Helping organisations and governments push for (and create) better policy.

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Francesca Muskovic, Policy Advisor

“It’s really hard!” Francesca Muskovic laughs, when asked to describe what it is, exactly, that she does.


“If you were going to describe it factually, people would look at you and say, ‘So, you work for the government?’”


“I work in climate, and advocate to governments for better policy, and I do that from an industry perspective,” she says.


“If people ask me what I do, I focus on what’s in the job. The concept of an advocate is easy to understand when you explain it in simple terms. I push for more climate action with policy makers.”


Francesca is the National Policy Director at the Property Council of Australia, representing over 2,300 member organisations in the largest industry in Australia, and the biggest employer.


Her focus is on monitoring the policy, political and legislative process in relation to sustainability, housing, cities and regulatory issues, putting ideas forward to government on behalf of the entire property industry – and she loves her job.


“The reason I enjoy advocacy so much is the need to work in alliances and coalitions. You’re building communities around ideas,” Francesca says.


“That’s really at the heart of good advocacy – the ability to recognise that no-one gets an outcome on their own. The role is always a joint endeavour to navigate different stakeholder perspectives and find solutions. It’s never about one person’s action.”


Speaking with Francesca, it’s clear the key to unlocking successful advocacy is in building and maintaining authentic relationships.


“Something I realised early on is that I’m better just being myself in this job,” she says.


“I had really good mentors, people who were unapologetically themselves, and who explained that you can be an advocate from different positions and that you didn’t need to conform to a particular stuffy or overly corporate ideal. I think I learned early on the more authentic you can be, the better an advocate it makes you.”


Like so many people, Francesca’s path into the job wasn’t a straight line, particularly after she left university with a degree in aerospace engineering.


“If I wanted to work in the field I studied, I would have had to go overseas,” she says. “I went into building engineering because there was technical work I could do using modelling software for computational fluid dynamics, which you could use to optimise building design.


“After working for a couple of years, I’d saved a bunch of money and went travelling for two years and came back to the same work, but travel really changed my perspective on what I thought was important. I did some volunteer work in Varanasi in India for a non-profit monitoring water quality in the Ganges River. You don’t walk away from experiences like that not being changed.”


Francesca was also influenced by Jan Gehl, a Danish architect who’d been commissioned by the Lord Mayor of Sydney to improve the walkability of the city, something Francesca describes as “radical ideas at the time – pedestrianizing George St?! – that are now a reality, 15 years later.”


“I kept working for a bit as a consultant, but I’d have gripes about how benchmarks were designed, and really wanted to get involved in helping define industry best practice. I got a job with the Green Building Council of Australia, and went from working on individual projects, to designing benchmarks that could influence multiple projects, and then working in government looking at policies.”


In the built environment, Francesca saw that representative bodies could be a powerful platform, with an opportunity to influence how all buildings could be better. “I saw that being a voice for a whole industry, and leveraging what industry leaders were achieving, allowed me to argue for stronger policies that would bring up everyone else,” she says. “A rising tide lifts all boats!”


“I still can’t think of a more fulfilling job. To feel I am working to the best of my abilities to maximise impact for stronger climate action is incredibly meaningful.”


When asked if she could home in on a specific skill-set that anyone interested in advocacy should look to build, communication comes up as a key.


“I think at different times different skillsets are called for,” she says. “Often, your advocacy depends on the literacy of the people you need to influence. Early in my career around buildings, a lot of arguments were being had on technical details. Establishing the evidence base and strong business case to reduce emissions in buildings was right in the nitty gritty of modelling work, so my background gave me a useful edge in conversations. But what makes a successful advocate is the ability to simplify complexity,” Francesca says. “Politicians don’t have time for detail, so your ability to do the early work of engaging with detail and translating it into a compelling story is really key.”


“I realised I could do this well in my current role when big changes to the building code were being proposed for the first time in a decade,” says Francesca, of the 2019 National Construction Code. The rules around commercial construction in Australia were updated, and included huge improvements to the performance and energy efficiency of buildings.


“Many people wanted these changes to happen but were also afraid it would fall in a heap and no progress would be made,” she explains. “There wasn’t really a playbook for what success looked like, and I found many in industry and those working inside government very much wanted the same outcomes, and I could play a role in helping those stakeholders advance progressive policy.


“But while the first big change to the code took effect in 2019, the work started in 2015,” she says.


“It was a giant networking and communication effort that played out over four years.”


And as for a final piece of advice for future policy advisors, whether they be working within or outside of, government, Francesca’s guidance is simple.


“Use networks, be yourself, and remember why you’re doing it. We know the task is urgent and we need people working together from all sides. Sometimes it’s useful to remind yourself of that, to know you can make a difference and use your position to push things further.”


Francesca Muskovic is a National Policy Director at the Property Council of Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering. In her spare time, she co-hosts the Let Me Sum Up podcast, which provides a regular deep dive into recent reports on climate and energy.