Future Leaders Series Hackathon | What could or should the APS look like a year from now?


On 28 July 2020, IPAA ACT hosted a virtual hackathon as part of its Future Leaders Series, where alumni from across IPAA ACT’s Future Leaders Program came together, and in one hour, hacked out solutions to the topical question of “what could, or should, the Australian Public Service look like one year from now?”

Katherine Jones PSM, Associate Secretary at the Department of Defence, delivered a short keynote and Q&A to kick things off.  Katherine highlighted the importance of individuals driving change within their organisations where they have recognised a better way of doing things. Katherine also riffed on the theme of change as an endless process, from above and below, as an important tool for continuous improvement within departments and across the public service.

Unsurprisingly, the impact of COVID-19 on the way we work was a prominent theme throughout the Q&A component. In particular, Katherine drew out the renewed sense of mission this has generated across the public service, and the acknowledgement that problems are complex and can’t be solved by single agencies – we must share and work together, in real time, using flexible working arrangements to serve the Australian people. Katherine noted an enduring outcome of 2020 will be debunking the myth that flexible working leads to drops in productivity, and decreased collaboration, teamwork and mentoring – none of which has happened, in her experience. The challenge now is to mature our cultural and organisational thinking to take into account this fundamental shift.

Following the Q&A, participants split into five groups spread across three themes:

  • Interdepartmental governance to enable greater collaboration
  • Flexible working in a digital world, and
  • Maintaining momentum with surge capacity to support greater mobility

The Hackathon groups were facilitated by Future Leader Committee members - Holly Noble, Mikaela Giri, Rachel Martin, Amy Burgess, Deanne Allan, Rebecca-Lee McDougall, Michael Sanese, Avinash Vazirani, Kat Terris and Megan Aponte-Payne. Each group hacked their theme with enthusiasm and aplomb, before coming back together where Matt McMahon, SES sponsor of the Future Leaders Committee, summed up the event.

Key takeaways were:

  • Strike while the iron is hot to embed improvements in collaboration
  • Recruit for common capabilities, and provide common technological platforms to underpin enhanced mobility across the APS
  • Creating cultural and mindset shifts is important to support flexible working, and
  • A need to enhance the mobility and secondment architecture across government.

Well done to everyone who participated!

Amy Burgess
Attorney-General’s Department
IPAA Future Leaders Committee

Podcast - check out this Work with Purpose podcast episode, featuring Future Leaders Committee members in conversation with Katherine Jones PSM and Matt McMahon, on the hackathon takeaways and next steps.


Video – an edited video of the hackathon event (30 minutes) is available below or can be viewed on IPAA’s Vimeo channel here


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