Why have Public Sector Innovation
The public sector lives in interesting times. On one hand there are pressures to reduce government spending, whilst on the other the development of web 2.0 technologies leads to increased interaction and faster service with large organisations, leading to increased service expectations. The government must match the public’s expectations while addressing budget pressures and maintaining quality. To do this the public sector must become open to process changes and new ideas. In order to address increased demands the public sector must be open to innovation.
What is Public Sector Innovation?
Public Sector Innovation, like innovation at large, is the generation and application of new ideas. It is the testing and application of these ideas that can help you do your job better and improve the operation of the Australian Public Service (APS).
There are several aspects of an innovation culture and the development of new ideas that fit uncomfortably with the traditions of the public sector. Innovation encourages connectedness and collaboration, it is anti-hierarchical, and requires a tolerance for experimentation and a willingness to risk failure. The public service has traditionally been more about certainty and risk aversion, multiple levels of checks and balances, and the control of information.
While these attributes are necessary to a degree to ensure the public service meets its fiscal, security and service delivery obligations, the APS must further embrace innovation to address the challenges it faces.
This need for a more innovative culture in the APS is recognised at a leadership level with the Secretaries Board-approved APS Innovation Action Plan, an overarching mandate for, and encouragement of, innovation within the public sector.
The APS Innovation Action Plan
The APS Innovation Action Plan was signed by the Secretaries Board in June 2011. The Plan provides a framework and leadership mandate directing Departments and Agencies to undertake actions to embrace innovation.
The Action Plan consists of four main action areas:
- Developing an innovation consciousness within the APS. Building awareness of the tools and possibilities of innovation in the APS.
- Building innovation capacity. Building the capability of the APS to undertake innovation. Increased learning and new skill development
- Leveraging the power of co-creation. The most prominent challenges facing the APS are not specific to one agency and the sharing of information and problem helps find solutions. The action plan seeks to remove silos through cross-agency collaboration
- Strengthening leadership so there is the courage to innovate at all levels. The plan gives direction to APS leadership to embrace innovation. The Secretaries Board receives annual updates on the implementation of the plan.
The Public Sector Innovation Network
The PSIN is outlined in the consciousness deliverable of the action plan, but plays a role in assisting the capacity, co-creation and through the distribution of knowledge, the courage deliverables of the Action Plan.
The PSIN is a network of interested parties in public sector innovation, and includes public servants, academics, and thought leaders. It consists of multiple channels to distribute information on public sector innovation, offering the opportunities for interested parties to share, collaborate and learn from their experiences.
In doing so the PSIN provides a community of peers who can assist each other in creating, applying and sharing innovative ideas. This in turn helps overcome organisational boundaries and assist in developing an innovation culture in the public service.
The network consists of the Innovation Toolkit website, a weekly newsletter ColIDEAscope, a twitter account @PSInnovate, a GovDex group, and events and activities such as Innovation Month.
What the Public Sector Innovation Network can do for you
The PSIN provides numerous services to assist you in innovation.
The Public Sector Innovation website consists of a toolkit, a blog, a calendar of events and a showcase of innovative government initiatives. If you’re seeking to develop a practical understanding of what’s involved in innovation, then the toolkit should be your first stop.
The toolkit has been developed to give you practical advice and guidance on how to foster innovation within your agency. If you are unsure which tools might be useful for you, you can take the Innovation Diagnostic to get a snapshot on which phase of the innovation cycle your agency might need to focus on.
The blog provides summaries of recent events, updates on developments in public sector innovation in the APS, and the weekly bits of interest, a short list in interesting developments in innovation and public sector management.
The calendar provides quick links to events related to public sector innovation issues; such a crowd funding, big data, open government, and participative democracy. It also includes routine professional development opportunities, encompassing the view the innovation is about improving job performance.
The Public Innovation Sector's weekly newsletter, colIDEAscope distributes news, and developments in innovation and public sector innovation. It frequently also distributes the latest blogs and 'Weekly bits of interest' from the Innovation website. If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter you can do so here.
The PSIN will be hosting events throughout 2014. It also supports events hosted by other PSIN members, and will promote them across the network.
Innovation Month is the major program of events for the PSIN and offers the APS the opportunity to focus on the challenges of implementing an innovation culture within the APS. It also offers departments and agencies the opportunity to showcase their achievements in innovation.
Innovation month in 2014 will run from 7 July to 1 August on the theme of ‘Empower, Collaborate, Transform’, reflecting the dynamic environment the APS faces in serving the public. If you'd like to run an event for Innovation Month, or at any time, %20psi [at] industry.gov.au (contact us). For members of the network with limited event experience we have also developed a beginner’s guide to event management.
A two-way street
The newsletter, calendar, blog and Innovation Month are all developed with your contribution. If there's a story you'd like to run, an issue you'd like to highlight, a case study you’d like to share, or an event you'd like to promote, contact us and we can discuss your needs. The more information on the network, the more valuable it becomes; we are always seeking contributions to the PSIN channels.
How it all works
The APS Innovation Action Plan provides no directive on how the PSIN should be co-ordinated; it only stipulates that it should be open to the public and private sector and available to public servants from all levels of government (federal, state/territory and local).
We’ve developed a tiered approach to co-ordinating the PSIN to ensure an active collaborative environment with a strategic direction.
The PSI Network currently consists of over 1200 members; this is the subscription list for the PSIN colIDEAscope newsletter. The network is open for members inside and outside the public service and free to join. By subscribing to the newsletter you get weekly updates on its posts and other news. You can subscribe to the newsletter online. We also encourage you to follow us on twitter.
PSI Co-ordination group
The PSIN co-ordination group meets on a monthly basis to discuss developments in public sector innovation, provide updates on their department or agency innovation initiatives, and to plan innovation events (particularly Innovation Month). The group consists of public servants with a direct role or strong interest in innovation. Group members receive updates on PSI planning, notes and invites to the Co-ordination group meetings, and discuss issues on the group email list and GovDex.
Those with the authorisation to do so and who agree to the group’s Terms of Reference are also listed as a contact for their agency on the PSI network page of the Innovation website. These members distribute information on the PSI and (where possible) collect information on innovation initiatives for the PSI's annual report to the Secretaries Board.
If you wish to discuss joining this group please psi [at] industry.gov.au (contact us). The group is currently wholly Canberra-based. If you are outside Canberra in a federal, state, or local government role and you’re interested in public sector innovation, we are looking to develop other PSIN chapters. Please let us know if you are interested in being a part of this initiative.
The PSIN Secretariat is run by the Innovation Systems Policy team in the Department of Industry. The secretariat maintains and publishes the website, newsletter, twitter account and GovDex group. It develops the annual report to the Secretaries Board on the implementation of the APS Innovation Action Plan and co-ordinates the PSIN co-ordination group.
What the future holds
We are currently planning ahead for Innovation Month and the rest of the year with a program of events. The objective of the Public Sector Innovation Network is to build through contribution. The PSIN is what you put into it. As the objective of the APS Innovation Action Plan is to develop a more innovative APS, it befalls every public servant to develop themselves as being open and ready to test new ideas. Your contribution to the network aids its development into a vital community. The sum of our knowledge and skills shared across the public service enhances our program and policy effectiveness, develops a more innovative public sector, and enhances the ability of the public service to deliver on the policies of the Australian Government.