How it all started
The idea of creating the Australian Social Innovation Exchange (ASIX) first developed in October 2006, when Martin Stewart-Weeks (Cisco) attended a conference in Beijing on social innovation. It was during this conference, jointly run by The Young Foundation, British Council and the Chinese Government, that Martin learned about the creation of the global SIX network, and was keen for Australia to become involved. Another key player in the development of the Social Innovation movement within Australia was Dr. Geoff Mulgan, CEO of the Young Foundation. Geoff was instrumental in the creation of the Australian Centre for Social Innovation based in Adelaide, South Australia. While Geoff was visiting Sydney in April 2007, Cisco invited a group of non-profit, business and government leaders to attend a forum to learn about social innovation and consider how Australia might become more actively involved in the global development within this field.
Under the auspices of WorkVentures, and led by Executive Officer Steve Lawrence, a trial for ASIX was launched during a joint forum on Social Innovation in February 2008. Seed funding for launching ASIX was provided by Cisco, Media Access Australia, and AMP Foundation. The forum, hosted by Dr. Peter Shergold (CEO of the new Centre for Social Impact at UNSW), had over 450 people in attendance, including special guests Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Dr Geoff Mulgan.
Another event supported by ASIX took place September 2008 in Melbourne with UK innovation expert Charles Leadbeater. Led by Melbourne Business School and Centre for Social Impact, the links between social innovation and public policy were explored. The seminar included contributions from Tom Bentley, senior advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Glyn Davis, Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. Work has begun on a Social Intermediary Pilot with Innovation Exchange Australia which has developed a service model to enable business innovation through opening opportunities for collaboration to solve business problems, or identify and utilise specialist capabilities and underutilised intellectual property resources.
ASIX has formed a partnership to test this approach to finding solutions to Australia’s low levels of Workforce Participation and to improving levels of healthy and independent aging. In late 2008, Australian Social Innovation Exchange Limited was incorporated as an independent non-profit company.