The Australian Government Overseas Aid Program was selected as a Devex Top 40 Development Innovator based on a poll of thousands of global development professionals who are part of Devex, the largest network of aid and relief workers in the world.
Announced on April 18, Devex Top 40 Development Innovators is an impressive listing of the world’s leading donor agencies & foundations, development consulting companies, implementing NGOs, and advocacy groups.
We asked each of the Innovators four questions to learn how they stay ahead to the curve and tackle old development challenges in new ways. Here’s how AusAid responded:
‘Helping our neighbours in the Pacific Island states, in particular, poses unique challenges and we continually look for new and better approaches’
If you had to condense it to just one or two sentences, overall, what is it that makes your organization innovative?
Eighteen of Australia’s 20 closest neighbours are developing countries and many are also fragile states. This places Australia in a unique position for a developed donor country as it tries to promote a secure and prosperous region. The challenge of lifting communities out of poverty often requires policymakers, aid workers and governments to think outside the square to generate new and relevant ideas. Helping our neighbours in the Pacific Island states, in particular, poses unique challenges and we continually look for new and better approaches.
Can you provide a specific example of something your organization has done that is particularly innovative?
AusAid has supported the development of cheap mobile phone technology to communities in rural areas of the Pacific to deliver access to financial services, such as savings accounts and credit, so people can run their businesses and save for things like school fees. Mobile phone technology is also taking lifesaving health care and advice to women in remote areas of Bangladesh.
The joint Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction uses science and research to develop practical measures to better identify areas most at risk of natural disaster. The facility helps to reduce the impact of disasters by giving people information about how to build safer houses and public buildings. It also helps shape training and planning for disaster managers across the region through partnerships with APEC, ASEAN and the United Nations.
In Africa, a media partnership developing educational program content with national broadcasters is using radio, across the whole continent for the first time, to help halt the spread of HIV and AIDS from mothers to their children.
In Papua New Guinea, where remote terrain has prevented many children from getting access to school, the humble flat pack is being used to transport pre-fabricated schools to remote communities and attract qualified teachers to these areas.
Looking ahead 10 years, what are some of the innovations in international development that your organization wants to be a part of?[if gte mso 9]>
With more than 50 percent of AusAid’s growing budget being delivered to fragile and conflict-affected states, AusAid is focused on efforts to better identify and support development in these countries.
AusAid is also committed to greater transparency and has introduced a number of important initiatives to ensure the public has more access to information about the aid program - what we do, how we do it and what we have achieved. This includes changes to the Freedom of Information Act, making it easier to access informatin, the establishment of the position of information commissioner and the requirement for government agencies to publish certain types of information as a matter of course.
AusAID is supporting the development of an International Charter for Mutual Accountability, involving the improvement of information exchange between donors and their recipients, so recipients have accessible methods through which to access information about how donors have used their funds.
One factor in driving innovation at any organization is the talent you hire and the partnerships you make. How does your organization take into account innovation when it comes to cultivating talent and partners?
AusAid adopts innovative and aligned HR practices to support the six stages of an employee’s life cycle (Attract; Recruit; Select, Develop, Retain, Separate). Its workforce plan identifies a range of initiatives in recruitment, learning and development, performance management and career planning to ensure people have the capacity and the capability to effectively deliver the aid program and embrace change.
AusAid’s learning and development strategy provides model learning pathways to strengthen a culture of staff development. The objective of learning pathways is to signal the sorts of learning and development activities that are available, and in some cases necessary, in order to take up certain positions within the agency.
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