Ethical innovation 

In pursuing approaches to building sustainable futures for young people, we draw on the principles of ethical innovation. Across much of the world today, innovation is increasingly recognised as a key driver of economic growth and social progress. However, not all innovation is underpinned by an ethical commitment to sustainability, equity and inclusion, and to addressing pressing social and environmental problems. Lauren Rickards and Wendy Steele, researchers at the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University, suggest that ethical innovation has four core principles. Ethical innovation is: 

  1. Responsible – anticipatory and precautionary
  2. Inclusive – collaborative and systemic
  3. Disruptive – bold and impactful
  4. Engaged – democratic, purposeful

International agencies such as UNICEF and the European Union have advocated for approaches to research and innovation that are underpinned by high ethical standards, are collaborative, and are oriented towards goals of community development and social need. 

Principles of co-design

In our work with a range of stakeholders we utilise co-design approaches. Co-design is an approach to the development of programs, projects or services that actively involves all stakeholders in the design process. When stakeholders and end users are included as equal partners in the design process, the outcomes and products of that design process are more likely to generate real social impact and to be tailored to end users’ needs. The NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) suggests that for co-design to be effective it needs to be:

Inclusive – Co-design works in partnership with the users or consumers of the program, product or service. It solicits and utilises the ideas, advice and decisions of critical stakeholders, people with relevant lived or work experience, and the knowledge, experience and skills of experts in the field.  

Respectful – Efforts are made to engage all design partners on equal terms and to seek their input as part of a democratic process. All participants are seen as experts and their input is valued and has equal standing.

Participative – Consultation is one part of co-design, and rather than simply ‘ticking the box’ of consultation at the beginning of the design process, continued engagement with stakeholders occurs throughout the co-design process. Co-design uses a series of conversations and activities where dialogue and engagement generate new, shared meanings based on expert knowledge and lived experience. 

Iterative – Ideas and solutions are continually tested and evaluated with the participants. Changes and adaptations are a natural part of the process, trialling possibilities and insights as they emerge, taking risks and allowing for failure.

Outcomes focused – The process can be used to create, redesign or evaluate services, systems or products. It is designed to achieve an outcome or series of outcomes, where the potential solutions can be rapidly tested, effectiveness measured and where the spreading or scaling of these solutions can be developed with stakeholders and in context.