In the past few weeks, the Wellbeing Budget has been at the centre of conversations and media both around the country and internationally. We asked Programme Director, Jonnie Haddon, to share his thoughts on the Wellbeing Budget – he highlighted the strengths of the Budget, what this means for the environment, and what will be good to keep an eye on in the months to come. 


The planning for this Wellbeing Budget took a collaborative and human-centric approach, with a genuine desire to move the needle. There was a clear focus on wanting the public sector to work differently, breaking down silos and test new approaches or technologies, which is exactly what the government needs. They are making bold, powerful claims and putting the needs of all New Zealanders at the top of the agenda. The same of startups and governments is true; we can only achieve a drastically different result if we act drastically different.

Overall I love the ambition of the budget. I feel that New Zealand is signalling to the world that we are a leader in social innovation which is something we should be proud of. This approach is bound to inspire and empower civil servants to do the same and challenge the status quo when delivering services. However, the hard part is yet to come, and we’ll have to wait and see if the spirit of this budget will continue throughout its execution.

It was also very exciting to see some of Lightning Lab GovTech 2018’s flagship programmes we worked on alongside the public sector around domestic violence, freshwater, and poverty reduction are at the forefront of the budget this year.


The Budget & the environment

This budget is a win for the environment too, with a very welcomed increase in conservation and biodiversity investments.

Individuals and businesses often feel that the government is out of touch with our monumental environmental concerns. Businesses shouldn’t feel like the onus is completely on them to make this change happen – it’s an important step for the government to show they’re willing to come to the table. I think that the strides taken environmentally, should inspire greater confidence from New Zealand’s businesses.

For too long our environment has been treated only as a commodity without inherent value in and of itself. Long term investment in a more sustainable environment, is investing in the people, with positive impacts on society broadly. It is promising to see a greater investment.


What to keep an eye on

There’s always a risk with any funding injection that money can be thrown at an issue and not used as efficiently and effectively as they could be. A drive to spend quickly can result in misspending. Something we promote and foster at Lightning Lab GovTech is experimentation and testing of solutions to ensure we have proof that the spending will lead to a successful outcome. I hope that the government takes on a similar approach.

The other hot topic is around accountability. How can you measure wellbeing? It’s going to be tough to quantify wellbeing in a way that reflects each diverse community. We need an adaptive tool to ensure community goals and outcomes are reflected in the wellbeing measures. We need to build a definition of what wellbeing means, that is widely accepted and based on a robust framework, with agreed metrics.


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