Joining up with WA’s most innovative minds

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to the WA Innovation Summit hosted by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO). The aim of the summit in my words was to get a collection of innovative minds from across WA in the room to generate ideas which would contribute to the Innovation Strategy which is currently being developed and also identify some key themes for spending the WA Innovation budget ($20million) over the next 5 years.

The event was very well run given the very short period of time the OGCIO had to organise the event from start to finish (about a month) and it was a great opportunity for me to hear more about how some organisations are innovating and indeed where they are innovating. There were great case studies from WA businesses operating both in WA and in parts of Asia (mainly Indonesia and Singapore) and some great lessons imparted from their experience in starting their companies. However, it would have been great to hear from speakers covering a broader scope of ‘innovation’.

Although it may have been a given for 90% of those in the room, the question of ‘What is innovation?’ at least in the eyes of the WA Government and thus what is within the purview of the proposed strategy was not addressed during the summit. Based on the presentations during the day, it seems the OGCIO’s definition of ‘innovation’ is focused on tech, i.e apps, websites, technological advances, new gadgets and gizmos. This is not a view I necessarily share.

Not for profit organisations in WA and indeed across Australia are generating and delivering amazing socially innovative projects everyday with the aim of improving social and human outcomes and the added benefit of saving tax payer dollars in many cases. Take NACC’s highly regarded NRM Capacity Building for Prison Inmates Project which gives low-risk inmates an opportunity to work on country – achieving NRM outcomes for the region – and get a qualification that will be beneficial to them on their release from prison. At present the rate of recidivism for low-risk inmates is extremely high and this costs the state Government considerable budget, however if just a portion of those funds were available to employ Indigenous rangers on-country the cycle of re-offending could be broken. We would have the potential to alleviate pressure on our prison systems, not to mention achieving some great social outcomes for families who are impacted by someone being regularly in and out of jail. Now granted if the question of ‘what is innovation?’ had been asked, the answer from delegates may still have been that innovation is about tech, but at least we would have all been on the same page.

The summit would also have been a great opportunity to celebrate the potential associated with diversity in WA. With a limited guest list (originally 200 expanded to 250 because of the level of interest) it was always going to be difficult to hear every voice, but I personally would be very interested to know how many other not-for-profit organisations were in the room last week and how many regional WA organisations attended. It would have been great to hear from the NFP sector on their innovations and indeed from regional organisations and what they have learned in through their processes of innovation. Every presenter and case study came from the business sector. I am not suggesting for one second that these presentations were not insightful or interesting, particularly for me coming from a NFP background, but there was very little diversity to help stimulate delegates thinking when it came time for the roundtable discussions.

Which brings me to my final point, the round table discussions worked very well. Facilitators for each table were able to keep conversations on track; making everyone move tables was also great and increased the opportunity meet new people. There were some issues with GroupMap which was used to collate all of the ideas and strategies which were suggested on each table, however this innovation was certainly more environmentally friendly than the masses of bottled water which was shipped in for the day. I think GroupMap certainly has huge potential and certainly would be more efficient for those who are now tasked with developing the Innovation strategy for WA.

It is only fair to say that I did enjoy the event and the information presented, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend. Maybe a solution to some of the issues I’ve raised could be a roadshow of mini ‘innovation’ workshops across WA so that the true colours of our diversity across WA are able to be captured and reflected in the Innovation Strategy, which surely will be a valuable resource for government, NFPs, business and investors as we grow WA together through innovation.

For the presentations from the day and the live stream recording please go to

Katherine Allen

Program Development & Innovation Manager

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Hi Katherine,
Good to hear your feedback and I share your concern. Innovation should be across the board and not just technology focused. NGOs are doing some amazing things and I would love to hear more about what’s happening in this space.

Hi Priscilla,
Thanks so much for your comment. I would be more than happy to forward on to you any information I have about innovation in the NGO/NFP space. If you’d like to contact me directly via email I can keep you in my loop. You can also follow me on twitter where I share lots of innovation stories as I find them @kat143_au

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