In Summary

  • New institute uses design-driven thinking and technology to solve complex social issues

Swinburne today launched the Social Innovation Research Institute (SII), the first in Australia to focus digital technologies on social innovation challenges.

The new institute builds on Swinburne’s dedication to impactful and innovative research, employing design-driven thinking and technology to solve complex social issues such as:

  • Growing pressure on public services from an ageing population and health system costs
  • Polarisation in wealth distribution
  • Labour market disruptions like automation, the sharing economy and casualisation
  • Family violence, stalking, arson, internet offending, terrorism and cybercrime
  • Growing populations in the correction system requiring new approaches to justice

The keynote speaker at the launch is world-renowned social innovation policy leader, Ms Yvonne Strachan, who is Scottish Government Deputy Director, and Head of Equality, Human Rights and Third Sector.

“It takes many moving parts to come together to optimise the impact of social innovation – governments, communities, organisations and citizens,” Ms Strachan says.

“By working together we can create social enterprises that engage, value and employ many people. Through being more socially cohesive, we help strengthen communities and make them more resilient to economic and social shocks’

The SII merges Swinburne’s world-class expertise in social economy, justice and public wellbeing, with leading-edge research and development in digital technology, prototyping and design to work with partner organisations on challenges that are emerging or resistant to being resolved.

“Modern society faces many challenges. These challenges need significant input and intervention from social sciences as much as they do from Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths disciplines,” says Swinburne Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Development, Professor Aleksandar Subic.

“The role of the Social Innovation Research Institute is to work at the interface between humanity and technology, to tackle significant societal issues through interdisciplinary research, and to work with partners on key projects that support social value; participation and inclusion; wellbeing in the community; justice and public safety.”

Current projects include an ARC Discovery project using a geographic information system (GIS) and other spatial technologies to provide a digital dashboard to measure wellbeing generated by social enterprises. Another initiative with Telstra addresses uneven digital inclusion and participation in Australia due to remoteness, isolation and an ageing population.

“A key differentiator of SII is to apply digital technology approaches to social challenges to shape a more equitable, safer and sustainable society,” says Institute Director Professor Jane Farmer.