Scaling Innovation

The Centre for Social Impact believes that Australia needs to establish and foster a pipeline of social innovation that translates to meaningful and positive change where it matters most. We need innovation for policy, funding, products and services that increase in scale and reach and create widespread, meaningful and sustained social impact.

Current context for outcomes measurement

The business world, particularly large-scale pharmaceutical and technology companies and FMCG manufacturers put innovation at the heart of their competitive positioning. That's why we have iPads, cochlear implants and Google.

So why is this not reflected for social purpose? Where is the investment in research and development, and the appetite for risk from investors? Where is the product development that makes use of co-design principles and looks for value along the supply chain, or for user-centred service delivery and policy?

Current government tendering processes, majority of social purpose funding models and much of our policy infrastructure is the antithesis of innovation. There is little research and development for new models, practices, products and services for social purpose. There is little incentive to take risk, and almost no incentive for collaboration.

Rewarding certainty alone does not encourage innovative thinking, and political short-termism stands in the way of a sufficient runway for ideas to take flight with government. We need sufficient resources, the right minds, an appetite for risk in both entrepreneurs and investors. We need to measure what works and what doesn’t, and where there are successes, we need to enable them to flourish, expand and continue.

A way forward

There are positive signs in Australia. There is a warm reception for the growth of social enterprise – though an ill-defined role for these organisations in the grand scheme of things. There is an equally receptive market for crowd funding, and cross-sectoral participants in the NSW Social Impact Bonds that are currently in play.

And of course there is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – an excellent example of user-centred design, where the variety of family and individual needs, preferences and aspirations are supported with a ‘flexible and whole-life’ approach. An initiative that is being rolled out in stages, tested, prototyped and refined.

We need more of this thinking for social innovation.

CSI and social innovation

We will promote and participate in collaborative efforts to adapt systems thinking and responsive design principles to the fostering and development of social innovation that delivers impact to scale.

We will work across sectors to explore, map and identify the most appropriate investment and finance models for the most effective innovations; including new models of venture philanthropy, performance based funding, social procurement in businesses and government, and funding processes that encourage coordinated, efficient and creative methods of delivering social impact.

We will explore questions that lead to the qualification and quantification of social innovation. We will continue to provide education programs that draw on the most current case studies and thinking, led by leading experts with national and international knowledge of social innovation.

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