On May 29, 2019, Oxford University's Centre for Technology and Global Affairs hosted Alison Hawks, who discussed the launch of the programme Hacking for Defence (H4D) in the United Kingdom. Alison began the presentation by pointing out crucial gaps in the processes of innovation within government: discipline, rigour, and evidence-based analysis of problems and their solutions. She juxtaposed these deficiencies with innovation efforts within the private sector, identifying a low adoption readiness level as one of the main weaknesses of innovation within government.
Alison noted that governments remain too focussed on identifying solutions rather than on understanding their underlying problems. Providing a vast array of empirical case studies, she argued that “being a part of the problem” is the key to innovation in mission-driven organizations such as H4D. She encouraged the audience to reflect on potential synergies between government, industry, and academia and how it can contribute to positive innovation within government. H4D is a problem-solving method that uses modern innovation tools such as the Lean Startup methodology and problem-curation techniques to solve critical national security problems at startup speed. Launched in the U.S. in 2016 and now taught at 22 universities there, it is currently being piloted in the UK.
Alison Hawks is the Executive Director of H4D UK. She was previously the Director of Research at the Section 809 Panel, a US congressionally mandated commission tasked with streamlining and codifying defence acquisition. She has been an Assistant Professor at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University and is a Visiting Research Fellow at the School of Security Studies, King’s College London. Previously, she was a Lecturer at the Defence Studies Department, King’s College London, and has lectured in American politics at Brunel University, as well as numerous undergraduate courses in the Department of War Studies. Alison was involved in the development of the PSC.1 Standard for the private security service provider industry as a member of both the Working Group and Technical Committee, and a contributing author of the UNODC Handbook for the Rules of Force for Private Security Companies.