06 May, 2015 Last updated: 06 May, 2015

Victorians are among the most innovative people in the world. We have a culture of openness to new ideas and a willingness to adopt new methods, technologies and ways of living or working.

Launched in 2014, VicHealth’s Innovation Challenges invite pitches for initiatives that encourage healthier behaviours in four areas: physical activity, reducing alcohol consumption, mental health and wellbeing via participation in the arts, and improving access to sustainable, nutritious foods. 

The most promising are rewarded with start-up funding. In preparation for the Innovation Challenges, VicHealth held a series of workshops to bring together a diverse range of organisations and changemakers to develop initial ideas. The aim of the workshops were to connect and nurture people, communities and organisations doing good work by building capability, skill sharing and practical learning opportunities.

The series of workshops were open to everyone, not only the finalists and winners, and not necessarily those with a specific expertise. It attracted participants from sporting groups, mental health sector, youth sector, entrepreneurs, changemakers, universities, government representatives, design, and communications professionals to build a shared understanding of key issues and trends.

VicHealth engaged the team at Doing Something Good, a social enterprise investing in Melbourne-based community initiatives, to facilitate some of the workshops and help with capacity building. Doing Something Good founder David Hood says the workshops were designed to be informative and inspiring. 

"Participants heard from thought leaders,entrepreneurs and innovators from diverse fields. They explored key issues and their impact, gained insights into emerging trends and their drivers, and learned simple and effective techniques to develop socially innovative solutions together. 

"Participants planning on submitting a project proposal learned how to apply the principles and practices of design thinking, lean start-up and rapid prototyping, learning what makes (and sells) a good idea, and how to develop a winning pitch," said Mr Hood.

Man kick-boxking

Innovation Challenge: Physical Activity

Getting communities more active is in the best interests of all Victorians. Across Australia, people are leading less active lives, with less than a third of Australians getting enough physical activity. It is estimated that the increased risks of chronic disease and poor mental health associated with inactivity is costing the Australian economy $13.8 billion each year.1

VicHealth’s Innovation Challenge: Physical Activity was about kick-starting ideas that made getting active fun for everyone. The successful projects help provide more flexible, social and less-structured opportunities for Victorians of all ages to get active.

More than 100 video pitches were submitted in the Innovation Challenge: Physical Activity. The creativity and quality of submissions immediately affirmed how innovative Victorians are and just how hard choosing the winners would be. Among the seven winning entries was a charitable giving app that encourages daily physical activity and a social enterprise that links group fitness training with school fundraising: two very different approaches to the same health issue and both likely to succeed in different settings (see sidebar for a summary of winning entries). 

CoDesign Studio Project Manager Helen Rowe, for one of the winning projects (Play Streets) in the Innovation Challenge: Physical Activity, said the funding will be used to trial Play Streets in Melbourne, a program that temporarily converts local streets into play spaces, for a day or even an afternoon, and reawakening a love of street play in a whole new generation.

Making play easy to do and close to home by creating opportunities for street play, is a great way to increase kids’ activity levels. That’s what Play Streets aims to do.

"At the end of the project we aim to create a Play Streets toolkit to help communities everywhere create more ways to play in their own neighbourhood," Ms Rowe said.

The Innovation Challenges: Physical Activity will be held twice a year, with the next one in July 2015. In the lead up to future Physical Activity Challenges VicHealth is excited to partner with Vicsport, Victoria's peak body representing the sport and active recreation sector, to deliver a series of ‘forward thinking’ sessions to support the community sport industry develop cutting-edge ideas on how to get more people active through sport. Sessions have already commenced, with the next two on in April and June.

See the winning entries
Find out more about future events and register for the free Forward Thinking Series
Man grabbing a beer

Innovation Challenge: Alcohol

Research shows that almost half of Victorians (46%) drink in a way that increases their risk of injury, with this rising to two-thirds (67%) for young people aged 16 to 29. Over half (53%) of Victorians aged 16 to 29 believe getting drunk every now and then is not a problem.2 But a majority (87%) of Australians think alcohol is a serious issue facing our community, and improving Victoria’s drinking culture is a high priority for VicHealth.3

The Innovation Challenge: Alcohol offered an investment pool of $395,000, which will be shared among successful projects that have the most potential to decrease the amount Victorians drink, particularly those that drink heavily, or to increase the acceptability of saying no to a drink, or drinking a bit less.

See the winning entries
Arts Innovation Challenge artwork

Innovation Challenge: Arts

The Innovation Challenge: Arts attracted dozens of submissions seeking to achieve physical and mental wellbeing through involvement in arts activities. 

From the 40 entries, eight proposals have been shortlisted with winners to be announced in April 2015. 

See the shortlisted entries
Graphic of plant with roots

VicHealth's Seed Challenge

Recently VicHealth announced extended support to the two Healthy Eating Seed Challenge winners, 3000 Acres and Open Food Network, until June 2015. The investment will accelerate their progression to viable business models whilst delivering new solutions to improving the supply, access and culture of fruit and vegetables in Victoria.

Over the past 12 months, 3000 Acres have established pilot gardens on vacant or underutilised land, and a website and online toolkit to support people who want to grow foods to connect with others who hold the keys to vacant land. The clear impact of 3000 Acres is increasing awareness of the importance and value of food growing within the city and the creation and strengthening of communities around those gardens. The initiative has generated strong interest from traditional and social media, landowners, enthusiastic growers and volunteers.

Seed Challenge investment in the Open Food Network has enabled trialling new software that makes it easy to find, buy and sell local and source-identified food online. Open Food Network’s concept is generating a broad support base including international interest and a very successful crowdfunding campaign raising more than $35,000. 

Learn more

1 Medibank 2008, The cost of physical inactivity, Medibank Private, Sydney.
2 VicHealth 2014, A snapshot of Victoria’s alcohol culture: Selected findings, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne.
3 VicHealth 2014, Australians’ attitudes towards their health, consuming alcohol and taking a break from alcohol, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne.