The clock is ticking, the old world and old structures are broken and we know it, more and more people are writing about it and talking about it and I believe we are closer to the big shift – to what Gerd Leonhard labelled the shift from egosystem to ecosystem thinking.

The old paradigms are being exposed beautifully and quickly, thanks to social media we no longer have to wait for our thoughts or ideas to be accepted by the status quo and an editor before they are published – no in the new era we self publish and our thoughts become conversations that inspire others to do the same, we share our blogs with our ecosystem and they become as well read as a published article, sometimes they even get picked up by the publishers. Either way this is a great time to be bold and go where you never thought you could before, because lots of people care about what is happening in the world around them and they are engaged, not in the mainstream, but on the fringes, in their ecosystems.

Government needs disrupting

In 2014-15 the Australian Public Service procurement budget blew out to more than $59billion, this signals a very clear message about the public service not only outsourcing risk, but de-skilling its people. Therein lies the problem of a bruised and battered intrapeneur class in the public sector, those who have the ideas and capacity to solve problems but are limited and suffocated by a self-serving process.

In February 2016, the Treasurer spoke to the National Press Club on how government needs to live within its means,

“So, we have to learn to do more with less. We have to learn to spend better, not more. These are the tasks not just for the federal Budget, but for state budgets as well. You were told to reduce that cost estimate by innovation, by change, by doing things differently, by working the problem – asking for a bucket of money from the taxpayer should not be an option for any government in this country”.

The Treasurer is right but is anyone listening out there?

Michael West recently blogged about corporate bludgers, he boldly called out politicians and government agencies for their hypocrisy of criticizing welfare recipients when the big four accounting firms in receipt of $2.6 billion in fees from the federal government in the last decade. I suggested Michael look beyond the big four and also expand his horizons to state government expenditure on consultants. The figures will be beyond staggering, they will paint a picture of corporate welfare in epic proportions. Something has to shift because we cannot keep trying to feed an insatiable beast like public budgets. We absolutely have to get creative about how we solve complex problems because it is more than money at stake, its people’s lives who are impacted by costly, poorly designed, and executed systems.

Meanwhile in October 2016 Assistant Minister Angus Taylor talked about bringing in the “top tier” consultants to facilitate change- this is not new. I think that it is very short sighted and will be more costly and cumbersome than effective – just more of the same.  This is also using the very people who are part of the problem – the big consultants have been running change programs for government for decades and they haven’t worked.

The outsourcing agenda shows a total lack of thought of the future of work and the reality that by 2020 five million jobs will be lost in Australia.

I am heartened by the recent appointment of Ed Husic as shadow minister forEmployment services, Workforce Participation, the Digital Economy and the Future of Work. This is the right forward thinking that will pivot the way we consider, design and deliver public policy in the future.

Minister for Social Services Christian Porter is on the money too, recognising the systemic failure to improve employment outcomes, he launched an investment approach to welfare using data to measure impact of services and programs and an ideas fund. The Try Test and Lean Fund is open to all sectors to solve problems in entrenched and generational welfare dependency.

Change makers are Disrupting government

What has dawned on me is that it’s not just business that is being disrupted. We are now seeing NGOs and government disrupted too, which is a good thing for the millions of people that interact with them. The new paradigm is founded in collaboration, the old relies on separation, while the new systems are user centred, the old are service centred.

I’m excited to see emerging startups focusing on areas that were normally only the domain of government and its funded services. These new entities are disrupting the funded services model by creating businesses that speak to consumers, they are designed with and for service users and often are founded by people with a shared or lived experience. This is the future of service delivery that I believe will force government and NGOs to recalibrate resources to programs that work.

Disruption from outside government

There are a number of startups disrupting social services right now, they have flipped the model of service centred to user centred, empowering users to make choices outside the government funded service system.

Hire Up a platform that allows people with disabilities to find, connect with and manage their support workers. Founder Jordan O’Reilly is one of the most inspiring young people I know, keep an eye on this entrepreneur who is going places fast because of his acumen and pure heart. Jordan also co-founded Fighting Chance with his sister Laura which is an incredible social enterprise supporting people with disabilities.

Better Goals is in very early stages of crowdfunding and is an app that aims to help people with disabilities track their budgets, appointments and social inclusion.  Founder Tymon has worked in that system and instinctively knows what service users need to be more independent. .

Enabled Employment is an inclusive employment service, it places talented people with disabilities, mental health, veterans and over 50s in skilled, well paid jobs.

Refugee Talent came out of inaugural hackathon in Liverpool of TechFugees Australia – the tech community response to refugee settlement. It solved a problem for new refugee Nirary who was skilled but didn’t have the networks or opportunities to meet potential employers so he and Anna built a platform to connect skilled and talented refugees and backed that up with speed dating eventswhere people could meet face to face.

SettleIn was the winner of TechFugees Australia and the team led by Alice is helping refugees set goals and track them in collaboration with their friends, caseworkes, counsellors and doctors.

My personal favourite, because it is coming from the service users empowering themselves is Facebook group created by public housing tenants awaiting for transfers  Housing Commission House Swap Sydney

In an ideal world I believe a lot of these should have come from government – they have the data and the resources – but as my reluctant mentor and Goddess of women in tech Nicole Williamson says it is better these things come from outside government. She is right of course, if government wee to do it – it would take longer, cost more, involve the use of old world procurement and probably not hit the mark.

Disruption within Government

Paul Shetler’s crack team at the Digital Transformation Office whose purpose is to build the capacity of government to be more lean and agile and deliver better user centred services, the newly formed Digital Transformation Agency retains Shetler as the CDO which is a smart move given he has the vision and experience to keep going with the necessary exemplars and trials. Shetler’s worrk is recognised globally, frankly we are lucky to have him and the team he has assembled to transform government services.

Last year entrepreneur, startup mentor and innovator Claudia Barriga-Larriviere invited me to speak to a crew at the ABC about innovation and government, Claudia has been taking the ABC through a startup process and journey to help them innovate and transform from old world to new world thinking – the visionary is CIO Ken Gallacher who had the courage to bring this concept to his team – now that’s major innovation and it continues.

Disruption needed for transformation

Disruption is needed for change and transformation, to keep trying to reapply old systems and teams to solve a problem is frankly insane. By all means have them involved but the key is bringing in new people to encourage fresh thinking and perspectives.

I believe, old world structures are taking their last breath things are happening faster and we have less time to wait we simply have to mobilise efforts and get cracking because we cannot afford to keep blowing money on the old way – it hasn’t worked, its costing more and creating more misery, so lets just move on and embrace the opportunities and come together to lead the disruption on government – government is outsourcing everything anyway. – so why wouldn’t a clever Fintech founder turn their attention to how blockchain might resolve better payment systems so that services and customers get paid on time, or why wouldn’t some great tech NFPs like WorkVentures take a slice of the $1.8b job network provider funding to provide meaningful training and experience that leads to jobs? Or why wouldn’t the likes of Catylisr and TechFugees inspire more migrants and refugees to get involved in tech and startup ?

Thing is these folks and others are doing it anyway – they just don’t know or understand how government funding works – they are just getting on with it.

In the new world – intrapreneurs will converge and collaborate outside government and build services that will replace government as we know it.

It’s the only way we can effect meaningful and substantial change, corporate disruptor Phillip Smith reminded me that Peter Drucker in Managing the next society 2002 made the point that most governments are desperately in need of innovation but that this goes largely unrecognised or acted upon. When action is taken it is often too little, too late resulting in much activity, creating the illusion of progress without effecting any substantial change.

This resonates so strongly, I fear that Government has become little more than an administrative tool , a process driven monolith and a very cumbersome and expensive one at that – it slows things down, misses opportunities and wastes time and money investigating. and researching that evidence base – frankly by the time we get there something else has come and superseded it.

Opportunities ahead

I’m waiting for someone from fintech to work out there’s a product for them to build for government to completely transform the way budgets are designed and measured.

Dubai has a strategy to move all government documents on block chain by 2020, meanwhile its great to see in Australia Treasury and the CSIRO are researchingits potential application across government and the ASX’s successful trial of a blockchain prototype to replace the platform for trading will be scaled.

While the NSW Government sells its land and titles office – Sweden uses blockchain to manage contracts and titles; while Western Sydney Commission talks about smart cities China is building them using blockchain technology.

Maybe the solutions have to come from outside government.

It is good to see some new initiatives seeking the answers outside the usual suspects, Minister for Innovation Greg Hunt announced a $23 million Incubator Support Initiative distributing grants of up to $500,000 for the creation of new incubators in regions or business sectors and to boost the effectiveness of high performing existing incubators. Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter announced a $90 million Try Test and Learn Fund to develop and seek innovative responses to long term unemployment and social disadvantage from government, NFP and the NGO sectors. Jobs NSW announced grants for and support for incubators and accelerators through its Minimum Viable Product Grants and Building Partnership Grants.

These initiatives are creating the settings to generate some new and exciting opportunities for the entrepreneurial ecosystem to have an impact on improving social outcomes and the lives of people who have been failed by the system.

Intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs – what are you waiting for ?

Anne-Marie Elias is a speaker and consultant in collaboration, innovation, change and disruption. She is an honorary Associate of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance, UTS.

Anne-Marie is on the Board of VibeWire; Western Sydney Women; the Australian Open Knowledge Foundation; Autism Advisory Board, and the Settlement Services International Foundation.

Follow Anne-Marie’s  journey of disruption and innovation on Twitter@ChiefDisrupter or visit and

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