Australia has traditionally been a highly successful and prosperous nation. However, we have ridden on our luck for too long, especially in relying on our natural resources to get us through. In this uncertain, disrupted and highly complex environment being lucky isn’t enough.

We lag well behind many other nations on innovation. To compete globally we must welcome, include and empower the many diverse voices of our citizens, migrants and the refugees who are seeking a haven here. We have to nurture our entrepreneurs and innovate faster in order keep up with the pace of growth. 

Over the next 5 to 10 years it is estimated that up to 40 per cent of companies on the Standard and Poors index will be disrupted by rapidly advancing technologies and the entrepreneurs adapting quickly to this new environment. According to international research, 47 per cent of middle-class jobs will become redundant due to robotics and new technologies. And some jobs will continue to exist but will be performed in cheaper labour markets overseas.

Australia doubles the research outputs of the United States per capita but produces half the amount of patents. We generate plenty of ideas and research but we don’t commercialise them enough. We urgently need to train our young people to be social entrepreneurs: changemakers and creators of the jobs of the future. We need to build a culture of social innovation to sufficiently develop our capabilities to turn ideas into viable, successful social enterprises. Willingness to experiment and fail, leads to social innovations creating opportunities and prosperity for millions. FAIL, after all, stands for First Attempt In Learning.

Turning ideas into enterprise also benefits from diversity. With skilled migrants and refugees seeking a home here, we have real opportunities to foster a new wave of social entrepreneurship and innovation.

We surround ourselves with people who make us feel safe, who come from similar backgrounds and educations, who think, feel and dress like we do – and who agree with and endorse us. Yet our biggest gains as humans come from “creative abrasion”, where we rub up against people who make us feel uncomfortable and challenge our notions of ourselves and the world we live in. This is where creativity and social innovation truly spark.

Inclusive leadership must be paramount. Instead of fearing people from different backgrounds and cultures, there is an opportunity for all of us to choose to create a happy, healthy, inclusive and innovative Australia. This is about removing the ‘us and them’ mentality and acknowledging our common humanity. Ultimately we are more similar than different, yet our negative focus on the differences between us creates a lot of our problems.  

Let’s remove the walls between us and build bridges of understanding. As a community we need to empower all voices, no matter what their faith, background, disadvantage, disability or age. People need to feel like they have a place here, a true home, a sense of belonging, a sense of self and respect from others. Then they will truly be able to contribute to our future.

To facilitate and foster this sense of connection and contribution the Creative Innovation 2016 Asia Pacific is coming to Melbourne, 7-9 November 2016. The premiere conference for anyone who cares about creativity, innovation, leadership and transformation, Ci2016 will deliver world class creative and exponential thinking, innovation leadership and pragmatic solutions. The only forum of its kind, Ci2016 is an interactive community to learn techniques and strategies, share ideas and lessons learnt across sectors and gain empowering experiences.

When refugees and migrants come to a new country they want to restart their lives. They work incredibly hard and bring a diverse and rich cultural background that contributes economically, politically and socially. They just need to be given a voice.

We do accept people from diverse backgrounds into Australia. Now we need to put out the welcome mat and provide everyone with the education, skills, engagement and opportunities to participate in this accelerating environment and contribute fully to their new homeland. Then they can truly call Australia home, and together we can co-create a productive, innovative and prosperous future.

Interested in ‘positive human collisions’ to change the course of the future? Get a special discount to Ci2016 using the password “exponential” to receive 10% off conference packages.

This article has been amended and reproduced with the permission of Tania de Jong. Tania de Jong is a soprano and serial entrepreneur who founded Creative Universe, Creativity Australia’s With One Voice social inclusion program, Dimension5 inclusive co-working space and the Creative Innovation Global conferences.

Inclusion and Entrepreneurship the Key to Social Innovation