2019 Impact Report
Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land
Code for Australia’s HQ is based in Melbourne, on the traditional lands of the Woiwurrung and Boon Wurrung peoples of the Kulin nation. This year, a significant part of our work has has also been on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation.
We want to acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded and pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging across Australia.
A few words from our Managing Director
Welcome to our first ever impact report!
2019 was a year of significant change at Code for Australia. To tell the story of that change, reflect on how the organisation is doing and celebrate what you’ve helped us achieve, we’ve prepared a public snapshot of the year’s activities for the first time.
We’ve also recently become a certified B Corporation, and publishing this information is one of the key ways we can commit to ongoing transparency and accountability in our operations.
Code for Australia’s vision is that by 2030, Australia will have a world-class digital government that is built by, and for, everyone. For us that means…
- When policies and services are created, they’re driven by public needs and input
- Data, code and platforms are open by default
- The public sector embraces openness and collaboration
When we’re evaluating our impact and setting goals, we’re trying to create the infrastructure for change to enable this. As a small team we want to scale our influence and help amplify success stories beyond the teams we’ve partnered with, for the benefit of everyone.
This year we’ve been able to reflect on some fantastic outcomes from our own programs.
We ran Fellowships that introduced new roles and new kinds of government partners, helped take Tech for Non Tech to Japan and South Africa, launched the Digital Maturity Indicator and Civic Makers, applied The Intelligence Service in a new context and worked with partners in South Australia and in the Federal government for the first time.
We’ve also continued to be inspired by inspirational leaders and products across the public service. Services like the DTA’s notify.gov.au have been high profile proof of the value of open source and shared platforms, and new organisations like CivVic Labs have joined us in helping government agencies tackle challenges in new ways.
At the same time data on public trust in government highlights that we still have a long way to go with transparency and open data.
Behind the scenes, it’s been a year of big moments and significant learnings for Base Team—with our longest serving team members stepping back and a non-founder (that’s me) taking over day to day leadership for the first time.
We’re sharing our successes and challenges with you here.
Thanks for taking the time to read and being a part of our journey so far,
– Matt Sawkill
2019 Goals Overview
2019 was in many ways, a very different year for us. For starters, we knew we were going into it with massive changes ahead as both Lina (Chief of Operations) and Alvaro (Managing Director) announced they’d be stepping off the Base Team.
We were excited to see what new ideas and direction fresh team members could bring, while also aware that change can be a difficult time for many.
Here are the three main goals we went into the year aiming toward, and our original thinking of what success would be signaled by.
Both in terms of leadership and the team. We wanted to end up with a new leader we were confident in, who shared our values and mission, and a team around that person that would be empowered to implement their vision.
We also thought that 2019 would be the year for us to grow new programs and new markets. Historically, most of our work has been in VIC, NSW and QLD so we wanted to turn our attention to what was happening in SA and ACT. We also wanted to gain clarity of what programs were still relevant and where new opportunities might be.
Our measurement drive came largely from our quest to become a Certified B Corp, a process we started in mid-2018. We wanted 2019 to be the year we were certified, and in doing so, the year we documented some of our core practices and benchmarked our impact across a number of fields.
Where We Landed
And well, here’s how we went.
Matt Sawkill and Cassitie Galliott arrived onto the Base Team as our new Managing Director and Head of Delivery respectively. We were also lucky to have Soreti Kadir join the Base Team for a short while. Alvaro Maz and Lina Patel stepped off smoothly in the first half of the year, and are still working closely with the Base Team in various capacities. We’re incredibly grateful to have their support and insight around us still!
Despite these large-scale and whirlwind changes, we managed to continue growing our core programs (Fellowships and Tech for Non Tech), and even launched a couple of new ones – namely our Digital Maturity Indicator and Civic Makers. We also initiated some new connections with partners in South Australia and worked with our first Federal Agency too! More updates for each, in detail, are below.
We were excited this year to establish our first completed theory of change and baseline indicators across a number of fields (from carbon emissions to team health and program outcomes). We also spent countless hours documenting the ways we’re working and updating our processes – all of which you can check out in our brand new handbook here. All of this work contributed to a huge milestone for us: in December 2019 we became a Certified B Corporation!
Program Participants To Date
This is the data story of how our programs have grown and changed since our launch in 2015. While the numbers capture our scale in terms of quantity, it doesn’t capture the scale of impact made through the depth of each program – for example, our Fellowship program is generally where we see the most change, but is our smallest program in terms of direct participants.
Our Community Network
We’re lucky to have a diverse and supportive community of individuals and organisations across Australia, online and offline.
people came to one of our Open Houses
are part of our Melbourne Civic Makers MeetUp
are part of our online Slack community
follow our newsletter & social channels
Our Theory of Change
This year was the first year we’ve been able to document a very rough theory of change that encompasses all of our programs and gives clarity to the “why” behind the things we do.
You can find the full working document here, which has many words and not many visuals. Or you can explore the diagram that we’re experimenting with to communicate our theory of change below.
Because there are heaps of updates, we’ve tried to make this a choose-your-own-adventure kind of section.
Nagivating This Part
We’ve written about each program in depth below. Click on the sections that are important to you and skip the ones that aren’t. Easy!
Our Fellowship programs usually result in prototypes being made, with product launches being in the hands of the government partners we’ve worked with. Over the past five years, we’ve seen 11 tools get shipped – meaning they are live and out there working in the real world – which currently gives us a launch rate of 46% across all our Fellowships.
New Success Stories
2019 saw some exciting new additions to this category of live tools along with some updates on how others are working.
- ORBIT – an online booking and referral tool that is used across the legal aid sector in Victoria has had 122,370 referrals made through the platform since it was launched in late 2017. This year alone, more than 2,600 bookings were made across the platform. To read more about this project, check out this article.
- Last year we wrapped up an important Fellowship with the team at VicRoads who were looking to digitise their certification process – a system that hadn’t been updated in over forty years. Our Fellows focused on improving the process of Roadworthy Certificates specifically, and were notified in September that the pilot had been running successfully for 12 months, with 20,000 certificates being made through the platform and positive user feedback across the board. To read more about this project, check out this article.
- We were also so proud of our team that worked alongside the City of Melbourne last year, who were recognised for their work at the MAV Technology Awards for Excellence. They won three awards in one night for their groundbreaking GovCore project, an open-source platform made for local councils, by local councils.
In 2019, we started three new Fellowships, which were all highly experimental. Two kicked off in Sydney in February, working alongside Digital NSW and Service NSW. For both teams, it was the first time we were working alongside what we’d call a digitally mature government partner, with people we’d admired from afar for a long time (ahem, Pia Andrews). With Digital NSW, even more experimental was the fact we ran it with only two Fellows, who were developers, with the service design element being provided from the internal Digital NSW team.
Our third Fellowship ran in Victoria with Cenitex, which was experimental in that it involved recruiting our first data scientist, and was with a government partner that exclusively served other governments, rather than being public facing. Despite some team challenges, which came right as the Base Team was going through it’s biggest change, the team managed to produce three prototypes. Julian, the developer on the team, was extended to continue building out two of which.
Read more about the Cenitex Fellowship here.
Tech for Non Tech
There were a lot of changes and experiments again with our Tech for Non Tech program.
We started off the year by successfully applying for an exchange grant from Code for All, to onboard new delivery partners from the Code for All network – specifically Open Up (based in South Africa) and Code for Japan. This meant two of our facilitators spent a week working alongside folks from both organisations, in Cape Town, where they together ran two community classes. We’re excited to be helping build and share sustainable programs with our counterparts in the network while also creating opportunities to collaborate with others on a shared program.
This year also marked the first time we’ve successfully captured the impact of our Tech for Non Tech class in a quantitative way. While we’ve always had fantastic feedback through retrospectives, surveys and interviews we experimented this year with pre and post class surveys that benchmarked confidence levels across a number of areas. We were thrilled, but not surprised, to see proven increases in understanding technical stacks (68%) and technical roles (61%), having technical conversations (50%), understanding digital ecosystems (39%) and scoping technical projects (29%) after attending the class.
Over the past year running Tech for Non Tech, we’ve debated whether open ticketed classes are more feasible, viable and desirable for the team as opposed to custom classes. Where open classes tend to be a lot of up-front work which involves a lot of uncertainty, custom classes tend to involve the opposite. This year we were excited to run three separate custom classes, basically flipping our model from last year, in which we ran many open classes.
We did however also run one open class this year in Melbourne, which was a huge success (we think, thanks to a little help from the end of the financial year). Because this class was a sell-out success, we were able to do something we’d been thinking about for a long time: reserving five free tickets (out of 25) for local not-for-profit or community organisations who might not otherwise be able to attend. We received over a dozen applications for the tickets and were thrilled to invite five participants along for the session – who were equally thrilled at being there.
Digital Maturity Indicator
New On The Block
In late 2018, David Eaves from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government released an article called Proposing A Maturity Model for Digital Services, which summarised a piece of research his team had been working on for some time. The findings? A matrix of step-by-step instructions on how to be digitally mature service providers. We saw an opportunity to leverage this research and help Australian governments measure their digital maturity, and provide advice and recommendations on focus areas, and tangible next steps.
The program has been somewhat of an overnight success, with the first pilot kicking off with a suite of three assessments, run with the Public Sector Commission in NSW, and with another assessment upcoming in the new year with a department in SA. We’ve been excited to see the Public Sector Commission’s openness to the process and findings, and enthusiasm for making the results and recommendations shareable. We’ve also been excited to create opportunities for our Fellowship Alumni to re-engage with our programs as expert researchers and advisors – specifically, we’ve been lucky to have the skills and minds of two fantastic design researchers – Alex Crook and Lara Stephenson – to help the program take off this year.
The Public Service Commission have seen value in our Digital Maturity Indicator and we will now take the project state-wide across the NSW government. This process will include a government-wide survey and subsequent findings and recommendations.
Also New On The Block
Around the world (via Code for All) and in our own backyards, we’ve seen communities come together to hack for good and create something from nothing. While we admire these efforts, we know that real, sustainable change takes more than 48 hours, and that it takes a diversity of skills (not just coding and design) to create awesome things. So we decided to make a space for people to come together, to better understand the challenges that face our home city and work on something to change the status quo.
We were thrilled to find out we’d received financial support of $7,000 from the Telematic Trust, to help us launch the program and, importantly, feed everyone for the first year. To date we’ve had roughly 180 people register to come along to an event, with a community over 200 strong on MeetUp. Feedback from our retrospectives has been fairly positive and we’ve seen two strong groups emerge, tackling areas around homelessness and waste. We intentionally set out to bring together a diverse set of people with different skills and are proud to say we’ve achieved this, with people coming from all backgrounds and sectors (including academia, government, not-for-profit, entrepreneurs, industry and students). We’re also proud to have had a strong organising team made up of mostly volunteers contribute many hours and so much wisdom to the program throughout the year too (thank you Steven McPhillips, Ruby Quail and Sean Hua).
As with all new community groups there are some onboarding and retention challenges we’re looking to tackle in 2020 – that is to say, making sure new members feel welcomed, useful, and able to dive in straight away, as well as encouraging folks to stay engaged for the long term. Because we took a co-design approach to Civic Makers, progress on making tangible outcomes has been slower than we originally thought. We’re excited to have produced many artefacts around “how we work” however, and are aiming to have our first tangible outcome of Civic Makers emerge in 2020. For a in-depth dive on the feedback we recieved and how we’re using it in 2020, read more on our blog here.
Our Other Programs
The Intelligence Service
The Intelligence Service is a collaboration between Pretty Neat and Code for Australia which seeks to bring startups and government together to work collaboratively on our biggest civic challenges. Using a high level of theatre and anonymity, we guide participants through evening-long “missions” on topics ranging from community building to the political process in Australia. We launched the Intelligence Service back in 2018 and have been excited to see it find its feet this year: together we’ve run two more open missions, and ran our first successful custom version with a Victorian department. There’s also whispers of it being developed with a large festival here in Melbourne early next year too. Stay tuned.
Our Sandpit program has taken the backseat this year, while we work out where it’s best applied. We were lucky to have the help of Anthony Cabraal from the Enspiral Network help us reimagine the program in late 2018, but since then, our attention has been called away elsewhere (see all of the above). This isn’t the end of Sandpit, it’s just having a little rest for now.
Here are some of the snippets of feedback and bits of data we’ve received this year that has helped us to recognise our impact and celebrate our work.
Rules as code
A weekend spent well designing a user friendly service for @GovHackAU. Kudos to @digital_nsw for introducing “rules as code” to nsw 🙂 . Its built so well that it took us 30 mins to develop forms . #GovHack #rulesascode #servicedesign
Our hack and video: https://t.co/lSxyjqzL9e
— Swati (@_swati_k) September 8, 2019
Feedback we discovered on Twitter about the usability of a product created during our Fellowship with Service NSW.
“One of the highlights for me, was the rich data gathered from the online survey completed by over 60% of our staff. Another was the process to work through the recommendations to identify where to focus our energy first. I learned some new ways to approach working internally and different lenses through which to consider an approach.”
Tessa Pittendrigh from the NSW Public Sector Commission talks about her experience with our Digital Maturity Indicator.
Tech for Non Tech
“I’m now noticing how our developer works… little things that now I understand, ‘Oh that’s because that’s the way that they work.’ Looking back, I now realise how much time was wasted by them trying to get back into the rhythm previously.”
Feedback from a participant of our Tech for Non Tech class
GovWin - Victor
“Thanks for your kind post the other day re #GovWin Awards. It’s wonderful to see so many from the Department of Customer Service represented – they do brilliant work. Sharing stories of people doing good work is so important“
Words from the Hon. Victor Dominello, Minister for Customer Service in New South Wales
GovWin - Pia
Huge thank you to @CodeforAus & all for your support! I got a Lifetime Achievement In Thought Leadership 🙂 Ostensibly for things like Rules as Code, Public Sector Pia Review, my blog and a nomination for contributions to data & public interest on digital https://t.co/2P9xCGP4GL
— Pia Andrews (@piacandrews) December 3, 2019
Feeback from our favourite changemaker in Australian government, in response to our #GovWin Awards initiative.
Tech for Non Tech Growth
@codeforJP 🇯🇵has delivered their first Tech for Non Tech workshop! This program was originally created by @CodeforAus 🇦🇺and is now being replicated by both Code for Japan and @OpenUpSA 🇿🇦#civictechhttps://t.co/y4R6dgWYGu
— Code for All (@CodeforAll) December 10, 2019
We were thrilled to see Code for Japan run with our Tech for Non Tech program, after an exchange funded by Code for All.
Fellows - Julian
“I challenged myself trying to understand (the hardest part) and work with a human-centered design approach—taking all the insights we found there as inputs for developing prototypes that are customer-oriented. In my future projects, I will have that mindset I learned from this experience!”
Reflections from Julian Nunez on his experience and growth through his Fellowship with Cenitex
Fellows - Kynan
“Our experience working with Service NSW has made me more confident than ever in the lean-agile principles and practices that underpin good digital service design and delivery. I’m convinced they’re fit-for-purpose tools that give us our best chance of achieving the urgent improvements we need to make in government service delivery.”
Reflections from Kynan Hughes on his experience making change through his Fellowship with Service NSW
Fellows - Murph
“The last three months of our Fellowship saw us tackle three challenges, prototype three solutions, build strong allies and showcase a great team and the power of interdisciplinary collaboration!”
Reflections from Stacey Murphy on the experience and acomplishments of her Fellowship with Cenitex
Our work wouldn’t be possible without some incredibly supportive people and organisations.
Supports our Tech for Non Tech program by hosting some of our Melbourne classes in their beautiful space.
Supports our organisation by inviting us to share stories of government innovation at a range of their events.
We’re also grateful to have had the opportunity to partner with and work alongside these departments and agencies in 2019.
We’re grateful also for all the opportunities we’ve had to participate in and partner on events outside our own too. From conferences and webinars to awards, we’ve loved showcasing our work and contributing to good conversations across Australia.
- Vibrato Brown Bag
- Random Hacks of Kindness (Judging)
- Technology and Wellbeing Roundtables
- Monash IT Masters Expo (Judging)
- Crew Webinar with Cities Leadership
- Apolitical Making Things Stick
- Code for All Peer Learning Sessions
- Better public sectors for better public services
For our team, it’s not just about what we achieve, but how we achieve it together. Here’s an insight into just a few of the ways we’re measuring the health and impact of our organisation internally.
We’re proud to say that in of the team members we’ve been lucky to have join us in the past year (22 people!) over half were born outside Australia, 45% identified as female, 5% non-binary and 50% male. This year marked the first year we conducted a survey of engagement and satisfaction within the team. All staff were asked to rate their feelings about different aspects of the organisation, on a scale from 1-5. This has now been codified and automated to occur every three months.
This year marked the first year that we calculated our carbon footprint – a benchmark we worked to be 9.03 metric tonnes over the year and which we’ve set a goal to reduce by 5% next year. Here’s what parts of our activities contributed most to our emissions. How this was calculated is still a work in progress and can be seen (and used for your own business) here.
As well as being a certified B Corporation, we also operate as a not-for-profit entity — in that, we have no shareholders, and all of our revenue and funding goes entirely towards employee salaries and the delivery of our programs. Here’s a behind the scenes look at where our money went for FY18-19. You can also see a comparison to our last financial year here.
We’ve taken a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned this year, what we’ve changed this year and what new wisdom we’re taking into the year ahead.
People are the hardest part of our work, but we have strong culture and systems in place to help us work through difficult moments – and we’re constantly improving them.
We have a lot of opportunities ahead to codify and create shareable resources on how we’re making an impact.
“Machinery of government” changes across the public service have had a noticeable impact on our friends in government and subsequently on our own business. It’s been challenging to explore upcoming opportunities for programs when there is so much uncertainty for individuals and teams.
Striving for best practices in inclusive recruitment can require a lot of time and effort in a small team, the feedback from some of the candidates we didn’t hire for roles has been vital to validate how we do things. However, we’ve learned there’s always room for improvement, so we’re working with external diversity and inclusion consultants in our next Fellowship. We’re excited to explore how we can better prepare newly formed teams to understand and celebrate their differences.
While we’ve always been a reflective organisation, evaluation has emerged as a vital way for us to understand the impact of our work, to continue successful relationships and to celebrate the successes of our partners, which can often surface years after the completion of a program.
What We’ve Changed
We open-sourced our organisational handbook
We created our first Environmental Care Policy
We adopted an open-source Transgender Policy
We updated our Leave Policy to include more flexible definitions of family for our Carer’s and Bereavement Leave, codified our Community Service Leave and Birthday Leave (yes, that’s officially a thing).
We’ve codified the process and made it easier for new team members to let us know what days they want us to celebrate with them, or what days they might celebrate that are different to public holidays.
We created an open-source Carbon Calculator to understand how our core activities impact the environment, and we’re looking into offsetting 100% of them on an annual basis. More info here in blog format.
We’ve made all of our events vegetarian by default to make them more welcoming, and to have a lower impact on the environment.
We’ve also introduced Net Promoter Scoring across our programs, as a baseline metric to understand customer satisfaction, with many in-depth more evaluation and improvement processes codified and underway.
It’s been a year of great achievements, which has also highlighted some big opportunities for further impact and given us a lot to think about for the future. I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation with you through our blog and in next year’s edition of this impact report. Stay tuned for some new strategic initiatives to drive our vision for the future of digital government in Australia.
Thank you to all of our funding partners in government, our network of facilitators, program alumni and industry experts, and everyone that attended one of our events our hung out with us online this year. What we’ve been able to accomplish is a direct result of your input and we couldn’t have done it without you.
I’d also like to acknowledge Grace’s efforts in driving our impact practice this year, she’s done a fantastic job in finalising our B Corporation certification, capturing data for evaluation and putting together this report. While we’re going to miss her when she moves on to new challenges next year, we’ll continue to benefit from the policies and processes she’s established for Base Team.
– Matt Sawkill (and the entire Code for Australia Team)
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We're based in Melbourne, on the traditional lands of the Woiwurrung and Boon Wurrung peoples of the Kulin nation.
We acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded and pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging across Australia.