The Case For Change

Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and has weathered the GFC better than most OECD economies. But we are still challenged by social problems where things are not changing, not changing fast enough for the lives they impact, or they are getting worse. And things are going well at the moment. Thirty years from now the outlook is less promising and that is why we need to work towards a more resilient social system for Australia. Now.

Australia's challenge

Two decades of uninterrupted growth has held the Australian economy in good stead. Most of us enjoy a high standard of living, good health and access to education and training.

But that’s not so for everyone.

Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on social purpose each year:

  • Things are not changing in specific communities where place-based disadvantage exists. Places like Dandenong and Hume in Melbourne, Logan in Queensland and Greater Western Sydney.
  • Things are not changing fast enough for many Indigenous Australian communities.
  • And in many cases, like access to affordable housing where there is a five to 10 year waiting period and families are living in cars, things are getting worse.

That’s a snapshot of our fair and lucky country in the context of things going well. The future is even less positive.

If we do not fix the system failure that leads to these entrenched social challenges we face significant barriers to addressing the issues of today, let alone the compounded issues we will face decades from now.

Australia 30 years from now

As Australia’s population ages we will face significant social and economic challenges. It is estimated that in 2050 government expenditure on the aged – health services for the aged, aged care and aged pensions – will double from today’s figures.

Also, the number of working-age people per older person will decrease by half.

The math isn’t complicated. The government will simply not be able to continue to fund the diverse social purpose needs Australia has and the social purpose sector’s talent pool will shrink. Put simply – there will be less capital and capability to tackle Australia’s biggest social challenges.

What hope is there?

Plenty. Social systems are resilient, adaptable and they can change for the better. That’s where the Centre for Social Impact comes in.

We see the need to improve the effectiveness of the social impact system and we see the opportunity to work across sectors to do so.

We need a social impact system that brings people together to collaborate, where holistic approaches dominate over silos, where outcomes are defined and measured, where funding follows results and effectiveness is rewarded. We need a system that learns, is dynamic and adaptive and that attracts top people to social purpose roles and governance.

We cannot fix the whole system immediately. That would be a dangerous claim. But there are lots of small incremental changes that, if we can get them moving, will lead to much larger, more significant change.

What can we do?

Australia spends over $250bn each year on social issues - across government, not-for-profit and for-profit sectors.

It spends that money through a tendering and reporting process that encourages fragmentation and an unco-ordinated effort in a resource-starved sector.

The system is conservative and lacks the ability to scale innovation. It often treats symptoms, not root causes.

What will the Centre for Social Impact do?

We need to apply systems thinking to how we make social change happen. Our role is to understand, advocate and teach about how our social system and the organisations within it should more effectively work towards improved social impact.

To achieve this we will work through real-world projects and case studies and we will partner with practitioners and subject experts in different areas. Our role is also cross-sectoral - we need to join up all of the component parts that can lead to change within the social impact system.

We have consulted hundreds of thinkers, experts and leaders nationally and around the world to identify five elements of change that we believe will make a significant difference and build a stronger social system in Australia. These elements are interconnected components that come together to form our Social Impact Framework. It is the focus of everything we do.

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