Discussion paper proposes independent backbone agency, continuous improvement

Image: Sayan Nath on Unsplash

The Backbone Collective has produced a discussion paper proposing that a national collaborative backbone agency be established at arm’s length from central government.

The paper, Continuous Improvement of the Family and Sexual Violence System: A national collaborative backbone agency is the critical component (2018) is available on the Backbone Collective website.

Authors Ruth Herbert and Deborah Mackenzie propose that the independent backbone agency would facilitate collaborative leadership, innovation, learning and continuous improvement. They make the case that this is critical to the success of the Government’s new integrated whole-of-government approach to family violence and sexual violence.

The paper suggests the backbone agency needs to be:

  • "Funded by Government
  • Operated independently from both government and non government front line service providers (i.e. not run by the joint venture team or by any individual front line service provider agency).
  • Configured and governed in a way that enables key stakeholders, tangata whenua, academics, service users and the community to have a sense of collective ownership and that encourages all parties to collaborate, support and guide the system." (p.17)

A key function of the backbone agency would be to collate information from a range of sources including (among others): iwi co-production partners, voices of service users, voices of frontline personnel, quality management activities, complaints, death reviews, Coroners' findings and research. The information would be analysed by key stakeholders and experts in order to improve and identify opportunities for strengths-based learning across the system.

The authors envisage that the voices of victim/survivors would become a central part of a new collaborative backbone agency so they are central to planning, implementing and continually improving the new integrated whole-of-government approach for family and sexual violence. (Note they do not envisage that the Backbone Collective would become the national collaborative backbone agency described in the paper.)

They note examples of existing independent oversight agencies in New Zealand including: the Health Quality and Safety Commission, the Health and Disability Commission, the Children’s Commission and the Mental Health Commission. They also note two relatively recently established agencies focused on collecting the voices of service users: Voyce (for children and young people in NZ's state care system) and the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (for family violence survivors in Victoria, Australia).

The paper draws on literature on collective impact and responding to complex and 'wicked' social problems.

The authors hope the paper will be used to start a collective conversation about the issues discussed. The Backbone Collective would welcome feedback and opportunities to explore the issues discussed in this paper in greater detail: email info@backbone.org.nz