“You are the change makers. I’m just the researcher. You are the ones out there making it happen.”

With inspiration like this from his opening keynote at the Queensland Disability Conference in Cairns last month, Mark McCrindle – a futurist, demographer and award-winning social researcher – certainly proved he could grab audience attention. In a room full of hundreds of disability sector workers, care recipients and organisational decision makers – all keen to hear about the shape of the future and its NDIS possibilities, Mark took us all on a one hour ride into ‘what the future might look like’ and how we can be at the forefront of future trends.

“We live in a time of massive policy change like the NDIS. The time is ripe for significant transformation. And that is the context of today’s presentation.”

Mark actually didn’t talk much about the NDIS. He let the NDIS experts do that later. Instead, he presented us with interesting social data trends for us to decide how those trends would impact the disability industry, the national NDIS rollout and our role in both.

The Ripple Effect

Mark talked about how trends spread and the speed at which they spread. He called this the ripple effect, which refers to how the impact of one event can have “continuing and spreading results” of dependent situations/events.

To illustrate the power of the spread of trends, Mark gave the example of the viral spread of the Gangnam Style dance craze, the photobombing phenomenon and the incredible success of the mobile game, Pokémon Go.

To give an example of how these trends cause a ripple effect, he talked about the 3D printed smartphone cover for Pokémon Go. A month ago, we didn’t have Pokémon Go. Now, we have the game and a whole range of accessories for it, thanks to savvy product makers who know how to quickly react to trends.

Social Data

24.1 million people live in Australia today. In ten years time, that figure is estimated to increase to 27 million people. That means we are not only going to see an increase in our general population numbers, but we are also going to see an increase in the number of people in Australia with a disability, as well as the number of Australians who need jobs, said Mark.

Interestingly, Queensland has one of the most decentralised populations of all the states, with only 48% living in our capital city, Brisbane. This compares to 65% living in Sydney, 76% living in Melbourne and 77% living in Perth. And Queensland and Victoria are the only two states with net interstate migration, meaning that more people are moving in from interstate than are moving out.

Australia-wide, we are also “down ageing – we’re living younger longer, we’re more active longer, we’re working longer”. Think how this affects the services you provide and consume, said Mark.

The need to be innovative

Mark urged us to rise above “change fatigue” and “change apathy”, so that we can proactively equip ourselves for the upcoming changes.

“We have to be innovative in our outlook and approach,” said Mark from the stage. “The tablets thinking never came out of the IBM model… Smartphone devices were never going to come out of Nokia thinking… We are in a world of apps, new platforms and new forms of connection… We have to be collaborative in approach and connect with other people… but get the right skill set…It’s going to need entrepreneurial thinking, flexible thinking… and we need to be able to respond to ripples that come our way.”

The 3 R’s

In conclusion, when deciding how to react to the upcoming NDIS changes, Mark reminded us to stick to the 3 R’s:

  1. Keep it real
  2. Keep it relevant – “what works for one segment may not work for all”
  3. Keep it relational

Thanks Mark McCrindle for your insights! We already heard some stories from fellow attendees from the NDIS rollout areas, about how their lives and/or businesses have changed with NDIS, and we look forward to hearing more stories as the NDIS “everyone by 2019” rollout continues.