to future-proof the social service sector with impactful and sustainable solutions.

Innovation is crucial for unlocking the potential of the social service sector to respond with greater agility and immediacy to emerging needs and gaps.

To provide effective and tailored solutions that meet the diverse and unique needs of service users in our ever-changing environment, the social service sector must constantly reinvent itself. By embracing innovation, we can stay ahead of the curve and provide the best possible service to those who need it most.

NCSS is committed to driving innovation and effective collaboration in the social service sector. Our Design Challenges, ethnographic research, and toolkits help build practitioner capacity in human-centred design and promote a culture of learning, experimentation, and innovation. We provide practitioners with the tools, resources, and platforms they need to innovate and collaborate effectively.

What is Innovation?

Innovation means constantly improving to design effective solutions that meet emerging needs or transform existing services.
When we innovate, we put end-users at the centre of the design and delivery process to produce products, services and interventions that are more sustainable and effective.
Design thinking is a mindset and an approach to develop innovative solutions for complex social challenges.

Innovation is creating new ways of working in the social service sector to tackle complex issues and achieve social impact.

The human-centred design thinking approach is a unique problem-solving method which starts with empathy – understanding the perspectives, experiences, values, hopes, and dreams of the people we are designing for.

Innovation Cycle


Design thinking as a mindset is a collection of attitudes that guide our actions and decisions as we journey to create better experiences or solutions for our service users. It constitutes 5 phases. An innovation team would journey through these phases in iterative cycles, starting from Empathy towards Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

See more in the Social Innovation Starter Kit.

3 Questions - Innovation

Consider these three questions to design an effective and innovative solution!

Start innovating today!

Ready to get started?

Here are some foundational tools and resources to begin.

Social Innovation Starter Kit

NCSS developed and published a Social Innovation Starter Kit to inspire the social service sector to recognise the value of innovation in tackling complex social challenges and embark on their own innovation journeys. The co-created starter kit includes guiding principles and mindsets of the human-centred design process, specific methods and tools, and case studies contextualised to the social service sector.

Ready to start your innovation journey? Apply for the NCSS 4ST Partnership Fund.

The NCSS 4ST Partnership Fund aims to mobilise the sector to develop solutions that promote innovation, collaboration and empowerment, with the end outcome of improving the quality of life of service users - including Families, Children and Youth, Persons with Mental Health Conditions and Caregivers, amongst others.

If you have a project in mind, apply for the 4ST Partnership Fund, open between 1-31 October 2023.

Example of a funded programme that demonstrates innovation, collaboration and empowerment approaches:

icon Integrated Service Delivery by SOS

To find out more about innovation, contact

Learn more about other strategic approaches to service delivery, such as collaboration and empowerment.