What an incredible year.
My annual, inaugural end of year wrap up (meaning, this is a first, we’ll see what happens in 12 months) is expanding to two years. My previous habit of birthday reflection posts fell away in the busy-ness of 2016, so this one will bleed over into the prior year.
We create the narrative of our lives. Posts like this are public placards to reflect and learn, as well as see ourselves through other’s perspectives. These posts also serve for others to sense-check their own position and learn, as I have done from similar posts by those in the industry such as from Aaron Birkby and Elaine Stead.
The innovation experience
The past 24 months roll together starting when I took the Community Manager role at Fire Station 101 in February 2016. This began a journey that included the start of a PhD and a focus on measuring the innovation ecosystem.
Fire Station 101 is a book in itself. Chapters include business models, resourcing approaches, outcomes and measurement, and programming. I initially set out to write a toolkit, expanding on examples like what KPMG did for Launchvic. More than a how-to, there are other topics I would like to address such as navigating politics, managing stakeholders, differences between running a hub and building an ecosystem, building the business case, and managing personal impact. At this stage I expect it to be rolled into the PhD.
I am incredibly grateful for the Fire Station 101 role which offered me so many opportunities.
- We built a strong brand, supported over 100 entrepreneurs, delivered hundreds of events for thousands of attendees.
- Introduced a region to hackathon models including Random Hacks of Kindness and GovHack.
- Delivered a school-based accelerator program.
- Defined and delivered internal innovation programs for Council.
- Hosted international delegations from places including Philippines, Japan, Netherlands.
- Created a program for Council to engage with startups, with two instances including Digicon and Barkathon
More than anything, I am grateful for the incredible connections and more importantly friendships developed.
Since leaving Fire Station 101 in November 2017, I have worked with a number of local governments on topics related to building innovation ecosystems. My focus is now on measuring outcomes from innovation ecosystems.
I have travelled a lot to learn how others do this, driven in parts curiosity, self-discovery, and research. Over the past year I have visited dozens of cities across the US, Canada, and Australia in my exploration of innovation ecosystems.
Highlights of excursions this year include:
- Kayaking the Whitsundays as part of Ben Southall’s Venturer Program
- Three weeks in the US and Canada on a tour of innovation hubs, one week with the Startup Catalyst program and two weeks self-scheduled
- Attending the Australia Post Regional Pitchfest finals in Wagga Wagga with leaders from other states
- Attending the Kauffman Foundation EShip Summit for ecosystem leaders in Kansas City
- Travel to Sydney as a finalist for the Westpac Social Change Fellowship (I didn’t get in this round, but it was a great experience)
- Visiting hubs across Australia including Bunbury, Perth, Cairns, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Mackay, Rockhampton, Longreach, Bundaberg, Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Wagga Wagga, and Barossa Valley.
2018, Measurement, and the Innovation Tour
I now spend my time measuring the innovation ecosystem, while helping local governments and corporations where I add value.
The past few months have been focused on collecting data and reviewing approaches at state and national levels.
So far I have:
- Documented measurement frameworks
- Mapped spaces and programs in Queensland
- Captured how others represent ecosystem maps
- Identified approaches to measurement
- Mapped over 600 actors in the Australian innovation ecosystem
- Aligned innovation ecosystem and community resilience indicators
- Mapped government innovation programs against target outcomes
- Built a prototype and began data entry
I am now working on a solution to provide a more real-time measurement of outcomes, while also aligning innovation metrics to community resilience. How do we measure the overall impact for the community, not just the economic outcomes for a few?
It also addresses a question as to which parts of this innovation ecosystem add value. What are the roles of different models (university, government, corporate, VC)? How do we raise the standard for everyone, rather than just a few? What are the roles of the different actors, including capital, policy, community, education, etc.?
Even as I review off the shelf products, I am concurrently building a platform for initial data population. I have partnered with a CTO, have developers and data miners coming on board, and aim to have a release end of January.
In June I plan on hitting the road and driving to as many innovation ecosystems as I can identify across Australia. I expect it will take around 7 to 10 months, but it will provide us with a comprehensive understanding of the innovation ecosystem in Australia.
Statements such as “execution is everything” bounce around my head. At the same time, everyone I speak to about a project says “that sounds really challenging”. I agree with both, and am getting on with it.
I am so grateful to everyone I have met on the journey, and look forward to meeting many more people, hearing your stories in my travels, and working with incredible people making a significant difference.