Government agencies need to learn to be innovative, agile and disruptive, according to our enthusiastic and optimistic Prime Minister, but what does that look like in the public service? Beanbags and table tennis tables.
This week, Malcolm Turnbull and Innovation Minister Christopher Pyne announced a $1.1 billion innovation agenda package, stating that government would be an “exemplar” in innovation through its investment in technology to deliver services. It’s still in the thought bubble stage as to how this will work in practice, but there are clues in a start-up-style project already underway at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In March, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (pictured) launched “innovationXchange”, a $140 million, four-year project that is already being pushed as “Silicon Valley in Canberra“. It is the result of $11.3 billion cuts to foreign aid and the merger of Australia’s aid agencies. It is guided by an “international reference group” made up of philanthropists, Seven CEOs like Ryan Stokes, and the controversial climate sceptic Bjorn Lomborg.
It was an idea Bishop came up with in 2014 and, according to the department, the centre is “responsible for developing new partnerships to ensure our aid program takes advantage of new approaches and technologies to deliver better outcomes for development impact”. The staff “meet with innovators, private sector organisations and entrepreneurs who offer new approaches to aid delivery”.
Bishop herself has described innovationXchange as a “gorgeous little funky, hipster, Googly, Facebooky-type place”.