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Social Innovation at CQUniversity

Social innovation is a concept that seeks to find innovative and sustainable solutions to social needs or problems. There are many definitions of the concept but ultimately the philosophy is driven by the simple need to improve lives and create positive change within the world around us.

At CQUniversity, social innovation is at the core of our strategic vision and for many years has been entrenched in our core values. CQUniversity strives to empower its staff and students to make a difference, create an impact and influence the world in which we live, for the betterment of society.

CQUniversity does not expect every student to become a social entrepreneur, instead our goal is to equip them with skills and knowledge, so that they can realise their potential when it comes to creating change – no matter how big or small this may be.

CQUniversity does this through the design of its programs, the delivery of learning and teaching (including online program delivery), work integrated learning opportunities, global study tours, and engagement with industry and community and government – all of which inform our approach to teaching and research.

For any further information about social innovation at CQUniversity all general correspondence should be directed to

Social innovation in action

Meet the Changemakers


Social innovators or ‘changemakers’ are people who have the creative problem-solving skills, emotional intelligence, agility, confidence and desire to address social problems and drive real change. They recognise that complex social problems have systemic roots and they seek to address not just      the symptoms but the causes, to break the old patterns and ways of thinking that led to the emergence of the problems in the first place. They develop new strategies, ideas and organisations that meet social needs of all kinds - from working conditions and education to community development and health.

Social Innovation projects at CQUniversity complement the University’s “Giving Back” philosophy of philanthropic support and builds on its successful platform of community engagement.

Educational institutions can make a substantial social impact by developing the social innovation mindset and skillset in a new generation, by giving students the practical experiences and intellectual tools to release the capacity which exists within them, to change society for the better.

As well as qualifications in social innovation, CQUniversity also offers training in the techniques of human-centred design thinking, practical experiences both at home and overseas that expand students’ horizons and communication skills, exposure to experiences that develop empathy and the collaboration in      inter-disciplinary teams, and many other curricular and co-curricular options to strengthen students’ innovation muscles. These skills are essentially also the skills that employers look for in graduates, so by adopting social innovation graduates can also be set up for long-term future success.

Changemaking Benefits

The energy and investment that CQUniversity making in social innovation is a natural extension to the University’s values of inclusiveness and engagement, and mission to create connections across our local, national and international footprint for the mutual benefit of the University and our valued stakeholders.

For students, CQUniversity’s social innovation agenda offers a plethora of opportunities to develop their social innovation skills and knowledge, at a range of different levels. Students can add to their experience either through curriculum based electives, through opportunities offered as part of      our degrees (education students assisting in the Salaam Balaak orphanage in India, students participating in the ‘Big Idea’ competition for instance) or through internship and volunteering opportunities through our social innovation networks.

Social innovation strategies of human-centred design thinking, collaboration, flexibility and agile responses to dynamic situations are skills highly sought after by employers. Participation in social innovation opportunities not only provide students with the capacity to make a difference in the world but      gives them a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Experiential Learning

Social innovation is both a set of strategies and a mindset that is best learned in the field, in addition to the classroom. Hands-on experience takes the concepts of social innovation and applies them in reality. Participation in social innovation projects means that students will get to experience the      challenge – and satisfaction – of making a difference to real peoples’ lives during their studies.

At CQUniversity, there are a number of projects currently in development to provide students with a range of local, national and off-shore projects suited to their level of involvement. Students may want to ‘test the waters’ a little with a structured volunteer experience, such as the projects offered      by Nursing in Nepal, or by Education at Salaam Balaak, India. Others might want to explore their potential to create social enterprise businesses, in which case the Gladstone Region Social Innovation Incubator and The Big Idea competition, would provide the opportunities they may be looking for.

CQUniversity has also established a partnership with Omprakash, an international organisation that matches students with social innovation projects around the world, for those students who want a challenging and exciting international experience.


CQUniversity’s Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation has been developed to provide students with a deep understanding of the principles of social innovation. As      part of this program students will be equipped with the knowledge to identify social issues and develop plans and practices for social change in a sustainable and scalable manner.


CQUniversity staff are being offered the chance to take an online postgraduate subject, ‘Contemporary Issues in Social Innovation’ free of charge, as a way of deepening their understanding of social innovation, at their own pace, through a series of interactive webinars and activities.

Social Innovation Studio Gladstone 2017

The office of Social Innovation in collaboration with the Gladstone campus and community will facilitate an eight day Studio residential, enabling a small cohort of students the opportunity to apply their social innovation, leadership, collaborative, design and entrepreneurial talents to create lasting social      impact. As part of the studio students will be challenged with the task of facilitating engagement with the community, utilising and applying human-centred design and co-design approaches to produce unique and innovative ideas. Click here for more information.


CQUniversity aims to develop the leadership skills of all our students and encourages them to partake in activities that will build these skills. That is why CQUniversity developed the Student Leadership Program. The program is an opportunity to enhance leadership, social innovation and employability skills, develop a personal brand, work more effectively in teams, and build a greater understanding of how to make an impact on our world.


The Big Idea is a social enterprise planning competition between students at participating universities. The Big Idea invites students to develop a concept and business plan for a social enterprise that might become the next ‘Big Issue’.

In 2014, CQUniversity participated in The Big Idea competition for the first time and took out the national award with The Shelter Project, a social enterprise temporary housing design that uses recycled industrial pallets, and creates opportunities for disadvantaged Australians to assist with construction while gaining trade-based qualifications.

In 2015, a CQUniversity team once again entered the Big Idea with a proposed social enterprise known as The Garden of Earthly Delights. Taken to fruition, project would see part of Adelaide’s Southern parklands revitalised as a community garden providing flexible and transitional employment, education, and training opportunities for people experiencing homelessness. The CQUniversity team      was once again successful in the competition taking out the postgraduate division of the competition.


Starting in 2016, CQUniversity will launch a series of social innovation workshops and lectures that will bring together organisations like the School of Entrepreneurs, Social Traders and Engineers Without Borders. The workshops will be held at CQUniversity campuses and are open to the general public.The aim      of these lectures is to teach people about social innovation principles and inspire them to think about change.


CQUniversity encourages all students to participate in global study tours and helps to facilitate many exciting programs that allow our students to experience the world, build compassion and make a difference. Each year large numbers of students embark on many life changing experiences that expand their horizons      and prepare them for careers that can take them anywhere.

Some of the countries our students visit include India, Fiji, Nepal, Japan and Cambodia. Our students have the opportunity to teach underprivileged children, develop human centred design solutions, run free public health clinics and complete research projects. CQUniversity also continues to develop these      programs to provide students with even more chances to learn and make a positive impact on the world around them.


CQUniversity has a long running partnership with the Global Voices program. Global Voices is a not-for-profit, public policy and international affairs organisation that provides opportunities for young Australians to engage with international policy making.

CQUniversity partners with Global Voices to provide fully-funded delegations for students to participate in some of the world’s most prestigious summits and policy making forums. Delegations travel to forums including the World Back and International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation      and Development (OECD) and the United Nations (UN). Delegates gain exclusive access and exposure to high level foreign policy negotiations and get the opportunity to meet and network with business leaders, government representatives and other high profile decision makers.

Ashoka U Membership

CQUniversity’s commitment to engagement and social outreach has led to CQUniversity being recognised as Australia’s first (and only) Changemaker Campus by Ashoka U, an exclusive global social innovation group, made up of only 30 other high profile education institutions across the world. Ashoka U and these institutions collaborate with each other to break down barriers to institutional change and foster a campus-wide culture      of social innovation.

Ashoka U is an initiative of Ashoka, the world’s largest network of Social Entrepreneurs. Building on Ashoka’s vision for a world where everyone is a change maker, Ashoka U takes an institutional change approach to impact the education of millions of students.

Giving back

CQUniversity is committed to giving back to the students, communities and industries it serves. CQUniversity gives back in many ways by:

  • Conducting research that is informed by community and industry needs.
  • Developing programs and courses that reflect current and future community requirements.
  • Donating one percent of annual profit to community causes, both in Australia and overseas.
  • Providing free facilities to local charities for events and fundraising activities.
  • Sponsorship of the Salaam Baalak Trust in India – a charity that provides education and accommodation to disadvantaged street children.
  • Providing university scholarships to Salaam Baalak graduates to attend university in India.
  • Sponsorship of the Salaam Baalak City Walk program.
  • Developing international study tour programs that allow students to work within communities and apply their skills.
  • Allowing staff to contribute to the CQUni Cares program which allows disadvantaged students to access financial support to help them with their studies.

CQUniversity is known within the Australian higher education sector as the nation’s most inclusive and engaged university. We respect and seek full participation from staff, students and the community, and value the diversity of their backgrounds, experiences and culture.

CQUniversity defines itself by who it embraces rather than who it excludes and because of this the University is proud to have the highest ratio of students from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to any other Australian university.

  • Almost 50 years’ experience in the delivery of distance education.
  • Largest geographical footprint of any Australian university with more than 20 sites across Australia, including campuses and distance education study centres.
  • More than 300 programs and courses available to study across six areas of discipline that are informed by engagement and collaboration with industry, community and government.
  • 30 000 plus students, from more than 115 countries.
  • More than 13 000 students studying via distance education.
  • More than 5 000 international students.
  • More than 80 000 registered alumni based across the globe.
  • More than $3 million worth of donor and equity scholarships available to students
  • Seamless pathway programs between vocational and tertiary programs and vice versa.
  • Student leadership opportunities.