Paul Harkin


Paul has a Masters in Community Development and 20 years experience working in the community sector in Australia, Ireland and the UK. His current role seeks to harness the outward-looking, community-focused services in the Benevolent Society, so that each service better understands and connects with its local communities.


As our service system becomes increasingly complex, with multiple funders, service providers and practitioners; unpredictable levels of skill; varying levels of connection to community; and all within an environment of major reform, we struggle to find effective and efficient ways of coordinating, collaborating and even debating.

It’s fine therefore to talk about systems reform, but if we don’t pay attention to how that plays out at a community level, where multiple service providers are engaged with government in meeting (or not) the needs of families and children then we are unlikely to get outcomes.

From Campbelltown to Cairns, Child and Family Service Managers are sitting around tables with their NGO and Government partners, engaging in system reform or some form of collaborative planning or co-design. There seems to be a silent assumption that all that is required is to get people round the table, sometimes with a facilitator, and we can reform and redesign.

Of course we all know that to be the Autumn/Winter Collection from the Emperor himself. The challenge presented to us, which I think we have yet to grapple with at a local level, is what are the roles we need to play at that ‘table’; what skills do we need to participate in that process; and what shared principles and framework should underpin this work.

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