- Report to the Management Advisory Committee Empowering Change: Fostering Innovation in the Australian Public Service (May 2010)
- APS 200 Project on Public Sector Innovation (2010-2011)
- APS Innovation Action Plan (June 2011)
- Research project for Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the then Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (June-November 2011)
- Decision by the Secretaries Board (December 2011)
- Calls for Expressions of Interest for CEO (January 2012)
- Release of the Charter and announcement of membership of the Board overseeing the Centre (May 2012)
- Announcement of CEO (June 2012)
- On 2 July 2012 the Centre begins operation
- On 31 December 2013, DesignGov ceases operation
In 2008 a review of Australia’s innovation system by an independent panel was commissioned. The panel’s report, Venturous Australia – building strength in innovation, included analysis of public sector innovation and affirmed the role of the public sector as an integral part of the overall innovation system. It found that, compared with other countries, Australia’s public sector is relatively innovative.
In 2009, in recognition of the need for a more systematic approach to innovation within the public sector, the then Management Advisory Committee (the precursor to the Secretaries Board) endorsed a cross-agency project looking at public sector innovation. This project led to a report, Empowering Change: Fostering Innovation in the Australian Public Service, released in May 2010 by the then Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran. This report included a series of recommendations for how to encourage a systematic approach to innovation across the APS, including the development of a collaborative experimentation space.
Collaboration and experimentation are two key inputs to realising innovation. To embed these into the public sector, the APS should establish a collaborative experimentation program, modelled on the Danish MindLab, to develop and trial solutions to significant and cross agency problems in areas including policy and service delivery. A key activity under this program would be the development and implementation of collaborative pilots and trials.
This particular recommendation was based on an assessment that there was no standing arrangement, ‘space’ or program by which agencies could jointly collaborate and experiment and involve stakeholders and citizens, to develop innovative responses to major cross agency problems.
It was considered that there needed to be a way of facilitating such collaborative innovation without the need to establish a dedicated collaborative arrangement for each and every problem.
To move from the recommendation to a detailed proposal that considered the practical working arrangements and purpose of such a program, further investigation was required. This was undertaken as an APS 200 project on public sector innovation, chaired by Deputy Secretary Patricia Kelly (of the then Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research). The APS 200 project led to the release of the ‘APS Innovation Action Plan’ which proposed the formation of an APS Design Centre.
APS Design Centre
A centre (or centres) dedicated to innovative approaches could assist to:
- develop and test new approaches to complex policy challenges and to enhance government program delivery
- build agency and institutional capability for collaboration and innovation
- apply and test tools/processes and bring new skills to support innovation in the APS
- capture, synthesise and disseminate examples of best practice in Australia and overseas
- respond to citizen demand for responsive and innovative services.
The proposed initiative could inspire creativity and collaboration and provide a platform to test innovative solutions. It could help practitioners to adopt new perspectives in thinking about a problem.
Such an approach would facilitate cross-agency interaction involving public servants, academics, citizens and businesses to create solutions for societal problems. It could fast track building the capacity of the APS to develop innovative policy and service delivery, keeping the APS at the forefront of citizen delivery and responsiveness.
This then led to the commissioning of a collaborative research project by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the then Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. The outcome of the research project informed consideration of a detailed proposal by the APS Secretaries Board in December 2011, and the Board agreed to support the establishment of a pilot Centre. Key agencies initially supporting the establishment of the pilot included:
- Australian Taxation Office
- Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
- Department of Immigration and Citizenship
- Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
- Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
The Australian Public Service Commission subsequently also entered a formal agreement to support the Centre.
Expressions of interest for the position of CEO for the Centre were called for in January 2012. A Charter to guide the operations of the Centre was developed and released publicly in May 2012.
In June 2012 the then Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Senator the Hon Kate Lundy, announced the appointment of Ms Jane Treadwell as CEO for the Centre for Excellence in Public Sector Design.
On 2 July 2012 Ms Treadwell commenced her work as CEO and the Centre officially commenced operations.
Further detail about the work and experience of DesignGov since then can be found on DesignGov’s blog.