Bridging the gap between insight and impact

Posted on 15 Nov 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Social impact

A growing awareness of rising inequality in Australia has been identified as one of four key social trends shaping the nation according to a new report.

The inaugural State of Social Impact Report found that while many Australians think of their country as egalitarian, the nation faces the stark reality of growing inequality and persistent poverty.

The trend is being exacerbated by factors such as the rising cost of living, job insecurity and disparities in access to education and healthcare.

“In 2023, there is a growing realisation that systems designed to deliver 'trickle down' shared prosperity are instead fuelling the inequality gap – at unprecedented levels,” the report states.

Compiled by social impact venture the Impact Institute, the report combines third party research with insights from attendees at the Social Impact Summit held in July.

State of Scial Impact report

Impact Institute CEO, Mark Jones said the report was intended to “spark dialogue and advocate for meaningful change” while also providing practical recommendations for tackling shared social challenges.

“Our hope is that we will inspire conversations that will move us forward on this journey,” he said.

The report highlighted data from the 2023 Actuaries Institute study Not a Level Playing Field which showed that the highest 20% of income earners in Australia have six times more disposable income than the lowest 20%.

The same research also revealed that the wealthiest 20% of Australian households own 230 times more in net assets than the lowest 20%.

Royden Howie, head of advisory at the Impact Institute, said the growing awareness of inequality, poverty and entrenched disadvantage underscored the urgent need to address these disparities to ensure a more equitable society.

“We’re approaching 30 years of economic growth in Australia disrupted only by covid, yet persistent intergenerational disadvantage exists,” he said.

“My challenge to all of us as we look at the state of social impact, is how can we all be putting more back in, in investment in people and community than we’re taking out?”

Social Impact Report Poverty in Aust graphic
Poverty in Australia 2023: Who is affected.
“We’re approaching 30 years of economic growth in Australia disrupted only by covid, yet persistent intergenerational disadvantage exists.”
Royden Howie, head of advisory at the Impact Institute.

The report identified three further social trends defining Australia:

  • The wellbeing economy: a “paradigm shift” which is seeing policymakers, businesses, and communities recognise the importance of prioritising wellbeing over a traditional narrow view of economic growth, encapsulated by the federal government’s Measuring What Matters statement.
  • Corporate efforts in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG": an acknowledgement by corporate entities that they have a role to play in fostering social impact, beyond generating profits by integrating social responsibility into their business models and addressing issues such as diversity and inclusion.
  • Building constructive dialogues: an acknowledgment that effective change can only begin with open, respectful, and informed conversations, particularly when it comes to addressing entrenched disadvantage.

The report found that the pursuit of a more equitable and socially responsible society has never been more critical.

“Australians are increasingly aware of rising inequalities, social disadvantage and ineffective systems that harm people and communities – and they want change.”

The report said there was a collective expectation in the community that organisations of all descriptions would address shared social challenges, and the community wanted more radical and meaningful action from government.

“Within this context, social impact is emerging as a concept to understand and frame all initiatives designed to address social inequalities, foster human rights and improve the lives of all Australians.”

Strategic recommendations

The report recommended four actions that “have the potential to unlock the process of collective transformation” and help create a better Australia.

  • Transform the self by having the courage to try more ambitious solutions and inclusive approaches to decision-making and action.
  • Become an impact driven organisation whose primary mission is one that creates meaningful social, environmental, and economic change.
  • Collaborate effectively by acknowledging the reality of interdependencies, that Australians don’t exist in isolation from each other, and that social change depends on our ability to leverage these interdependencies to achieve impact at scale.
  • Create enabling conditions for a thriving society that ensure wellbeing and social justice are apolitical priorities beyond short-term government cycles; encourage bold decision-making and place community needs ahead of vested interests.

“Our goal is to chart Australia’s journey towards an economy that prioritises our community’s holistic wellbeing over narrow measures of financial success,” the report states.​

​“Our hope is this report will inspire action and invite more people into this conversation about the future of Australia.” 

More information

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Untapped billions could fuel greater social impact

Community Directors Intelligence: the Social Enterprise edition

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