Reinvent Australia: how can we shape a positive future for nations?


A few days ago I attended the launch event of Reinvent Australia, organized by Annalie Killian of Amplify Festival at PwC’s Sydney offices. It was a very interesting event, digging into the issues of how we can bring together many people’s ideas to create better futures for nations.

Graham Kenny, President of Reinvent Australia, described the organisation as a collaborative initiative to create a conversation on a shared vision for the nation. The bottom line of its endeavors is to increase the quality of life for all Australians, by influencing government and business in how they work.

Kenny quoted Henry Mintzberg in a recent Harvard Business Review article, Rescuing Capitalism from Itself.

What, then, can we do about this? This is the right question, because the plural sector is not “them.” It is you, and me — each of us and all of us. More to the point, it is we — as engaged actors, not passive subjects. We “human resources” have the capacity to act as resourceful human beings.

Kate Eriksson, Head of Innovation at PwC, described the landscape of the participants in creating a vision for the future of Australia, and noted that being polite is one of the biggest impediments to progress. The big questions are ‘What we can do? How can we do it?’

Oliver Freeman, Vice President of Reinvent Australia, talked about the crisis of parliamentary democracy, in which powerlessness is a recurring theme, resulting in a “manifestation of misalignment”. We need to realize James Surowiecki’s idea that collectlvely we are smarter than the elite few.

Michelle Fitzgerald, the newly appointed Chief Digital Officer of the City of Melbourne, spoke about using technology to reimagine our cities, to enable better human experience. The most important part is to co-create a vision for Melbourne as a smart city, with all stakeholders involved. Melbourne has many assets, including its open data platform, sensor on rubbish bins, and much more, but it needs to be ready for dramatic further change, including the impact of driverless cars.

Paul Schetler, CEO of the Australian government’s recently formed Digital Transformation Office, noted that the big difference between government and private sector is that government doesn’t participate in a market, they are sole providers of government services. There is an ethical imperative to provide the best possible services. We must do better. The costs of computing and storage have gone through the floor, completely changing the economics of service delivery. This opens up the opportunity to focus on service design.

Reinvent Australia seems like an excellent initiative, complementing existing efforts to form useful visions and catalyse action to build a better national future. I look forward to seeing what comes from the group.