The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) exists to identify and support the innovative ideas, methods and people that will contribute to and accelerate positive social change.  To turn bold ideas into better lives.

We are a social innovation laboratory which creates, tests and incubates ideas, methods and projects for addressing unmet social needs and helping more people lead thriving lives. We are also committed to finding, creating and sharing better methods for innovation in the social sphere.’

One of my favourite TACSI initiatives, is ‘Solved‘, a website that allows the sharing of solutions to social problems. You can participate by uploading a great solution you’ve seen in action, or have undertaken yourself, and you can search the solutions others have put up and see if they apply to your area. I think this collective learning is the best way that social sustainability will not only gain publicity, awareness and acknowledgement, but also for it to grow exponentially in intelligence.

A few Melbourne examples that have been posted:

An app that allows you to photograph problems in your neighbourhood and send them straight to your council.

A site that aims to support men going through hard times, focussing on suicide prevention.

An organisation that takes over restaurants on Monday nights when they are usually closed and trains marginalised youth in hospitality.


Sustainable Value

As reiterated by Nic France from a previous post, the idea of redefining value has a high priority in Social Enterprise and Design. This image is from Stuart L. Hart ‘a leading authority on leading authority on the implications of environment and poverty for business strategy.” It’s also about trying to measure sustainability.

Social Enterprise is a thing

National and State organisations:

Pro Bono Australia

Social Ventures Australia

Indian Institute for Sustainable Enterprise

Social Venture Group, China

Social Enterprise UK

Social Enterprise London

The Institute for Social Entrepreneurs, US

University degrees:

School for Social Enterpreneurs, Australia

And of course, articles and other resources:

US Lagging, Not Leading

In the UK there is even a Social Enterprise Mark.

So, about keeping it simple…

When investigating what a social enterprise is, I came across some great resources and have been motivated to get back on the ‘design consultancy to further social sustainability in enterprise’ wagon. It was just too good to pass up. And Soumitri did say imagine the impossible, so I’d say this would be it.

Snippets from readings

This book by Nic Frances, ex-CEO of The Brotherhood of St Lawrence, is a great insight and easy to read.

Page 5, Frances, N. (2008). The End of Charity: Time for social enterprise. Crows Nest, Allen & Unwin.

This links back to class nicely, where buzzwords are the latest communication tool. The idea that the words are out there but the concepts aren’t being taken on board fascinates me. It is watching the world change before your very eyes. This is the mid-way point between the conception and practice of a theory.

Page 7, Frances, N. (2008). The End of Charity: Time for social enterprise. Crows Nest, Allen & Unwin.

A nice definition, especially for my area of interest. Social enterprise should strive to be financially independent. This is one thing that ‘Social Traders’ aims for in their program.

Keeping it simple, stupid

So I’ve been having an internal struggle over the last few weeks, trying to arrange my ideas and goal for this year. I think I will strip it back to what it was before I got carried away:

Work with a social enterprise in Melbourne to design a product, system or service that will help them fulfill their potential.

This will involve looking into the overlap of social sustainability, design and enterprise that I got caught up with previously, but it gives me a clear goal. I will keep the ‘design consultancy that specialises in social sustainability’ in the make of my mind, it might be a natural progression of my work.

Design and social enterprise in Melbourne

 Again a perfect blend of design (fashion in this case) with social sustainability and business, but closer to home, we have The Social Studio, an old favourite of mine.

I undertook a project with these guys back in 2010 that, again, I won’t stop talking about. That is these bike market stalls. Industrial Design working with social enterprise. This raises the question- Is it enough to design for a social enterprise, or do we need to somehow make the design process socially sustainable too? Would the ultimate idea be training refugees and migrants to build the bikes too?

‘We are a social enterprise tackling social exclusion through exciting, neighbourhood improvement projects. CoDesign works with communities, governments and service providers. Together we create new types of public spaces that transform neighbourhoods into thriving sustainable places to live and work.’

CoDesign Studio was started by Lucinda Hartley, a landscape architecture grad. She’s in her late twenties, so no need to ‘wait till monday’ to start something!

‘The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) exists to identify and support the innovative ideas, methods and people that will contribute to and accelerate positive social change.  To turn bold ideas into better lives.’ More on this later.

Design and social enterprise in India

My exchange in India was very enlightening and one thing that struck me about the country is that NGO’s are huge! I mean to say that they seem to be really popular, heaps of people start them, run them, get involved. And design is a surprisingly common ingredient. Since I’ve got back I’ve always thought if I can’t find a social sustainability design job a bit closer to home, I’ll head back to Gujarat and easily find work there.

Please click here for a full post about it over at my India exchange blog, but the one that is really relevant to me is the HoneyBee network, including GIAN.

GIAN searches for innovations in rural India that, with a bit of help, could make it big all over the country. Many of these are farming or household task improvements, which would therefore make a fortune if successful. This is a perfect example of merging industrial design with social sustainability and business.


Designers who run social enterprises?

Are there any out there? I will add to this post as I discover them.

Emily Pilloton of Project H Design would have to be one, though whether her organisation can be described as an enterprise or not…

This led to the discovery of a few more sites.

TinyGOOD is a not-for-profit collective of designers, thinkers, and creative problem solvers who are passionate about design as a tool for community intervention and development.

We use our talents to design practical solutions for community-building organizations in order to amplify the impact of their efforts. We work with partners (organizations, associations, NGO’s, non-profits, local governments, etc.) who are working to achieve positive change within the San Francisco Bay Area community.

Their method is to spend the first day on the job as a volunteer for the organisation, getting their hands dirty and and making observations that could spark change. Anybody is welcome to volunteer and come on board for the project. After the ‘completion’ of the project, they again volunteer and put out and open invite. The process cycles through again.

COMMONstudio develops and deploys creative responses to the diverse challenges of today.

Drawing on a range of disciplines and perspectives, we work directly with clients and communities to define and assess challenges, identify opportunities, and co-develop unique and actionable design responses to those challenges.

Translated from Spanish:

Razon Social is a team of creative professionals based in Mexico City, concerned about applying our knowledge, tools and processes in solutions that promote social development. nonprofit work with organizations and communities in various localities, to solve problems basic as access to safe water, sanitation, education, health and nutrition. Our team consists of young professionals from different areas: architectural, industrial and graphic designers, filmmakers, artists, engineers and students from the same areas. We are a group volunteers, who in addition to our full-time jobs, take time and creativity to develop projects in a humane manner. We are the “executive arm” of organizations and communities who lack the tools and means to solve problems through devices, objects , aids and other design solutions. Our interest in social development has no boundaries or rely on governments or private companies, but we work as partners with these two sectors to generate comprehensive solution.