The Centre for Social Impact believes in adopting and promoting effective models of collaborative and participatory approaches to create a stronger system for social impact in Australia.

Current context

Despite two decades of affluence, our social impact system is still failing communities with the greatest need.

Although well-meaning, intervention is often managed in silos with short-term goals set by single sectors or organisations or without due consideration to the multiple facets of social issues. We are taking a patchwork approach, not necessarily including the users of services, products and program and we are missing opportunities to tackle numerous issues at the same time.

We also don’t know if we’re winning or losing this very good fight. Shared evaluation methods, common goals and a clear vision, the right kind of leadership, management and practice – where is it? How can we confidently say we’re on the right track?

We can’t. We are not joining-up and developing solutions that are fit for purpose and we are not making use of the limited capability and capital we have available to make a significant social impact. And that’s now – when times are good. Fast forward 30 years from now.

Government will not have the resources to be society’s only saviour. Organisations dedicated to social purpose, practitioners, knowledge creators and communities will need to work together to find solutions to our greatest challenges.

A way forward

We need to find more effective ways to collaborate and develop responses to social issues in close consultation with communities to enable shared knowledge, better outcomes and an empowered sense of progress that can be sustained for the future.

The days of top-down approaches are gone. These methods are not helping the communities who need them most and there are too many examples where things are not changing, not changing as fast as people need or things are getting worse.

There are highly effective models for collaboration and participative approaches to social change. We have a sector where values are largely aligned – we all want a better way forward for those who need it most.

This calls for those dedicated to creating beneficial social impact to align their values and goals, share a view and approach to tackling social issues and establish effective structures to work together and with communities to arrive at agreed solutions.

We need to better engage with communities and individuals who are directly impacted by social challenges. We need to respectfully learn with these communities and people, determine what – of the multitude of approaches to enabling social change – would work best and build the capacity for local empowerment to sustain the measured progress we make along the way.

What will CSI do about collaborative and participatory approaches to social design?

The Centre for Social Impact will employ a network structure to the way we work. We are committed to work in collaboration and partnership to find solutions to social challenges. We cannot do this alone, we don’t want to and we welcome others to join us.

We – as with all organisations with a social purpose – do not have all the resources or know-how. But we have our strengths.

Collaboration is one of our core values. We work with a network of national university partners. We are proud of our cross-functional expertise in research, education, events, communication and advocacy and we have a vision to build online communities with a view to sharing knowledge and best practice.

Our first focus for collaborative and participative approaches is to establish a community and forum for sharing knowledge on the Collective Impact framework. And we’ll take it from there.

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