On Wednesday 3 April, we hosted the launch of a Community of Practice for Social Innovators at our Wellington office. This new group was conceived with unity in mind. While those trying to effect positive social change are working hard to make an impact in their own organisations and sectors, we wanted to bring all these people together as a joined network of social innovators.

The buzz in the room was high as a group of action-orientated change-makers from a range of backgrounds gathered for the launch of the Community of Practice for Social Innovators.

The framing question for the group was, what do we do next? The intention being how to achieve real progress on the social change agenda.

Adithi Pandit, head of Deloitte’s Community of Practice for Social Innovators, opened the forum by challenging the room to ‘go big or go home’ in setting our ambition for what we could achieve together. She suggested that targeting the stickier aspects of social change requires going beyond specialisations such as human-centred design, social services or environmentalism, instead focusing on practical ways of working together to generate powerful, system-level actions.

Five social innovators from the public, private and third sectors spoke briefly on their top priorities for social innovation in New Zealand, laying out some hard-hitting challenges to all of us involved in this space. Their main points provided a useful guide for all of us trying to accelerate social change.

Trust and connections take us further

Together we can achieve a lot more than we can in isolation, so it’s important to unite when we can. Creating shared experiences and opportunities to spend time together is essential to building trust and successful partnerships.

Diversity and inclusion must be addressed now

How do we ensure that unheard voices are amplified and brought to the table? To be an effective community of practice, we have to find ways to continually disrupt the status quo of each setting in which we find ourselves. This means asking tough questions, having difficult and often courageous conversations, and ensuring that marginalised voices are present and heard.

The inclusion of community voices has to extend further from consultation and engagement to creating active leadership roles and extending control over outcomes to those directly impacted. This will require leveraging the self-organising potential of communities we often see in times of crisis, without the need for a cataclysmic event. Often, even with the best intentions, solutions that are imposed by parties outside the direct experience of communities (such as government agencies and non-governmental organisations) only serve to limit the self-organising, adaptive power that has been present all along.

Amplify the good and challenge the bad

In dealing with social impact in complex systems, we must find ways to amplify the good (e.g. decades-old successful practices) and challenge the bad (e.g. institutionalised racism). A critical tool for doing this is clear storytelling that can create a shared vision for an inclusive future. Telling stories about what we do is important - we all care deeply about change but it can be easy to lose hope. Positive messages around hope and action are needed to engage, align and inspire diverse individuals and groups to collaborate.

Embrace the risk of failure

There is little risk to individuals or groups in doing nothing. Achieving impact goes hand in hand with taking risk – we need to ensure our systems recognise this, and understand that if we continue doing what we have always done, the social outcomes we are all striving for will not be achieved.

With these inspiring and challenging conversations top of mind, the group disbanded to reflect further on working together. We can’t wait to take this forward – there will be news soon on the next steps for the Community of Practice for Social Innovators.

If the Community of Practice for Social Innovators sounds like something you’d like to be part of, get in touch with us by emailing Ellie Pirrit.

For more information on Deloitte’s Social Impact Practice, visit our webpage.

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