Australia 21 has a new report entitled “Brighter Prospects: Enhancing the Resilience of Australia”. It has a few chapters related to health issues – including one by Bob Douglas on pandemic preparedness. But it’s the chapter by Paul Barratt, “Organising for Resilience”, which may be of most interest to those with an interest in health services and health reform.
Steven Cork, leader of Australia 21’s resilience project, has provided this brief overview of the report:
“The report contains commentaries from leading Australian thinkers on a range of topics including organisational structuring, sociology, natural ecosystems, climate change, energy, education, biosecurity, and pandemic preparedness. Each author considers what processes provide Australia with resilience (capacity to absorb shocks while maintaining its essential functions and identity), and what trends suggest growth, maintenance or decline in that capacity. Each author also suggests policy responses to enhance Australia’s resilience.
The report was generated because of growing concerns among Australia’s and the World’s leaders (not to mention the general public) that the coming decades will not only offer the range of plausible but anticipatable shocks, such as terrorism, climate change, economic fluctuations, pandemics and collapse of food production systems, but also surprises.
We cannot prevent or even predict most of these shocks and surprises but we can anticipate the possibilities and prepare Australia and Australians for a range of these possibilities. Recent research on resilience provides a lens through which to explore how public policy and other decision-making processes might improve our chances of surviving and thriving as this century unfolds.
The analyses suggest that Australia has had a high level of resilience which is being maintained in some areas but is declining in others.
Particular attention was drawn to:
• A need to maintaining and enhance Australia’s national confidence
• The importance of dealing strategically with reserves (spare capacity) of skills and experience across society
• Encouraging leadership and statesmanship
• Rethinking perceptions (e.g. about security, governance, climate change, population health, energy, biosecurity and pandemic preparedness, financial systems, social-environmental linkages, and education).
Specific policy responses are suggested that broadly involve:
• Paying greater attention to organisational and societal processes for anticipating future challenges and opportunities, preparing for them, and watching for their emergence
• Developing cross-society strategies and policies
• More sophisticated consideration of how human societies, values, attitudes, and decision making processes interact with ecological processes
• Serious attention to new governance models that move away from mono-centric “one size fits all” solutions to devolved decision making that involves more of society, more ideas, experimentation and greater responsiveness
• Giving greater attention to education of the whole person, and building spare capacity in skills and experience in the workforce and society generally
• Being more aware of how decisions to address immediate short-term small shocks might reduce our capacity to deal with longer-term, larger shocks (for example, it is argued that the seeds of the current financial crisis were sown in attempts to avoid small shocks after the last global recession in the 1990s)
• Addressing the stories and narratives that governments and other leaders of society consciously or unconsciously communicate, which affect national confidence and security.
• Investing in understanding resilience better.”