Text size: A A A

Learning innovation, by doing innovation in Victoria

The Victorian government has partnered with UK innovation foundation Nesta to prototype a nine-month innovation learning program aiming to develop management capability and culture, to practically deal with complex public policy problems.

The “learn-by-doing” program comes as all Australian governments are promoting much stronger innovation in the public sector, employing a variety of approaches, including innovation labs, design thinking and hackathons to promote different approaches to community problems.

The recent Ferris report detailing a roadmap for economy-wide innovation called for Australian governments to become catalysts for innovation and be recognised as global leaders in service delivery.

The Victorian program was developed with Nesta’s  States of Change – a global collective set-up to develop and support public innovation learning for creating public impact.

State of Change is running a parallel program with Canada’s central policy agency, the Privy Council.

The projects include reducing Aboriginal over-representation in the criminal justice system; preparing secondary students for the realities of life after school; and foiling online scammers by developing greater consumer resilience.”

The VPS program champions learning by doing and solving problems collaboratively. Ten teams of management-level public servants from a range of departments have taken on a complex problem from a sponsoring deputy secretary.

The projects include reducing Aboriginal over-representation in the criminal justice system; preparing secondary students for the realities of life after school; and foiling online scammers by developing greater consumer resilience.

The teams are made up from Victoria Police, Consumer Affairs Victoria, Department of Education and Training, VicRoads, Department of Health and Human Services, LaTrobe Valley Authority, Department of Justice and Regulation, Transport for Victoria and the Department of Treasury and Finance.

The overall aim of the program is to support public servants to adopt innovation mindsets and habits, combined with new ways of working that help them become more effective change agents, and to sustain an innovation culture in government.

While many innovation programs focus on innovation methodologies, the States of Change curriculum looks at the behaviours and cultures that enable innovation in government, and how these can be learnt through real-life application.

The program is reaching midway and observers say there has already been a marked shift in thinking by participants, and their willingness to think outside traditional approaches.

The program is being closely monitored as a model for promoting further large-scale innovation across the VPS.

Six principles of innovation

Nesta is a UK charity that has built a global coalition of public sector innovation specialists. Its strong roots in the public sector has attracted many of the world’s best thinkers and practitioners around public sector change.

Nesta uses a system of six principles to approach innovation. These are:

  • People: understanding people’s experiences, building empathy
  • Systems: taking a holistic view, identifying intervention points
  • Problems: identifying and framing an issue
  • Solutions: developing and testing solutions, mapping existing assets and solutions
  • Facts: using evidence and data
  • Futures: exploring multiple possible futures

The Victoria States of Change program is an initiative of the Public Sector Innovation Fund, part of the Special Minister of State’s Public Sector Reform agenda.  

The program is being managed by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and is being led by the Public Sector Innovation Team, including Sam Hannah-Rankin, Andrew Niere and Debra Holder.

Author Bio

Tom Burton

Tom Burton is publisher of The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He has served in various public administration roles, specialising in the media and communications sector. He was a Walkley Award-winning journalist and executive editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. He worked as Canberra bureau chief for the Australian Financial Review and as managing editor of smh.com.au. He most recently worked at the Australian Communications and Media Authority.