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New 'Thinker' to outline plans to build social innovation in SA


The first “Thinker” in a rebooted Thinkers in Residence program will this week outline her ideas for building the “social economy” in South Australia.

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The program, which is no longer funded by the State Government, has been taken on by the Don Dunstan Foundation, with an 18-month focus on “social capital” starting this week.

The first Thinker is Allyson Hewitt, who leads the social innovation programs at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, Canada, which bills itself as one of the largest urban innovation hubs in the worlds.

Hewitt, who will make her first Adelaide appearance tomorrow at a Social Capital Residencies Showcase, has helped hundreds of socially-oriented ventures to become economically sustainable.

She said she was looking forward to working with the broad range of organisations that were supporting the new Thinkers’ program.

“This is at the core of my approach; to work across sectors firmly believing that no one organisation, let alone one sector, can solve all our complex challenge,” she said.

“I relish the opportunity to listen, to learn, to reflect and to bring unusual stakeholders together to vision what an inclusive economy and prosperous future could be for South Australia.”

She said she would share her experience at MaRS of helping social entrepreneurs who are working in both non-profit and for-profit sectors.

“While MaRS was conceived as a place to commercialise research coming out of our post-secondary institutions and academic health science centres, the program has morphed significantly,” she said.

“We not only focus on the support of high growth ventures but we now focus on impact. We don’t only help grow these high impact ventures but we now work at the systems level to help with the adoption of these innovations. For example, how do we ensure there are market opportunities for the medical devices created at home?”

MaRS also provides advice to government about building the right environment for social enterprises to flourish, and engages with the private sector companies to, among other aims, create a philanthropic approach which is engaged and investment-focused.

Hewitt is one of several Thinkers who will work on the project, which the foundation hopes will position Adelaide as the “social” capital of Australia.

As InDaily has reported previously, former Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu managing partner Rob DiMonte is overseeing the social capital program for the foundation, and he’s gathered together a broad list of organisations who will both support the residency and feed into the thinkers’ considerations.

DiMonte, who is deputy chair of the Australian Centre for Social Innovation, said a social enterprise was any organisation that sought to achieve social goals through its work.

It could include organisations – both commercial and not-for-profit – involved in health and aged care, the disability sector, education or community housing, to name a few.

“In South Australia, it’s the fastest-growing part of the economy,” DiMonte said, adding that ABS statistics show employment in the sector grew by more than 13 per cent between 2012 and 2015.

To attend tomorrow’s showcase, go here.

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