and analysis sorely lacks. In this piece, she goes to the heart of the biggest and oldest question of all. What ..read more
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Artificial intelligence: a registry of power
Public Purpose - An Independent Advisory Company
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
2y ago
I am reading Atlas of AI by Kate Crawford, partly because of an interest in all things digital (and the AI ‘thing’ is hot and hotter) and partly because I am a member of the NSW Government’s AI Advisory Committee. The book is a powerful thesis from a significant thinker and practitioner that suggests a frame for thinking about AI that is profound, intelligent and disturbing. I’ve just finished the introduction to the book, which stands as an essay in its own right staking out the territory she intends to explore.  I shall write more as I read more and add it to the homework I’m endeavouri ..read more
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The new orthodoxy: why we need a critical review of digital transformation of government and the public sector in Australia to support human flourishing through sustainable and shared prosperity
Public Purpose - An Independent Advisory Company
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
2y ago
Australia needs a critical review of 20 years of digital transformation of government and the public sector to provide an honest and tough-minded critique of what’s been done and delivered so we can determine what big bets need to be made now that line up with the changing purpose, role and function of government in a very different and rapidly changing world. The purpose of government is human flourishing and the chance for everyone to live their best lives.  The role of government is to create conditions in which that becomes predictably and reliably possible for more and more people by ..read more
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Digital transformation: not as easy as it looks
Public Purpose - An Independent Advisory Company
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
3y ago
The digital transformation of government and the public sector isn’t as easy as it looks. You would think that after 20 years or so, mainly on the outside looking in, and occasionally from the inside looking out, and a book or two to boot, I’d have worked that out by now. And of course I have.  It’s hard work, grinding through ‘hard boards” with passion and perseverance, to paraphrase Max Weber’s reflections “on politics.” Almost everything is harder in practice than it is in theory. Writing about stuff and offering occasionally helpful advice and, even more occasionally, clever insights ..read more
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Cataclysm versus hope: a note on the US Presidential election
Public Purpose - An Independent Advisory Company
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
3y ago
There are only two ways to respond to the US presidential election, one cataclysmic and the other chock full of hope. You could look at what has happened in the election, and the turbulent and distressing four years since the last one and come to the discomfiting conclusion that America is disappearing. All that we once took for granted about the adamantine quality of US culture and its institutions and practices of democracy has evaporated and, in the process, the picture we had of the leadership of the US in so many domains is irreparably fading. The country is split asunder, incapable holdi ..read more
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Smart Cities: People, Place and Power
Public Purpose - An Independent Advisory Company
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
3y ago
It was great to have the chance today in a short presentation to the South Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) to revisit 20 years of engagement in the “smart cities” movement, which for me started as a member of the small team inside Cisco that started to explore ways that networked technologies played into urban design and management. The simple message was that, over that period, the movement has shifted from an understandable, but distracting obsession with the technology to a more nuanced and sophisticated obsession with people.  Basically, the tech piece has become more ..read more
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Why is is so hard to do what we know? Or what happens when I’ve hit the wall
Public Purpose - An Independent Advisory Company
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
3y ago
There’s a lot of movement at the moment around questions of rebuilding after COVID (assuming there is an ‘after COVID’; I think this is with us for a while) especially in what is sometimes referred to as the “foundation economy” (health, social care, education, food – what Sydney University’s John Buchanan recently described as the “economy of everyday life”) or in care and caring more broadly. The story goes that COVID has peeled back the lid, so to speak, to reveal a set of conditions and circumstances about the way we care, and the way we think about care, that suggest things are at one at ..read more
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