Victoria Ikutegbe is an assistant director for the Northern Territory’s Department of Education. In her role, she leads a team of analysts devoted to improving student engagement at school. Engagement with education is a subject close to Victoria’s heart, and something that informed her journey through the PSMP every step of the way.
“I always had a thread of what I wanted to do,” she says. “My core interest is in what we can do differently to improve student engagement – this area of work that has had so many resources poured into it with little success. And so all of my assignments followed that same thread from start to finish.”
During the program, Victoria was keen to try out as many tools as possible to see which would be most useful to take back to her team. “The tools allowed me to think about public value within the context of my work, but do so in various different ways,” she says. “They allowed me to think methodically through various sub-structures that all work together to create public value.”
Her study culminated in an ambitious workplace project that examined the systemic barriers to improving school engagement, despite the investment from government departments and agencies.
“Part of the issue is that strategies just aren’t targeted enough, or the coordinated efforts just aren’t coordinated enough,” she says. “We’ve got multiple agencies working towards the same goal, but doing so in isolation rather than collaboratively. It’s the lack of coordination that hampers the efforts.”
Now that she has completed the program, Victoria will be sharing her final report with people from both her own department and other key agencies “to get the conversation started”.
“We’re already having some of those conversations, but perhaps seeing it in such a cogent form in one report might get us to come to the table with a bit more thinking around practical solutions.”
Victoria’s advice to anyone considering undertaking the PSMP is to embrace the process.
“Just go for it and approach it with an open mind,” she says. “Throughout my journey, there were aspects that made me wonder how relevant it was for me and what I do. But sticking with it and seeing it through to its logical end, ultimately I did see the overarching value in not only the individual units, but the contents of all of them put together.
“And I definitely saw the relevance for everyday public life. It brings to light a lot of things that go unnoticed, and gets us to think a bit differently and in greater depth than we probably otherwise would.”
Hear what Victoria has to say about what she learned in the PSMP.
Tell us about your workplace project, and why you chose that topic.
So, the project is one that’s a bit of a passion of mine. It just happens to align with my role in the Department of Education, so, I work in the student engagement unit and our work essentially is supporting disadvantaged students, disengaged students, who are struggling to engage in mainstream schooling, to find what works for them ’cause we recognise that it doesn’t work for everyone, however, part of the issue that we’ve been facing with the result being that disengagement is much higher now than it was before, is that the strategy is just aren’t targeted enough or the coordinated efforts just aren’t coordinated enough, so, we’ve got multiple agencies working towards the same goals, but doing so in isolation rather than collaboratively, and so I’d say that’s at the crux of the issue and it’s something I deal with on a daily basis in my work, and liaising with these other agencies like, territory families for instance, who have child protection officers, sometimes we work together but it’s ultimately I think the lack of coordination that hampers the efforts.
What was the highlight of your PSMP experience?
Meeting the people was definitely a plus, but ultimately a lot of it’s quite the introspection that it caused me to do just as a matter of going through the various units, in particular the third one, the second one sorry, around the, you know, the emotional intelligence and all of that. I found that while I knew those, the content, theoretically, having to do it within the context of the PSMP caused me to engage with it a bit more and differently than I did before, so I very much appreciated that and, of course, Aubrey delivers it in such a way that it’s really enjoyable, and you almost feel like you’re having fun, you know, rather than studying, so that was definitely a plus, but then the kind of overall highlight I’d say for me, was the recognition of the value of public value, and how important that is. It’s not something I’d thought of coherently, or even in any great depth before doing the PSMP, but by doing it and going through the theoretical but also the practical and how it relates to my day-to-day work activities, I think yeah, that’s at the centre of it and it’s really the highlight of the experience for me, recognising the value of public value in what I do.
What motivated you whilst you were studying the PSMP?
It links back to the last thing I said about public value. It was kind of a light bulb moment, you know, realising that there is this concept out there, so I’m a researcher by trade, and so I find interesting new things, new knowledge, and for me that public value kind of epiphany that I had as part of the project just made me want to see what more was out there, what more could help me at least a little bit more than I did before value from what I do on a daily basis. And so what those tools allowed me to do was think about public value within the context of my work, but do so in various different ways, so we talk about the optional assessment matrix or the business planning model all of those things allowed me to think methodically through various substructures that all work together to create public value, and so that’s why I was interested in testing as many as I could out before deciding on the one I chose.
What advice would you give to someone considering studying the PSMP?
So the advice I have for students who might get considering the PSM Program would be for them to just go for it, and approach it with an open mind, because I know throughout my own journey, there were aspects of it that I wondered, how relevant is this for me and what I do, but sticking with it I’m seeing it through to its logical end each of the units allowed me to actually follow that string, follow that link from one to the other, and ultimately I did see the overarching value in not only the individual units but then the content of all of them put together, and I definitely did see the relevance for everyday public service life, and I think it is important it does bring to light a lot of things that go unnoticed, you know, in just your everyday public service, and it gets us to think a bit differently think a little bit in greater depth than we probably otherwise would.
Can you talk about Public Value and the implementation of your project?
So my next step, as I highlighted in my final report, is to share the report that I put together highlighting all the issues identified but also the proposed solutions, share that with the two key agencies, in the first instance, so my executives at the Department of Education but also the executives at Territory Families Housing and Communities, just to get the conversation started, I mean, we’re already having some of those conversations, but perhaps seeing it in such a cogent form, in one report, might get us to come to the table with a bit more thinking around practical solutions that can be implemented, to drive improved student engagement.
What energises your Public Value creation goals?
I think the whole journey, something that I probably didn’t think clearly or strategically about at the start but ended up being strategic anyway, was that from the first unit to the fourth, I always had a thread of what I wanted to do, and it emerged just organically because that was my core interest in what can we do differently to improve student engagement in this area of work that has had so many resources poured into it with little success, and so all of the units all of my assignments turned out to actually follow that same thread from start to finish and that’s something I look back on and I think, you know, that’s motivation right there. That’s motivation to just keep going and to keep striving, strategising, and collaborating with whoever I can come in contact with, to drive the public value in this space.