Service Delivery

The Susan McKinnon Foundation has a vision for Australia’s publicly funded services to be world class. Public servants who manage frontline services need to be empowered and incentivised to deliver better outcomes for taxpayers and users of government services, delivering excellent value for money for governments and better outcomes for service users and communities. 

Expectations about public service delivery are changing. While the non-market public services sector may have traditionally been perceived as a passive vehicle for delivery, increasingly the expectation is that it improves and reforms over time. Politicians and public servants want to save money, deliver value, and restore public trust – and want to know how. The Productivity Commission’s 2023 Advancing Prosperity report argues that Australia urgently needs to realise productivity gains in the non-market, human services sector. 

 This program area seeks to identify and use innovations in public sector management which have significant potential for improving the productivity of the non-market sector. 

 In partnership with Prof Gary Sturgess AM, SMF has been studying success stories in the delivery of public services (e.g. a prison, statewide pathology service), where NSW public servants have delivered greatly improved services at a significantly lower cost to government. These improvements have been achieved through taking a ‘business unit approach’, with a focus on delegated authority but also increased accountability of frontline management. We are using insights derived from this research as a basis for government engagement and a platform for influencing a strategy to drive productivity improvements in service delivery. 

 There are other good examples of non-market service sector innovations that have led to marked improvements (nationally and internationally) that could provide a roadmap for other comparable services. Yet, these success stories do not have a high profile. In fact, frontline service delivery in general attracts little attention from government and researchers, so there is a limited accessible evidence base. Further, decision-makers do not know how to access learnings from successful reforms: in their own jurisdiction, other Australian jurisdictions, or from overseas. The result is that important lessons are not being harnessed, and learnings are going to waste. 

 This project involves continued efforts to build a practical and accessible evidence base through case studies of other exemplars and approaches that change the way non-market human services are managed and delivered in order to achieve better outcomes and better value. 

 Our research on innovations in public sector management can be found here: 


To get access to the longer-form documentation of our Case Studies, or to see how we can help to apply the lessons from our Service Delivery case studies in your organisation contact the Susan McKinnon Foundation.