DIIS design academy set to welcome APS staff

By Stephen Easton

Monday March 5, 2018

A new “design academy” soon to be launched by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s BizLab unit will offer training to other agencies on a fee-for-service basis.

This will complement capability-building initiatives from the federal behavioural economics team (BETA) attached to Prime Minister and Cabinet, and upcoming leadership training related to digital service delivery arranged by the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Public Service Commission.

BizLab director Janna McCann, speaking at the launch of this year’s Commonwealth and ACT Public Sector Innovation Awards, said the new DIIS design academy would open around the end of March.

It will “teach the basic principles of human-centred design” to staff of all levels in any APS agencies, she said. The innovation lab within DIIS has “a dedicated team of about 15 design practitioners” and has been up and running “in earnest” for about 18 months, with two key roles, she said.

“One is a short-term remit around, I guess, sharing the principles and transferring the learning around skills and the mentality of human-centred design, to deliver outcomes for better impact.

“And we do that by working hand-in-hand with subject matter experts across the business … and we operate in a learn-by-doing model, so they get the skills, when they come and work on projects with us, and they take that back into the business and they transfer their skills, hopefully.”

The second role was more long-term: contributing to a “cultural mindset shift” among public servants, to inspire curiosity about how services could be improved. The design academy is part of that aspect of the mission.

Representatives from BETA and the DTA joined McCann to explain their work and answer questions from ACT and Commonwealth public servants during a panel discussion organised by the Institute of Public Administration Australia ACT branch as part of the awards launch.

This followed a speech by the United States government’s human-centred design guru Arianne Miller, deputy director of The Lab at the Office of Personnel Management.

Miller spoke about how the small agency is promoting human-centred design in the US’s vast federal bureaucracy. Design thinking isn’t some brand new fad, of course — Miller quoted a government publication from 1973, which sharply observed:

“Effective design of public service is itself an essential public service.”

The Mandarin has uploaded an audio recording of the speech, below, and IPAA has posted the presentation slides as a PDF document

Nominations for this year’s innovation awards opened on February 19, and close on April 20. There is also an opportunity for public servants to volunteer as assessors to help in the judging process. The IPAA ACT branch explains:

“Being an assessor is a challenging and rewarding experience that will enhance the skills of those individuals that participate, by exposing them to the innovative work of agencies or bodies within the Commonwealth and ACT governments. There are no formal qualifications or experience required of assessors but we warmly encourage assessors from the 2016 awards to re-apply.”

Top image: L-R: Peter Alexander (DTA), Tara Oliver (BETA), Arianne Miller, Janna McCann and Elizabeth Kelly (PM&C). Credit: RLDI/IPAA ACT.

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