Please indicate if your Initiative is an Established Initiative.
Code for Australia
Team - who worked on the project/initaitve
Code for Victoria was a program funded by the Public Sector Innovation Fund and delivered by Code for Australia. The program paired talented individuals from the private sector with government departments and agencies across Victoria, helping them to find new ways of solving old problems using technology.
Head of Marketing
Managing Director & Co-Founder
Overview - Provide a summary to introduce the project or initiative
The original Code for Victoria Innovation Challenge (launched in 2016) sought to connect government departments and agencies with teams of talented technologists. Their task was to use agile-thinking and creativity to solve problems that affected the lives of Victorians, through the use of technology.
Last year, Code for Australia joined forces with the Public Sector Innovation Fund and Special Minister of State, Gavin Jennings, to announce a brand new round of the Code for Victoria challenge. This time, we had our hearts set on supporting women in technology.
Code for Victoria - Women in Tech again paired three teams of three technologists with Victorian government departments and agencies: Corrections Victoria, Department of Health and Human Services and the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria. This round, however, we hired all-female teams.
Currently, only 20% of Australia’s digital technology workforce is made up by women and nearly a third of female digital technology workers leave the sector within 10–15 years. These figures represent countless missed opportunities to create technology that is representative of all its user’s needs. It’s a missed opportunity in showing women that their voices are important and needed in the world of technology. Most of all, it’s a missed opportunity in creating role models.
The outcomes of Code for Victoria were to build capability in the public sector, to create a solution to a government challenge using human centered design and technology practices, and do this all with nine incredible women leading the way.
How would you say diversity is embraced within your organisation or sector? Are there diversity initiatives in place or are diversity approaches new to your sector?
The talk in tech is as likely to be about diversity as code. And for the most part, that’s where it stays - as talk.
Through the Code for Victoria program, we decided to take action and challenge the view that “there’s just not enough women in tech”. We wanted to prove that it was possible to hire three all-female teams and we did. Instead of wondering if there weren’t enough women, we began to wonder if there weren’t enough teams where women feel valued and respected. We realised that the current diversity crisis isn’t a supply issue, it’s a demand issue.
From the beginning, we’ve built Code for Australia on the following principles: we’re here to help serve citizens better; we want government and the organisations working with government to be as representatives of our community; and, we empower people to empower others. Translating these principles into our recruitment process was what allowed us to attract these nine amazing women.
Detail the approach that was taken to implement the project or initiative, what actions were taken and why?
In terms of recruitment, here's how we found our nine incredible women.
- We did what we could. The part of the picture we can change is the makeup of our teams and that’s where we started.
- We created something worth sharing. The way we treat each other on a daily basis meant that when we asked the team and our network to put the word out, they readily responded.
3.We looked in the mirror. We analysed our wording, our work practices and our culture, asking ourselves if it added up to a place where women were welcomed, valued and supported to thrive. For the most part the answer was yes, but we remained open to learn and change things along the way.
- We committed to it. We set an ambitious goal to find talented women to fill all nine spots and we didn’t stop until we’d achieved it. In three weeks of relentless recruiting, we had a list of over 40 applications to choose from.
- We joined forces. We teamed up with other organisations who champion diversity and leaders that create paths for others to follow - people like Jo Szczepanska, Kirsteene Phelan, Ally Watson, Melina Chan and Sarah Moran - to help us spread the word.
Throughout the program, we continued to make sure our teams felt valued, comfortable and supported through flexible working arrangements, mentoring, regular check ins, group time and learning, speaking and professional development opportunities.
Demonstrate the leadership shown in driving the initiative and fostering behavioural and organisational change.
Our work is based on the believe that the problems that we face cannot be solved unless there is a greater number and diversity of people helping to address these. As such, we've built an organisation that is one, if not the most, diverse technology company in Australia. We are proud of, and benefit from, the gender, age and cultural diversity all across our Board, management and Fellowship teams.
To get our team where we are we have had to challenge the status quo;
- showing that teams can be as diverse as organisations want them to be;
- developing unlikely alliances to facilitate change in government; and
- advocating relentlessly on the importance of diversity in teams.
The processes and practices we have at Code for Australia are always open for discussion, and we regularly give and receive feedback to help ourselves and our partners to improve. This was through:
- Fortnightly / weekly retrospectives amongst the Fellowship teams (each team set their own practices and processes)
- Monthly team retrospectives with all the Fellows and Code for Australia Base Team (feedback that related to their government hosts would be picked up by the Base Team and carried to other retros).
- Monthly retrospective with PSIF and the Base Team (to reflect on how the program as a whole was performing and to address any pain points)
- Monthly retros with PSIF, the Base Team and the government hosts (to address any problems the Fellows had raised, as well as reflect on the experience and challenges from the government host perspective).
Was there organisational/industry or other resistance to the initiative? If so, detail the actions taken to overcome resistance to the project or initiative.
Nothing directly related to the program. But the general vibe in tech is that the problem for there being enough women hired in tech, is that there just aren't enough women in the talent pool. We set out to overcome that mindset by hiring three all-female teams and we succeeded in doing that. We shared this outcome with The Australian, which faced some negative feedback in the comments.
Detail the follow up or response to the project or initiative by the organisation /industry /sector. For example has it been extended for a further year, or has the scope been expanded?
The Code for Australia team continue to share their experiences and learnings in the tech community, where Code for Victoria provides proof that hiring diverse teams is up to the organisation, not the talent pool. We've been asked to speak at the Melbourne chapter of Tech Inclusion, Inspire9's Tech Showcase, the Public Sector Innovation Show, Singapore University's inaugural Women in Technology and Design conference, and UX Gatherings.
Code for Victoria also helped to launch many of the women into new careers after the program concluded, going to both well regarding public and private organisations.
For many of our government friends, Code for Victoria was the starting point for their journey in innovation - our partners learnt new ways of working, such as Human Centred Design, agile methodologies, and other tools and methods.
More generally speaking, our mission at Code for Australia is to improve how government serves the community, and open opportunities for the community to improve government. In the last four years we have proven an outside-in model where people outside government go in to support government evolve, works.
To build-upon this initiative, we are exploring an exchange program where people from private and public sector can change roles for a 6 month collaboration. We envision the program will not only build-upon private and public sector collaboration, but help government prepare for a more dynamic, flexible workforce.
Please provide 2 references being the beneficiaries or people that experienced the change (as a result of the initiative). Details to be provided should include:
4. Phone number
6. Short description (up to 250 words) of association with the nominated diversity initiative eg as a beneficiary, experiencing the outcome, etc.
Web Developer at Today (was a Fellow for the Program)
Sam was one of our Fellows that worked with the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria. Sam was a recent graduate of General Assembly's web development course when she joined Code for Victoria, having recently changed career from managing and supporting technology projects. The Fellowship gave her the experience and connections to secure a full time position as a web developer at Today. Sam was also asked to join the Code for Australia board - to continue offering her insights and learnings from her experience.
Senior Program Officer, Public Sector Innovation, DPC
Phone: 03 7017 3262
Rob Patrick was involved with both the first and second rounds of Code for Victoria, and stepped up into the program lead for the second round. Having intimately worked with Code for Australia over two years, Rob has been able to experience our approach to collaboration and innovation, and has been able to see the bigger impacts on the public sector and specific departments as a result of the program.
What outcomes have been achieved against overall program or organisational performance? Using metrics specify these outcomes, for example financial, growth, policy achievement, performance or capabciltiy uplift?
The Fellows and Hosts built new technologies: two client facing tools, which are currently in proof of concept phase; and one backend tool working prototype. Two out of the three partners have indicated that they will continue to work on these projects.
The program impact on government hosts and private sector professionals was significant. The program helped Host departments design and/or create technology products that better meets the needs of end users, contributing to more responsive service delivery by government. The program demonstrated to Hosts how technology projects can be achieved relatively cheaply and effectively in-house.
The program also had a significant impact on Fellows, building their confidence and providing an opportunity to learn new skills and to better understand how they can contribute to civic issues.
The Public Sector Innovation Fund and Code for Australia jointly decided that the 2017 Fellows would all be female. This provided an opportunity for Code for Australia to demonstrate that technology companies can be as gender-diverse as they choose to, and for women to showcase their tech skills to government. For many Fellows this was the first time they had worked in an all-female team.
While it may still be early to tell the long term impact of the 2017 round, Follow-up interviews held with Hosts from the 2016 program demonstrated the ongoing legacy of the program in building capacity
within the Victorian Public Service, and empowering some public servants.
Two out of three of the 2016 projects continued to progress after the
completion of the Fellows' placements. The technology successfully built
by Fellows from both intakes is generally viewed as responsive to user
needs, intuitive and easy to use, and replicable in some instances given
the open source nature of the technology.
What do you consider your significant achievement with this Initiative and why?
We broke the rules and proved hiring high-performing, diverse teams can be done. What's more, it can be done in one of the most challenging sectors: government.
We also managed to validate new ways of working with government, teaching by showing that creating tools and services that are user-centered is something that's quick, cheap and beneficial to do. The teams lifted the capability of the hosts they worked with, including them on the process from discovery to prototyping, to testing, arming them with new skill sets and networks to draw upon going forward.
Who inspires you from a diversity perspective? Who provides leadership in diversity and why?
While we admire many leaders and voices in the movement to involve more women in technology, people like Kirsteene Phelan, Ally Watson, Melina Chan, Margaret Selianakis, Adam Fennessy and Sarah Moran, our greatest inspiration has to come from our Fellows.
The nine talented women who decided to join us our our journey to transform government from the inside out, to show that there was a better way of solving old problems.
They boldly ventured into the unknown, drawing upon every skill they'd learnt in their varied previous careers and picking up new ones on the way. Teaching, communicating, wooing, pivoting, hustling, rallying, questioning and furiously working to make the lives of some of Australia's most vulnerable communities a little bit better.
And they did this all with the added weight of carrying a "women in tech" banner, demonstrating to the tech community what should already be known: good things are made by teams that are representative of the people that use them. Gender, cultural, religious and every other intersection of diversity needs to be embedded in our tech community if we are to make things that people want, need and love.