Regional Innovators Network


The Regional Innovator’s Network is a support model that enables Australian communities to practice social design. Community participants apply design skills, mindsets and structures to tackle entrenched local social and economic disadvantage. As a virtual team, designers coach people across a region implementing co-design on systemic challenges for local impact.

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  • Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation (VFFF) and the Dusseldorp Forum (DF) support place-based, collaborative efforts to address social challenges in Western NSW. This requires engaging community to create new responses, but capability gaps exist. Community expressed that: - They are tired of being told what is good for them - They would like to learn new approaches and frameworks - They feel isolated - Fly-in-fly-out training doesn’t translate into capability - Paying consultants is a costly, lost opportunity - The application of social design regionally was unclear (most design is in urban settings) TACSI began a journey to develop a model for increasing social design capability.

  • This project walks alongside three “community connectors” and their working groups, who lead their community’s initiatives using design (including events, projects and community conversations) toward community-agreed goals. We have found this approach is high leverage because it impacts: - Project design - Systemic focus - How community is engaged - How decisions are made Prototyping killed our academy idea, and the need for a network emerged. We found real value in how participants, funders and designers formed a team. Through coaching and peer support, participants stay focused and strategic, leverage one another, and influence regionally. Their social design capability is growing, with community benefit.

  • Evaluation to-date reflects significant capability uplift. The broader influences, “ripple effects”, are greater than anticipated. Furthermore, we have the basis for a transferable model. Individuals are: - “Taking on projects that they would have never dreamed of before” - Overcoming professional and community challenges - Seeing better collaboration - Seeing better results and traction for their efforts This way of working is impacting community by: - Elevating the voices of community and people with the lived experience in decision-making - Identifying service gaps in regional and remote communities - Improving collaboration and alignment across services, institutions, agencies, government and community groups - Linking and amplifying community change efforts

  • The capability-building model has the following components: - One-on-one coaching: individuals are paired with coaches and experts (as required). Through in-person and remote coaching, coaches “walk alongside” and support the translation of methods into practice. - Peer coaching: through online peer sessions and peer workshops, peers are supported to discuss capabilities and projects to gain insight and learn through shared reflection - Curriculum: the capabilities needed for social design have been defined with communities. The 21 capabilities are clustered by mindsets, skill sets and process. They can be expanded or focused depending on the individual and their projects. - Online platform: a resource that captures the capabilities, tools and case studies for coaches, individuals and participants to reference.The content of the online platform could be compared to a Master’s Degree curriculum. Feedback indicates this model works because: 1. The approach is to work with community not for community 2. While the model builds individual capability, it does not focus on individuals in isolation or out of context 3. We work in teams 4. We support the translation of theory into practice 5. We focus on creating the conditions and structures for this work 6. We work through doing; this is not just talking