2016 was a huge year for TACSI and 2017 is shaping up to be even bigger, with new offices opening, existing programs evolving and exciting new initiatives on the horizon. You can read end of year reflections from our CEO Carolyn Curtis here, but I thought it would be interesting to gather some additional perspectives from team members across the organisation, focusing on three key questions:
• What did you learn in 2016?
• Where is more social innovation needed and what might inspire that?
• What are your hopes for 2017.

What did you learn in 2016?

It’s taking longer than I might have hoped to see a social innovation ethic more deeply embedded in the way we frame and respond to difficult social challenges. But it is happening…
-Martin Stewart-Weeks, Board Director

I knew a bit about TACSI and knew some TACSI people before joining in September but it was great to learn that the whole organisation is filled with passionate and talented people striving to help others.
-Matt Ryan, Director, Public Policy & Strategy

The impact of open-sourcing a human service.
– Ione Ardaiz Osacar, Senior Social Innovator

In 2016 I learnt about the potential impact of open-sourced innovation … through designing and launching an open source model for Weavers in 3 months we have had national and international reach that we would otherwise not have had, found potential sectors for the model to be adapted to driven by those who registered for the open source for example supporting foster carers and are discovering a business model for supporting others to implement. I am excited about the new possibilities this will surface in our work at TACSI and with partners.
-Kerry Jones, Principal, Ageing, Disability and Partnerships

Find out more about Weavers and how we open-sourced it here.

In Australia we have some of the best examples of social innovation – and some of the most effective business models for social labs, partly because there has not been substantial investment in social innovation by either government or philanthropy. However, because of this lack of investment we have a very weak social innovation eco-system. After a trip to Canada in 2016 I learnt the value of investing in an eco-system – it stimulates the seeking of genuine innovation, it grows a sector, and it builds connections that could actually lead to real impacts. Australia has a great foundation for social innovation – but without investing in an eco-system, that foundation will always remain at a basic level. And if we are really to work out how we could shift some of the outcomes we are not achieving in relation to a variety of social issues, then what we need is an eco-system of social innovation that is thriving, not merely surviving.
-Ingrid Burkett, Director, Learning & System Innovation

From your perspective, where is more social innovation needed?

The simple answer is “everywhere”. If you think of social innovation as a mixture of “people are the experts in their own lives”, design and prototyping and robust measurement, learning and adjusting in the light of experience, then where wouldn’t you want more of that?
-Martin Stewart-Weeks, Board Director

I think we need to start unpacking the phrase ‘social innovation’ – we need to do more to show what is rather than try to explain. Whether its families helping other families in difficulty, humanising rather medicalising end of life, or creating new insights by re-framing child protection as a public health issue, people are inspired by TACSI stories. For me, these stories draw people to TACSI and unlock whole new areas of potential.
-Matt Ryan, Director, Public Policy & Strategy

Focusing on the people and making sure that systems pivot around them. Instead of starting from the systems to focus on people. TACSI’s system thinking approach to challenges. For example in Innovation Age we are not only focusing on designing solutions but we are also trying to impact policy.
– Ione Ardaiz Osacar, Senior Social Innovator

This is a huge question from my perspective more innovation is needed in how we think about the systems that influence outcomes for people and how we join up innovation across those systems to effect significant and sustained change for better lives. For me in our focus in ageing that means thinking beyond aged care as the space for ageing well and joining up the innovation effort of policy silos, civic movements and community and private markets.
-Kerry Jones, Principal, Ageing, Disability and Partnerships

From a big picture perspective I would say we need to move beyond programmatic and service innovation and into understanding how we can shift whole systems. At the moment I think in relation to our most vexing social issues we are still ‘tinkering’ at the edges. Yet we know that this will not result in significant changes. We need to begin to understand what it takes to really create impacts, and what it takes not just in this or that program, but across the whole system. And we need to learn from what works, and commit to much greater risk-taking to test how we can support more of what works and let go of things that we know don’t work.

At a more micro-level, I think we need to become much more rigorous and passionate about social innovation as a craft. At the moment we have a lot of ‘dabbling’ in things like co-design, and design-thinking and social innovation. But as this spreads, these are becoming just words – no one wants to ‘consult’ anymore – no! We all want to ‘co-design’ – but in our rush towards the new and better it seems that we can’t really distinguish between the two. To really ‘co-design’ with people requires skill, commitment to developing capability, and investment in learning what it takes to work with people. It’s risky, because if we want to co-design then we need to be prepared to learn from people who we are serving and to change things as a result. It is a nonsense to suggest that if we just talk about doing ‘co-design’ and we don’t build a commitment to honing the craft that this will make any difference to outcomes. It will just be more kool aid and we will get sick of the taste of that increasingly quickly!

-Ingrid Burkett, Director, Learning & System Innovation

What are your hopes for 2017?

The “deep” policy community in social policy has to start breaking down its stubborn resistance to (a) accepting the validity of he social innovation frame as core to good social policy and (b) working more assiduously for its spread and scale across the social policy landscape. We can do better and move faster. So why don’t we?
-Martin Stewart-Weeks, Board Director

TACSI already works in every Australian state but with connections around the globe I think it’s are well-placed to help drive social change at an international level.
-Matt Ryan, Director, Public Policy & Strategy

More collaboration between various actors in the system and us playing the facilitator and the role of citizens voice.
– Ione Ardaiz Osacar, Senior Social Innovator

Lots more of the gritty work of innovation and taking ideas into implementation
-Kerry Jones, Principal, Ageing, Disability and Partnerships

We have so many amazing opportunities to really hone the craft of social innovation in Australia. We are in the midst of possibly the greatest systemic innovation in the last half a century with the spread of the NDIS. This provides a plethora of amazing opportunities for innovation at all levels, and for really honing the craft of co-design so that it can realise the intentions which the architects of the NDIS set out to achieve. There is nothing more inspiring to me than to have a ready-made field of opportunity – the challenge is whether we can be committed enough to really harness this opportunity. My hope for 2017 is that we are able to build the craft and not the rhetoric of social innovation so that we can ensure real outcomes for people with disabilities – and many others into the future.
-Ingrid Burkett, Director, Learning & System Innovation