StartUps and the Innovation Nation

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Tomorrow Malcolm Turnbull’s long awaited Innovation Statement is released with  huge promise, it is expected to cover five areas unlocking capital, access to Asia, greater collaboration across public and private sectors, growing the talent pool and government as exemplar in leading innovation culture. I am hopeful and a little optimistic that the statement encompasses definitive action that shifts us from talking about it to actually doing it…it’s time.

This week StartUp Muster 2015 , Australia’s largest survey of startups, was released with pertinent information on the state of startups in Australia.

The good news is that things are getting better, we are improving on gender at least when it comes to gender we are at 24% , up 8% from 2011. It’s also heartening to see that the majority of startups intend to remain in Australia. It will be interesting to see how many actually do.

 

Talk to some of the startups generated out of NICTA (now Data61), Fishburners, muru-D and, more recently, Australia’s s first FinTech hub, Stone and Chalk, that solve big problems and how hard it has been to remain in Australia. A lot of start ups need to re-locate their businesses overseas to access the incentives and tax deductions needed to accelerate and grow.

 

Challenges for startups

The survey found that the biggest external challenges faced by startups are the availability of tech talent, the availability of government scholarship and grants and non government funding.

There are a number of state and federal grants available to startups and business, outlined by Business.gov.au including the Entrepreneurs’ ProgrammeGrowth FundIndustry Skills FundInnovation and R&DCollaborationDefence IndustryEnergy and Fuels,Import and Export AssistanceManufacturingRegional Innovation FundsAustralian Small Business Advisory Services, and Venture Capital.

Access to global markets shouldn’t be an issue, especially now we have the Free Trade Agreements in place to help Australian business access China, Korea, Japan and the Trans Pacific partnership (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam). The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have resources with information and advice on How business can use FTAs which can unlock enormous potential.

Joining the dots 

The challenge remains, how to prepare business and start ups to understand and leverage the opportunities presented?

There remains a disconnect between government and the business, startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem. StartUp Muster has set the agenda of what we need to think about and, CEO, Mon Wulff has started the conversation with government and Ministers about what is needed. It seems to me, we need to just connect the dots between what is available and what is needed.

The Assistant Minister for Innovation has heard what the ecosystem wants and I know in my heart he has advocated fiercely for action, inspired by his recent mission to Israel, Minister Wyatt Roy has seen what happens when government creates the right conditions and gets out of the way of entrepreneurs and startups.

So as we await the Prime Minister’s  Innovation Statement, lets contemplate thecommunication and engagement required to connect the dots and really make this work, after all the agenda for innovation has been set long before this statement, it started with a renewed vigor across cabinet for Australia to become the #InnovationNation and it has been called for by the startup and entrepreneurial community for some time.

Anne-Marie Elias is a speaker and consultant in innovation and disruption for social change. She is an honorary Associate of the Centre for Local Government at UTS.

Anne-Marie has recently joined the Board of Western Sydney Women; the Australian Open Knowledge Foundation; Autism Advisory Board, and the Settlement Services International Foundation.

Follow Anne-Marie’s  journey of disruptive social innovation on Twitter @ChiefDisrupter or visit www.chiefdisrupter.com

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The Policy Hack Experiment

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PolicyHack happened – just like that!

It was the courage of a newly appointed Assistant Minister for Innovation the Hon. Wyatt Roy MP and his bold vision to hack for change that led to one of themost sought after event tickets in town.

The Policy Hack experiment was about challenging the way bureaucrats collaborate and encouraging them to engage with the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem to develop better policy and deliver better outcomes.

It was a brilliant exercise that demonstrated the capacity and appetite of entrepreneurs to come together with those from academia, corporates, capital, advisory firms, civil society and the tech and start-up sector to collaborate and develop innovative policy options for government.

PolicyHack had its fair share of critics. A number of blogs and articles appeared immediately prior to the event. They commented on the lack of planning and process, its haphazard development, its ‘exclusivity’ and the likelihood that it would produce no real outcomes in just one day.

In part they were right. However, in its defence, it was an experiment in innovation, pulled together quickly with no funds, a lot of goodwill, the generosity of a community and an enormous desire to show government that embracing the tools of innovation and entrepreneurship could deliver better outcomes. The Hack was well supported with mentors from Disruptors Handbook andPollenizer and many others.

It was very brave of the Hon. Wyatt Roy MP , BlueChilli andt StartUpAus to take this on and push past the critics. Their chutzpah was rewarded. The energy was infectious with 150 participants, ten teams and champions – 60% of those women- generating 10 ideas in 6 hours.

Was it perfect? No. Is that a problem? No. We know how to make the next one better. Innovation is never perfect and neither is the current approach to policy design.Innovation is agile, it’s iterative, it’s responsive and above all else, it’s nimble. It doesn’t stand still while ever there is a problem to be solved.

Compare this hack philosophy to the current approach to policy development. This requires the development of an evidence base (by the time it is gathered it is often out of date), it draws input from the usual suspects, often involves expensive reports from well-paid consultants, has to pass the front page Daily Telegraph test to avoid upsetting vested interests and frankly as a result, often fails.

Is it any wonder then that so many programs cost what they do and deliver so little to the end user they were meant to serve?

I am a firm believer in supporting initiatives that disrupt the status quo for the better and was blown away by how well PolicyHack turned out.  PolicyHack was about demonstrating that there is a better way.

CReLhpXUwAAX-aK The Vision

Assistant Minister Roy spoke about the need for us to be diligent in our expenditure of public funds and observed

“We are going to be fearless and embrace the future. Help shape the vision for how our country can be a hub for entrepreneurship and Innovation.”    Wyatt Roy, Assistant Minister, Innovation

The Assistant Minister made it clear that PolicyHack was an experiment that allowed us to collaborate. He explained that this was the first of many PolicyHacks. Assistant Minister Roy left no one wondering about his aim to encourage all members of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem to leverage our capital and support government to deliver better outcomes for our society and economy.

Who won?

The winning pitches at PolicyHack were Erin Watson-Lynn’s Digital Innovation Creative Entrepreneurial Kids (DICEKids) an educational program for school children that prepares the next generation entrepreneurs and Nicola Hazel’s NEIS 2 Entrepreneur accelerator, in effect a revitalisation of the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme.

These are both simple to implement immediately and can create our new generation of entrepreneurs in a relatively short time frame without any significant hit to the budget.

 

A quick diversion – the NDIS

The last time I got excited about policy was the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  I worked for the NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability, the Hon. Andrew Constance MP and he, like Wyatt Roy, was enthusiastic for change and drove an innovation agenda.

We co-designed the policy with people with disability and their carers. Living Life My Way was a policy hack of sorts where government collaborated with service users and service providers. Where it didn’t meet expectations was that little actually happened after the ideas and exchange.

It ended up being a great big expensive exercise with good intentions but little change. A few years later the outcomes of the scheme remain underwhelming.

Last year in the AFR, Laura Tingle highlighted the frustration with the burgeoning costs of the NDIS trial sites growing out of control. We hear that bureaucrats are hiring more consultants, commissioning more reports and there are concerns about how a scheme of this magnitude will be managed out of State and Territory governments in the next year or so.

Let’s deliver outcomes

In my humble opinion, the current set of bureaucrats working on the NDIS need to meet Paul Shetler, CEO of the Digital Transformation Office (aka the PM’s Tsar) and his team as well as Pia Waugh of @AusGovCTO. They need to invite Paul and Pia to facilitate innovation dialogues to help the NDIS get back on track with the help of hackers from the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Hackers who will apply their smarts and collaborate in order to solve this wicked problem without needing to spend any more money.

If anyone is listening we need to hack for disability to see how we can stretch existing budgets to extract more and deliver better outcomes for people with disabilities, their families and carers.

A similar idea was generated last year by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) andUTS called Enabled by Design a design-a-thon bringing together people with disabilities and designers to hack practical solutions for accessibility, usability and desirability. We have some incredible minds in the innovation space that have done much for health and disability – Prof Hung Nguyen and Dr Jordan Nguyen are transforming health technology with their engineering, artificial intelligence and tech driven focus.

Delivering PolicyHack

StartUpAus will curate the content of the OurSay platform and the hack and Assistant Minister Roy and his office will deliver packaged outcomes and suggestions to relevant agencies for consideration and action. Policy Hack is a brilliant initiative and with a bit more notice and planning we can make an enormous impact on any big spend issues and, I believe, bring more efficiency and innovation to government.

The PolicyHack model presents a powerful method that can solve a lot of wicked problems for government. PolicyHack can be the darling of Expenditure Review Committees and razor gangs because it gets bureaucrats thinking outcomes not just process. It gets them collaborating to make change not compromises and it delivers breakthrough ideas that solve problems and create opportunities. Which as we know sits at the heart of good policy.

What next?

The challenge now is what happens next?  Craig Thomler says “the devil is in the delivery and while perfection should not be the enemy of trying, communication is key, transparency about the process, outcomes and community engagement is integral to the process.”

We haven’t nailed it yet. I think we need to invest some time in doing that. Coming together is the beginning. While we generated amazing ideas, I don’t know what will happen to these ideas post hack. Go to any of the hack sites and you see the promotion and maybe the winning ideas and teams but no further info beyond that.

My proposition

Here are four steps we can take to deliver an outcomes driven hack.

  1. Start with cross sector thought leadership groups to design the parameters and set the policy agenda.
  2. Align the right agencies (State and Commonwealth) with innovators in teams to co-design solutions.
  3. Set up a Post Hack Incubator so that the ideas can be further developed and piloted. These pilots must be supported both by government (through recalibrated funds and resources) and the innovation community.
  4. Keep talking to ensure all stakeholders remain engaged and informed by sharing the process, the results of implementation and the success or otherwise of outcomes.

We should be so lucky

I for one want to thank the Hon. Wyatt Roy, who, backed by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet Secretary Senator the Hon. Arthur Sinodinos AO, the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects and a growing number of Ministers, Members and Senators including  (Fiona Scott MP and David Coleman MP) our champions of change, have seen the constellation of government, corporate and the innovation community align.

We need to deliver outcomes from PolicyHack and develop an ongoing program of hacks for change because it is time that we did things differently and moved into a new paradigm where collaboration is key and where we get shit done, because our communities, economy and ultimately, our future depends on it. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

Read more about the mechanics of PolicyHack in Gavin Heaton’s blog Wyatt Roy’s Policy Hack – A view from the inside.

Anne-Marie Elias is a speaker and consultant in innovation and disruption for social change. She is an honorary Associate of the Centre for Local Government at UTS.

Anne-Marie has recently joined the Board of the Australian Open Knowledge Foundation.

Follow Anne-Marie’s  journey of disruptive social innovation on Twitter @ChiefDisrupter or visit www.chiefdisrupter.com

Is agile Government an oxymoron?

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Times are changing – whether in government or private sector we need to act swiftly and respond to opportunities – and they are coming thick and fast.

Take the start up community – growing exponentially in every corner of the globe, they are driving innovation and are becoming a force to be reckoned with in terms of their financial contribution to the economy. In a 2013 report commissioned by Google, PWC found that “Australian startup sector has the capacity to deliver $109 billion to the economy and create 540,000 new jobs by 2033” and that Startups may be missing ‘bigger picture’ opportunities for growth in the Finance and Insurance, Manufacturing and Health Care and Social Assistance industries.”

This is mind blowing right ? So why is it that two years on from this report little has actually shifted from the side of Government apart from good narrative from state and federal ministers about the need for innovation and the resounding support of small business and start up? Is it enough that Ministers talk about responding to the burgeoning ecosystem without the ability of government, at all levels, to match the narrative with action?

It got me thinking is agile government an oxymoron? I think anyone who has had the privilege of working in, around and with government can tell you it’s a “process” driven beast. So despite the dutiful nods and the encouraging reports, strategies and plans there is still an enormous gap between rhetoric and reality.

In the last year we really have seen a plethora of great ideas and initiatives being announced by NSW Premier Mike Baird and his cabinet colleagues – Minister for Industry, Anthony Roberts Minister for Finance and Services, Dominic Perottet, Minister for Small Business, John Barilaro and Minister for Innovation, Victor Dominello.

Some ideas seeded included the Premiers Innovation Initiative launched in August 2014 promised to draw out innovative responses to some key pain points for the NSW Government, namely Social Housing, Congestion, Open data and Open ideas priority areas. A year down the track and those that didn’t make the cut received a nice letter saying they missed out but we still haven’t heard of who won the challenge and what they are doing. I suspect that because of the PROCESS – flick to the section on selection and negotiation and you see the tai chi in cement forming nicely – a process that has obviously taken more than 12 months of selecting the successful innovation initiative including a steering committee, has been less than innovative in itself.

So here we are a year later still waiting to hear about where this got to – I wonder if the selected innovation is still as enthusiastic as they were a year ago – will they be gob smacked if they get a call that this initiative was still on the table – anyone’s table?

What I see in our innovation community are people on the go, constantly moving to the beat of a different drum than the public sector. They are agile, adaptive and responsive to the constant changing environment and my very deep concern is the missed opportunities that could very well improve tipping point problems if we could help bureaucrats think differently?

Think for a moment how expensive it will be to buy into the game when the music stops and everyone has a seat? How close is that? Very.

This week ten Israeli startups in Tel Aviv pitched to a room of invite-only Australian investors sitting in Sydney at BlueChilli. . It was a terrific opportunity to build bridges and learn from one of the world’s largest innovation ecosystems. It is also a clear example of what will happen if we don’t innovate. Someone, somewhere else will, Australian capital will follow it and soon Australian jobs. This isn’t an isolated incident. Just the other day, we had a visit from the British Government, which is trying to lure fintech hubs to the UK , and to keep them, it has committed $431 million to fintech firms through the British Business Bank. Why? That’s a good question. Maybe it’s because in just 5 years London has become the FinTech capital of the world employing 44000 people.

A more recent announcement by Premier Mike Baird on the formation of new Fintech Stone & Chalk in March 2015, and the project is supported by the NSW Department of Industry through its Knowledge Hubs Initiative. Even better was the further announcement by the Premier of Jobs for NSW, an innovative body that will drive the creation of 150,000 jobs over four years, to be Chaired by former Telstra CEO – David Thodey augers well for the initiative. The Jobs for NSW fund is expected to deliver the NSW Government’s commitment of $190 million over four years to support business development. Jobs for NSW will target the jobs of the future and guide the NSW Government on how best to maximise the state’s resources, talent and potential. Minister for Small Business John Barilaro was exceptionally enthusiastic that 30 per cent of the Jobs for NSW fund will be dedicated to regional job creation, and regional businesses will have a guaranteed voice on the jobs for NSW board.

So we really have to think how can we support the many innovative bureaucrats who are trying to shift but are equally stifled by tai chi in cement processes?

After all, many bureaucrats are attending stellar conferences, design innovation workshops, even completing MBAs – yet how is this higher learning actually shifting the monolith of bureaucracy they inevitable must face? They are also spending millions of dollars on consultants – to what end? I think the use of consultants is a tad misaligned because what I have seen is a de-skilled public sector as a result and very costly reports that don’t really change much by way of process. So we really have to think, how can we support the many innovative bureaucrats who are trying to shift but are equally stifled by tai chi in cement processes?

So my next question is how are we building the capacity of the three levels of government entwined in job creation and really make this idea fly?

Stone & Chalk launch with stellar line up of Ministers  including Stuart Ayres, Anthony Roberts, and and Parliamentary Secretaries, Paul Fletcher and John Sidoti, pictured with Christine Forster (@resourcefultype) and Aex Scandurra from Stone and Chalk, and  ALP’s Jason Claire and Ed Husic.

How can government with its process laden structures respond to such swift changes ? Frankly – it can’t. To be responsive and agile requires a new way of thinking – outcomes focus rather than process driven and it requires outward facing government. We have a long way to go but it’s not impossible.

In NSW we have a dynamic cabinet led by Premier Mike Baird – he is responsive, agile and courageous – his Ministers are too, or at least they are trying to be. Sadly, there appears to be some resistance from the bureaucracy that pares everything back to a snail pace because of process.

Honestly how important is process in the face of opportunity – are the risks greater in being agile than in remaining the same? Personally I think there is a greater risk in staying the same – slow and sluggish is not in the narrative of futurism or the new millennium.

Baird, Roberts, Barilaro, Perottet and Dominello are among the Ministers changing things, they are coming out with a more enthusiastic narrative about what they want to see in their respective patches, I feel for them and their advisers on the optimism trail – delving into different spaces and connecting new paradigms to their departments but there is still work to do, a lot of hard work to change the direction of the public service ship – its suck in an iceberg of process and requires agile and responsive thinking to flip the model to a new place where we are more concerned with outcomes rather than outputs. Even great initiatives like @ALP4Innovation supported by Jason Claire and Ed Husic won’t go far without systemic change in the way bureaucracy works.

Ministers Dominello and Barilaro at the Sydney GovHack awards at Fishburners.

In fact Gavin Heaton (@ServantofChaos) speaks a lot about the need for a recalibration of efforts to an outcomes focus. Gavin’s Disruptor’s Handbookprovides numerous insights and ideas of how to shift and a more recent free e-book by Joanne Jacobs provides tools and tips on How to innovate like a startup. These resources are freely available and are well used by start-ups and small business but haven’t quite reached the consciousness of government, yet!

A recent blog by Tony Featherstone from the Sydney Morning Herald  asked Why aren’t councils supporting start ups? I loved the article and felt myself nodding throughout except that I know that there are efforts to shift State and local government to be more amenable and integrated in start up, even more importantly Minister for Small Business, John Barilaro is deeply committed to innovating the way NSW supports the transformation of Small and Medium enterprises and start ups.

Another article by legendary Pete Cooper (@pc0) from Start up Society today said it even louder, he says “Government At All Levels Has Failed The Tech Startup Ecosystem”  and again I found myself in agreement with his frustration at the lag between rhetoric and action because that means we are losing. The Start Up Society has a grand vision “Our vision is for 2 to 5 thousand tech startups around every major population centre and major university. Today it is less than one tenth of that even in the major cities.”

So how do we get there? Pete suggests consolidating our efforts and holding a Start Up Summit – what a splendid and overdue idea – personally I’d like to see the Summit held in NSW where I see the Premier and NSW ministers for Innovation, Small Business and Industry becoming a more visible part of start up events and ecosystem.

As an Associate of the Centre for Local Government  at UTS,  I am working with Roberta Ryan to design a Master Class on Innovation for local government. Roberta is a key innovator globally, around transforming local government to better leverage research, design and innovation to meet growing challenges and very complex communities. Roberta is cognizant of the pressures on local government and the need to support their pivotal role in being more than they have before with fewer resources, this is only possible by leveraging the social capital in the community.

I think what is needed is more opportunities for government to immerse themselves in parallel paradigms outside government. Bureaucrats who aren’t on board yet need to see the world they may be missing out on. They need to know they are welcome to collaborate with the start up community – I’d hate for them to miss out on the growing numbers of starts up that are supporting government in some way – take Alan Mont’s blog @MuniRent showcasing 40 start ups that are helping government in the US – they range from legal platforms to make litigation on minor offences simpler right through to sharing government resources through procurement platforms.

I’d like to see a Government Innovation BootCamp – a day of reckoning with a virtual reality experience of their process and their data. I would love to see each head of department in a the UTS Data Arena surrounded by their data – I would show them two scenarios – 1 with their pain points and current responses and one with agile response – I imagine seeing their behaviour in this way will be more impactful than seeing a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet. In the new world, data is your friend and it represents people, communities, and people’s lives – not just a bunch of numbers. And those wondering do we have the technology for that – YEP, we’ve had it for a while in many universities and at the National ICT Association (NICTA).

UTS Data Arena

Perhaps in this space they will see the very real consequences of loading up process and that life is no longer predictive and ordered in fact we know that our world is more complex and we understand that solutions to job creation and economic growth is no longer the domain of government alone – they require cross sector collaboration to shift something.

That’s why we are seeing more private sector involvement in the establishing NFP entities like Google and Optus funding Fishburners. Like Telstra funding muru-D and CodeClub they aren’t waiting for government – they’ve gone and done it anyway – so how is government going to leverage this extraordinary talent and connect with them in a meaningful way? Well we have clue with the not-for-profit Stone&Chalk launched last month. This a fabulous new model that brings together government, big business and think tanks to develop the Fintech ecosystem in Sydney. With over 50 startups co-located, many well along the way, they haven’t had to wait long to trumpet success. AMP has already taken equity stakes in Macrovue and MoneyBrilliant.

And it’s not all at the big end of town. Firms like Swaab Attorneys  are connecting the high net worth individuals and small-to-medium enterprises that include some of Australia’s most successful family businesses to startups both as customers and as potential investors both here and overseas.

The biggest flaw at present remains the process of government that is so jarred that little gets done and responses are in time delay – long after that ship has sailed, we are all wondering what really happened?

Government process happened and we need to reach out to our fellow disrupters in government and help them see what we see – help them readjust to face outward and see all the opportunities around them, take away the fear of failure because failure is getting closer to success and there’s a whole ecosystem out there willing to collaborate to get NSW cracking as the innovation, start up State. The conditions are right, the stars are aligning so there are no excuses left.

The Ministers are talking it up so now we (every one of us who are disrupters, innovators and alchemists) have to help the public sector deliver on the promises – otherwise we are well and truly behind the eight ball.

Anne-Marie Elias is a consultant in innovation for social change. She is an honorary Associate of the Design Innovation Research Centre and the Centre for Local Government at UTS.

Follow my journey of disruptive social innovation on Twitter @ChiefDisrupter

Next Generation Open Data

This week the NSW Minister for Innovation, the hon. @VictorDominello announced the NSW Data Analytics Centre (the DAC) – a place where government, business and NGOs can go and leverage the volumes of data that we collect but rarely manage to make use of. The launch took place at UTS, in a spectacular space with demonstrations of Prof Hung Nguyen‘s robots and thought controlled wheel chair and Ben SimonsData Arena.

Minister Dominello has been working on this for some time and should be applauded for his courage and commitment to see better collection and use of government data to improve lives, community, business, planning and environment. A bold move which will have its challenges but will create the right conditions for innovation and better coordination and delivery of profound social change. The DAC presents a very interesting journey for government agencies, to understand the limitless possibilities of sharing data to solve very complex problems.

The Minister’s vision to establish a next generation whole-of-government data analytics centre, the first of its kind in Australia, is massive and rests on the success of jurisdictions like New Zealand, New York City and the State of Michigan which have used data analytics to improve the lives of citizens through better targeted and more coordinated government service delivery.

Data is one of the greatest assets held by government, but when it’s buried away in bureaucracy it is of little value. 

Minister for Innovation,  Victor Dominello

At the launch, Minister Dominello said ” Whether it’s tackling crime, combating obesity or addressing housing affordability, we cannot hope to develop solutions to the long-term challenges that our state faces without an effective whole-of-government data sharing platform.” I believe the Minister has created the perfect arena for this through the DAC.

The most spectacular display of Minister Dominelo’s vision has to be GovHack – this year over 2000 participants across Australia and New Zealand who produced 400 prototypes over 48 hours. I was privileged to be part of the Sydney organising team and humbled we had the support of the Minister for Innovation , Victor Dominello and Minister for Small Business, John Barilaro at the Sydney awards night 31 July at Fishburners. The Ministers stayed long past proceedings and enjoyed the company of a very diverse and talented crowd of tech’s and start ups. They could see the intricate understanding of the power of data to solve social problems and the enthusiasm of an eclectic group of coders, designers, social engineers and techs more than happy to show the world the infinite possibilities of data analytics.

You see, hackathons are the harmonic convergence of data, science, technology and social design, and the results are astounding, just check out the winners and runners up of Sydney GovHack:

ClearGov – an engagement platform that makes government and political information more accessible and transparent for citizens, journalists, policy makers and anyone who has an interest.  It won most innovative tech platform awarded by Fishburners’ CEO Murray Hurps.

CareFactors is a measurement tool that brings together environment, social, health, demographic data by LGA so you know how your suburb stacks up against things that mater to you. Care Factors won Best use of NSW data and Most Innovative Hack to engage community and environment. It even lets you see what services and charities are in your area so you can connect, volunteer or donate to local causes.

NizViz won the best use of  Sydney Water data for its mash up of water, air, environment and demographic data by LGA. Runner up Sydney Water Dashboard developed a consumption tracker by LGA. I congratulate Sydney Water for participating this year – we need to find more bureaucrats like you who want to give a try and realise the benefits far outweigh the concerns of hackathons and open data.

For those new to GovHack, Craig Thomler wrote a great review of GovHack projects in the Mandarin recently, with a useful glossary of GovHack terms like Mashup, data custodian, open data and hack. A recent article in The Australian about founder and goddess of GovHack Pia Waugh underscores the importance of GovHack in driving open data and open government for the betterment of all.

This year GovHack saw more commonwealth agencies, local councils and state agencies involved in sharing data, evidenced by the array of prizes and 7000 data sets from over 30 agencies including the ABC, ABS, Australian Charities and Not for Profits, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Aboriginal Affairs, ATO, Veterans Affairs and the CSIRO. Hopefully, the increasing attention on GovHack will demonstrate the potential of leveraging social hackers to create effective solutions to local and global problems, will encourage more agencies to get on board next year.

I believe the planets are aligning on this, Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Digital Transformation Office and Minister Dominello’s Data Analytics Centre are significant steps in the digital disruption of government and its quite exciting to be working in this space at this time with some extraordinary people driving the change in government. My pledge and hope is to drive as many social hacks as possible, we will hack for DV, homelessness, regional and remote communities and anything else that seems insurmountable, because the collaborative data conditions are perfect right now.

And a really great idea would be if Ben Simons (main picture)  from the UTS Data Arena could invite agency heads to the Data Arena and shown the possibilities of how their data will come to life, save money and generate better outcomes for them and the community they serve through the DAC ? Maybe even demonstrate some of the GovHack winning entries to be announced at the GovHack red carpet awards on September 5 in Sydney.

Follow my journey on Twitter @ChiefDisrupter

Anne-Marie is a consultant in innovation for social change, Honorary Associate of the Design Innovation Research Centre and the Centre for Local Government at UTS.

Sparking social change

Don’t you just love a crazy idea? It takes a lot of courage to try something new, especially something that you don’t know will work, yet entrepreneurs and start ups pursue crazy ideas every day and thank heavens they do. How else would the likes of Apple, Uber or AirBnB come about? I love and admire the hunger of start ups, the pure unadulterated desire to make shit happen, because their life depends on it. Their belief in an idea that overrides all the set backs and even failures that pummel them, their ability to experience this yet keep their eye on the outcome enables them to adapt and do whatever it takes to make it happen.

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I have worked in the field of social disadvantage for three decades – I started at the age of 16 as youth advocate, every job I have had was about finding a place to make a difference – journalism, policy, ministerial, state and federal government and NGO. While every one of those roles have a realm of influence to do good, I was always left wanting and believing that bureaucracy kills innovation and that we can do better.

I learnt long ago that in our ‘business’ , peoples lives are at stake and that means we’ve got to get moving to do all we can to innovate solutions to social disadvantage. I feel a sense of urgency with the state of social disadvantage in Australia, things a re getting worse not better and it seems despite the hundreds of billions of dollars and efforts we are not winning any ‘battles” against drugs, family and domestic violence, recidivism, suicide, child protection, poverty, homelessness and on and on. According to the Australian Council of Social Services “Poverty is on the rise in Australia, with more than 2.5 million people – and one in six children – struggling to fulfil their daily basic needs…” ACOSS, Poverty in Australia, 2014

I’ve seen it first hand in the state of NSW where remote communities are living in abject poverty, I’ve seen it in Sydney where thousands of passers by walk past a central park dotted with tents and a community of homeless, the people that have fallen through the cracks of a system that has failed its duty of care.

So rather than dwell on the system failures or limitations I want to give my heart and soul to finding solutions and showing government and NGOs a new way of working, empowering communities to collaborate for social change. For the past few years I have been developing a new way of working and I’m calling it Disruptive Social Innovation, a blend of social innovation, rapid prototyping and digital disruption. The status quo is unacceptable and I believe cross sector and discipline collaboration is the only way we can really make a difference to peoples lives.

“A social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than present solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.” (source Stanford, Centre for Social Innovation.) 

On the 7th of July 2015 in Broken Hill NSW we tested a new way of working with social disadvantage, Kathryn Greiner AO facilitated and chaired the first Social Innovation Pitch Event.

The event was shift in usual practice of forums and consultations that repeat a status quo approach of talking about the problems leaving little room for solutions. The concept drawn from start up pitch events where new business ideas are generated and pitched to venture capital and angel investors. The format of these pitches are simple and clear – they start with a problem, and idea that is a solution and a clear ask of resources.

The event replicated this and tested the method in community setting where people from three communities were invited to pitch to local stakeholders (business, NGOs and government). Those pitching were briefed on framing their pitch and stakeholders were asked to be generous in offering time, talent and resources to support the local projects. The key to the event was shared understanding of local needs and a desire to collaborate for social change.

Each pitch focused on improving communities, in particular employment opportunities and young people. Maari Ma focused on digital inclusion and education of children and young people. Menindee Central School focused on vocational and training opportunities for young people. Out back Astronomy focused on Astro tourism, Aboriginal cultural tourism development and social enterprise in arts and local produce.

The social innovation pitch event covered three footprints – Wilcannia, Menindee and Broken Hill. This initiative has set a new benchmark to support community aspirations and change the way we manage and address social disadvantage in the region

.Social Innovation Pitch Event Format

The design of the social innovation pitch event is disrupting the way communities drive change, it disrupts funding cycles and the notion that government is the only answer. My hope is that we encourage this type of disruptive  social innovation because it innovates the way we create social change and it flips the top down to bottom up – so the community decides what to support as a whole and government can get on with providing the right conditions for people to help themselves.

PITCH 1: Maari Ma – Wings Youth Centre Wilcannia

Wings Youth Centre provides an important service for children and young people in Wilcannia, a safe haven and a hive of educational activity. The young people love using the computers but they are old and there aren’t enough. The Centre has a mix of primary and high school aged children and expressed a desire to get tablets for the older children for privacy. They need programs and apps that support nutrition, health, well being, cyber safety and sex education.

shout out Maari Ma

We designed the pitches in a way that only asked time, talent or resources to help achieve a goal. People are willing to give in kind, participants were surprised how easy it was to help a project get off the ground, assist with writing proposals or sourcing the right avenue. As always when you bring people from different areas together, new partnerships and alliances emerged  and even those pitching could help each other. For example Outback Astronomy is now going to take the kids from Menindee and Wilcannia on a tour, Family and Community Services will purchase the periscopes so the kids have them to use when on excursion; the PCYC has offered accommodation for the kids whilst in Broken Hill.

The pitch event was incredibly well received, initially with a healthy dose of skepticism, but with a determination to continue to the conversations with the whole community. The event brought a renewed sense of common purpose and collaboration and unlikely alliances and partnerships. It gave those pitching an opportunity to gain a wider audience and it gave the businesses, NGOs and government the opportunity to support community initiative. It expanded every person’s view of their community and the untapped social capital around them.

I love bringing together people from different paradigms – the Mayor, the chamber of commerce, all levels of government and NGOs, the corporate sector rarely get the opportunity to mix it up and exchange ideas – this is the alchemy of collaboration and it inspires innovation and it works when applied to social disadvantage.

I’d love to hear your feedback. I hope you will continue on this journey of disruptive social innovation, follow me on Twitter @ChiefDisrupter

A Social Innovation Experiment

Twitter is a wondrous place, I believe it is more equal than Facebook and LinkedIn and it seems anyone can get traction on an issue with a little help from clever hashtags and virtual friends. I recently thought I would try a social innovation experiment, I tweeted “Who wants to help me organise a  Hackathon for disadvantaged youth in Wagga Wagga. In a matter of hours, with a little help from two new twitter friends – Dez Blanchfield @dez_blanchfield and Dev Mukherjee @mdevraj we started #WaggaWaggaHackathon and a google document, in a week we had eleven people including the Dean of Science at Charles Sturt University – Tim Wess, Wagga Wagga Mayor – Rod Kendall, and representatives from NICTA, Telstra, Google, NSW Government, CodeClubAu, and others. The list of stakeholders is growing and we now have the start of a roadmap to get young people, NGOs and community prepared to participate in a Hackathon in Wagga Wagga in October this year. The Hackathon is not the end game, rather it is the platform for new partnerships and collaboration and a demonstration of how technology can support innovation in solving social problems. It presents an incredible opportunity to empower communities to co-design solutions. The journey to the October Hackathon starts in July with a launch meet-up to explain the process of a Hackathon. Communities have to prepare to identify and pitch their “problem” , monthly meet-ups around the problem will identify the data needs and the types of project teams needed. We want to include a range of experts to support community ideas which could range from starting a social enterprise to developing and APP. I call this a Social Innovation Hackathon because its focus is beyond technology. The amazing experience for me and my colleague Donna Argus @Dargus is that people care, they want to help and are incredibly generous of their time, talent and resources to make things happen. Each stakeholder has a different skillset and without the likes of Dez Blanchfield, Tim Wess and Dev Mukherjee we would have found it difficult to progress the technical logistics of such an ambitious event. While we are definitely agile in our thinking there are stakeholders to manage – community, government and private sector who also have their needs and this prototype will help us show stakeholders the magical possibilities that come from cross sector collaboration for social good. Those that know me know how passionate I am- but this experience has blown me away, I am humbled beyond words at the generosity and willingness of people in tech to help those disadvantaged communities – especially in regional areas. As far as I am concerned this is just the beginning of limitless opportunities of a prototype for social innovation and ultimately social change. It is bringing together unlikely partners and collaborators that are willing to give this idea a go. Frankly I have no idea what this will look like but what I can say is that the journey is opening the hearts and minds of so many people to overcome usual constraints and barriers and to work together to improve the lives of disadvantaged young people in a regional area. If you want to get involved, connect with me on Twitter @ChiefDisrupter or follow our hashtag on twitter #WaggaWaggaHackathon Trsust and see what happens

Innovation is key to shift social disadvantage

Last year(2014) a friend whom I call the goddess of Start up – Nicole Williamson – introduced me to the parallel universe of tech and start up – I was mesmerized by the innovation and the hunger for creation. I’m so grateful to Nicole for introducing me to her world and being so generous to take me along to the numerous events occurring in Sydney that foster, inspire and nurture innovation. It got me thinking how amazing it would be to apply these worlds and their methods to solve wicked social problems?

Id spent many years (almost 30)  in the vortex of policy, government, NGO and social disadvantage – getting frustrated at the seeming futility of hundreds of billions of dollars being plowed into disadvantage with little result – even worse I started to see that the return on investment (ROI) really sucked! Even worse – people’s lives are at stake and disadvantage is growing exponentially despite the investment of money, programs and attention.

Innovation is key – really, there is no other way because we have enough and we definitely can do better to protect the most vulnerable people. Solutions are really not that hard, they just require new thinking, thought leadership from across sectors and disciplines to apply their minds to these messy problems like domestic and family violence, recidivism, homelessness, disability and unemployment. Our current approaches are failing, even if some would argue that there has been some progress, its too slow and too many people are falling through the cracks.

This week, April 2015,  NSW Premier Mike Baird announced a new Ministry, most exciting for the startup and tech communities was the re-appointment of the Hon. Dominic Perrottet as Minister for Finance and Services and the new appointment of the Hon. Victor Dominello as Minister for Innovation.

Its not enough to get NSW moving without some bold moves including the lease of poles and wires to fund long overdue infrastructure and the commitment by the Premier, Brendan Lyon, CEO of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Tracy Howe, CEO of NCOSS and the Minister for Family and Community Services to contribute $1b to social housing. Its exciting to think of the opportunities that lie in exchange of ideas across sectors as to how we could turn that $1b into ten times more to create new solutions to social housing, shelter and homelessness

“Innovation is a hard, messy process with no shortcuts. It starts with making something that you’d like to use and that might make people’s lives better.”  Guy Kawasaki

The fact that innovation is messy makes it hard for risk averse public servants to embrace its tenets – risk, failure, courage, disruption. However there seems to be a growing appetite for innovation in the public sector like the Premiers Innovation Initiative (NSW), Transport for NSW Customer Central innovation hub Andrew Kendall showed me, the endless open data, open government initiatives by NSW Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet’s Finance and Services and  Apps4NSW and Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s GovHack,

I believe having a Minister for Innovation brings all this together – its an opportunity for Minister Victor Dominello to identify and implement innovation across public sector agencies. It demonstrates a desire and necessity to innovate our responses to big problems, including wicked social problems. It will be great to have an innovation lens applied across portfolios, can you imagine the possibilities of new thinking? I can – I have been inspired by so many individuals and companies out there applying their talent to help people.

I recently met UTS Professor Hung Nguyen who is inventing amazing enabling tools such as the aviator smart wheelchair ( see Youtube Clip here), his contribution is leveraging design and technology to innovate solutions to social care including falls prevention, diabetes and more! In March 2015, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., Fujitsu Ireland Ltd., and Fujitsu Limited announced they have “developed a technology that uses sensors, embedded in smart houses and worn by patients, for the early detection of abnormalities in motor functions that might otherwise go unnoticed.”

“Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.” Michael Porter

Traditional thinking has only taken us so far in being able to reduce social exclusion, marginalization and increase opportunity for disadvantaged people. Globally we are seeing a number of innovative solutions such as the rise of social entrepreneurship, of cooperatives and mutuals and of greater emphasis on collaboration. My hero – Ben Hecht CEO of Living Cities is a constant inspiration in his vision to connect opportunity to disadvantage that is transforming lives in some of the most vulnerable people in the USA.

“We take risks, catalyze fresh thinking in order to test new approaches in order to creatively disrupt the status quo.” Living Cities

We can learn a great deal about how to emulate this to extend the $1billion anticipated for social housing in NSW and address the valid concerns of the homelessness and housing affordability sectors to ensure that we can really do something that will meet growing challenges!

So I hope that this trend continues and that we as a society continue to look outward, that we collaborate and innovate out of any problem!