On 1 November 2016, the McGuinness Institute hosted a meeting with four staff from the Qiushi Journal (based in Beijing) to discuss national governance challenges and measures for social policy.
In August Qiushi Journal reached out to the Institute to meet, saying ‘knowing that you are a think tank dedicated to policy analysis and evidence-based research in New Zealand, the delegation shows great interest in visiting your institute to communicate and discuss with you on topics regarding policy, social and economic issues’.
To open the meeting, Wendy McGuinness shared the Institute’s background – who we are and what we do – and then explained our organic work programme, outlining the structure of our projects and recent publications, pointing out the Institute is independent and not aligned with government.
Wendy drew on the importance of looking backwards to go forward when explaining our future focus, highlighting the Māori saying ‘Ka mura, Ka muri’ – walking backwards into the future. This sentiment resonated with Qiushi Journal staff as Chinese culture has a similar long-term view. Qiushi Journal staff shared their four priorities: (1) development, (2) technology – the means to development, (3) talent and (4) innovation – the engine to development.
Their interest in talent led Wendy to discuss project TalentNZ and our focus on character. They indicated they have similar opinions on talent; however, that their current focus is on building capabilities. As a result of the discussion, they saw the value in focusing on character, saying it is a ‘very competitive world, so character is very important’.
Wendy presented the newly published ForesightNZ playing cards and booklet. Qiushi Journal were interested in the playing cards and saw them as an innovative, easy to understand fresh approach. When discussing the cards Ed Haslam, a participant from the ForesightNZ workshop, said that the value of the cards lies in the breadth of perspectives that came together at the workshop to develop the ideas.
Qiushi staff shared an old Chinese saying that if it is predicted it will succeed, if it isn’t predicted then it might fail and they explained China’s long-term strategies: their preparation of a 50 year long-term strategy, a 20 year strategy aiming to achieve a moderately prosperous society, and a specific five year plan. They saw that long-term planning was good for the continuous development of a country.
Wendy talked about our work with living standards, the LivingStandardsNZ booklet and the living standards metaphor. This metaphor (see image below) of ‘life’s race’ highlights that everyone’s journey to reaching their dreams and ambitions is unique and is influenced by a range of diverse and interwoven events often leading to numerous changes in direction before the goal is finally reached. It illustrates that not everyone begins at the starting line. Some start ahead of the line due to being born into wealth and status where education and connections provide an ‘insider’ advantage. Others start behind the line, as a result of poverty, poor health or conflict, which in turn limits their options and access to resources. The cross on the bottom of the image without the dotted line symbolises the most disadvantaged: those who cannot see a path ahead as they are so busy surviving they do not even realise there is a race being run.
This metaphor led the conversation to inequality and poverty – a big problem facing both nations. The question was then asked, does New Zealand have any specific measures to relieve poverty?
Wendy drew largely on the Institute’s project TacklingPovertyNZ, specifically this year’s national tour, which showed that the ways to tackle poverty developed in each region were unique to each community addressing its specific needs. Some ideas were replicated across New Zealand, but many were unique to each region. Wendy shared the new framework developed for looking at the ideas. One that emphasised sustaining (survival and security) and empowering (individual, community and nation) factors. These factors could be measured over time and show where the different communities need assistance.
The journal staff found this interesting and will draw on our experience of the TacklingPovertyNZ tour and look to how it might work in China. They went on to say that tackling poverty is a top priority for China with the goal to comprehensively relieve this problem by 2020. In the April–June 2016 Qiushi Journal, there is an article titled ‘Launching Targeted Initiatives to Fight Poverty’, which highlights the issue for China.
Qiushi Journal then asked about how we tackle the problem of people only relying on the welfare system. Wendy discussed how we need to make sure these people are identified and how we can move them from sustaining factors to empowering factors in order to overcome this issue. The Journal staff were particularly interested in our measures of policy as evident in the question ‘do you have measures to move people from one side [factor] to the other?’
Wendy responded saying that an important lesson learnt from the TacklingPovertyNZ tour was that if you show people respect and listen to them, you are creating a place and space for them to share their ideas and issues: it’s the manner in which you deal with their situation that makes the difference.
The conversation then moved to development with the question: In China, there is a problem with the developed of rural areas and urban areas – how is this dealt with in New Zealand? Wendy pointed out we have a similar problem with regional and cities development. The New Zealand government has some programmes in place and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is running regional development plans. New Zealand urban growth is mostly around one city – Auckland – putting pressure on services and housing and leading to other problems intensifying.
Journal staff engaged in discussion about policy and measures in education, health care and elderly support and how New Zealand ensures quality of public service. The meeting ended with an exchange of gifts and an invitation for Wendy and the Institute to visit the Qiushi Journal in China.