Open State expands for 2017

By Harley Dennett

Friday March 31, 2017

How do you galvanise a state’s businesses, not-for-profit organisations, universities and community groups to embrace innovation?

In South Australia, the inaugural Open State festival last October, attended by 25,000 participants and shared to a further 19 million via social media, showed one way — and it’s coming back in 2017.

Mark your calendars between September 28 to October 8 as #OpenState2017 returns to Adelaide. Here’s what to expect:

Why Open State? According to the pitch, the 10-day festival of collaboration, innovation, ideas and enterprise, reinforces South Australia as a place open to new ideas, new people, new technology, and as a leader in democratic reform, business and community innovation. It also injected an estimated $11 million into the South Australian Economy.

But what is it, actually? I’ve described it as more of a meta-festival, inviting national conferences, open mic business pitches, forums, talks, demonstrations, workshops and collaboration to gather in one CBD for a short period of time to pollinate ideas across sectors and industries.

The state government co-pays for national and international experts to come and support these activities which are run by government, business and community organisations as they embrace innovation to tackle the issues facing the state.

Wanted: event proposals

The SA government is looking for demonstrators, workshop leaders and audience facilitators to bridge the gap between those experts and the organisations. Among the offerings for event organisers this year are a new hub and dome. Preference will be given to events that incorporate elements from real-world projects that show how ideas can be transformed into action.

This year the festival will ask ‘what does the future look like to you?’ and expand its topics to six themes:

  1. Future cities. What is the potential of Adelaide as a ‘living lab’?
  2. Future democracy. People across the globe are losing trust in institutions, while peer to peer trust (sharing economy, social media) is increasing.
  3. Future enterprise. What are the new forms of enterprise? How will automation shape the world of work?
  4. Future food. How does technology, globalisation and climate change impact our ability to keep innovating in food production, sustainability and food marketing?
  5. Future planet. Big questions of climate change, population growth and migration, and globalisation.
  6. Future human. From artificial intelligence to digitally printed prosthetics, to wearables and Internet of Things. What are the implications of digital change for our health and our humanity — at home, work and play?

The state’s Department of Premier and Cabinet held a stakeholder briefing this week. They’re looking for input for which national and international experts should be invited. The door for parties interested in running an event during the festival is also still open, but expressions of interest close on May 1.

A place for the public sector too

Last year, SA Premier Jay Weatherill challenged his public sector at the festival launch to lead by example in the sharing economy, ‘like AirBnB, but for government’. Coinciding and incorporating the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s national conference of public servants and public administration researchers from around the country, he was speaking to an enthusiastic audience that stretched well beyond the state borders.

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