In the Service of Our Future - The IPANZ story

Liz MacPherson, IPANZ President, recognises the need to look backwards in order to determine the future direction of IPANZ. Here she outlines the vision and strategy for the organisation.

Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua – I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past

In 1934 some young public servants gathered in Ōtautahi Christchurch to explore what it meant to work in the public service in service of the public. They believed there was more to it than their individual roles within their respective agencies – they sought to understand the broader background and common principles of public service. Within two years, such gatherings were taking place around the country, and the New Zealand Institute of Public Administration was born in 1936 by and for public servants.

Today, as the national body for public sector professionals, the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) has a membership of virtually all public service agencies, 25 wider public sector organisations, 26 private sector companies, and 45 individuals. We have around 12,000 people on our database. IPANZ is a non-governmental organisation: an incorporated society governed today by a Board of 12 people with strong connections to the public sector and managed by a staff of 2.3 FTE.

In our 87 years, some things have remained constant while others have changed as IPANZ has adapted to the world in which we operate.

What IPANZ is all about

Ruia ki te koraha ka hua kore.

Ruia ki te whenua ka hua mai.

When the ground is fertile, the seeds you sow will prosper.

If it is barren, the seeds will wither.

Our whakataukī perfectly describes IPANZ’s purpose and role: IPANZ promotes a thriving public sector by providing fertile ground for connecting people and ideas. We serve our members by building a community of learning and practice about public service. Constant over time has been our focus on the activity of public service, on delivery for the people, by the people.

Public service is the work of public servants – yes, but not solely! Our members also include private companies who support the work of the public sector as well as communities, universities, and individuals who also, in their own ways, pursue public service.

Te Ara – the IPANZ Strategy 2023–2035

Underpinning our mahi are core values that go to the very heart of IPANZ.

If I had to highlight just three values, I would emphasise our independence – we offer a neutral space for robust debate, reflection and exploration, and a bridge connecting agencies within the public sector, as well as across sectors. Being courageous is easy to say but can be hard to do – it is crucial for IPANZ as otherwise we are not utilising our unique position to catalyse change. Constant over time has been our focus on practice – IPANZ supports public service professionals in their professional development and by sharing ideas and knowledge about the work of public service.

Where to next for IPANZ?

Let’s start with the words ‘public administration’. This means to serve the community to advance the common good and achieve constructive change. But the phrase has had its time – most people simply look blank when I use it. It’s time for a refresh, and we will do this alongside consideration of our Te Ao Māori worldview and how we can support the public sector in its relationships with Māori.

We intend to step up in the public arena when critical public sector governance and management issues are under threat or being discussed in the media. We believe our independent view can improve general understanding and help strengthen the core values and principles of the public sector.

Keeping firmly focused on the practice of public service, we will review our activities to ensure we are offering you what you want through events and webinars, as well as insights and articles via our communications channels.

Our back office needs attention – particularly to make our website and communications more accessible and engaging for you, and our operation more effective in a digital world.

We want to work more strongly with others to enhance our impact. We aim to enlist more effort across different sectors into supporting excellent public service in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Across all of this, we will measure our impact – to answer the question: are we making a difference? – something we have not been very good at doing to date.

As we move forward, I’ll keep you informed of our progress. Please get in touch if you want to help.

Further reading

Te Ara IPANZ Strategy 2023–2035

Spirit of Service: A History of the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand 1936–2006 (John R. Martin, 2006). Published by IPANZ, Wellington.

This article was published in the Public Sector Journal - Spring 2023, Issue 46.3.