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Accelerators In Government, What Do I Think Of Them?

I have been involved, in one way or another, with a number of "accelerators" both inside and outside of government. Most notably I was part of the inaugural contingent to the R9 Accelerator programme back in 2015.

The Result 9 ("R9") Accelerator is (ready for this?) ... it is:
So now you know!

The project is delivered by MBIE R9 Programme staff, Creative HQ and others.
Note: Hack Miramar (a 'thing' I co-founded and still work within) delivered 1 (almost 2) parts of the projects over 2 iterations - namely the "RevUp!" kick-off event.

Yeah, you can say I've been involved in Government run accelerators.

So what do I think of them?
It's a great question and one that was recently brought back to my attention with a Facebook conversation with some of the current R9 Accelerator mentors.

I think that the accelerator programme is a step process in moving towards a more responsive, cohesive and ultimately citizen driven government. I don't think accelerators are, in and of themselves, something that should survive once it has done it's job ... which may well be a few more iterations down the road.

Saying that I am not specifying whether I am discussing government accelerators of private/entrepreneur accelerators - they are a tool that, at some point will lose their requirement much like hackathons will, startup weekends will and many other tools we use today.

A major difference however between government and entrepreneurial focussed accelerators is in the hoped for outcome. Entrepreneurial accelerators focus on investment - will their thing be investment worthy and be set on a path towards profitability.

Government accelerators, or at least the R9 Accelerator, has, IMHO, a vastly different outcome - can it educate, soothe and ultimately 'make normal' a differing way to getting problems solved. It is, in essence another procurement model. 

They (government agency) say,"We have a problem and we don't have the resources to solve it, but we can't just leave it alone" ... and thus kicks of a procurement process to get services or products from the outside that will itch the scratch, solve the pain. An accelerator, in the R9 sense, is NO DIFFERENT, excepting it follows a different path to getting there - one quicker, more inclusive, more collaborative, more creative and more focussed ... hopefully.

Unfortunately, I see the R9 Programme not measuring this outcome but instead focusing on measuring the entrepreneurial outcome - will the thing on demo day be investment worthy and be set on a path towards profitability. They are measuring the wrong thing. They should, IMHO, be measuring, "is this an effect way of procuring services/products?", and if so in what circumstances and how can it be spread throughout the government.

So what do I think of them?
They could work, they are (should be) cheap and they can have a ripple effect for the good across the whole of government ... but we aren't measuring the right stuff. And change is hard.

As one of the commenters said in that FB discussion:
If it's a chance to see a traditionally insular and self sealing sector (like public service bureaucracies) take the first steps in challenging their own inertia... then yes.., it's worthwhile 
If it's aiming for a much longer game result (like R9) over short run output... then yes... I still think it's worthwhile... 
If it's about inspiring a set of civil service people to think differently and go back to the system as sleepers... then yes... definitely worthwhile...  
If it's about outputs (ie ready made startups) over outcomes then I don't know if it's worthwhile ...  
Terraforming takes time...

I also believe they should be one (not 'the') of many ways for 'government' to get/purchase/make/procure new goods & services - another would be to open up the government as a platform and move to Government as API ... or is that a change too big, time for another article :)

Also see the Creative HQ article, "NZ’S GOV TECH STARTUP ACCELERATOR: WHAT IS R9 AND WHY YOU SHOULD GET INVOLVED" created to publicise the R9 Accelerator 2.0 (early 2016).


  1. Have you heard about Lab+?

    1. I have and I deliberately linked to Pia Waugh as a hint at the work her and the team are doing :)

      (thanks for making sure, I appreciate it)


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