(QESP Editor’s Note: The following is an extract from the latest issue of THE DROP, in which Maria Katsonis, Research Editor for The Mandarin, gives an overview and links to various  briefs and  recommended reading.)

Published by The Mandarin and supported by ANZSOG, The Drop aims to make research more accessible to public managers and bridge the research policy gap.

Each issue features a brief we have written to distil academic research into a format that walks you through the main points.


‘Why doesn’t the government do something about this?’ is a complaint often heard in legislatures, TV debates, opinion pieces, letters to the editor and cyberspace. Yet in the study of policy, there is a bias towards policy activity and a neglect of policy inactivity.

A paper in Policy Sciences presents a five-part typology of policy inaction and examines its core drivers.

Read The Mandarin’s brief on the paper


A paper from the UK Institute for Government examines machinery of government changes. These changes are frequently made with little consultation or recognition of the costs involved.

The paper looks at:

  • why these changes are made
  • the challenges they present
  • how they can be done well.

The paper argues that while creating a new department can be useful to focus on a high priority issue or to bring together related policy areas, most changes are rushed through either to send a political signal or to reward allies.


This is the first in a series of research papers from CEDA on addressing entrenched disadvantage. It identifies areas where disadvantage might be disrupted, using this as a starting point for a systematic approach to addressing the problem.

What are the problems with the current approach to disadvantage?

  • addressing symptoms and not causes
  • not seeing the full person
  • poor management of transitions across life
  • siloed approach to services and support
  • not enough focus on prevention
  • lack of policy consistency
  • limited use of evidence and data
  • government programs failing to keep pace
  • misinformation in the public debate.

What does the report recommend?

The report recommends four ways to disrupt the cycle of disadvantage


This guide from NESTA showcases the role of participatory futures in public problem solving and decision making. It is aimed at public sector and civil society organisations.

What are participatory futures?

Participatory futures refers to a range of approaches for involving citizens in exploring or shaping potential futures. It aims to democratise and encourage long-term thinking.

Participatory futures can play a role in:

  • mapping horizons
  • creating purpose
  • charting pathways
  • acting together
  • testing ideas.

The guide outlines key design principles as well as practical exercises. Case studies include Hawai’i 2060, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and creating a constitution for Mexico City.


Inequities in children’s health and development are a significant public health issue globally. The growing evidence base on reducing inequities still lacks the specificity to inform clear policy decisions.

A policy paper by Professor Susan Goldfeld (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) argues a new phase of research is needed. This builds on contemporary directions in precision medicine to develop precision policy making with the aim of redressing child inequities.

What is precision medicine?

Precision medicine is based on specific evidence about how biological factors and their interactions with each other and treatment drive patient outcomes. Treatment (type, intensity, duration, and timing) can be adapted based on the unique profile of each patient.



  1. A more equal society demands new ideas

A blog post on Policy Forum argues Australia is not doing enough to encourage innovation. Investment in education and support for those institutions that do innovate can create a fairer and more prosperous society.

  1. Human services: the next wave of productivity reform

This is a speech from Commissioner Stephen King (Productivity Commission). He argues we are at the beginning of a wave of productivity reform in human services. Human services operate in markets dominated by government expenditure, regulation and government provision for some services. Consumers are disempowered, competition (if it exists) is managed, and incentives are distorted. Reform is needed across four dimensions: objectives, design, implementation and measurement.

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