Archive for December, 2007


Designing markets and investing in human capital

Progressive think-tank Per Capita have written a memo to the newly elected Prime Minister, located here

An excerpt reads:

Your government can build the Investing Society by focusing on the two big policy themes of market design and human capital investment. Designing markets and investing in people brings together the economic and social roles of government in a new fusion.

Market design is about setting the ‘rules of the game’ to get the right outcomes – in new markets like carbon, water and broadband, and in old markets where existing provision has failed, like infrastructure and housing. With good market design, governments harness market forces by setting incentives and accounting for risk.

Human capital is Australia’s most valuable asset and you have rightly made it the centrepiece of your education revolution. In addition to building human capital, your government should focus on protecting this precious asset: damaged human capital means opportunities lost and lives destroyed. Human capital investment not only makes economic sense, it’s morally right.

A focus of my blog concerns how this broad framework is applied to indigenous policy.

The first policy direction, designing markets, involves shaping the correct set of incentives through the prism of welfare reform.  But it also involves the design of markets that value the indigenous knowledge economy.  There appears to be no strategic approach to this second issue (an issue I include in the category located here).  As a result, reform is confined to shaping the perverse incentives without adding positive incentives.   

The second policy direction, investment in human capital, involves ensuring full participation of indigenous school-aged students in a merit-based education system.  There are generations of indigenous people who are locked out of a substantial bloc of employable options.

An important point, though, is that a strategic design of the indigenous knowledge economy enables a connect between indigenous (exclusive) human capital and employable options.  In this sense indigenous (exclusive) human capital is local indigenous knowledge where there is a significant gap in human capital that would otherwise result from a merit-based education.


The years best cartoons 2007

Wicking from Club Troppo has kindly pointed out the ‘Behind the Lines 2007: the years best cartoons’ at the National Museum of Australia, viewed here:


The utility of knowledge

The United Nations University (UNU) Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) Centre of Traditional Knowledge is an exciting step for Charles Darwin University.  (Information about the launch can be found here). 

The UNI-IAS has already initiated a number of pilot projects in areas such as climate change, water, international policy making, biological resources and marine management. 

Valuing traditional knowledge for the purpose of education is important for several reasons:

  • it creates employment opportunities that match the skills and knowledge of indigenous peoples (in a socio-economic environment where there is a significant structural deficiency between labour supply and demand);
  • it re-enforces the positive value of indigenous identity and strengthens the inter-dependance between social networks and the sharing of knowledge;
  • it leads to possible break-throughs in key areas such as the application of biological knowledge to better health outcomes and other areas such as land resource management as a response to climate change.

In considering these positive efforts, a principal failure in indigenous affairs is the lack of value of indigenous knowledge and facilitation across a range of critical policy facets: health, justice, education, et cetera. 

Continued over the fold.

Continue reading ‘The utility of knowledge’


Bargainers and challengers

Time magazine has included an excerpt from Shelby Steele’s book ‘A Bound Man’. 

Steele explains the politics of bargaining and challenging:

[Barack Obama] is a man bound by forces outside himself and by a practice that is central to the minority experience in America: masking. As the word itself makes clear, the mask is not an authentic representation of one’s true self; rather it is a presentation of the self that angles for advantage. Today we blacks have two great masks that we wear for advantage in the American mainstream: bargaining and challenging.

Bargainers make a deal with white Americans that gives whites the benefit of the doubt: I will not rub America’s history of racism in your face, if you will not hold my race against me. Especially in our era of political correctness, whites are inevitably grateful for this bargain that spares them the shame of America’s racist past. They respond to bargainers with gratitude, warmth, and even affection. This “gratitude factor” can bring the black bargainer great popularity. Oprah Winfrey is the most visible bargainer in America today.

Continued over the fold.

Continue reading ‘Bargainers and challengers’


A loss for communities West of Alice.

Central Australia has witnessed one of the most serious car crashes in a long time.  Six people have passed away.  The deceased, all young people, come from a region where a number of communities and homelands consist of hundreds of people (perhaps a small, few thousand) with a common language and other affiliations.  Losing six relatives in this way will come as a sudden traumatic shock to all these people.  It is a loss of significant proportions.  My heart goes out to the families.


A great privelage

This year I’ve had the great privelage of coaching an under 10s mixed basketball team.  It was a first time experience.  I was able to meet 10 children, each with their own personalities and ways of learning and engaging tasks.  I’ve witnessed a process of development and hard work.

Every week during games and in training we stand in a circle and review what we’ve done.  Our saying is ‘believe, work hard, achieve’.  A number of players know this by heart and recite it when I ask our team what our saying is.  I teach them that they can apply this to anything in life and, if ‘you believe in something, and if you work hard, then you will achieve’.  The limits are endless. 


A policy to beautify local areas

Some months back I visited Diarama Park (behind Diarama village) and posted here.  The visit sparked a policy idea that could lead to tangible application. 

The outcome of the policy would beautify parks and natural landscapes across Alice Springs.  And not just in small regions or parts, but a wholesale application across the town as a whole.  A successful strategy would substantially improve the visual quality of where we live. 

Such an outcome would lift social capital and build a sense of community ownership and pride.  As word of mouth and personal experience is a powerful marketing tool for tourism beautifying Alice Springs across the board would create a lasting and positive impression. 

Details of the policy idea over the fold.

Continue reading ‘A policy to beautify local areas’

December 2007
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