Social R&D for Australia

Since 2019, a growing group of partners – including TACSI – have been exploring the potential of Social R&D systems as an alternate way to make progress on tough social challenges.

What is social R&D?

Too often, we seem stuck in endless loops of fail → review → reform → repeat. Problems don’t get solved, progress towards “better” remains intermittent (and is often stalled) and, not surprisingly, social inequalities persist and worsen. Yet, at the fringes, innovators are finding new ways to tackle long standing social challenges, and they’re succeeding despite the system around them. 

Imagine if we built a system that supported them.

Imagine if Australia had a more predictable, reliable and systematic way to identify, develop, implement and scale responses to our most pressing and complex social issues.

Imagine if we took the best of contemporary R&D practices that are so common in other industries and sectors, and adapted and supplemented them to enhance our social impact systems.

Watch our social R&D explainer

Video still of a diagram
Social R&D Explainer

Read our 2019 white paper

In 2019, alongside some brilliant thinkers in Australia and abroad, we wrote a white paper that explores what it would take to adopt the best of R&D systems from diverse industries and create a social R&D system – one that places people at the heart. We hope to evolve this through conversation and experimentation.

Mockup of the white paper cover with partner logos

In Feb 2023, we held a Future of Social R&D symposium

Co-hosted by RMIT and TACSI, the event posed the question of what the future could look like with an active Social R & D system fit for Australia’s complex social issues.

Together, local and international thinkers, leaders and practitioners explored the question: “What is the R&D infrastructure that’s fit for tackling Australia’s toughest socio-economic-planetary challenges?”

The event featured in-person keynotes from Sir Geoff Mulgan (author of Another World is Possible: How to Reignite Social and Political Imagination and Professor of Collective Intelligence, Public Policy and Social Innovation at University College London) and Jason Pearson (Head of R&D, Youth Employment and Skills Strategy for the Canadian Government).

Also featured were case studies from RMIT’s Health Transformation Lab and The Future Wellness Accelerator - a proposal for a new kind of R&D infrastructure developed through a conversation series about Australia's future wellness, facilitated by TACSI.


Watch the highlight video

Symposium highlight video

Watch Geoff Mulgan share the basics and challenges of social R&D

Video still of Geoff Mulgan
Geoff Mulgan on the basics of social R&D
Geoff Mulgan on the challenges of social R&D

Watch Jason Pearman explain the definition and opportunities of social R&D

Video still of Jason Pearman presenting
Jason Pearman on the definition of social R&D
Video title for Jason Pearman on the opportunities for social R&D in Australia
Jason Pearman on the opportunities for social R&D in Australia

Read our reflection on the Symposium with TACSI’s CIO Chris Vanstone

The 2023 social R&D symposium was the first time we were able to get people from across the for-purpose sector, including philanthropy, government, not-for-profit, intermediaries and universities together in one place to really explore the idea of social R&D. 

Afterwards, TACSI’s Chief Innovation Officer Chris Vanstone sat down and shared what excited him about the event, the outcomes of the discussions, and what’s next.

Chris Vanstone speaking at the symposium
Chris Vanstone speaking at the symposium

Watch the full keynotes

Geoff Mulgan Presenting in front of a screen
Geoff Mulgan full keynote
Jason Pearman presenting in front of a screen
Jason Pearman full keynote
Nithya Solomon presenting in front of a screen
Health Transformation Lab
Carla Clarence presenting in front of a screen
Future Wellness Accelerator

Interested in learning more? We’re hosting a webinar on The Future of Social R&D in Australia on May 3 from 11am-12pm AEST.

Read about our impact, ambition and vision for the future of social R&D.

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Redfern NSW 2016

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