Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard called for more ambitious partnerships to generate social innovation when she spoke at the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW on Thursday (February 28).

Ms Gillard, addressing an audience of 500, outlined the Federal Government's commitment to a social inclusion agenda and to reshaping the health, education and community sectors through collaborative national reform.

The event, hosted by chief executive of the new Centre for Social Impact, Professor Peter Shergold, brought together a number of leading social innovation thinkers and practitioners.

One of the speakers, Dr Geoff Mulgan, is director of the Young Foundation, a centre for social innovation in London that gave rise to initiatives such as the Open University.

Professor Shergold said: "There is growing appreciation of the centrality of the not-for-profit sector to the well-being of the Australian economy and society.

"The challenge is to ensure that these social ventures can be created, grown and sustained over time. Managerial and leadership skills are as important to social enterprise as to corporate endeavour. Indeed the challenges of social entrepreneurship are in many ways more formidable.

"The Centre for Social Impact will support the third sector through teaching, research and public advocacy. It will contribute significantly to leadership capability and social innovation in Australia's vital third sector."

The Centre for Social Impact, hosted by the Australian School of Business at UNSW, is a partnership between leading Australian universities, including the University of Melbourne.

The goal of the Centre is to become Australia's leading academic centre in support of nonprofit organisations - a 'centre of academic excellence fit for social purpose.'

Photos: Matthew Duchesne ©Milk&Honey Photography