Five minutes with Chris Vanstone, our Chief Innovation Officer

When Chris isn’t writing or organising our social innovation, design and allyship courses, he’s parenting and planning for future generations. We sat down with him to discuss how he’ll make social innovation a daily practice, and the content fuelling his drive right now.

The TACSI Team

2 August 2022

When you're not at work, what do you get up to?

Parenting. I have two boys, ages eight and one and a half, so it's really about hanging out with them, feeding them, and adding to my list of things I'll do when they finally leave home. It's great.

What change would you like to see in the world, and why?

I really want to see us get beyond the nonsense of innovation – and for social innovation to become everyday, something you learn in school, something that's a part of most social impact organisations’ ways of working. I'd really like to see us develop social research and development (R&D) systems as sophisticated as the R&D systems we have for tech, vaccines and ice cream.

What was your previous experience working in social impact before TACSI?

Before TACSI, I worked in London at Participle. Before that, the RED Unit at the UK Design Council. I also worked on designing some pretty important stuff like biscuits, razors and perfume bottles.

Who inspires you, and why?

The great people I get to work with. Specifically, the folks that hold a big idea in mind, find practical ways to work on that, and still manage to stay nice and act like a good human. In the UK, I got to work with the late, great, humble genius of Robin Murray. Right now, it's my colleagues at TACSI who are doing it for me.

Looking back at your career, what’s been the highlight?

Oh, I hope I'm right in the middle of it. The brilliant evolving mess (a.k.a network) that is the entity known as TACSI.

What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?

This week, I seem to have caught myself up in a cross-cultural washing machine between Aboriginal Knowledges and my own Welsh culture. I've been listening to these yarns between Tyson Yunkaporta from NIKERI, Dave Snowden and Beth Smith from the Welsh Cynefin Centre, and various other Indigenous thinkers. 

I've been reading an oral history of Wales from 1962-1997, which charts the modern re-emergence of Welsh culture up to the creation of the Senedd (Welsh parliament), while thinking about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. And reading The Memory Code by Lynne Kelly, which joins the dots between Aboriginal memory systems and memory systems in oral cultures, including the stone circles and cairns of ancient Britain and Ireland.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you 'grew up'?

I always wanted to have lots of jobs at once. My dad always had, and still has, at least three: teacher, carpenter, second hand car seller, petshop owner etc. I thought then I would be a human doctor in the morning and an animal doctor in the afternoon. Both vocations to which I am entirely ill-suited.

What's a book, film or resource that you would recommend to someone interested in social impact?

'The Ministry for the Future' by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's fiction (based on facts) that travels forward in time from about now through the great transition that the climate emergency forces on society in our lifetime. It's a visceral account, without pulling punches.

What's something on your bucket list?

I want to create some kind of social innovation club for kids that rivals Scouts, Guides and after school sports. Where kids learn in super-engaging ways all the good social innovation stuff: how to think and act in systems, creativity and experimentation, creating equitable power dynamics, and allyship. Then I can die.

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