Australia Innovation Month: Engaging, Informing and Equipping Public Servants

[Originally published by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) under a Creative Commons Attribution – ShareAlike 3.0 IGO (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO).]

If you are trying to raise awareness of innovation – both the need for it, and ways of doing it – and trying to help public servants learn about the process of innovation, how might you proceed?

In Australia, we established ‘Innovation Month’ – a month long series of events and activities about innovation targeted at public servants and interested stakeholders and partners. In 2015, Innovation Month had the theme of ‘Dream, Dare, Do’ and over 70 events around the country with over 6000 participants.

The aims of Innovation Month are threefold:

  • To help raise awareness and to build engagement with the innovation process,
  • To help share some of the innovative things that are being done, as well as things being done to support innovation,
  • The help agencies within the Australian Public Service (APS) come to grips with what innovation means for them.

In 2015, there was a wide variety of events so that we could cater to public servants and others with different levels of interest and different levels of understanding of innovation. Some of the events or activities included:

Innovation Month is very different than a conference, in that it is run collectively by participating agencies and individuals. While it is coordinated by the Public Sector Innovation team at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, it relies heavily on colleagues in other agencies and the involvement and support of a number of partners.

Innovation Month also serves as a nice way of helping us get a better feel for the issues being faced, and the opportunities for the system as a whole. For instance, Innovation Month 2015 helped us see that:

  • There is a lot of focus in the innovation discussion around efficiency and productivity, but less exploration of the more transformative side
  • There is still a perceived gap by many staff about what is said by leadership when it comes to innovation, and what it’s actually like on the ground – the explicit permission for innovation doesn’t yet feel real
  • There’s still a hesitance for many in sharing and being open about what’s being done
  • We’re starting to see real changes in the working environments for public servants, but the opportunities to do things differently aren’t always well-matched with existing processes and practices

Overall, we have found Innovation Month can be a great platform to help public servants think about innovation, what it means for them and for their agencies, and how they can do things differently in their jobs.

Innovation Month originated from one agency holding an inaugural ‘Innovation Week’ in 2011. This, in turn, was inspired by an innovation festival that had been run by the Victorian Public Service in 2010. Innovation Week went APS-wide in 2012, and then grew to be Innovation Month in 2013. We are happy to share more details about organising and running innovation events, so that Innovation Month might help inspire something in other countries. If you would be interested in learning more, please get in touch.

You can watch a video about the 2015 Australian Public Service Innovations, here.