The Haiphong Government in Vietnam has become the first in the world to successfully adopt a collaborative interdepartmental management structure thanks to two University of Adelaide system scientists, Professor Ockie Bosch  and Dr Nam Nguyen .
Known as a systems-thinking approach to governance, this operating style involves the mapping out or modelling of key issues in an interdepartmental fashion, which results in more collaboration and transparency across different business areas.
Professor Bosch and Dr Nguyen, of the University of Adelaide's Business School , were initially engaged by the Haiphong Government in 2007 to develop a strategy for the sustainable development of Cat Ba Island in Haiphong; however, due to the success of their systems models for the Island, they were asked to develop models for the government of Haiphong City (the equivalent of an Australian state).
"The Government of Haiphong recognised that the disconnected nature of its governance structure made it impossible to resolve the issues they were grappling. For example, a tourism issue could not be addressed by only the Department of Tourism, a health problem could not only be addressed by the Department of Health," Professor Bosch said.
"This lead us to create a management model that saw the different departments starting to talk to each other, share knowledge and collaborate to find the best solutions towards sustainable development and governance."
Some of the key issues Professor Bosch and Dr Nguyen identified as requiring attention, and a systems-thinking model/strategy, included unemployment, poverty, waste management, tourism and the city's port.
"When we commenced working with the Haiphong Government, the port, which is one of the most important ports in Vietnam, was not operating at full capacity," Professor Bosch said.
"Through our investigations we developed systemic interventions using the systems model that would not only address the shortage of mooring space in the port but also issues such as limited vehicle access and infrastructures for the increased road traffic."
Professor Bosch has now been approached to do similar work in Mexico City, Mexico and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and he was awarded a $100,000 Bill Gates grant to identify labour-saving innovations in sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia using systems thinking.
"The systems thinking approach has been around for some time but it's great to see it is finally being recognised as a valuable approach in effectively addressing large-scale issues," Professor Bosch said.