What is the Social Capital initiative?

Social Capital is a social venture whose purpose is to develop the “social economy”, turning need and apparent disadvantage into sustainable socio-economic opportunity.

Adelaide has long been used as an innovation test bed. Its constraints make it highly suitable for incubating smart, lean solutions — and it’s “2 degrees of separation” mean that cross-sector collaboration is more possible. The additional elements that Social Capital will provide to activate this in practice include:

1 — the creation of an independent curatorial entity to help develop this social economy and its supporting ecosystem. This would include the “market‐making” of new opportunities, as well as connecting South Australian organisations to the national and international social economy and;

2 — the establishment of a high-density innovation precinct in Adelaide’s CBD — a physical “epicentre”. We envisage several thousand staff, students, entrepreneurs and researchers, from across multiple sectors, co-locating together in an integrated physical precinct. This would represent a world-first density of such players, working across conventional sector boundaries to develop innovative new solutions to human needs and social challenges. There will be active curation of this community: encouraging collaboration between those on the site; creating and injecting new opportunities; and building international linkages. At present we are developing a proposal to locate this at a redeveloped Royal Adelaide Hospital site, an iconic location in the central business district of the city.

Social Capital is about a challenged city deciding to take responsibility for its own future, turning social and environmental needs into new innovation and venture opportunities at scale. We have co-created this initiative with over 200 South Australia leaders from across the non-profit, university, business, technology, and public sectors. There are few such social ventures or ecosystem initiatives in Australia with such broad cross-sector buy-in, or such bold ambitions and potential.

Want to know more?

Who is it for?

The Social Capital initiative involves participants from civil society, the private and public sectors, and universities. As it evolves it will include a blend of local, national and international organisations — both large and small — and both for-profit and non-profit. Some will be frontline organisations, others may be policy-, research- or technology-oriented. There'll also be active encouragement of the incubation and growth of new commercial and social ventures as part of this mix.

It will have a “glocal” outlook. That is, using South Australia as a global incubator for new social innovations that have application both locally and elsewhere around the world.

We welcome expressions of interest from any individual or organisation who would like to be part of this evolving conversation. The initiative is still in its formative stages, but has thus far proven to be highly resonant amongst key stakeholders, and is gathering momentum. As a co-creative endeavour, the contribution of your ideas and insights are most welcome.


Stanford defines “social innovation” as “a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than present solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole (not just) private individuals.”

We take a broad view of the kinds of opportunities that these social innovations could address — essentially any kind of endeavour that has a positive impact on social/human challenges. It could be a new service, product, process or technology; a new policy; new business models; or whatever.

It could be in relation to early child learning or care, or for an ageing population. It could relate to indigenous or multicultural affairs; child protection or domestic violence; education and vocational training; employment services; public service innovation; disability or mental illness; homelessness or affordable housing; community services; public health or occupational safety; policing, crime prevention, or law reform; youth or adult recidivism; cycling or public transport; philanthropy or social impact investment; social marketing or fundraising; heritage or environmental preservation; ethical consumer products or renewable energy; social enterprise or social justice. Or many others. The range of possibilities is wide.

We are generally neutral about whether the social innovation has a for-profit or non-profit business model. The more important questions to us are (a) whether the initiative is purpose-driven, and (b) finding a sustainable basis on which such advances can be made available to those in society who would benefit from them.


As far as we’re aware, Social Capital would represent a world-first density and diversity of social innovation actors, co-located in an integrated precinct. This creates new opportunities for learning; for cross-pollinating skills and networks; for collaboration; and for realising new economies of scale and scope.

This initiative transcends traditional sector boundaries. It is not just about the “social sector”, or the technology space, or education, or public service. It spans, and welcomes participants from, all. It is often in the gaps or overlaps between sectors, or the combining of skills and experiences previously seen as unrelated, that we find a great deal of new innovation.

We encourage a “socio-economic” approach. That is, working to address both the “social” and “economic” dimensions of innovation together. We are concerned not only about new ideas for positive social impact, but how they will be funded, scaled and sustained going forward.

And this will be a great place to work. Few places in the world could offer the kind of CBD location, beautiful surrounds, modern work spaces and amenities, lifestyle, and energetic and creativity community we envisage at the Social Capital precinct.


David Paterson

David is Managing Director of Cornerstone Strategy (a for-benefit consultancy specialising in innovative social and economic development initiatives), and adjunct Professor of Social Innovation at the University of South Australia. His professional experience spans both the corporate sector and the social innovation space, including serving as the Chief Innovation Officer of World Vision — the world’s largest international aid and development NGO, with some 45,000 staff in 90 countries.

Under the Cornerstone banner David has advised on a range of South Australian socio-economic development initiatives, including the Capital City Committee’s Emerging Leaders Forum; the creation of Hub Adelaide and the St Paul’s Creative Centre, and the Adelaide Smart City Strategy. Prior to this David had a successful private sector career as a senior executive and management consultant specialising in strategic growth and innovation.

David has studied business and social science at university in South Australia and in South Africa. He has completed the Stanford course in Strategic Innovation & Design Thinking, and Harvard Kennedy School of Government program in Strategy for Non-profit Organisations.

Matt Anderson

Matt has been a leader in the social impact space for almost 20 years — as an organisational development leader, network chair of various cross sector collaborative efforts, and an NGO executive. He has worked at both the grass roots level as well as in a national and international capacity — including with one of the world’s largest civil society organisations, World Vision. He understands the synergy between social vision and commercial acumen — as well as the broad collaboration needed across multiple sectors to achieve outcomes of significant scale and scope.

Matt is co-Chair of the Social Innovators Network — a growing network of socially motivated entrepreneurial leaders in South Australia from the civic, commercial, government and education sectors. Matt has also recently served as the CEO of a social impact organisation supporting hundreds of children and their families living with disability through its deployment of over 700 volunteers across the state — one of South Australia’s great examples of active citizenship.

Matt holds a Master’s Degree in Professional Practice, majoring in organisational leadership.

  • Gill Hicks (Chair of the Innovation working group of the Committee for Adelaide; Founder of M.A.D. for Peace; former Head Curator at the UK Design Council; South Australian of the Year);
  • Rob DiMonte (former Managing Director of Deloitte in SA; Dept. Chair of the Deloitte Foundation; Dept. Chair of TACSI; Board member of the Botanic Gardens of SA; Board member of Carnegie Melon University);
  • Paul Madden (Chairperson of Social Impact Investment Network in SA; Chief Executive of the Wyatt Trust; Chairperson of World Relief Australia);
  • Stuart Douglas (Co-Founder & Executive Director of Innovyz);
  • Professor Richard Head (Interim Director of the Future Industries Institute; former Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President of Research and Innovation for the University of South Australia);
  • David Homburg (President of the SA Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects; Principal of HASSELL in SA);
  • John Kain (Managing Director of Kain C+C Lawyers; Chairman of Blue Sky Alternative Investments; Founder of the Kain C&C Charitable Foundation).

The Social Capital initiative has been a highly consultative endeavour from the outset: “South Australians from all sectors joining together to take responsibility themselves for the future of our State." It has been very much in this spirit that leaders and innovators from across the private, public, university and civil society domains have engaged with the co-founders in testing and refining the concept and encouraging broader community support.

From this extensive group, the core partners that we are working most intensively with at the moment include:

  • TACSI (The Australian Centre for Social Innovation);
  • The University of South Australia (UNI SA);
  • The University of Adelaide (Adelaide Uni);
  • The Botanic Gardens of South Australia;
  • The Committee for Adelaide;
  • Kain C+C;
  • Innovyz.

This is happening in Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, a State recognised as one of the world’s most socially innovative jurisdictions from the time of its founding in 1836. In fact the very idea and design of South Australia was regarded as a social innovation in itself.

Adelaide is a city of 1.3 M people and home to a range of industries including: a number of universities, a high-tech defence and electronics industry, health and biomedical industries, creative industries, and is world-famous for its food and wine. Over the past several years The Economist has ranked it as one of the world’s five most liveable cities.

It is our aspiration to base the Social Capital precinct at the soon-to-be-vacated Royal Adelaide Hospital site. This is a prime 7-hectare site located on the edge of the central business district. It is bordered by two universities, the Botanic Gardens, the Adelaide Zoo, and a retail/café district. The Government of South Australia is currently calling for Expressions of Interest for the redevelopment of this site. Early estimates suggest this may involve an investment of around A$1 billion. We hope to be successful in having the Social Capital initiative nominated as the preferred future use of this great public asset.

We envisage this to be a mixed-use-but-integrated redevelopment incorporating offices, co-working spaces, innovation labs, research institutes, meeting facilities, cafés and restaurants, a hotel, residential apartments, recreational facilities, gardens, and the like.


The site redevelopment is something that will take several years, most likely commencing in 2017. Some initial occupancy could occur soon thereafter in renovated heritage buildings, with newer facilities being added progressively in the 3—5 years thereafter.

However, we’re not waiting for that to be completed. We’re already seeking to encourage offsite the kinds of collaborations, new opportunities, capabilities and culture that we expect to see onsite. This may take a number of forms ranging from open social innovation challenges; to the creation of specialist interest groups; to a series of mini-clusters and interim co-locations in vacant spaces elsewhere in the CBD. We’re open to facilitating whatever kinds of learning and collaboration opportunities the “for-benefit” community believes will be of most value.

Who Might Like to become involved?

Social Capital will be of greatest interest to those people and organisations who:

  • are purpose-driven and want to have a positive social impact;
  • want to be innovative in their pursuit of better ways to address human/social needs;
  • know that the world is changing, and that so too must their approach if they are to continue to be relevant, effective and sustainable;
  • have a entrepreneurial mindset, not allowing limited resources — or others' conventional thinking — to inhibit their aspirations for achieving new breakthroughs;
  • want to produce world-class outcomes, whether they are focussed on local, national and/or international needs;
  • engage in a continual process of exploring, learning, adapting and improving;
  • know that to attract and retain quality talent, they need to place their people in an energetic and creative environment, with new development opportunities;
  • would relish the opportunity to work with experts from other disciplines; to access the latest thinking; to explore the application of new technologies; to help shape policy and strategy; to reconceive the “system” in which they operate and their own organisational role and models within that;
  • are excited by the idea of being part of a collaborative community, and are prepared to both contribute into that, and harness the benefits thereof.

How can I learn more?

All ideas, insights and questions are welcome. If you have new opportunities you’d like to explore, let’s talk. Email us at info@socialcapitalcity.com. Or if you just want to be updated as things progress, fill in your details below.

At this stage we are still in start-up mode, and a group of active citizens and professionals doing this pro bono, with day jobs to do. So please bear with us if we take a day or two to get back to you.

I want to know more