From social R&D to scaling innovation: How TACSI plans to hit the ground running in 2021

2020 proved just how capable we are when it comes to innovating and evolving as a society.

But the real challenge, says TACSI CEO Carolyn Curtis, is to use this monumental societal shift as an opportunity to set up our social systems for a smarter, more regenerative, and inclusive future.

3 March 2021

By Carolyn Curtis, CEO, TACSI

I come into 2021 with a sense of energy and hope.

Alongside the overwhelming sense of trauma and destabilisation as a result of Covid-19, we’ve also seen people, families, communities, and institutions innovate at an unprecedented pace. We have seen that we can make changes at a scale previously considered impossible. 

Our new organisational strategy – set to be released in the coming months – will explore not only how to create great innovations but, crucially, how to take the next step in working with partners and communities to create an ecosystem that moves social innovation from the margins to a mainstream way of working. Far beyond guiding our success and longevity as an organisation, our strategy will be about realising our potential to make wide-reaching and sustainable change in the world. 

So far in 2021, we’ve hit the ground running and have been spending our time on the following:

  • Exploring what a “Social R&D” system could look like in Australia

  • Developing community responses to mental health support

  • Scaling innovations and learnings for wide-reaching and sustainable social change

  • Proposing a powerful new vision of ageing and the future of home

  • Continuing our ‘Innovating Us’ journey

  • and much more.

Image 3: On Kaurna Land, Kaurna Elder Uncle Frank Wanganeen shared his knowledge and guided the team with Aunty Vickey Charles an Alawa/Mara woman from the Northern Territory now living on Kaurna land, on a cultural walking tour of Kaurna Yerta along the Karrawirra Parri. Our sincere thanks to Kaurna Elder and Kaurna/Narungga man Uncle Frank Wanganeen for sharing his knowledge of place with us.

In 2021, we're... exploring what a Social R&D system in Australia could look like

In February, myself and Chris Vanstone [TACSI’s Chief Innovation Officer] spoke at the BiiG Conference in Brisbane, where we explored the notion of adapting and using the principles of R&D to help tackle our big social issues.

Globally, billions are invested every year into defence, tech, agriculture and science R&D systems – yet when it comes to our most pressing social issues, mechanisms to innovate at scale are completely absent. We believe that through the development of R&D systems focused on tackling our biggest social issues we can make progress faster, bridge the gap between institutions and people, and create systems and supports that are fit for now and the future. 

But it’s not as easy as picking up this R&D concept and plunking it into social policy. There’s certain things we’ll have to adapt and evolve and change, most importantly, we’ll need to bring people into the heart of R&D processes. 

You can read more about our approach to Social R&D here, and we’ll be releasing a more in-depth piece in the coming months – watch this space!

Illustration of someone building a tower

In 2021, we're... developing community responses to mental health support

Covid-19, the recession, and the climate emergency are creating unprecedented levels of psychological stress, isolation and uncertainty that we’re not equipped to deal with. The resulting decline in mental health is a wellbeing challenge that also has dire consequences for our economy.

With the recent release of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health and the 

Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, it’s clear that funnelling investment into the same systems, the same responses, and into the same solutions is not enough.

We need to build more authentic relationships with people and communities and not just take their stories and run with them, but actually work with them, to create what a new and better system would look like. Read about some great examples here.

In 2020, we developed four ‘areas for action’ that we believe would transform our mental health system. You can explore our ideas in more detail here – and watch this space for a conversation series starting in mid 2021.

Our Town Kimba
Our Town Kimba

In 2021, we're... scaling innovations and learnings for sustainable social change

We’re thrilled to announce that our award-winning peer-to-peer program Family by Family is now available as a scalable framework ready to be thoughtfully but easily implemented by any community around the world wanting to help families make lasting change. This coincides with the program’s international roll-out, which will be announced in more detail soon. 

As well as shifting the broader system of support towards strength-based family practice, we’ll also be using the international momentum to demonstrate how to build a new type of practice that’s family led, and how to create a different kind of workforce – one that’s a family workforce. 

In 2021, we’re also excited to scale the learnings from our Our Town model, which has seen us spend the last year working with regional South Australian communities on building strategies to tackle mental health from a regional perspective.

In 2021, we're... proposing a powerful new vision of ageing and the future of home

Right now, Australia’s housing system doesn’t work well for most people — but this doesn’t have to be the case. Our work in this area has uncovered some incredible innovations, and we believe that by scaling these, we can make a housing system that works for everyone.

In April 2021, we’ll be publishing a powerful new vision of ageing and the future of home in the form of an e-book, which will focus on the innovation needed to create better homes as we age.

The Future of Home book
Illustration of hands putting shaped pegs into holes

In 2021, we're... continuing our ‘Innovating Us’ journey

Every year our TACSI network comes together every quarter to work on ‘Innovating Us’. We don’t discuss projects or initiatives, methods and tools – we work on building and practicing behaviours that support our culture, we co-create strategy and we work to keep growing our own individual and organisational cultural competency and confidence. 

 Over the coming months, we’ll be focusing on what remuneration and progression looks like in a networked organisation. You can explore our ongoing journey towards decentralisation through our Innovating Us series.

If you have any comments, questions or feedback, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a note here, start a conversation with us on Twitter, or subscribe to our newsletter below.

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