The wellbeing and mental health of our children and young people is increasingly becoming an issue of concern to our community, policy makers and political leaders. This increased awareness of the importance of student wellbeing creates an opportunity for public education to consider the future direction of policies and practices.
The Department of Education engaged democracyCo to design and facilitate a National Summit in early 2023. The summit was a unique opportunity to collaborate with leaders from across education policy, school practice and the research community to consider how leaders in education can build system capacity to enhance the wellbeing of Australia’s children in the public education system.
DemocracyCo designed a process for the 2-day summit, involving over 200 people which was aimed at giving participants the opportunity to work together in their topic cohorts, and then to work collaboratively – with people they might not usually work with.
The process began on day 1 with a series of provocations – to help the participants understand the challenges and opportunities with the system to support student wellbeing. The provocations were then responded to by cohorts – such as data, school practice and research. Each cohort came up with core things they felt needed to be focussed on at a National system level.
A diverse group of participants then worked with our team of facilitators to bring initial ideas together – finding commonality from each of the cohort groups.
Day 2 was then focussed on the collaborative consideration of these core ideas – and pulled together recommendations which were focussed at a system level. The participants in the summit wrote their own report in the room – and were tasked with exploring new and better collaborations to help them achieve the student wellbeing outcomes they wanted.
Deliberative techniques such as Open Space Technology, consensus making and sociometry were applied to support the group to put forward strongly supported recommendations.
The summit report was sent to all participants – all in their own right who are responsible for policy level decision making in all jurisidctions of Australia. In addition, the outcomes and reporting are being used at a Federal level to consider system changes and improvements. The Federal Education Minister, the Hon Jason Clare MP hosted and opened the summit and received the report.
Building collaborative muscle is a key focus of what we do, and this was an experiential outcome of the process. Since the summit was hosted, democracyCo have worked with groups of researchers and policy makers in both Victoria and South Australia to followup on key recommendations from the summit. Uniquely, these events have demonstrated the collaborations the summit was trying to foster – clearly demonstrating how effective participative experiences can be to shift the way groups work together.
“The facilitation was described universally as brilliant – sensational! I cant tell you how many compliments we have had about the summit.”