NSW Government – Enhancing farmers’ business skills and preparedness for change

THE CHALLENGE

Helping farm businesses thrive

Farming is a key industry for NSW and government policies aim to help farmers run their businesses in a way that contributes to long term resilience, productivity and profitability.

Project Thrive used Design Thinking to identify opportunities to enhance farm business skills and support farmers’ financial resilience. The Strategy Group partnered with the NSW Government to analyse the barriers to increased business planning and risk management of farm businesses. By actively involving farmers in the development of new services and solutions, the NSW Government believed that recommendations would be aligned to stakeholder interests and hence more readily accepted and adopted by them.

“Design Thinking certainly requires a different mindset from the traditional policy approach but we are confident in the end output as our proposed solutions are the result of direct insights and are grounded in the everyday experiences of people operating in the industry. We’re certainly seeing benefit in how we engage with our stakeholders and develop policy with their voice at the centre.”

Joel Wilson, Senior Policy Officer, Department of Primary Industries

THE APPROACH

Strategic advisory for a Government-led Design Thinking project

The Strategy Group has worked extensively with the DPI/OSBC team to develop their capability in Design Thinking. For Project Thrive, we supported the two department teams in a strategic advisory role, strengthening the design thinking skills of key team members to become design thinking facilitators. The team leads had built a core knowledge of design thinking and were now ready to train a new team in their respective departments to apply the methodology.

The team visited the homes of individual farmers to empathise with them to assess the strength of current risk management measures and scope areas for improvement. What came out of these discussions were deep insights that will be used to ensure current services are well targeted and meet farmers’ needs.

The team discovered that there are many existing services and tools for business planning, but it can be hard for farmers to know what’s good and where to start. Through one-on-one prototyping and testing of new and improved service ideas, we gathered data and feedback about what would be useful for farmers and what services would increase farm risk management. Through this validation process the team were confident that the solutions designed would increase the uptake of business planning by farmers in NSW.

THE outcome

Developing capability and delivering lasting impact

The new service ideas will make it easier for farmers in NSW to conduct business planning in ways that best meet their needs while supporting industry growth and development through:

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Development of a pilot on-farm placement program for agribusiness students to work with farmers to develop farm business plans
 
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A central location to provide access to business planning information and services
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Targeting business planning information and services at intermediaries who advise farmers, particularly accountants and “trusted” professionals
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Improved messaging and marketing materials to highlight that farm business planning is holistic and not just restricted to managing tax and BAS
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Centralising and better promoting grants for various business planning services
The Strategy Group strategically supported the NSW Government project team leads to develop their skills as Design Thinking facilitators and build Design Thinking skills into a new cohort of staff within the respective departments. Department of Primary Industries is now looking to implement Design Thinking as the future of policy and service design and will continue to apply the methodology to transform policy development and service design in NSW.

“Throughout my time working with The Strategy Group I’ve been impressed by their commitment to developing our capabilities as Design Thinking practitioners. They aren’t afraid to challenge internal assumptions and always pushed us to “get out of the building” and apply what we learn.”

Joel Wilson, Senior Policy Officer, Department of Primary Industries

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