The Explore Design 2017 wrap up


By the Explore design 2017 team

The Explore Design 2017 conference, hosted by the Department of Employment, was held on Wednesday 7 June at Hotel Realm in Canberra. The daylong conference event focused on how the public sector can use design thinking for developing and improving government policy and programmes.

As the government works with complex and policy problems, increased demand for better and more instantaneous services and faces a rapidly changing environment, new techniques to deal with these challenges are required. Design ensures we are considering the broader system and environment, allows us to properly interrogate the problem and issues at hand, encourages us to really know the people we are creating policies for and provides an avenue to de-risk final solutions by testing and prototyping with our users.

Explore Design featured over 280 representatives from private sector, commonwealth, state and local government, academia and not-for-profit organisations spanning five countries coming together to discuss complex policy challenges and ways of working across agencies and sectors to achieve better outcomes for our community. Participants had the opportunity to hear from inspiring and thought-provoking speakers, learnt practical skills of design and the day ended with a huge collaborative session to develop ideas for agencies to collaborate on post-event.

Speakers included Dominic Campbell, from FutureGov, who talked to us about the intersection of policy, practice, and technology. Nicholas Gruen, from Lateral Economics, spoke to us about design moving from fad to foundation, from infancy to maturity, and from services to policy. Mikaela Jade, from Indigital, and Tracy Whybrow, from Second Road, presented us with captivating case studies about employing design thinking in an indigenous and digital context and designing radical new innovations in child protection, respectively.

We heard from panel discussions facilitated by Portable and Collabforge, about getting started with design thinking for service design and the role of design thinking in policy making. Panel members included Stefanie di Russo (Deloitte Australia), David Hazlehurst (A/g Deputy Secretary, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science), Munib Karavdic (UNSW Business School), Anne-Marie Ellias (University of Technology Sydney/Techfugees), Martin-Stewart Weeks (Public Purpose), Subho Banerjee, Deputy Secretary, Department of Education), Beth Hyland (Studio Thick) and Peter Overy (Agency).

The day ended on a collaborative note with six concurrent workshops facilitated by Peer Academy, ATO/Meld Studios, Spring Board Ideas/Auckland Council/Small Fire, School of Design Thinking, TACSI/Policy Lab and the Queensland University of Technology and a huge collaborative project sprint, run by Portable and Collabforge, which brought the entire conference back together to develop projects to take forward following the event.

“'Thanks so very much for a wonderful day! It was fun, exciting, interesting, inspiring and absolutely great. I’ve told my team (and anyone else I come across today) how much I got out of the day and that I’m keen for all of us to attend next year—some department is bound to step up to the plate! You’ve all done an amazing job, from start to finish.” -  Margaret Clarke, Department of Social Services.

It was such a rich and rewarding experience for us, and all the better to have been able to contribute to the day. Certainly I know I speak for my colleagues as well when I say it was such an inspiring event, seeing such passion for the 'design doing' in designing better policy, better government and public services. Congratulations on keeping this movement going and growing!” Margaret Petty, QUT.

We look forward to collaborating across agencies and sectors on the range of collaborative projects from the day, and through the APS Innovation Month.  We encourage other Departments to host the event in 2018, which both ourselves and the Australian Tax Office would be happy to support and help with.  If you are interested in hosting the event next year, please contact Misha Kaur on 02 6240 2560 or via email Misha.Kaur [at]

Add new comment