Women In Innovation: Cris Clucas

"I haven't given up hope the future is going to be amazing for all of us."

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to one of the Canberra Adaptive City Open Innovation Challenge, Cris Clucas.

What are you working on?

I am helping to spread the word to the Canberra community about a housing model called co-housing, which started in Denmark in the early 1970s and spread throughout the world. A co-housing community is a group of individually owned houses with all the usual amenities, situated around shared land with a common building which includes a kitchen. In the common areas residents share activities for example, gardening, week-night dinners and events. Co-housing residents have a say in how the community is run and living in this way is not only socially supportive it is economically viable and environmentally sustainable.

Why is innovation important to you?

I am a creative, problem-solving human being who loves to dream about the future and I haven’t given up hope the future is going to be amazing for all of us. I am passionate about equality and creating connected, supportive, healthy multi-generational communities in Canberra in the hope we can address social fragmentation and the growing issues of isolation and loneliness. I think innovation, whether through the 50-year old, tried and tested idea of co-housing or AI, will be at the heart of solutions to many of the issues we as a society face today. I encourage people to dream about the possibilities without limitation of what is currently possible.

What drives you to make a difference?

I joke that my ‘very mild superpower’ is empathy. I believe having empathy for others, especially when it comes to those effected by racism, sexism, homophobia and poverty, can motivate people to create change whether through something like bystander intervention in their everyday lives or pushing for change through our politicians. When I was a young solo parent, my daughter and I lived for a number of years below the poverty line. When I was eventually able to buy an Affordable House & Land package through the ACT Government we moved from the inner north out to farthest Gungahlin, away from friends and support services. I was grateful to have a home but the design of the new suburb we moved to maximised people housed in a way that created privacy between the homes but unfortunately also created disconnection and isolation. This lived experience is why I am passionate about sharing the possibilities of co-housing for Canberrans from all socio-economic backgrounds.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?

When I got to a certain age, I found myself in the running and successful in attaining management positions and I put that down to not only my skills and experience but my privilege. I encourage successful innovators, entrepreneurs and those in management to reach out to anyone who is marginalised and support them to see their dreams come to fruition through mentorship. I work at Burgmann College, an affiliated residential community at ANU, where I work with young adults who continuously inspire me with their positivity and the ways they think about what is possible. I am looking forward to seeing what they do in the world and I believe those who are successful in life can give back by supporting marginalised people including women, non-binary and people of colour through mentorship.

What are you proud of right now?

I recently participated in the Canberra Innovation Network’s ‘Adaptive City Innovation Challenge’ sharing my story and info on co-housing in a three-minute pitch. I was lucky to be one of three prize winners, which was fantastic. With that prize I am organising a one-day co-housing symposium which will be held at Burgmann College ANU, later in the year and will feature a number of speakers on co-housing as an option for Canberra. There is a trial co-housing development happening in Ainslie and there may be a larger one set to happen in Watson in coming years. I would like to help the groundswell to make co-housing happen in Canberra sooner rather than later. Big thanks to the Canberra Innovation Network, sponsor ACTEW AGL and the judges for helping me spread the word about co-housing in Canberra. Learning how to put together a 3-minute pitch was a lot of fun and I encourage anyone with an idea to get in touch with the Canberra Innovation Network so they can support you to bring your idea to fruition.

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