Heartwork and the game that is helping to inject compassion into Budget preparation

Oh dear, what a shame … the Point of Order team missed it.

So did Eric Crampton, chief economist at the New Zealand Initiative.

But Crampton did preview the occasion – he drew attention on April 9 to the invitation to pay a $35 registration fee which would help to promote a small business involving a former Treasury staffer by hosting a Heartwork event and encouraging folks to buy its products.

The promoters were  Fiona Ross, The Treasury Chief Operating Officer, David Dougherty, The Treasury Manager Strategy and Performance, and “24 curious and creative people at The Treasury” who have been “experimenting in the social lab” by “playing and rapidly prototyping with the Heartwork Wellbeing Card Game…” 

After Crampton blogged about Heartwork, a Newshub story prompted National leader Simon Bridges to criticise the card game as “bizarre and actually wrong”, while Jacinda Ardern hastened to explain that she and her ministers had nothing to do with it.

Regardless of this lack of prime ministerial approval, blogger Danyl McLaughlin did attend the session at Treasury and reported on it at The Spinoff.

Among his observations:

Fiona Ross is a thought leader in the public service; an articulate and engaging public speaker. She stands at the front of the room: a seminar space on the third floor of Treasury. The 30 people in the audience fall silent. She begins. “We all know we live in a DEVUCA world.”

Everyone nods thoughtfully. Except me. I raise my hand. “We live in a what?”

Ross looks at me and blinks. “DEVUCA.”

I try to imitate the sound, unsuccessfully. Someone at my table explains the acronym in a low voice. “It stands for diverse, ambiguous, volatile, uncertain …”

“I think complexity is in there,” another person suggests. There is some disagreement. No one is quite sure exactly what kind of diverse complex ambiguous world we occupy.

“Google it,” Ross advises.

“I will. How do you spell …?”

“And in a DEVUCA world we all need to be more empathic and inclusive. That’s why Heartwork is so exciting.”

McLaughlin says Ross encountered the ideas promoted by the Heartwork company at a function hosted by its founders called “Let’s Talk About Work Baby”.

She decided to bring them into Treasury as part of the organisation’s broader wellbeing programme.

And Heartwork is also a game, developed by Heartwork, in which you learn to talk about your feelings and emotional needs, and this aims to solve the problems of the DEVUCA world by building empathy and psychological safety creating organisational win-win-wins through people-centered product, service and policy design via system leadership. 

McLaughlin provides his readers with a brief recent history of the Treasury and its role in economic policy-making, and foreshadows the government’s release next month of its first “Wellbeing Budget”’.

It uses the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework, a world leading concept which, Ross informs us, the department has been working on for 18 years. Instead of focusing purely on economic capital the public service, led by Treasury, will seek to grow the country’s human, social and environmental capital. But also still the financial capital.

“We’re definitely not saying economics and finance isn’t important.”

After the session is over McLaughlin asked Ross how that work connects to the Heartwork game.  The answer:

“We’re still building the evidence base for that.”

Heartwork co-founder Clare Rousseau, a former Treasury analyst, told McLaughlin the game is separate from the Wellbeing budget but related to the concept of wellbeing.

Heartwork incorporates the ideas of Marshall Rosenberg, a psychologist and conflict negotiator who advocated non-violent communication, and combines his teachings with Te Whare Tapa Whā, the “four cornerstone” model of Māori mental health, along with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; the Stanford Social Review’s model of the Dawn of System Leadership; Mindfulness; Gamification and “Theory of U”, a change-management theory from the 1970s filled with Heideggerian jargon about presencing and co-sensing.

If you want to learn how to play the game (an exercise in playing with yourself, apparently), check out McLaughlin’s  report.  But be advised that each set of cards costs $113.85.

Crampton, meanwhile, is asking more questions:

Did Treasury hire Heartwork to provide this session? If it did, what is probity like when contracting for this kind of thing with a former consultant reported to be friends with folks in ELT? Is the registration fee a partial recouping of the costs of the card decks for Treasury, or is it Heartwork’s charge for the session? Does Treasury’s Guidance for Setting Charges in the Public Sector apply?

If Treasury didn’t hire Heartwork for the session, and instead it’s been through other arrangements, what’s policy at Treasury around hosting commercial outfits like Heartwork for these kinds of sessions – do they charge rent on the space? If a different company wanted to run a similar event at Treasury for their own proprietary teamwork program marketing thing [there are oodles of consultants in this general space], what would be the process around approving that?

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine Dale Carnegie being happy to provide sessions with similar objectives/outcomes, Crampton suggests.

But if Carnegie’s local trainers [or other equivalent] asked Treasury if they could provide a $35/head session at Treasury with Treasury and others invited, on what basis could they decline them when they’ve allowed Heartwork?

Carnegie at least is reputable, Crampton tartly concludes.  What if the Scientologists wanted to provide e-readings?


2 thoughts on “Heartwork and the game that is helping to inject compassion into Budget preparation

  1. Those questions at the end of my blog post: I’d emailed them last week to Treasury as friendly questions, rather than as OIA request. But they’re treating as OIA. So I may have answers in 20 days.


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