Is DFAT open to ‘fail early, fail often’ with innovationXchange?

The foreign service is not normally associated with a pro-risk culture, yet the launch this week of innovationXchange is being touted as the key to fomenting a start-up mentality in DFAT. Experts are offering a hopeful, though sceptical, welcome.

Aid experts who spoke to The Mandarin have cautiously welcomed the announcement of the new innovationXchange at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, amid scepticism over whether the department will succeed in shaking off its risk-averse approach.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched innovationXchange on Monday, calling it “an Australian Government initiative to revolutionise the delivery and effectiveness of Australia’s aid program.” The $140 million project, she said, “will mainstream innovation throughout the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.”

Opening with praise for the disruptive practices of Apple, Google and Facebook, Bishop stated:

“Innovation is the natural territory of entrepreneurs, businesses, private sector operators, NGOs, academic institutions — where necessity pushes, where risk is a given and encouraged, where creativity is embedded in the way people think, and the way work is conducted and projects are run. Private sector organisations innovate to seek the most efficient means of production, to remain competitive and to provide return for investors.

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