Social R&D for coalition

R&D for Social Good

TACSI, along with our partners from the Centre for Social Impact, RMIT, Monash University and the Donkeywheel Foundation, are currently exploring what it would take to create a system for Social R&D in Australia.

Every year we spend $500 billion on social purpose programs and initiatives, yet often, we don’t know if they are effective, and the problems they seek to address endure. There are multiple social issues where entrenched disadvantage or inequalities either persist or are growing

Irrespective of the significant social challenges Australia faces, R&D is not traditionally focused on addressing complex social problems. The latest ABS figures reported government expenditure on R&D at $3.279 billion for the 2016-17 financial year (0.19% of Australia’s GDP). In 2017-18, Australian businesses reported spending more than $17.438 billion on R&D (0.9% of Australia’s GDP).

There is research to suggest that R&D funding is effective: it supports innovation in small and medium sized enterprises, as well as long-term productivity growth in agriculture. Broadly, R&D in Australia encompasses ‘core’ work of hypothesis testing and experimentation, as well as ‘supporting’ work that contributes directly to the R&D being funded.

Social R&D in Australia could follow a similar framework: innovations that are targeted at generating new knowledges or solutions to social problems, which follow a systematic hypothesis-driven approach to testing impact and outcomes.

Where are we starting?

We are currently working with Access Economics to estimate and quantify the value of applying Social R&D at scale in Australia. It’s early days but we’ll have something to share in early 2020.

This ambition is far greater than any single organisation or sector. It will require a coalition of people and organisations to realise a new system for making progress on some of our most pressing social issues.