Murray Berghan


We live in a world where social innovation becomes more and more widespread, and designing and implementing solutions for concepts, processes, products, or social situations are on the rise. The goal is to improve the welfare and well-being of individuals and communities. Australia is the land of pioneers, with open-minded and creative people. Nothing proves this better than our ability to design successful social innovations. In the next 20 years, Australia will devote much attention to developing a social innovation system, and new solutions are already on the rise.1 The innovation system itself has to become more collaborative, more open and inclusive, and more responsive to citizens’ and consumers’ ideas, experiences, and insights. My name is Murray Berghan, and in this article, I will cover 5 examples of social innovation; 3 in Australia and 2 abroad.

What is social innovation?

The most commonly accepted definition is that social innovation is a social practice that aims to fulfill a social need in a different, more effective way than the previous solution. It can be applied in many areas such as health, community development, education, or working conditions.2 The main goal is to create better solutions for the public and introduce a measure that strengthens civil society. Social innovations do not necessarily need to be completely new and revolutionary; improving a certain situation is also a type of innovation. Therefore it can also be considered as an improvement. However, more transformative social innovations present new approaches to wicked problems and introduce a successful change in the root cause of the problem. Therefore, social innovation solutions are prepared to think outside the box, provide an effective solution, and present sustainable capabilities, assets, or opportunities for broader social change.3

1.   Charity: water

Charity: water is a global, non-profit organization dedicated to bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in third-world countries. It was established in 2006, and since then, it has helped fund more than 6000 projects in over 20 countries. More than 2.5 million people received help from the organization. They have built a reputation by bringing true innovation to the space. Their innovation model utilizes the advantages of marketing, event promotion, and campaign design. Therefore it is not so different from other businesses, as they use marketing to raise support.4

The non-profit’s arguably most innovative solution is its Dollars to Projects program. When somebody donates to the charity, they receive an e-mail with a roadmap about how that money was spent. They include pictures, results, and even GPS coordinates about where the money, thus the aid ended up. This solution introduced full transparency and increased the trust donors and funders have towards the program. In addition, this method provides an experience to those who want to help that is personal and impactful, hence building a strong community.5

2.   RHD Endgame Innovation, Australia

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is a deadly condition yet wholly preventable. The leading underlying cause of the disease is Group A Streptococcus infection, which if left untreated. In most of the developed countries, the disease is eliminated, although, in the developing countries, it still causes a big problem. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia suffer from the disease at very high rates. After years of research and development, the Endgame Strategy was created, dedicated to eradicating the disease in Australia by 2031. The organization’s primary goal is to improve health infrastructure, reduce household crowding, and strengthen prophylaxis delivery. Prevention plays an essential role in designing the solution.6

3.   Compassion International

Compassion International is also a worldwide organization that aids more than a million children across the globe. Their biggest challenge is to maintain the level of help they provide and keep donors connected to the life-changing results of their support. They introduced heavy technological changes in the past couple of years; for example, they added Neuron ESB software. It connects every part of the management systems and streamlines communication with their partner countries. The software is technically a universal translator, bridging the communication gap and being more efficient in conveying their messages. 7


STREAT is a hospitality-based social enterprise that delivers reinforced vocational training and holistic personal support to disadvantaged young people in Melbourne. Their main goal is to provide a sense of safety and belonging to a community of young people. They mainly offer ’emotional shelter’ for teenagers and young adults aged 16 to 24. These environments help them accommodate working conditions or prepare them to study later. Therefore these places can also be considered pre-school, where they learn in a constructive social setting with their peers who would like to improve and prepare for the next chapter of their lives.8

5.   Healthyhabitat

Healthy Habit is an Australian company that was established to improve health through a living environment. They achieve this by improving their living conditions and helping with housing. The NGO is located in Sydney, however, their projects take place in more than 200 Australian communities and international sites. Their activities mainly involve surveying and testing a standard list of essential safety and health items for every house and surrounding yard area. After the problems are identified with the survey, they immediately start fixing the most urgent issues. Problems could be related to dirty water, the unsafe structure of the house, mold, or pests. Healthy habitat applies an evidence-based method that is called Housing for Health (HfH).9


The abovementioned non-profit organizations are all very successful at recognizing the need for social innovations. Some of them are more than 15 years old but never cease to apply new changes if necessary. The examples represent different kinds of social changes; Charity: water applied a conceptual innovation, STREAT educational, Compassion International a technological innovation. I hope you found this article beneficial, and it gave you a glimpse of what social innovation is and how non-profits can utilize it.


  1. Exchange, Australian Social Innovation. “Social Innovation at the Heart of Australia’s National Innovation System, submission to Review of the National Information System.” (2008).
  2. Howaldt, J./ Schwarz, M. “Social Innovation: Concepts, research fields, and international trends”, IMO international monitoring, 2010.
  3. Westley, F/Zimmerman, B/Patton, M. 2006
  4. Design Good “9 Innovative Nonprofit Organisations That You Should Know” . [cited 2022 February 15]  Available at:
  5. Pursuant “4 Nonprofits Leading the Way in Innovation” written in 2016. 01.28. [cited 2022 February 15] Available at:
  6. Wyber, R., et al. “The RHD Endgame Strategy; the blueprint to eliminate rheumatic heart disease in Australia by 2031.” European Journal of Public Health 30.Supplement_5 (2020): ckaa165-059.
  7. Pursuant “4 Nonprofits Leading the Way in Innovation” written in 2016. 01.28. [cited 2022 February 15] Available at:
  8. Social Innovation Academy “Social innovation in Australia and New Zealand: 8 remarkable projects” written in 2018. 10. 31. [cited 2022 February 15] Available at:
  9. Social Innovation Academy “Social innovation in Australia and New Zealand: 8 remarkable projects” written in 2018. 10. 31. [cited 2022 February 15] Available at: