Fostering innovation with Australian DFAT’s innovationXchange

We know innovation can spur better, faster and more cost-effective outcomes. But how can the innovationXchange foster innovation within a complex institution like DFAT, and deliver stronger results for Australia’s development programs?

The Challenge

Innovation is a crucial part of development, ensuring that we are working better, faster and more cost effectively to build stronger health, nutrition and education systems. Launched in 2015 by Australian DFAT, the innovationXchange (iXc) aims to lead a change of culture at DFAT, building capability and culture so all DFAT staff are empowered to use innovative approaches to maximize the outcomes of their work.

In its first two years, the iXc experimented with and learned from a variety of approaches to sourcing, selecting, and scaling innovations to enact change in the Indo-Pacific region. However, it now seeks to understand how to use what it (and the rest of the world) has learned from these approaches to fostering innovation, to inform how it can better do so across DFAT and the broader Australian Public Service.

The Opportunity

R4D’s Evaluation and Adaptive Learning team works closely with partners like the iXc to understand their learning needs, and structure our engagements around producing timely and actionable evidence. With the iXc, the opportunity we see is two-fold:

  1. Understand progress against the iXc’s goals thus far, and collect relevant learnings that can inform its future work
  2. Continuously learn and iterate throughout implementation of the new strategy through an adaptive evaluation

This partnership also builds on the iXc’s current membership in the International Development Innovation Alliance (IDIA), a group of 12 innovation funders from around the world that is facilitated by R4D. Our work is informed by the learning and outputs from this platform, such as the recent IDIA report sharing current insights on Measuring the Impact of Innovation.

Our Work

Our work began with a rapid review of the iXc’s progress towards its current Results Framework. A Theory of Change workshop helped the iXc articulate their strategy and guided our team in developing our collective learning agenda. In the first phase of this work, we expanded on our rapid review of the Results Framework with deep dives on three retrospective analyses (impact to date, documenting lessons learned on partnerships, and lessons learned on engaging with DFAT’s country posts around the world). This work allowed us to clearly articulate a learning agenda centered around an 18-month adaptive evaluation that will inform how the iXc implements their revised strategy.

Our adaptive learning approach frequently includes in-person support during key phases of implementation, so we seconded two team members to DFAT for the nine weeks from the Theory of Change workshop through development of the adaptive evaluation.

R4D’s deep bench of experts will provide strategic support to DFAT in priority content areas in addition to the adaptive evaluation. Our Nutrition and Education teams’ support include co-design of innovative solutions, such as a ‘nudge fund’ to provide small incentives that empower country posts to take up innovation.

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