Igniting innovation in creative and cultural industries


How NSW can activate creative workers to help design the new generation of government services.

This proposal was originally submitted to the NSW Government on 23 February 2016.

Call to Action

The NSW Government should establish a Creative Services Procurement Scheme to make it easier for people in government to engage and collaborate with creative and cultural workers and small businesses (SMEs).



There are over 220,000 creative workers in NSW. This makes NSW the number 1 state for creative workers, representing 40% of Australia’s total creative industry workforce. Of the 50,000 creative enterprises operating in NSW, 97% are small businesses.

Even with these significant numbers, it is difficult for creative workers and small creative businesses to be engaged by the NSW Government. We simply don’t fit in to existing procurement schemes. Government staff either don’t know how to hire or contract us, or find it difficult to do so.

Incorrect contracts or general purchase orders are often used, which do not address insurances, intellectual property, copyright or other rights. This is a systemic problem putting the NSW Government at risk. It also means workers and SMEs cannot capitalise on their creative work and intellectual property in order to build and grow sustainable businesses.

What Are Creative Services?

Creative services are more than marketing and advertising. Not everyone is ‘selling’ something.

“Communications” is a word often used in Government to represent ‘corporate’ or ‘strategic’ communications. Ie. Fire-fighting for their Minister in dealing with the media or preparing campaigns. It is a loaded term.

All creative services help communicate something using different methods, across different platforms and techniques. We’re collaborative, connected and constantly innovate.

We design, make, create, and collaborate to build things. We create content, impart useful information in interesting ways. We engage and delight people. We design interfaces, places and spaces and try to make sense of the world or issues and convey it to others in a way they can understand. Sometimes we have the opportunity to design and make beautiful things that improve people’s surroundings, communities and lives.

Common traits of people who work in creative and cultural services are: we make for a specific audience (user/customer focussed); are agile (adapt to changing circumstances); and have to make things happen quickly (often under-resourced and with deadly deadlines).

The Concept

The NSW Government should make it easy for government staff to engage creative workers and small creative businesses in order to help drive innovation within Government. This will assist with the development of design, content and communications capabilities within government, and create new job opportunities and economic growth for the creative industries sector.


The NSW Government can create a Creative Services Scheme designed for the specific needs of creative and cultural enterprises. This will help government staff engage creative services, and encourage IT, digital and technology companies to collaborate with the creative service providers on government services.


The NSW Government Procurement Problem:

Current State

The NSW Government has two procurement lists, neither of which adequately provide for established and contemporary creative services. There is also a third list for a Contingent Workforce, however this is limited in its roles too, and not suitable for all circumstances and projects.

1. The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) list — Advertising and Digital Communications Services

This list is managed by DPC Strategic Communications. There are two ‘closed’ panels of service providers for marketing, advertising, or public relations and ‘brand’ campaigns. Service providers have a two-year tenure. The panel will be reviewed in 2018.

Advertising Services

The 25 agencies listed are mostly large advertising agencies owned by multinational corporations. This list seems to be specifically for large scale Government campaigns and suited to big ‘full service’ agencies.

Digital Communications Services

There are 24 agencies listed, many of which are on the Advertising Services panel. This list covers digital and social media campaigns, branded content and creative campaigns (all services that can be provided by a multitude of small specialist creative businesses in NSW).

Challenges with this approach

These lists are ‘closed’ and therefore don’t offer opportunities to other smaller companies with similar capabilities and experience. Individual creative workers and creative SMEs who aren’t advertising agencies, marketing or strictly digital communications are not appropriate or applicable for this scheme.

2. The Department of Finance, Services, and Innovation — ICT Services Catalogue

This is an ‘open list’ of 2000 + suppliers. The open list is better than a closed list, however, the categories in this scheme are traditional ICT services. Some design and research skills are listed but do not reflect contemporary roles or language.

Challenges with this approach

Any creative and design services that are there, are lost in the service catalogue. When government staff look for creative businesses and services, it is difficult for them to work out what category to search and when contracting, what contract module is best.

Creative SMEs find it difficult to fit in to this scheme. Categories either don’t cover the full extent of required roles, skills and services to help deliver digital and contemporary IT projects and services, or are too broad and result in small specialists being listed alongside multinationals operating at totally different scales.

This list is not appropriate for individual creative workers, or for government staff looking to hire for specific roles on projects, rather than outsourcing entire projects to large agencies or IT providers.

There is a whole range of individual creative workers or creative SMEs with the specialist skills who could potentially collaborate with traditional IT providers to deliver an innovative government service. Currently, it is difficult for IT providers to find complementary small companies on the ICT services catalogue. When they do, they don’t quite know how to justify the need for creative services, explain the (sometimes) intangible value, or how to schedule, cost and contract them.

3. The Contingent Workforce List

This ‘list’ is comprehensive and does allow for some creative workers — but the contracts are not suited to all project work or hiring scenarios.

Opportunity: National Leadership

There is a consistent lack of recognition for creative services across all Australian governments.

Victoria, despite having a Creative Industries Minister and Agency, simply has a Marketing Services Scheme. There is no recognition of creative services in TAS, WA, SA, QLD and NT governments.

The Federal Government has a list of marketing, advertising and public relations experts. The recently established Digital Transformation Office (DTO), plan to prototype and redesign their procurement scheme in July 2016. They will need and also should have better categorisation and descriptions for creative services.

With the development of the NSW Innovation Policy, this is a fantastic moment for NSW to take the lead nationally.

Opportunity: Set a Standard for Global Best Practices

NSW and Australia are not alone. The European Union has stated:

“Despite the considerable potential of cultural and creative industries (CCIs), estimated to be responsible for over 3% of the EU’s gross domestic product and jobs, they remain undervalued and unrecognised, especially in terms of their ability to access start-up capital and financing.” EU Commission.

Creative industries have significant spill-over effects in the wider economy. Beyond their direct contribution to GDP, CCIs are also important drivers of economic and social innovation in many other sectors.” EU Commission — Creative Industries Green Paper.

The UK, a leader in digital transformation and internationally renowned for championing creative industries, also do not seem to have a way to easily engage with creative services in their procurement process and or through their digital marketplace (which the Australian Federal DTO plan to emulate for their own redesign).

NSW’s Legacy

NSW has been progressive in its procurement reform. The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) acknowledges that NSW is the current national leader in simplifying its procurement processes and contracts.

The information and marketing industries have industry associations advocating for their interests to ensure they have adequate government contracts. The creative industry does not.

One of the State’s objectives is to make it easier for small businesses to do business with Government.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could also be making it easier for government staff to business with us, and make it safe for them to innovate?

The NSW Government has the opportunity to develop and deliver a Creative Services Scheme that is unprecedented in Australia, and to establish a global best practice program. And then set a standard, and share approaches other governments can follow.


What the Creative Services Scheme Will Deliver

A Creative Services Scheme will provide a valuable pilot to test innovation and reform of the procurement process in Government. It should foster opportunities for SMEs to work with government by complementing the ICT (DFSI) and Advertising and Digital Communications (DPC) Schemes.

Ultimately, this will build business engagement with government, and help the growth of creative industries and the wider NSW economy.

The Scheme will help fulfil the objective of government to fund innovative, agile and collaborative projects. It will support the NSW Government’s objectives of being more open and easy to do business with. We can help the government create compelling content suited to the needs of our multicultural society.

Supporting and growing capabilities within the Government workforce and industry

Hiring for specific roles and engaging small teams, rather than outsourcing entire projects will allow existing government teams to be enhanced by specialists, build design capabilities, content and digital literacy and enrich in-house knowledge and experience.

Creative and digital SMEs supplementing the existing workforce will help introduce fresh ideas, new methods and techniques into the government ecosystem. Creative SMEs will assist in delivering the Government’s objective to create more design and customer centric services, and the Public Service Commission’s intention to improve digital literacy.


Creative, arts and cultural workers have unique skills and expertise, often do project work, are innately collaborative, accustomed to engaging with the wider general public, and working on multicultural community audience focussed projects.

Creative services are important employers of indigenous and minority groups in the community.

A creative services scheme will help government connect with this sector and will provide a source of employment opportunities.

Building bridges between IT, digital and creative services sector

Technology, skills, techniques, methods and the roles required are constantly evolving. The traditional IT sector needs new kinds of collaborators to deliver well designed customer focussed government services and content.

There are a few big design companies and consultants who get the bulk of the government work. This is a fantastic opportunity for smaller businesses who don’t have ‘brand recognition’ to be found.

The scheme will connect and leverage creative services with the IT industry. It will enable content producers, designers, artists, innovators and technologists to work with government, and each other, on government services.

Creative Industries Taskforce

The Creative Industries Action Plan in 2012 reported that creative industries believe the NSW Government procurement system does not provide fair access to government work, stating that bidding for work can often be unreasonable.

The other issues they identified were; intellectual property, onerous and time consuming bid processes, lack of clarity around outcomes of procurement, and poorly prepared specifications and briefs from government agencies.

Much good work has been done by the government to try to address the above, but not quite enough.

Risks to Government in not creating a Creative Services Scheme

Creative workers and services will continue to not be contracted appropriately. The default position in NSW is service providers retain their IP in order to benefit from their work. Incorrect contracts or general purchase orders are used which do not address use of open source, creative commons licences, IP, copyright or other rights and considerations in line with the NSW Government procurement policy.

This will hinder the Government’s ability to deliver its promise of innovation, faster and better customer centric services.

Compelling reasons for the Creative Service Scheme to exist

The Creative Services Scheme will enable government to meet its objective of improved innovation and engagement with SMEs, and build its capacity to be responsive to communities needs.

The Government has a number of design, content and communication challenges. Engagement with creative services will enable government to tell its own stories and deliver on policies more effectively.

A successful scheme will educate government purchasers to derive maximum value, rather than minimum cost in purchasing decisions.

Allowing the broader creative services community to contribute to innovation will deliver better value for government, economic growth and wider social benefits.

What Next?

Developing a Creative Services Scheme will require clarification of roles, the types of contracts required, and discussions and education about copyright, creative commons licences and intellectual property.

A first step would be to engage with the industry and State and Local Government staff to determine what they need and invite their participation in designing a scheme that services their needs.

Why do I care?

I’ve worked in the arts, creative and cultural industries for 30 years. Nurturing ideas, promoting industry and professional development, and ensuring the wellbeing of workers has been an important aspect and responsibility in my role as an independent producer and executive with local and international creative companies.

My company Nook Studios is a small story, software and design company established in 2008. Over the last 4 years I’ve been working and engaging with State, Federal and Local Governments and have witnessed the difficulty and frustration government staff and creative services and workers experience due to the limitations of the existing procurement schemes.

Illustrations by lobsterboy. Thanks to Sasha Abram.