Building Regional Innovation Capability

TACSI spreads social innovation skills across regional NSW


In partnership with Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and the Dusseldorp forum this is a two year project to build a social innovation academy from the ground up with and for regional communities.


The situation

In 2017 only 10% of our population lives in regional Australia – innovation is increasingly necessary to ensure that rural communities continue to grow and thrive.

In Western NSW there are many energetic and passionate people looking to build strong futures in their communities.  Yet they face some big challenges:

  • Changing economies and employment opportunities
  • Declining and ageing populations
  • Less access capability building for innovators and support for innovative ideas
  • Training that is often developed for and by urban communities, where the challenges and opportunities are different

Our vision

We believe in a strong and positive future for regional communities – one where local economies can grow and a diversity of people can thrive.

We are building a new way of growing and spreading social innovation capability – from the ground up, and with people who are putting social innovation into practice in their communities.  Regional communities have as much to teach others about social innovation as they have to learn from TACSI – and we want to harness this and use it for the benefit of these and other communities across regional Australia.


Our approach

We are working in four communities across Western NSW who are all facing different challenges and who are all developing innovative approaches to dealing with these challenges.  The focus of the work is capability building – but with a twist:

  • we are not just training local people, we are learning from and with them to shape up a social innovation curriculum that is relevant and tested in regional communities
  • we are putting social innovation into practice alongside local people, and then using this practice to inform real case studies from across the region
  • we are building an online platform and the facilitation skills of local people so that other communities in regional Australia can benefit from the academy beyond the life of the project
    we are connecting people in and across the communities so that they can learn from each other not just from TACSI.
Capability building that goes beyond a one-off workshop, that sees participants in regional Australia as having as much to share as they have to learn about social innovation.

TACSI insights

In our work in 2017 we tested four ways we could share and grow skills and knowledge in social innovation in regional NSW:

  • Workshops that are practical, action oriented and link together what is happening in regional communities with frameworks that TACSI has tested elsewhere;
  • Onsite action learning – where a TACSI team spends time with key community workers to understand the local context and support great social innovation work;
  • Shared practice – sharing learnings across sites, and across communities, which has created the foundation for the online platform we are currently developing.


Based on this work we are currently developing:

  • A compilation of case studies, stories, videos and tutorials from each community and by each community that can demonstrate how social innovation in regional contexts is being applied
  • An online community of practice where regional communities can share their learnings and take them further
  • A social innovation coaching model where we can support communities to turn ideas into action, and then support community members to start to coach other community members and other communities
  • A learning program that is culturally relevant and informed to ensure that social innovation can draw from and support Aboriginal groups and people to thrive in each of the contexts

Next steps

Ultimately we want to redesign how people learn about social innovation – in ways that actually lead to change, and that supports people and communities to thrive across Australia.