Demand Responsive Services to Desert Settlements
The Project will analyse the service delivery system, identify critical issues and strategies that provide leverage for change, design technology-based models and service delivery models with the potential to improve the system, and then trial, monitor and evaluate their success. By tacking problems at the interface between demand and supply of services to desert settlements, the Project will seek to improve consumer access to these services, and to achieve better outcomes for service providers.
The project is unique in its scale, operating over four regions in four different jurisdictions: Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Northern Territory. It will work across the many levels of the service system from heads of governments to end consumers, including people working in state government departments, regional offices, private sectors providers, and Aboriginal organisations.
The research team consists of 16 experienced researchers and three PhD students from eight different universities and research centres. As partnerships with Aboriginal organisations and government departments gain strength, Aboriginal leaders and service providers will also be drawn into the research team. There is also a steering group, composed of a mixture of researchers, Aboriginal leaders and services providers.
There are two phases to the Project, and four components. Phase One, encapsulating Components 1 and 2, will position researchers on the demand and supply sides of the interface between consumers and service-providers. Phase One will generate data to inform technology options (Component 3) and governance options (Component 4) for development under Phase Two. Integration of Phases One and Two and the development of a theoretical framework will be undertaken by a small cross-jurisdictional team of experienced researchers. The integration team will provide a coherent methodological and analytical framework for the project.
The project must bring together three different types of knowledge: the local knowledge of residents of desert Australia; the scientific knowledge of academic researchers; and the administrative knowledge of service providers. The greatest challenge for the project is to develop a project structure for robust research, which is responsive to the expressed needs and priorities of competing users and interests groups.
The broad purpose of the project is to improve livelihoods in desert settlements from better access and effectiveness of services. The five questions all research must respond to are:
- What are the perceptions, definitions and indicators of the interface between the demand and supply sides of services, which satisfy both consumer needs for access, and service-provider needs for outcomes?
- What are the conditions that permit productive interpersonal relationships and successful practice to develop between consumers and service-providers?
- What are the preferred functions at which scales for services to desert settlements, in satisfying both demand and supply based criteria?
- What are the service type and delivery style priorities of consumers within a restricted budget framework, and what is their capacity to benefit from, and willingness to contribute to services?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of different technologies and governance options for desert settlements, and what are the critical issues and strategies that can provide leverage for change?
Benefits for remote settlements
Benefits start right away …
• Community members will be trained and paid to do research
• Easy-to-understand maps of services will help local people to understand services and what they do, and don’t do
• Plans for how to get better services will help local people speak up strong to service providers
• Strong stories about successes and good new ideas will be shared
… and get better down the track:
• Less paperwork for local leaders and council employees
• Technology and management systems that improve the way that services are provided
Too much ‘Service Business’
Services to desert settlements come from governments, Aboriginal organisations and private companies. Services cover every aspect of life: housing, water, phones, power, roads, rubbish, health, education… and many more. The wide range of different services and providers make this system hard to understand. Community members, leaders, local employees, and service providers all agree that it could be a lot better.
Almost all the decisions about services are made far away from the community, in regional centres and capital cities. Local people have little say in what services they get and how they get them.
We want to know more about the local (or ‘demand’) side of services. When people in settlements say what they want, does this change what actually happens?
What this project will do
Many experts have tried to improve the system, but most of them come from the supply side. Not much has changed, only the mountains of paperwork have grown every year.
We think that better solutions can be found in settlements, where community members and service providers work together. We will find out whether services would work better if the people supplying them listened and responded to their customers.
This does not mean that people will be encouraged to develop a ‘wish list’’. It also does not mean that service-providers should react to political or other pressures, without thinking. To be practical, the project must work within the limited budgets available for services to remote settlements.
The project will give the demand and supply sides of services equal weight. The research team will work closely with consumers and service providers, to find out what is happening from both sides, and what new approaches could work better. It will also follow a process that can change and learn as it goes.
How the project will work
We will work with community members and service providers in remote settlements at four different sites, in desert regions of Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. We will paint a picture of the services that come into settlements, who makes the decisions and how they are used.
We will do one-on-one interviews and run workshops in settlements. We will also interview the workers and the bosses of service providers, in regional centres, in capital cities and Canberra.
The project will run for at least three years. In the first year we will work in desert settlements to understand what is going right and wrong. Then we will work with the local community and service providers to find better technology and management systems.
Some questions we will ask
The project will start by asking questions about household services like housing, power, water, phones, roads, health and education:
• What do people think about all of these services and service providers?
• How much or how often do they use these different services?
• How much do they get out of using these services and how much do they want to get out of using them?
• How does that fit in with what the service providers want to achieve?
• When people have to choose between services because there is not enough money – which services do they chose?
Council and other local organisations can also be service providers. We will ask questions about how these local organisations deal with community members. We will also look at what works well here and what doesn’t.
What the project will not do
• We will not ask about family, private or secret business
• We are not part of any native title, Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILU) or land purchase business
• We are not a government policy initiative
But we DO want the project to help governments make better decisions about service delivery in the future.