A Year of Transformation

As we embark on a new year, refreshed from a break now is a good time to really think about how we want this year to pan out.

I’m putting it out there that 2015 will be a transformational year.

I have much respect for Ben Hecht CEO and President of Living Cities which was established in 1991 to improve the economic well being of low income people. They did so by pulling together the resources and skills of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to drive solutions and growth in low income communities. Living Cities combines impact investing, open source social change, cross sector partnerships and capital investment.

Ben wrote an article in January 2013 in the Harvard Business Review titled “Collaboration is the new competition” which offered this insight: ” While collaboration is certainly not a foreign concept, what we’re seeing around the country is the coming together of non-traditional partners, and a willingness to embrace new ways of working together. And, this movement is yielding promising results.”

We are seeing the same movement in Australia.

Many new organisations and movements are emerging as a result of the incessant failures of governments and NGOs to solve some of the most wicked problems of our society.

Some of these organisations emerged two or more decades ago – David Liddiard Group, David Pescud’s Sailors with disAbilities, Rabbi Mendel Kastel’s Jewish House and Rev Bill Crews Exodus Foundation – all incredibly innovative services that support those who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

In late 2014 Brian Smith from the Local Community Services Association brought Rich Harwood of the Harwood Institute for public innovation in the USA, out to Australia. They trained leaders across government and NGO sectors to turn outward and remember to always connect with community.

Recent initiatives such as Mary Freer’s ChangeDay, the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation and The Collective NSW demonstrate the deep desire for collaboration to create social change across the community.

Social Ventures Australia, Social Traders, the Business Council of Co-ops and Mutuals, Impact Investing Australia, Philanthropy Australia, Social Enterprise Finance Australia, Sydney Community Foundation and the various crowd funding platforms like Chuffed and Pozible are all forging new social investment and social enterprise opportunities.

In a parallel universe there are the start ups, the social entrepreneurs and the collaborative work spaces such as Hub Sydney, Fishburners and Your Desk emerging everywhere. The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Design Innovation Research Centre is doing game changing work in developing public and private sector capacity for re-framing and innovation.

In 2014 the University of Western Sydney, Google, Cisco Systems, the New South Wales Government and PwC piloted Open Innovation – a new approach to public innovation and problem solving.

The NSW Premiers Innovation Initiative while in early stages is crowd sourcing innovative ideas for tipping point problems such as  congestion and social housing assets.

The NSW Government has the Smart Work Hub pilot across greater Sydney in areas of large commuter populations which offers commuters local work spaces.

Apps4NSW and the Open Data Summit are creating opportunities for government to engage more with technology and open data.

“Mans mind once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimension” Oliver Wendell Holmes

All this activity towards collaborative practice, social finance and open sourcing is happening across sectors and creating a new way of working.

I am convinced more opportunities for social innovation and collaboration across sectors will emerge because this is the future and the movement is growing.

Twitter: @ChiefDisrupter