Collaboration and innovation for social change

The social and economic systems are connected and we need to better understand those connections and start addressing some of the social issues or we face three key risks, Impact Investing Australia Australian Advisory Board Chair, Rosemary Addis told CEDA’s State of the Nation audience.

“The first risk is that we entrench the disconnect that we’ve been talking about and that comes through so strongly in (CEDA’s report) Community pulse 2018: the economic disconnect,” she said.

“The second is that we leave a lot of capital and talent sitting on the sidelines that could actually be driving both social and economic progress and prosperity.

“And the third is that we start to lose our competitive advantage as other countries step up to this challenge much more proactively.”

Ms Addis said people want more opportunities to invest in businesses aligned with their values.

“Australian Ethical is the fastest growing superannuation fund in this country,” she said.

“This is a window of opportunity for innovation and the good news is we know what the toolbox is for that, we use it in economic policy, we can adapt it for getting better outcomes in social policy as well.”

Goodstart Early Learning Chair, Michael Traill AM said we need to deal with social change in bite sized chunks rather than fragmented bites.

“The zeitgeist of the times and what the CEDA report highlights is we need a capitalism 2.0, we need a different way of looking at these issues,” he said.

“The idea that we can actually invest in large scale organisations, at scale, that are run with business disciplines for social purpose, I think is entirely achievable.”

Centre for Social Impact Chief Executive Officer, Professor Kristy Muir said to shift social change we need to look beyond the usual sectors of government, not-for-profits and corporates.

“At the Centre for Social Impact we talk about a social purpose ecosystem, we’re seeing new people enter the space,” she said.

“We have social entrepreneurs, we have social intrapreneurs, we’ve got social enterprises, corporates are starting to introduce things like shared value.

“The landscape around the expectations is also changing, interestingly there’s been an increasing shift on expectations that for the money that people have – whether you’re a not-for-profit or another – what are the outcomes that you’re actually producing for those dollars.”

Professor Muir said there is a demand for better evidence and data and more accountability.

“As a result the Centre for Social Impact has recently launched a project called Amplify Social Impact where we are using technology to better understand the social issues we’re facing, how we’re tracking over time and using indicators to measure that and giving businesses the ability to benchmark over time, she said.

Lendlease Executive Lead Indigenous Engagement and RAP, Cath Brokenborough said that while she does support social change targets, such as the indigenous procurement policy, it has to be sustainably achieved.

“We’re putting this enormous pressure on small businesses to take up all this extra work and grow at a totally irresponsible rate,” she said.

“We have to be mindful that we need to talk to people and understand what are the risks, what are the aspirations, what is the market, ask what does success look like to you and not presume that we have all the answers and knowledge.

“I think we need to be inclusive in decision-making and incorporate some those ideas and values of the people impacted because that’s where some of the best ideas do live.”

Ms Brokenborough said there are plenty of drivers from a commercial point of view to enact social change. 

“Most of the organisations in this room have sustainability platforms that talk about the SDGs or some of us might be signatures to the UN Global Compact or have Reconciliation Action Plans,” she said.

“And I think there won’t be a choice in the future, it’ll be that you have to be playing in this field, the stakeholders and investors demand it and community expectations are high.”