Rethinking community for citizens
Rethinking community for citizens

MANY PEOPLE, including myself, choose to work in politics and the public sector because they want to make a better world. They want to effect change that benefits humankind. But the word ‘government’ nowadays often invokes a negative image in people’s minds.

The world is more reliant on digital interactions than ever before, but sometimes those interactions feel clinical, inhumane or are simply unhelpful. As the gap between people’s expectations and government’s ability to meet them grows, our current systems of government need to change radically.

4m citizens are currently using the Australian Tax Office Community

8.5m posts viewed to seek answers to tax and COVID-related queries

A radically different approach

Historically, governments’ position of power and access to information gave them authority and influence. That was yesterday’s model. Search engines are now the information source for over 70% of the world. Peer voices today are more powerful than the opinion of traditional authority figures.

Acknowledging this, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) embarked on an experiment called ‘ATO Community’, an online peer-to-peer forum where citizens can ask questions and anyone can answer them. The forum provides a unique experience for people, giving them the opportunity to ask for help or advice in an anonymous way, promoting an open and honest dialog. It represents a strong and genuine partnership with government, Australian businesses, industry professionals and citizens.

In February 2020 a collaboration with ATO and Deloitte Digital was established to accelerate improvements and define the product strategy, using a Human-Centred Design approach. As COVID-19 began impacting Australians, ATO Community proved to be a critical digital channel for providing people with tailored support to help them through these difficult times. Over four million citizens used ATO Community, viewing around 8.5 million posts to find answers to their tax and COVID-19 questions.

The most successful governments will focus on developing societal solutions from outside government rather than trying to solve problems themselves

Lana Thorpe

Lana Thorpe

A new mindset for designing government services

This new service proves how it is possible to rethink and reshape government from the outside, and to transform the public sector to put people at its heart. It demonstrates a mature and altruistic mindset, one that is much needed for designing future public services.

Moving forward, the most successful governments will focus on developing societal solutions from outside government rather than trying to solve problems themselves. By embracing new and creative models of servicing people, the government can learn to see risk as opportunity and create value rapidly by collaborating externally, as well as delivering internally.

Rethinking community for citizens
Rethinking community for citizens

Published 01 May 2021

About the author

Lana Thorpe's profile

Lana Thorpe

Director, Experience Design

Lana is a Director within the Customer Strategy & Applied Design team. She is a strategist and designer pioneering new models of thinking, living and working through inquiry, continuous learning and self-disruption. She specialises in human-centered design, service design and systems innovation. Her mission is to improve social outcomes for vulnerable people through people-led innovations and grass roots change initiatives.
With over 14 years experience working across Government and the Private sector designing solutions together with people, using a participatory mindset. She is passionate about resisting abstraction and making change real through experiments, prototypes and pilots.

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