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The world is being continually reshaped by innovation such as smartphones or vaccines. But when it comes to curing society’s social ills, the philanthropic sector tends to fall back on the same fractured strategies and solutions.

“We don’t invest anywhere near as much into social innovation as we do in scientific or medical innovations,” The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) Chief Executive Carolyn Curtis said.
“We still rest on very traditional methods of problem solving when it comes to social policy. We have royal commissions, we have inquiries, but not a strong culture of innovation.”

TACSI is taking a different approach. It is working with a consortium of partners to build the conditions for social innovation, which will improve the sector’s capacity to tackle complex social issues in more effective human-centred ways.

“When it comes to some of our biggest social issues, things are still not shifting decades down the track. We need more responsive ways to tackle things that brings citizens and communities closer to these challenges and solutions.”

Ongoing issues ripe to be overhauled include aged care, preventing family and domestic violence, strengthening child protection, reducing homelessness, and responding more effectively to mental illness.

But innovative approaches can only occur when organisations avoid duplication by sharing resources, knowledge and expertise about what works, and the sector develops more systematic ways to turn what works into action.

TACSI’s ability to foster collaboration between organisations that provokes innovation in how to solve social issues is a core reasons the Equity Trustees Sector Capacity Building Fund has provided $1 million in funding over five years.

“We recognise that society faces wicked problems and to solve them we have to work more collaboratively, which requires funding collaboration rather than just funding grant programs or initiatives,” Equity Trustees Trust and Grant Program Manager, Ferdi Hepworth, said.

Over the last 18 months, TACSI has worked with Monash University, RMIT, and CSI to develop a foundation for a strong social R&D system. It has also prototyped a Social Innovation Learning Network with senior leaders from 25 not-for-profits across Australia. It plans to launch an independent Social Innovation Academy, which will help facilitate further learning networks to support organisations to innovate.