9 Aug 2019

Govt takes notes from startup sector to tackle country's big problems

10:46 am on 9 August 2019

Family violence, poverty, unemployment; poor health, education and housing - these are major and seemingly intractable problems facing New Zealanders every day.

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Photo: 123rf

A programme launched last night aims to tackle these head on.

Lightning Lab GovTech is a three-month long scheme where 10 government projects are picked and workshopped in an accelerator programme that uses methods from the start-up sector.

It brings together local and central government, NGOs and the private sector to work on projects with the aim of making government better.

"It's taking government projects and helping them to go a lot faster, applying startup-style innovation science," programme director Jonnie Haddon said.

He said some government projects might take years and cost millions.

"What we're doing is we're saying 'let's condense that right down into three months - and it cost's the government [for example] $50,000 with all the wraparound support that we offer'."

Women's Refuge and the Ministry for Social Development are working together on one of the projects - a portal that acts as a one-stop shop for people experiencing family violence - both victims and perpetrators.

Refuge chief executive Ang Jury said these people desperately need help but they struggle to find out where to get it.

"There's no standard place to go, people have to hunt for information. And when you're in a crisis situation ... hunting for stuff isn't really what you want to be doing."

Ang Jury

Women's Refuge chief executive Ang Jury Photo: RNZ / Hamish Cardwell

Martin Kaipo heads a Whangārei trust working with some of poorest people in the community who need decent housing and jobs.

He's teamed up with another Māori social service provider and the government's Social Investment Agency to find a way to measure if their services actually help whānau.

He said part of this means getting control of data.

"A lot of the data that's gathered now is ... usually with the ministries ... in Wellington, and we don't necessarily get that information back.

"So it's an opportunity to ... have [access] to data that we can track ourselves with."

The groups have all come into the programme not knowing what exactly the final outcome will be.

Atawhai Tibble from the Social Investment Agency said whatever happens - whānau would be the centre of it.

Martin Kaipo, left, and Atawhai Tibble.

Martin Kaipo, left, and Atawhai Tibble. Photo: RNZ / Hamish Cardwell

"The opportunity this has presented is, well why don't we try and work with communities to say 'what would work for you', what's a bit more direct."

Mr Haddon said that at the end of the programme the groups would have a proven product with data to back it up, and would have gathered evidence that there was demand for what they have made.

"Because they would have done all that testing ... prototyping and doing it small scale in the programme.

"And the idea is that [come demonstration] day they've got a roadmap - 'here's how we can roll this out to a wider audience and have that bigger impact that we're wanting to have'."

The programme starts on Monday and ends in November.

Where to get help:

Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)

It's Not OK (0800 456 450)

Shine: 0508 744 633

]http://www.victimsinfo.govt.nz/ Victim Support]: 0800 650 654

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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