Christmas and the end of the year are getting close. Before the new year comes, we would like to share with you a reflective update about our past achievements over the last 4 yours and the exciting future direction Ratepayers Victoria is moving towards.
Past to Present Accomplishments:
In 2012, Ratepayers Victoria started a campaign to transform into advocacy organization. Why we carried out this strategic transformation? It is to empower our networks of ratepayer groups to become advocates for their local community, to have greater propensity and sustainable capacity to influence change in councils to better engage and response to their communities and keep rates affordable.
Far too often we heard from our networks of ratepayer groups that their councils jeered at them for being small associations, disenfranchising their individual members, including being adverse towards them. Changing these groups’ business model to become an advocacy organisations, networked and connected via a common Ratepayers Victoria’ platform, not only negates such treatment, but also increase their capacity to quickly build a stronger collective voice and be more mobilized to take enduring actions, though sometimes can be long and painful, but with endurance, persistence and resilience will ultimately lead to improving situations and relationships.
Becoming an advocacy organisation and as part of Ratepayers Victoria’s networks also allow groups to come together as a civil society collective, linked by common interests and shared knowledge and actions to improve good governance practices in councils, the root cause of many local issues, including rates affordability. A civil society is formally recognised as the third tier of society, along with government and businesses.
Our strategic advocacy development journey over the last four years has achieved the following:
- Formal involvement in making LG reforms. Ratepayers Victoria represented Victorian ratepayers in the development of the Fair Go Rates policy, which benefits all ratepayers but not effectively supported by many councils and their peak bodies, because it curtails their expenses and requires showing justification transparency and financial accountability in rates setting. Today, we continue to monitor through our networks and report rates capping resistance tactics, to ensure rates capping compliance is sustained and increase effectiveness in future years. Ratepayers Victoria also sits in the steering committee for enhancing the Local Government Performance Reporting Framework (LGPRF), which is a performance management tool for increasing and ensuring councils’ financial, service and governance performance. We are taking a hands on contribution to develop governance key performance indicators (KPIs), which currently is lacking and is no more than a tokenistic checklist.
- Developing ratepayers’ capacity to exercise local governance overseeing, which involves taking a agile approach in trialling processes and tools to check and report compliance violations and offences, aiming to inform higher authorities better understand and response to local grass root governance issues and practice gaps in councils. The milestones we accomplished is having regular meeting access to higher authorities and greater and formalizing recognition as a value adding contributor to reforms development.
- Finding new ways to sustain ratepayers groups, create new ones with guided help, and regionalise ratepayer groups for strategic positioning. Eastern Ratepayers was formed, consolidating groups from Knox, Monash, Casey and Cardinia, who meet regularly and engage in collaborative local and regional problem solving, etc. We helped create two new ratepayer groups in Darebin and Mildura.
- Building and leveraging strategic partnerships with other groups and businesses, to create and innovate value adds that mutually benefit each other. The first prototype was partnering with Oursay to trial a governance evaluation survey, to better understand and confirm the common governance issues experienced by ratepayers.
- Prototyping processes and tools to increase ratepayer groups’ role in supporting the right candidates in council election. In the 2016 election period, we trialled the process of giving Ratepayers Victoria branded endorsement to local groups’ recommended candidates and prototyped an online information tool for helping voters make informed decisions in selecting running candidates.
We achieved these strategic milestones while continuing day to day support to our networks. These strategic and operational achievements are the effort of a small team of volunteering but high performing advocate leaders, able to create and expand their spheres of influences through sharing their knowledge, talents and networks.
The Next Strategic Positioning:
Over the festive break, we are developing a strategy plan for the next 5 years, ensuring Ratepayers Victoria is strategically positioned to strengthen and sustain ratepayers voice and influence, and increase achievements of high impact strategic outcomes that deliver both local and state-wide benefits. The scope of strategic positioning is to modernise ratepayers’ participation in council affairs and have sustainable relationships with higher authorities to increase and sustain council integrity, transparency and responsiveness to local communities and the state. Ratepayers will expand its advocacy business model to become platform oriented one, so that ratepayers can easily connect, access and share knowledge, talents and resources to increase their sphere of influence and making value adding contributions in councils. In the new year, we will share more insights about this strategy plan.
Folks, do have a wonderful and joyful Christmas, and a very happy and safe new year.