Thinkers in Residence: History
Established in 2003, the Adelaide Thinkers in Residence program was a global first. It is a tested social innovation, developed in South Australia, to address urgent challenges or to explore areas of opportunity, through new policy
development and systems reform.
Between 2003 and 2013 the program resulted in more than $200 million of investment in new programs and
infrastructure, both in South Australia and across the nation. The Australian Government provided around half of this investment.
The program brings new ideas into the state and translates them into practical solutions to improve the lives of the
people who live in South Australia. The Thinkers methodology relies upon the relevance of the issue at hand, the
calibre of the visiting expert (known as the Thinker), the leadership of the Premier, and the public and private partners
who invest in the residency and deliver the implementation of the recommendations.
The Thinkers in Residence program helped guide the State’s response to some of the most important issues of the last decade including health, education, water, climate change, manufacturing, transport and road safety.
Other significant impacts of the program include the establishment of the Australian Centre for Social Innovation
(Geoff Mullgan), the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre (Martin Seligman), the state-wide measurement of progress in
children’s development through the Australian Early Development Index (Fraser Mustard), and the construction of
four Common Ground Adelaide sites to house the long-term homeless (Rosanne Haggerty).
In 2013 the Adelaide Thinkers in Residence Program stopped receiving ongoing State Government funding.
In 2013 the Don Dunstan Foundation hosted the first residency outside of government. Reverb focused on the live music industry in South Australia and was incredibly successful with the establishment of the St Pauls Creative Centre, the Music Development Office and the listing of Adelaide as a UNESCO City of Live Music all consequences of the residency.
In 2016 the Thinkers in Residence Program formally transitioned to the Don Dunstan Foundation. The next residency, commencing in 2017 will focus on Social Capital.
Each thinker is a world leader and exemplar in their field. They come and live and work in Adelaide for a period of
time. The Thinker focuses on contemporary, complex challenges, recognised as important to the future of the state.
Investors in the residencies come from stakeholders with an interest in the challenge, and have been from the public
and private sector. These partners help lead the residency and support the recommendations of the Thinker into
During the residency the Thinker releases a report or a series of reports with recommendations based on what they
Reports, Videos and Updates
A selection of reports from the most recent Thinkers in Residence can be found here:
- Martin Elborne: Reverb (Live Music)
- Carla Rinaldi: Reimagining Childhood
- Martin Seligman: Building the State of Wellbeing
- Alex Kalache: The Longevity Revolution