Centre for Excellence – Charter and Governance

[Ken Pettifer is acting Deputy Secretary at the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education]

In January, I updated you about the Secretaries Board commitment to establish the Centre for Excellence in Public Sector Design. Since then we have been busy with the various processes and procedural matters to get the Centre underway.

I can now provide advice about what has been happening in the establishment phase. At the May Secretaries Board meeting, our Secretary Dr Don Russell gained endorsement from his colleagues for the membership of the Board that will oversee the pilot Centre.

The members of the Board for the Centre are:

  • Chair – Greg Smith, Adjunct Professor, Economic and Social Policy, Australian Catholic University (Canberra), Director for the Centre for Policy Development and member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission
  • Michael D’Ascenzo AO, Commissioner of Taxation, Australian Taxation Office
  • Jane Halton PSM, Secretary, Department of Health and Ageing
  • Lisa Paul AO PSM, Secretary, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
  • Dr Don Russell, Secretary, Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
  • Chris Lonchampt, private sector design and innovation thinker
  • The CEO of the Centre

At its meeting, the Secretaries Board endorsed the Charter for the Centre [Word 83KB][PDF 40KB] which sets out the purpose and objectives of the Centre that will guide its operations.

The Charter has been developed based on numerous consultations and discussions and builds on the extensive preparatory work that has been done by my staff. Given the pilot nature of the Centre, we see the Charter as a suitable framework for the work of the Centre.

I know that many of you are also interested to know the outcome of the process for engaging a CEO for the Centre. I am not in a position to announce the result of the selection process as yet.  However, we do expect to announce the CEO shortly and expect the Centre will commence operations in June.

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Centre for Excellence – Charter and Governance | DesignGov
April 5, 2013 at 1:11 pm


  1. We are currently developing an Innovation Culture at Dept Finance & Services and I am interested to know what is the current update/progress with the Design Centre?

    • Fiona – you can find all of the information about DesignGov (the operating name of the Australian Centre for Excellence in Public Sector Design) on its website and its blog posts. Alex

      • Thank you Alex. After posting the comment I found the GovDesign website. What is the latest progress on the APSII?

  2. Dear Ken

    I wish you and your colleagues success in this venture, in my personal experience I’ve also found that Business Analytics could play a role within Government when combined with social media and personal data on skills and experience it may be worthwhile having solutions that can help APS to ingest policy challenges and be able to search for and find sources of research and industry excellence and also experts that the APS can contact quickly or engage with more proactively when making public consultation, as I see one of the biggest challenges is how to consult beyond the usual suspects and with that wider consultation, how to filter and search for the responses in ways that make policy conclusions and decisions easier.

  3. Thank you for posting progress of the APS Design-Centre Mr Ken Pettifer,
    Many of my colleagues have been eyeing with keen interest the nature and projection of the Design-Centre, as well as its suitable position for cross-agency collaboration. I’d like to state with other readers three important points which I believe can enable Design-Centre concepts within each of our respective APS workplaces:

    1. Internal innovation efforts are possible in each department for more effective, efficient and desirable service delivery outcomes. Whilst the scale may not be as impressive as an organisationally wide issue, small results can breed larger results. All efforts are valuable for insight into the innovation process, exposure to new forms of problem solving methods and gaining experience in forming self motivated and responsive groups.

    2. Critical and systems thinking needs to be used, as well as design thinking. There is a tendency by designers to jump into the creative cycle ...

    ... without establishing the context for the needs we aim to address. This being: a) suitable framing of problems, b) engagement of key stakeholders as influencers or recipients, c) contextual understanding of key operational concepts, d) careful examination of boundaries, and e) determination of agreeable outcomes. Without these, we risk the dilemma of ‘solutions looking for problems’. Design Thinking mixed with Business Analysis can yield great results.

    3. Identification of desirable thinkers within our APS can allow collaboration of efforts between agencies. Canberra is an idyllic location that allows physical collectives of practitioners and academic support. Where else can you be to have a critical mass of disciplines, programs and experience within 10 kilometres of each other? We as practitioners need to amend our cultural lens and habits by ‘reaching out’ from within our departments and connect / make time-space with / for one another – then even greater things are possible.

    4. New age of mass internal capability development for APS where officers have access, practice and support of convergent and divergent thinking methods. In our department we are initiating a new training model that incorporates ongoing tutorials between expert practitioner and staff member. Our staff members will learn by doing not by being lectured. I personally want to see a shift from mentoring into active coaching. Perhaps the APS Design-Centre can play a role by encouraging innovation through teaching it?

    Again, thank you for the update and I too reach out to my fellow APS officer to think about how we can support one another in developing skills that will allow public sector innovation to flourish in each of our ‘ponds’.

    Nathaniel Maras

  4. That’s good Ken,
    Things seem to moving along nicely. I must admit I was suprised Chris Cheah isn’t on the list, especially as a lot of the new ‘public’ design is based around how media and the NBN are pushing the change from representative government to participatory government. http://acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_1512
    And the ACMA has done a lot of good work in this area. E.g. http://engage.acma.gov.au/broken-concepts/
    Just one other suggestion. Would you consider having a “sponsor”? The aim is to give the centre a high profile ASAP. I’m sure people like Kate Lundy and Malcolm Turnbull would be delighted to help in making the centre a focus for the things they both try to encourage.

    • The main aim of the Centre is to prove the value of a cross-agency design approach to responding to isssues. And, at this stage a key audience is the Secretaries Board. I am confident that the CEO and the Board are well positioned to raise the profile of the Centre, and also to judge what connections will add to its effectiveness.

      • Hmm, Dunno Alex.

        I was reading “But the most subtle and pernicious barriers to innovation may be the seemingly positive myths about what has made your organization successful”. http://innovation.govspace.gov.au/2012/05/21/weekly-bits-of-interest-21-may-2012/

        I’d never accuse a government department of being good at “raising a profile”, especially in Australia. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine a Secretaries Board in England sponsoring this kind of Center of Excellence. That’s quite an Innovation in the Westminster system. Nice to see our unelected reps being a bit more inventve than out elected ones.

        But the offer’s still there, if the audience grows to include other “key audiences” ,, like Australian citizens.