I recently had the pleasure of facilitating the MAV Hacktivation conference on innovation in local government in Melbourne.

Interestingly, half the participants had ‘innovation’ or ‘improvement’ in their job titles, so this was a real showcase of innovation in Victorian local government.

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Incidentally, we really had fun pushing the boundaries of ‘conference’, with lots of interactivity where participants worked together and shared their own knowledge, rather than only hearing from experts. I think we proved that works. We also made a process for participants to design their own prototypes during the conference. We proved that can work too!

Here are my top take-aways.

Best quote: “Why do we insist on punishing our customers with our inner chaos.”

1) Thomas Frey, compulsory international Futurist

Thomas tried to thrill us with a future of ‘driverless cars’, ‘teacherless schools’ and ‘builderless houses’, but, frankly, he just scared me. Dear Thomas: if democracy teeters when 20% of the population have no productive work, what happens when that figure is 30% or 40%?? This is the ‘unmanning’ (sexist term) of the economy. It made me realise that only a truck-load of governance, structural and social innovation, based on values, can save us from technology.

2) The City of Casey: Caz McLean, Chris O’Connor

The City of Casey, a big, rapidly growing peripheral council in Melbourne, has a Customer Focus and Redesign Division. To change culture, they started with the physical space. They created a ‘flexible workplace’ with no fixed desks and lots of tech. People work wherever they need to, with whom they need to. A recent discrete innovation was HR recruitment: they replaced complex forms with just ‘200 words on why you want to work with us’.

3) City of Ballarat: Martijn Schroder, Business Transformation Manager

“We will pay dearly for continuing mediocrity in service delivery.”

His advice: “Publish data well.” Council has innumerable data sets so use them for decisions, not gut feel. Data ‘slays myths’ and ‘creates conflict’ which leads to improvements.

He talks about: Value Demand (effort spent on providing services) versus Failure Demand (effort spent dealing with service failures). For example, missed bin collections waste everyone’s time – council admin, drivers and customers.

Martijn is currently creating an Innovation Lab to allow the City to work with business and academia.

4) Sunshine Coast Council, Ann Yardley

Ann leads the regular Hackfest with a $20,000 prize. The idea is: make available lots of council and open source data sets about the local community; then invite a lot of clever local IT folk to mix-n-match it into useful community apps in an focused 2 day event. They make some cool apps!

Open data is a good way to improve council’s data integrity “we expose it and they tell us what’s wrong with it.”

5) Lake Macquarie Council, Sharon Pope

This is a council that was happy to receive cheques and had no credit card payments! So it clearly needed a digital strategy, so Sharon brought together community IT professionals and council staff and ‘mashed them together’. A Hackathon (workshop) with Danish Smart City thought leader and local ‘tech heroes’ got the ball rolling and started educating council staff.

“Don’t worry what people will use the data for. Don’t second guess what purposes they will imagine and create. The Hackathon demonstrated to council staff that they just needed to get all the clean data out there!”

6) Adelaide City Council, Paul Daley, Advisor, Entrepreneurship and Innovation

“A ‘smart city’ uses lots of data and tech, but, critically, it designs a public realm which is great to experience, with active, creative public spaces.”

A nice risk-management tip: For ‘Splash Adelaide’, a community festival, council let anyone set up anything, with just one proviso: ‘they take it down in 24 hours if there’s a problem’.

3 tips be an innovator in local government:

– start under the radar;

– work to win the personal trust and credibility of executives

– market success back to the organisation.

Recently opened: the Adelaide Smart City Studio, a prominent space for events, workshops and showcasing. Every surface has a whiteboard. It’s much used by smart IT and creative companies.

7) Service Design Melb, Yoko Akama and teamIMG_4722.jpg

Demonstrated personas and empathy mapping, and offered a couple of neat brainstorming variants, which worked:

– The 6-8-5 rule. Each person comes up with 6-8 ideas in 5 minutes (puts the pressure on so people don’t worry whether their idea is ‘right’).

– Brainstorming in pairs (resulted in better-fleshed ideas)

– ‘What if’ cards, that overturned common assumptions. For example: “What if there’s no money?” “What if there’s no public open space?”

I can’t remember who said this “You don’t need personas if you have people.” That’s good.

8) Carlton Connection Initiative, Jacyl Shaw, University of Melbourne

CCI is a physical space in an old hospital building that’s roughly fitted out for workshops, talks and creative spaces.

She believes innovation depends on physical spaces (not virtual ones). CCI is amazingly dynamic, with a fantastic diversity of people and stimulation passing through each week. Modelled on Renaissance Florence: a physical space that brings together competition, collaboration, proximity and funding. It enables innovators to “Never walk alone.”

9) Brimbank City Council, Justine Resta and Angela Robertson

BCC has a ‘Business Transformation Unit. The aim: transform all council services and customer interactions into single online shop. It was a huge effort, for example it needed ALL council data aggregated into single Spectrum platform. They brought in a user experience (UX) design agency, did lots of journey maps, did lots of public consultations.

The key to the change was an IT Governance Group involving the CEO and 2 directors. They “cleared barriers and made quick decisions”, plus 4 internal staff full-time.

The CEO said “You have permission to fail. Don’t spend you time planning. Just do it.”

“Models don’t change culture, action does.”

“There was lots of conflict and push back, but we needed people to question things so we could get it right for them.”

They used IDEO’s superb www.designkit.org and then made up their own processes.

10) Yarra Ranges Council, Joelle McKay, Innovation Lead IMG_4683.jpg

Joelle is certified for “Lego Serious Play” and done lots of it with council staff. An example with Lego Serious Play: staff are told “If your job was a tower, build it.” They then explain their models, which reveals insights into directions for improvement.

She is about to lead a whole-of-council 3-day Hack(!) using Lego Serious Play and other tools to get staff working in groups to develop new solutions and ideas. Day 3 will be a “market place” where staff pitch their ideas to each other.

 

 

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