[00:00:07] Hi and welcome to another episode of Humans Aren’t Robots brought to you by Digital Noir. I sat down with three of the panelists from The Time is Now panel, a part of the social impact channel at South Start. I sat down with Adam McCurdy from Humanitix, Mark Reddam from the Pledge One Percent Foundation and also Atlassian and Sarah Gunn from Gogo Events. Three very passionate individuals that are doing great things in the world of social impact and change through business.
[00:03:06] Talking about Pledge One Percent.
[00:03:09] So I sort of have been grappling with the question, how does a business that is a for profit business and it doesn’t really have any super altruistic kind of values built into outside of helping people build great digital products, how does a business like me actually create social impact? That’s the Segway. Adam is pointing to the Pledge One Percent T-shirt.
[00:04:16] So the basic concept behind Pledge One Percent is it encourages business owners like yourself to think about how you can use four different elements of your business for good. So the first is equity in the business. That’s particularly appropriate, I guess, for businesses that have got the potential to grow in significant scale and where that equity might ultimately be realised in some sort of transaction. So if for any business that’s an ambition, then equities definitely relevant. The second pillar is profit. Are you willing to put aside one percent of your profit and dedicate its use for some sort of social good, social or environmental good? Third one is your time, your people’s time. Everybody’s got employees and everybody’s got 52 weeks a year. Those employees have got talents. Do you want to spend some time volunteering, doing things that are good for the community? And then the last pillar is product. You know, what is your product? How might that product be used for the benefit of society? Do you want to do some work on a discounted or a pro bono basis for a community organisation?
[00:06:01] What’s the process? So how do you go about facilitating that?
[00:06:21] Yeah, I mean, generally speaking, time is volunteering capacity. And so we encourage organisations, founders that have decided to pledge to use one percent of these people’s time to start to think about a volunteering policy. How much capacity are you willing to make available to your people on a paid basis? Is it a day, is it two days, a year or a week a year, or is it more than that? You know, do you want to focus it on a single cause area that everybody in the organisation gets behind and says, yeah, that’s where we’re going to focus because that’ll have the greatest impact? Or are you wanting to empower your team members to use it however they think is best in their personal circumstances? How are you going to track it? There are sort of just logistical exercises, and so are you just going to rely on trusting people to organize their time in a way that doesn’t disrupt their work responsibilities and just keep a personal track of how much time they’re spending. Or do you want to formally institutionalize it into your HR systems and the like? Generally speaking, in my experience, the more that a founder finds somebody in the organization who is really passionate about bringing it to life, the more that it does come to life.
So, you know, discuss it with your team, see who it is that it resonates most strongly with, and then empower them to start to think about and consult with fellow team members about, you know, this is great that our founder, our business owner, has enabled us to do this. Let’s now work out a plan as to how we’re going to bring it to life and then take that back to the founder and say this is how we think we should do it. I think the more that there’s collective buy in in the early stages, the more traction you get and the better it is. In an ideal world, you’ll be able to track the impact of what you’re doing. But for most businesses, that’s actually a really big challenge. And I think it’s more about choosing an organization that you believe is having real impact and doing whatever it is that they are asking you to do. Don’t try and impose your beliefs and your values around what’s important on them. You know, listen, with an open, open mind to what it is they’re saying is of greatest value to them and then do your very best to respond.
[00:08:44] And hopefully you can just see that.
[00:08:45] Yeah, exactly. Well, actually, I mean, you say hopefully you can see it. I think in reality often, though, is when you do try and just see it, you get it wrong. It’s actually allowing the people who are on the ground that the organization that you wanting to support to actually be the ones who have a voice.
[00:09:23] And so every different business has a different skill set or a different tool.
[00:09:28] And you just have to reflect on what that is. And you might be surprised at how many tools you have up your sleeve to help a charity that resonates with you or to help a movement or to help something achieve a greater social impact through something that doesn’t seem on the surface to be able to do so.
[00:09:45] There’s probably a lot of things within business that you wouldn’t actually necessarily see as giving back, but they really are.
[00:10:20] That’s right. When you start to think broadly about what is your product, Humans aren’t Robots is a part of your product suite. Your digital creative skills are another part of that suite of products. Once you start to think consciously about, you know, what are our products and how might they be used to make a difference to society at large, you’ll very quickly start to identify lots of things you could do, some of which you’re already doing.
[00:10:49]Humanitix is a really interesting one and I think a really powerful one. I’m interested in how you came from a maths background or engineering background to how you find yourself all of a sudden running a billion website.
[00:11:17] I was always fascinated by engineering, building technology and all those kinds of things. I teamed up with the best mate of mine, Josh Ross, to find out, well, how could we apply our skills to create an organisation that can achieve massive amounts of impact for us. We wanted to do it in the education space to close the education gap for disadvantaged youth around the world and work out how we could apply the skills that we’ve learnt. He came from a finance background. I came from an engineering and maths background. That was a really nice combo to create the Humanitix that you see today. It was from that perspective that we searched for an industry that we thought was particularly ripe for disruption with a social enterprise or a social impact model, and ticketing is a multibillion dollar industry that charges booking fees to everyone on tickets. And everyone bloody well hates booking tickets. And so we thought, well, what if we could create our own ticketing platform that event organizers could use instead of the Eventbrites of the world? Our fees be lower than Eventbrite so you’re saving money, work damn hard on our technology so the technology is as good or better, which we are now proud to say is, and then donate all of the profits from our fees to fund education projects for disadvantaged youth and then give the organizers the credit for that impact that’s resulted from the tickets being sold through Humanitix to their event and give the organizers the ability to then tell their community the impact that their event made so that you’d not just have a solution that’s making the world a better place, but you’re also providing a solution for an organizer that’s far more commercially compelling.
[00:13:44] And there must be so many industries and businesses that could be disrupted in this way, where there are sort of profit centers that are sitting there and looking for it. I mean, it’s a really clever one where that profit could be distributed to go to better places and also spread a great message. It’s actually baked into it, isn’t it?
[00:14:06] The key to us that we’ve learnt, is doing it in a way that makes your product genuinely the better choice. Don’t lean on the social impact crutch too hard. Use that as part of why you’re doing what you’re doing. But don’t expect people to just use you just because you’re the more socially impactful choice.
[00:15:17] I might throw that across to you, Sarah, because I think that if you want to just tell us briefly about Gogo events. How important is providing an incredible service first and then I think that applies very much to what you do.
[00:15:29] Gogo Events is an event design and management company and we deliver services across a whole spectrum of business, government, not for profit and community based events. And the difference is that we have a commitment to ensuring that every event we’re involved with leaves a positive social legacy. It’s all really tangible and obvious and powerful impact. And the way we chose to do that was by making all our employees are people who are at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness. And when I say make them it, we went out to homeless service providers, we literally knocked on doors and said, would anyone here like a job?
And then like you were saying, Adam, it’s about then saying to our clients, you are having a positive legacy because you are using us.
[00:18:57] And so I wanted to touch on two of the things that you mentioned then, you know, the changing climate and consciousness around purpose and social impact as just humans living in the world we live in today. How much change have you seen in the last five to 10 years? Is there a shift, do you think?
[00:19:17] There’s definitely been a shift. It’s definitely becoming more mainstream. But I still think we’re really only just dipping our toe in the water, there is so much more change that is still necessary. I’m not seeing massive change coming from large businesses, large corporates, listed public companies and the like.
[00:20:15] But it is big corporates that can impact and make massive change.
[00:20:49] I think there is a shift. But also policy has a big role to play. So developing a commitment more than a consciousness, but a commitment from government and also from CEOs of large organisations to include social procurement within their supply chains. It’s a really important and powerful choice.
[00:22:44] What do you see as some of the ways we can sort of boost that so rapidly, increase the consciousness?
[00:22:53] Getting brands to see that it’s in their interest. On so many fronts, it’s better for your brand and it’s better for your business. Employee motivation, staff motivation is one which is just the engine room of most or all organizations and businesses. If you do it right and do it well where it is you’re considering what service or product you’re offering. You’re joining the Pledge One Percent movement. You’re doing more than pledging one per cent. You’re doing your bit and you’re allowing your staff to feel that, it is unparalleled, the kind of engagement and motivation that you get.
[00:25:38] But it does need to come from a place of authenticity. If you’re genuinely, authentically trying to use the resources of your business to have a really positive social or environmental impact and it is 100 percent authentic, then the byproduct is that people feel proud or engaged and want to be part of your organization. If you’re doing it to polish your brand or to try and get engagement, the bullshit detectors that we all have kick in very quickly. And I would say you perversely potentially have the opposite impact.
[00:26:24] I’m interested to know in terms of that actual impact that you’re having in education, does the development team actually, get out and see that with their own eyes. Like, do you actually take people out? And how abstract, I suppose, is that the reality of the good you’re doing from the day to day work that’s happening in the studio?
[00:26:45] Yeah, we’re slowly doing a better and better job of showing our staff exactly what’s happening on the ground.
And it’s only now that we’re starting more and more to be able to do those exciting things like being able to go and visit our charity partners and do those types of more meaningful things, which is really, really exciting.
[00:28:13] And one of the things that inspired us about Adam and Josh when I first met you guys was just what they had managed to achieve with a really basic rudimentary ticketing platform. And we could see immediately that they were coming from a place of absolute authenticity.
[00:29:07] So we saw the personal sacrifice they were willing to make. And we also saw the progress and the way in which they were inspiring and engaging people. And so we were then thinking, hey, this ticketing platform can be so much better. And they themselves were saying it can be so much better. And obviously with the skills within Atlassian, our Atlassians and the fact that everybody’s been given a week in a year to contribute through volunteering, gave us the confidence that by partnering up with Humanitix and backing them, we could not only help to address some of their funding needs, but we could also use our expertise to really get into places. But it was the authenticity, what had been achieved on the smell of an oily rag, the guys just inspire confidence.
[00:29:51] Add that extra layer of actually doing good and I think you’re really adding what seems to be in terms of that generational shift, more and more people are interested in that part of they don’t want to come to work and get a paycheck. They actually want to be standing for something slightly larger than that and trying to contribute, especially around the environment and what’s happening with the planet.
[00:31:03] And indeed, one of the things that we did last year through the foundation was we ran a project internally called the 500 Project, and essentially that was creating an opportunity for 500 Atlassians to have a customer interview with one of the non-profit users of our software. And obviously that’s a good thing as well from a software engineers perspective to hear the voice of the customer. That’s the sort of thing that you can do when people aren’t directly involved in impact, but the work they’re doing is enabling impact.
[00:32:25] I think that one of the most powerful things that I’ve seen recently is we’ve been able to shift some of the people that were homeless when we first met them into our business. And now they are the experts, obviously, on homelessness because they have a lived experience and they are now co-designing for us the next stage of our program right now, which is where we will move people from homelessness through a short, very concise, very client centered approach to build skills capacity and well-being and straight into a job. So we’re activating all our networks to create the jobs because the job is the innovation at the end.
[00:34:23] Yeah, and there’s a trickle down impact from it. And so having that conversation with the team, I think actually opens up their mind to what do I do in my personal life? And it starts conversations that sort of go further than just within the business.
[00:35:02] And I personally believe that whilst we’ve seen some change, the greatest change is ultimately going to be consumer led. Who are consumers? It’s us. It’s us as individuals, as us, as humans. And the more that that we learn of ways in which we can exercise our rights as people in our consumer choices or anything else, the more options that open up to us, the fact that, you know, there is a platform called Humanitix that didn’t exist five years ago, the fact that there are many other social enterprises, the more we learn about the different ways in which we can use our power as individuals, the more you can vote with your dollar. The more that will, in fact, drive change. I actually think the greater force for good is us as humans. One, learning about the options that are available to us and then two, taking individual sort of incremental steps that when they’re added up, actually become quite huge.
[00:36:18] It starts from grassroots. I’ll ask each of you, what are you excited about in the future? What do you look forward to and see with hope?
[00:36:28] For me, it is the combination of inspired thinking and technology. There are more and more people who are thinking about how can I make a difference in the world more so than ever before. In my experience and because of all of the technological advances that we’ve experienced and those that are yet to come, there are more and more opportunities for people to start small, but actually do things at massive scale.
[00:37:28] Beautiful, Sarah?
[00:37:29] Oh, I think it’s for me, it’s about community. I think that we are on the cusp of and I know this is very idealistic and optimistic, but I think the convergence of cultures and with Australia being the example, we have had such tension around immigration and around, you know, making space for indigenous communities to thrive. I can’t help but feel that energy and time and the difficulties is going to emerge perhaps with technology, but particularly around just building, going back to our roots, which is about the humanity within us, which cannot help but be inclusive and inviting and making people feel safe and comfortable and often it comes out of hardship.
[00:39:28] For me, what makes me positive about the future is that we’re already going in the right direction and we’ve been doing so for decades now, if not longer. The world is, I’m a strong believer, that the world’s, by and large as good as it’s ever been. And there’s lots of problems for us to solve. And there’s lots of issues that still exist in the world. But by and large we’re in as good a spot as we’ve ever been, and we’re going in a better and better direction every year, by and large.
[00:40:51] I also think spreading the message about that positivity. Thanks so much, everybody, for the chat.
Hi, Sam here again, thanks so much for listening. I really love the way that both Adam and Sarah have gone about creating businesses that can sustain them and their passions, but also really give back to the wider community. So epic work and everything that Mark is doing at the Pledge One Percent foundation at Atlassian is incredible. If you’d like to find out anything more, you can head to our website at Digitalnoir.com.au and head to the gossip section where you can find this podcast episode.