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Customer Stewardship in social infrastructure

Ensuring quality of life for communities in our cities and regional areas.
Our Customer Stewardship Roundtable Series deepens the conversation on customer centred infrastructure and how customer stewardship practices can be better understood to help develop an industry wide community of practice.

Roundtable Report No. 1

Date of publication: July 2019

Social infrastructure does a great deal to ensure the quality of life in our cities and regions; its proximity and accountability to customers and the community make it an important area of learning for customer stewardship. 

'Customer Stewardship in social infrastructure' was written by the Better Infrastructure Initiative's, Garry Bowditch in collaboration with Global Leadership Partner, National Australia Bank.

This roundtable report was developed from the first of the Roundtables, 'Building customer stewardship in social infrastructure' convened on 31 May 2019, Sydney.  Participants explored current customer stewardship practices and  scope for expansion across social infrastructure. Through the invaluable understanding and collective experience of participants, key insights were produced.

Key insights

Social infrastructure roundtable

The customer stewardship challenge is for owners and operators of infrastructure, both government and private sectors alike to better self-govern themselves with less regulation and through more accountability to customers and stakeholders.


Many organisations already champion the role of customer (and community). The Better Infrastructure Initiative’s research shows many organisations already champion the role of the customer (and community), but too often these happen behind the scenes and are not fully understood or recognised by customers and stakeholders. The aim of the Customer Stewardship Australia Accreditation and Assessment process is to recognise and independently verify these endeavours.


Stewardship must be fit for purpose, not one size fits all.  The importance of culture and market mechanisms to reward stewardship excellence will help shift the emphasis from physical assets to people and services.


Securing the right type of capital that is long term and judges performance beyond financial returns is essential in fulfilling a good stewardship model for social infrastructure.


Dominant themes shaping future uncertainties for social infrastructure include climate change and the evolving expectations of different demographic groups such as millennials.   These themes are challenging building and service design.


Potential redundancy and obsolescence of social infrastructure assets are front of mind, along with local government funding shortages to keep key economic corridors livable, functional and resilient.


Owners and operators of infrastructure need to think deeply about the future and build mechanisms to adapt to medium and long-term change. New technologies and shifting customer preferences are two real factors impacting owners and customers alike; building a mechanism for adaptation is one area of focus of customer stewardship research and practice.


Regulatory and procurement practices are not always aligned to customer stewardship outcomes; there is a risk of over regulation or poorly-targeted regulation if strong customer stewardship practices by owners and operators are not understood, measured and valued.

The Customer Stewardship Roundtable Series

Our Customer Stewardship Roundtable Series deepens the conversation on customer centred infrastructure and how customer stewardship practices and principles can be better understood to help develop an industry wide community of practice.

The first of the Roundtables, 'Building customer stewardship in social infrastructure' was convened on 31 May 2019, Sydney. Participants that attended the roundtable make up a diverse group of people from public and private sectors spanning health, education, housing and recreation to discuss the challenges and opportunities for customer stewardship with a specific focus on social infrastructure.

Research and partnership

Research by the Better Infrastructure Initiative at the John Grill Centre for Project Leadership, University of Sydney on customer stewardship has been funded and championed by our global leadership partner, National Australia Bank.

Over the past four years, the Better Infrastructure Initiative has drawn on strong industry collaboration to develop its customer stewardship frameworks. This has involved the transport, construction, energy, and water sectors as well as embracing investor communities and regulators to inform guiding principles.

Customer Stewardship in social infrastructure

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We want to be as meaningful as we can with our investment. The customer experience is integral to how we achieve that.
David Lamming, Chief Investment Officer, Plenary Group

Previous publications

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When the relationship doesn't work between government and the private sector counter party, the person who suffers is the customer.
Amy Brown, Deputy Secretary, Commercial and Economic Group, Department of Premier and Cabinet - NSW