We are now a certified B Corp!

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Can business be a force for good?

We think so. The Social Deck team is proud to announce we’ve been awarded B-Corp certification.

Individually, B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.

B-Corps originated in the U.S. to promote businesses with purpose. B-Corporation status is awarded by B-Lab, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

B Corp certification is to sustainable business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee.

Today more than 1,640 companies are recognised as B-Corps worldwide, from large businesses like Patagonia and Ben and Jerry’s down to small enterprises selling handmade goods and small agencies like us.

On March 30, The Social Deck became the 110th B-Corp in Australia.

Managing Director, Steven Speldewinde, said:

B-Corp status helps to recognise The Social Deck as a ‘social business’, where our core mission is to achieve positive social change through our work. As part of this, most of our profits are put back in to projects that make a positive difference to society and the environment, including our ‘for purpose’ bank which helps local non-profit and community organisations. 

It’s definitely more than just a label – as part of being awarded B-Corp status, we commit to the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

To receive B-Corp certification we had to score a minimum amount of points based on the impact of our business, including our impact on supporting vulnerable people, our environmental impact and our sustainability as a social business. 

The Social Deck also received additional points because of our commitment to helping to promote other start-ups, social enterprises and not-for-profits across Australia, through Ideas Hoist and Product Hoist.

10 women making their ideas happen

Through our online magazine Ideas Hoist, we have been fortunate to interview lots of inspiring people with really amazing ideas.

So as part of International Women’s Day today we are highlighting ten fantastic women from our archives of interviews – all with ideas that are making a positive difference in the world right now.

#1 Hollie Gordon – Milaana

Hollie Gordon

Hollie Gordon is a young Australian working to increase community engagement through social enterprise. She developed her passion for social entrepreneurship and community engagement during her post-high school travel experiences, particularly in India.

During her final year of university Holly founded a social enterprise called Milaana, meaning “to connect people” in the Hindi language. Milaana does exactly that – connecting passionate individuals with community oriented organisations by promoting project-based, impact placement opportunities. It also exists to empower youth by increasing both their job readiness and their community engagement.

Milaana was selected as the winner of the “Education Pillar” in the 1776 Challenge Cup in Sydney – part of a global startup competition where she will contest the final in Washington DC this year. And Milaana was also a recipient of the Brisbane Lord Mayors Budding Entrepreneur Award Program. This Award provided a grant that funded Hollie’s attendance of the G20 YEA Summit as an Australian Delegate.

With so much already behind her, she is certainly a young change-maker to watch in the future!

For more on Hollie Gordon, read our interview here.

#2 Melanie Perkins – Canva

Melanie Perkins

Melanie Perkins is the CEO and co-founder of Canva, and is a bit of a rock star of the Australian start-up scene, having raised one of the biggest seed rounds (more than 3 million dollars) for an Australian start-up for her online design platform. Since launching less than two years ago, Canva has grown to well over 1 million users who have created more than 7 million designs.

With a background in graphic design and a serial entrepreneur, Melanie has been able to democratise design; Canva is opening up the world of graphic design to professionals and everyday people alike.The Canva platform makes it simple to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, blog graphics, invitations and much more. In the male dominated tech industry, Melanie is a beacon of light for women entrepreneurs, though her success is perhaps not so surprising given her incredible drive and highly adventurous spirit. Melanie is not just a tech entrepreneur but an intrepid traveller and adventurer.

Want to know more? Read our full interview with Melanie here.

#3 Phaemie Ng – Two Rags


Phaemie Ng is a social entrepreneur and founder of Two Rags, a modern underwear brand with heart. Her brand provides a tangible way for customers to give back and help others in need. Having been struck by images of poverty and inequality, she seized the opportunity to create something meaningful and worthwhile to make the world a better place.

Originally from Singapore, Phaemie attended college in the USA and afterwards lived and worked in New York City. She has worked in the digital and marketing space in both New York and Sydney – experience which came in very handy while building Two Rags. In August this year, Phaemie took the plunge to working on the development of Two Rags full-time in Sydney.

Read more about Phaemie and Two Rags in our interview here.

#4 Jane Martino – founder of Smiling Mind (amongst other things!)


Jane Martino is renowned for developing thriving businesses, having founded and one of Australia’s most renowned communications agencies, Undertow Media, and subsequently recognised as a finalist in the Telstra Young Business Women’s awards in 2005.

Based in Melbourne, Victoria, Jane is a published author, with 72,000 copies of her ‘Thank You’ books sold nationwide. She has combined her personal love of young people, giving back and meditation to create Smiling Mind, a not for profit, modern approach to meditation for young people – with a mission to create happier, healthier and more compassionate young people. She also co-founded and is CEO of Shout. – a micro-donation app.

Read more in our interview with Jane here. Continue reading

Link Deck #8: Innovation in Education


As many kids head back to school this week, we thought we’d take a look at some innovative approaches to education from around the world.  Whether it be designing a new school system or encouraging healthy eating habits – passion, creativity and technology are key.

In Australia

On environment and sustainability…

As we continue to face serious environmental challenges, the classroom seems like the perfect place to engage children in the management of their local environments so that they can begin to understand the bigger sustainability picture.

For example, since it began in 2003, thousands of students, teachers and local Queensland communities have participated in the Reef Guardian Schools program. The program creates awareness, understanding and appreciation for the Reef and its connected ecosystems, empowering and encouraging students to care for their incredible marine environment through a range of activities. We are especially proud of this program as our Director, Kate Bowmaker, worked hard to help develop it!


Australia and the UK both have sustainable school programs that engage students in managing their school’s resources and facilities including energy, waste, water, biodiversity, landscape design, products and materials. These programs also address social and financial issues. Continue reading

Insights from the #StartingGood Digital Summit


Back in October we attended the StartingGood Digital Summit, hosted by the team of crowdfunding experts at StartSomeGood. The summit was one of the events forming part of the Changemakers Festival – a series of social change-focused events around Australia in that particular week.

At The Social Deck we work as a very distributed team (Canberra, Brisbane Orange and Byron Bay at last check in to our virtual office!), and it was a great opportunity for us to attend a conference ‘together’, while gaining insights into some of the emerging ideas, tools, tactics and techniques for creating social change from some of the leading thinkers in the space.

Although unfortunately we weren’t available to listen to every one of the talks, we thought we’d share a few quality snippets of some of the sessions we ‘attended’.

The Journey of a Social Entrepreneur

The Summit kicked off with a session by Roshan Paul, co-founder of the Amani Institute, a global Higher Education social enterprise that helps change-makers develop knowledge and equips them with the practical skills they need to solve social challenges. He highlighted the need for social entrepreneurs to “train intensely for a career in impact – the way a doctor or Olympic athlete would”, and to immerse themselves in practical experiences to gain the best understanding about how to solve social problems across national boundaries”.

He wrapped up his session with two important lessons from his own experiences co-founding a social enterprise:

1. “Find a co-founder – somebody you can trust and who can equally invest time and money”, and

2. “Start something if you can’t live with not starting it, or join somebody else if you can.”

Social Media – big wins for small organisations

In the second session, Amy Ward, CEO of Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) and Stacey Monk, founder of the social innovation lab, Epic Change, highlighted their personal experiences for creating successful social movements through social media.

Step one is to develop a strong social media strategy. Amy highlighted that: “money is not necessarily the most effective on social media, but time, energy and a good strategy are critical.”

A key theme that emerged was the importance of creating and building trust with your online community. As Amy said: “Those organisations that put their communities first are the most successful on social media. The first step is to find your friends and ask them to come with you. Don’t create new platforms and wait for them to come. They won’t”.

Another theme was that you don’t always have to be the one to instigate or create a new idea – look to what others are saying as well: “Look for what’s trending. What moves you? Share this with your community and start a discussion with what others have created.”

Continue reading

Link Deck #7: Innovative energy

Wind energy

Since the G20, climate change and carbon abatement has been put firmly back on the agenda for the Government (whether they like it or not). So we thought we’d devote this edition of link deck to some of the emerging ideas, technologies and strategies for moving to a lower carbon economy and addressing energy poverty in the world.

According to this report 1.3 billion people globally do not currently have access to reliable electricity and there are 2.7 billion without access to clean cooking facilities. Contrary to the Minerals Council of Australia’s assertions that “coal must be a major part of the solution to global energy poverty”, there is increasing evidence that “off-the-grid” energy can be a more economically and environmentally sustainable solution to combat energy poverty. While I personally believe that relatively ‘cheap’ coal will continue to be a part of the solution to delivering energy in the medium term at least in urban areas, building ‘poles and wires’ networks to regional and remote areas is inefficient and expensive.

This LinkedIn article by solar pioneer and founder of SunEdison, Jigar Shah, explains how distributed energy solutions, rather than centralised grid-based power will be the main factor in reducing energy poverty into the future. He makes the point that there is a much better business case for distributed solutions that are cheap, clean and put power directly in the hands of poor populations – not to solve climate change but out of desire to solve energy poverty right now.

The recently released report – World Energy Outlook 2014, from the (conservative) International Energy Agency (IEA) backs this assertion up, noting that we need to move away from large-scale electricity infrastructure to “initiatives that support local needs and build financial and technical capacity in communities”, and that solar, not coal, in both grid and off-grid settings is more economically and technically feasible solutions for the worlds energy poor.

And this article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) presents more interesting case studies of how communities are getting off the grid with the help of mobile technology.

A recent Radio National interview with leading Indian environmental campaigner, Debi Goenka, refutes the claim that the 300 million people in India without access to reliable electricity can afford to pay for coal fired grid-based power. He explains that with many people earning less than 50c per day, even if they were provided with grid electricity there is no way people could afford to pay for the service.

There are some amazing innovations happening right now in the “off-grid” energy sector.

This TED talk by Justin Hall-Tipping shows how we can use all sorts of materials and amazing technology to generate all the energy we need right where we are, cleanly, safely, and cheaply.

Young Taylor Wilson is one of the stars of the TED stage, having built a working fusion reactor in his parents garage at the age of 14.

Now Taylor believes until the technology of fusion can be worked out to scale, small modular nuclear fission reactors that can be buried underground are the way to solve the global energy crisis, and has won backing to create a company to realise his vision…

Continue reading

Take local action on climate change…we have to!


Image via Richard Ling

In 2003-2004 I was involved in a mammoth task to explain to people – fishers, conservationists, tourism operators, the community – the benefits of increasing protection to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park through rezoning. This involved years of consultations, public meetings and ‘roadshows’, but in terms of achieving it’s outcome, it was a huge success. One of the biggest indicators of success was the understanding of the need for change in the community, leading to action by community groups, individuals and local businesses along the Queensland coast to do their bit to protect the Reef.

These actions included the set up of Reef Guardian Schools and businesses, Marine Advisory Groups and Community Access Points based at local bait and tackle shops. The general opinion was that no matter what industry you came from, the Great Barrier Reef was too important to lose.

In many places, it was community members – farmers, fishers, operators, conservationists and local leaders – who were driving change, recognising that harm to the Great Barrier Reef is not just an environmental issue, but that there is an economic imperative to protect one of Queensland’s most valuable assets.

The community is still driving this change, even in the face of complex science and resource and economic issues. So why is it so hard to engage people to support the world’s biggest environmental, economic and livelihood challenge – climate change? Continue reading

Learnings and preliminary case study on youth smoking behaviours

We have recently been involved in designing a social marketing campaign to help prevent the uptake of smoking by young Aboriginal people in Adelaide. It has been an excellent opportunity to work with our partners Winangali for local Aboriginal organisation – Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia – who are doing great work bringing positive change for healthy lifestyles to their community.

Don't let your dreams go up in smokes

During the research phase, we came across a number of interesting studies that helped us to understand the influences and uncover insights that informed the design of the campaign strategy. The literature also highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities facing behaviour change campaigns for young people.

What is Social Marketing?

The concept of social marketing is often confused with ‘social media marketing’, i.e. using social media as a tool to get messages out to an audience on social media.

When we use the term social marketing, it relates to using marketing strategies and concepts, backed up by research, to influence behaviours that benefit individuals and communities for social good (not to say that social media can’t be used as part of this).

The idea is that the savvy (and scientific) techniques used by marketers to get you to buy their product can instead be used to support and enable people to make better choices for themselves – contributing to broader social, health and environmental outcomes.

Behavioural segmentation

Public awareness campaigns are an essential tool to communicate important messages to a broad audience that can change attitudes and behaviours.

In the case of smoking there has been enormous success in Australia and worldwide in reducing smoking rates using large-scale anti-smoking awareness campaigns, along with policy initiatives like restricting cigarette brand advertising and the act of smoking in public and common places. All of these strategies have succeeded by denormalising smoking in society in general.

These government-led anti-smoking initiatives and campaigns in Australia have been very successful at changing behaviours of the general population, with daily smoking rates declining at a steady rate from around 35% in 1980 to 15.1% in 2010.

However, they have been much less effective in reducing the rate of smoking among Australia’s Indigenous population. Smoking rates have declined in recent years (from 2002 to 2012 dropping from 49% to 41%), but the rate still remains at approximately two and a half times that of non-Indigenous people. Statistics also show that Indigenous kids take up smoking at an earlier age than non-Indigenous, and that over 60% of Indigenous households contain at least one smoker.  Continue reading

Why ‘lean in’ when you can leap? How women are making ideas happen

why lean inThis post originally appeared in Women’s Agenda and is based on a number of interviews we did with women making ideas happen on Ideas Hoist.

Bev Wilkinson is a university student who is building connections between seniors and young people through storytelling. Hollie Gordon is a young graduate empowering youth and supporting communities through an online volunteering platform. Alexie Seller is a mechanical engineer helping to eradicate energy poverty in India through sustainable technologies. Rosie Thomas is a passionate founder of a youth-led anti-bullying organisation. Amanda Reed left the corporate sector in favour of founding an online platform to buy and sell disability and mobility equipment.

These are just some of the fascinating ideas from women we’ve profiled throughout 100 interviews of ‘Australians making ideas happen’ on ideas hoist.

Clockwise from the top left: Bev Wilkinson, Hollie Gordan, Alexie Seller, Rosie  Thomas, Amanda Reed.

Clockwise from the top left: Bev Wilkinson, Hollie Gordan, Alexie Seller, Rosie Thomas, Amanda Reed.

Approximately half of the social entrepreneurs and leaders that we have interviewed are women. They come from a wide range of organisations — including not-for-profit, social businesses, and technology and creative start-ups. Women are recognising gaps in the market where there is unmet need, and are stepping up to tackle some of our most pressing social needs and environmental challenges in innovative ways.

There is no disputing that women are under-represented in the boardrooms and executive levels of big business in Australia (and in most of the world). But maybe the lack of progress, as reflected in the statistics, partially represents a trend towards women choosing more accommodating and flexible types of organisations and career paths.

Is it possible that women are consciously rejecting leadership roles in ‘big business’ in favour of developing their own ideas and ambitions?

Continue reading

The Link Deck #6 – Local Edition

Get localIf you want to change the world the best place to start might be in your own backyard. This week’s Link Deck is devoted to thinking and acting locally.

If you’ve got a great example of innovation happening locally, we’d love to hear from you on twitter or facebook.

Local Councils are more innovative than you might think

The 2014 Local Council Award finalists winners are going to be announced over the next couple of months but here’s a selection from the 2013 winners book:

  • East Arnhem Shire Council’s iStories: is a digital arts project that enables Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people to create, produce and use context-specific bilingual literacy materials to digitalize stories of times past.
  • Townsville City Council transforming Magnetic Island into a Solar City.
  • The Safer Motorcycle Routes project –  a joint initiative of 3 Councils from the NSW Hunter Region. The project aimed to lessen the motorcycle crashes on recreational routes through the region, where active motorcycle road users were key participants in designing the approach and solutions in collaboration with professionals.
  • City of Playford, SA program ‘Juggernaut’: A project run by Playford youth who teach BMX, Scooter and Skateboard safety and skills to young people, presenting to both students and adults.

The newest member of The Social Deck team works from Byron Bay, where she’s noticed that, not only are they lucky enough to have amazing festivals like Splendour in the Grass and Bluesfest, and incredibly beautiful surf beaches – but also a pretty innovative local council. Over the past year or so, the Byron Shire Council got rid of the smell of its tip and earned $150,000 from carbon credits, has recycled 10 tonnes of e-waste (e.g. phones, laptops, TV’s) each month, provided free buses into town during the peak summer period, produced a hip hop video to try to reduce alcohol related violence, and encouraged the local community to contribute to their coastal management plan.

The great thing about local councils is that they’re much more accessible to local citizens – here’s 9 ideas to tell your Mayor about.

Speaking of Mayors, watch this charming TED talk from the Mayor of Oklahoma City on how he helped an obese town lose a million pounds. Continue reading

The Link Deck #5: Youth Week Edition


What better way to celebrate National Youth Week than with a youth-themed edition of The Link Deck?

Young Australians making ideas happen 

Some of Australia’s most talented young people are dedicating themselves to making the world a better place. Meet FYA’s young social pioneers.

In the lead-up to National Youth Week, Red Aware interviewed the CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), Jan Owen, about the positive contributions of youth in society.

Crikey’s got a great list of young Australians changing Australian business.

And over at Ideas Hoist, we’ve been privileged to interview and be inspired by so many young Australians making ideas happen!

Youth led innovation

Supporting youth led innovation and entrepreneurship is all the more important as youth unemployment last year was at a 15 year high.

If we want to make sure that Australia’s young people continue to have the chance to lead innovation – we’d be well advised to take a look at this report from Nesta in the UK which identifies six ways in which policymakers, schools and youth organisations can help.

Continue reading

Segmenting your audience: a key part of behaviour change

social marketing segment

Like most people, I love being right. It might even be a small part of why I got into the field of Communications and PR. There’s no right or wrong in Communications, you can be right all the time as long as you think about what people want and need to hear, and what they will respond to.

I remember when I was about 12 my mother told me that not everything was black and white. I knew that, but back then I just wanted everyone to come around to my way of thinking! My version of life’s right and wrongs.

But as I grew older, and definitely wiser, I stopped thinking so much about being like everyone else and more about why people think and act differently.

Why what I say about an issue to one person might really resonate, but to another it’s complete nonsense.

This is the challenge of communicating about social policy issues, about decisions and actions that affect, at some point in time, everyone’s life. We can’t craft a message that will work for everybody. We can’t explain the intricacies of a decision, the ins and outs of how a public program works, or the reasons for more or less funding in one set of Talking Points.

Continue reading

The Link Deck #4 – behaviour change edition

Dance of the horses at Enlighten Canberra

Dance of the horses at Enlighten Canberra

Over the past week or two, The Social Deck team have been heads down, bums up, planning for the next year and developing a pretty exciting new product.

Here’s some of the the things we’ve been reading and watching.

Behaviour Change

Using research, plus a smidgen of common sense to subtly alter the ways we act, look after ourselves and obey the law: Meet the UK’s Behavioural Insights Team colloquially know as the ‘Nudge Unit’. Also check out their blog.

Not getting your children vaccinated is dangerous. So, as a rational person, you might think it would be of the utmost importance to try to talk some sense into people that don’t get their children vaccinated. Unfortunately, a recent study that tested the effectiveness of four separate pro-vaccine messages found that not a single one of the messages was successful when it came to increasing parents’ professed intent to vaccinate their children.

One of the most perplexing risks to public health is human nature. No matter how diligently public health campaigns lay out the facts, we continue to make seemingly illogical decisions.

It’s not all bad news though when it comes to positive behaviour change. In California, people who use less water than their neighbours earn “smiley faces” — apparently all the motivation they need to conserve water.

But then there’s ignorance custom-designed to manipulate the public. As Robert Proctor, professor of ‘agnotology’ (the study of the cultural production of ignorance – yes it’s a thing) explains, “The myth of the ‘information society’ is that we’re drowning in knowledge, but it’s easier to propagate ignorance.”

Social Impact

Why giving is good for business. When you incorporate giving into your business in an authentic way, you turn your customers into your most avid and loyal marketers.

Continue reading

8 tips for good science communication

8 tipsThis is a guest post by Casey Harrigan, a producer on Channel Ten’s kid’s science show Scope, which is produced in association with CSIRO.

Since late high school when I found out what science communication was, I wanted to do it. I have a sneaky feeling I was already doing it, always being the loud smart-mouth in the classroom re-explaining what the teacher didn’t make clear or interesting enough. Now I’m the one at parties who corners the scientist, makes them tell me all about their research into synthetic organic chemistry, and then races around the rest of the room bragging on their behalf.

I’ve been studying and practicing science communication for the last six years. Here’s what you would have learned if you did the same thing (you can thank me for saving you 6 years later!). Some of these tips are fairly general, as a good communicator is a good science communicator.

beaker 1Know more than you need to know

Before you jump into the communication part, make sure your first step is good old fashioned research; it’s worth stretching your legs for. Read as much as you can on the topic at hand, and follow the black hole of links as far as you need to. If you’re interviewing an expert, ask a lot of questions – if you have done the initial research, you probably won’t need to worry about asking a ‘stupid’ question, but even if you do, trust me they won’t mind. Everyone loves being asked about themselves and their work, and scientists in particular love having an audience that takes the time to really listen. A lot of what you learn will never make it into your final piece, but that investment in research time will be paid back in spades when you are writing or presenting. For example, if you are asked follow-up questions – either by your editor or your audience – you’ll be all set to give more information and justify your decisions.

beaker 2Know your medium

There are lots of different ways to tell stories – news articles, radio features, television stories, even twitter posts. Create specifically for your chosen medium. For verbal pieces use contractions, keep your sentences short, and be casual so that the audience can relate. For longer written pieces you can play with metaphor and structure as your reader will be paying more attention. And always keep in mind how long your piece needs to be to hold your audience’s attention. Continue reading

Love what you do this Valentine’s Day

What you love to do

This Valentine’s Day I thought I’d write about another kind of love. A love for what I do, my “job”, if you could call it that.

When it comes to falling in love with my job, I’m a sucker. I quite easily fall head over heels with any half-interesting project that looks my way. But the thing that really makes me go all gooey inside is the knowledge that my work can have a real impact on people’s lives – because that’s what’s important to me.

I always thought I was just lucky in job-love. Lucky to be given opportunities to do amazing work because I was in the right place at the right time… or maybe there were just slim pickings! But recently I’ve realized that my good fortune in job-love has not been about stumbling across the right one or good HR matchmaking; it’s because I have followed what’s in my heart (just like real love, say “aawww”).

When I take a new job or start a new project, there are three key things I ask myself to know whether I will love that job one day.

1. Will it have an impact on what’s important to me?

I love my job most when I know it’s contributing to something bigger, or something important to me. Luckily there are a lot of ways you can do this without having to down tools and work for free. Continue reading

The Link Deck #3 – Science Communication Edition

Social marketing agency specialising in science communicationThe Australian Science Communicators Conference was on this week, so to celebrate, this is going to be a science-heavy edition of The Link Deck!

Science communication is cool

You can’t combat a point of view based on values with arguments based on science.

Science communicators have a responsibility to counter misinformation and facilitate community understanding.

No industry has more incentive to know the effects of climate change than the reinsurance and insurance industries. So… what have they found out?

The Wellcome Trust over in the UK runs an annual science writing award. You can read all 19 shortlisted articles from 2013 in handy PDF format.

Not to be outdone by the Brits, there is a also a book collecting the best Australian science writing of 2013. The book is not available online but the foreword by Tim Minchin is well worth a read.

Science is cool

A brief history of the universe, from the Big Bang up to now… in 18 minutes! Continue reading

‘Shut up and Listen’: how supporting small business can achieve real change

In his TED talk, “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen” (one of my favourites), Dr Ernesto Sirolli gives one of the most powerful and engaging calls to inaction that I have ever seen. While packed full of humorous anecdotes, especially concerning his time as a young man working for international aid organisations in Africa, Sirolli’s talk also plainly outlines the devastating effects of paternalistic attitudes to aid distribution. In his words, “Every single project they set up failed… everything we touched we killed”.

The famous story he tells in his talk (I strongly encourage you to watch or listen to the whole thing here, in his wonderful voice) and the inspiration for his book, Ripples from the Zambezi, is his experience in Zambia with an Italian aid organization. As he tells it:

It was a project where we Italians decided to teach Zambian people how to grow food. So we arrived there with Italian seeds in southern Zambia in this absolutely magnificent valley going down to the Zambezi River. And we taught the local people how to grow Italian tomatoes and zucchini. And of course, the local people had absolutely no interest in doing that, so we paid them to come and work… and sometimes they would show up. And we were amazed that the local people in such a fertile valley would not have any agriculture! But, instead of asking them how come they were not growing anything, we simply said, ‘thank God we’re here – just in the nick of time to save the Zambian people from starvation!’

And of course, everything in Africa grew beautifully and we had these magnificent tomatoes. In Italy, a tomato would grow to this size. In Zambia, to this size (think: melon)! And we were telling the Zambians, ‘look how easy agriculture is’. (Then) when the tomatoes were nice and ripe and red, overnight, some 200 hippos came up from the river and they ate everything. And we said to the Zambians, ‘my God, the hippos!’ And the Zambians said, ‘yes, that’s why we have no agriculture here’. (We said) ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’, and they said ‘You never asked’.

Enterprise Facilitation

Dr Sirolli became thoroughly disillusioned with the efforts of international aid programs after a number of years overseeing training and managing volunteers in various well-intentioned projects. He was in a position to see that projects were failing in their ultimate objectives to produce a sustainable and effective outcomes in the developing world, and noticed that the people involved in these failing projects weren’t telling anyone because they thought it must have been unique; one bad project in a program for the greater good… except that it was happening all over.

Continue reading

The Link Deck #2 – what we’ve been reading, watching, playing.


Rainy day in Teneriffe, Brisbane.


Tips from the New York Times and from NPR’s social media desks – what they learned about using social media in 2013.

It takes energy to smile… the psychology behind smaller power bills

It’s been over a year since we returned from a life changing stint in New York City… We miss wandering New York streets.

Would you like to have Bitcoin explained to you as if you were five? Not only is this interesting in an of itself, but the whole ‘explain it to me like I’m five’ meme is a very interesting exercise in communication. Want to see more examples? Check out the ELI5 sub-reddit.

Are ‘super-foods’ the next battleground between marketing and common sense?

Check out UK based innovation charity, Nesta’s 14  predictions for 2014

Some interesting innovations to watch in journalism in 2014. Related the mega trends of media for 2014. Continue reading


At The Social Deck we work with startups, not-for-profits and social enterprises to bring about positive social change by helping them implement creative and innovative social marketing and communication strategies. We’ve really enjoyed working with incredibly motivated clients who are completely passionate about their product, service or cause but one thing that has become obvious is that many organisations in their early stages are not investing in strategies for effective PR.

In this post, I want to share some of the tips and insights into the value of early-stage PR to an organisation.

When you have a great idea for a new product or service or when you’re putting your time and money into a cause, you want to know that people will get behind it.

No matter how good you think the idea is. It’s the initial engagement with your users, consumers or supporters that will build a community around your brand and support your enterprise from the beginning.

The same basic PR principles apply to engaging people in a cause as those for engaging consumers with a brand, product or service. That is, it’s all about THEM and not about you, or your brilliant new idea (sorry). Your PR communications must help people to personally invest in your idea, whether that happens to be a product that provides value to themselves or their family, or a cause that inspires them.

PR should be at the heart of every business strategy for an organisation, even in its infancy, and particularly where you have a product, service or cause that requires trust from the people and stakeholders you want to be engaging with. And one of the first PR principles is to invest in your community-building early. This will give you the best chance of developing a successful and sustainable business or non-profit.

PR covers a broad range of activities, but at the simplest level it’s anything your organisation is doing to communicate with your audience. Every day your organisation is already doing some form of PR. But is it effective?

Although most people already understand the intrinsic value of PR, they are also aware that it can be resource and time intensive, and when outsourced, can be expensive. But, one important question that organisations don’t tend to ask enough is – what sort of PR do I really need? For example:

  • Startups and SME’s can use PR to build their reputation and credibility even before a product or service goes to market. Early support from your potential customer base may also lead to increased investment opportunities.
  • Social Enterprises can leverage PR to build a supporter base around their cause (and may also be able to use crowdfunding platforms etc) which will then flow on to the product or service they are selling.
  • Not-for-Profits need to engage with partners, influencers and individuals from the very start to build support for their cause or campaign. A NFP needs to rely heavily on the emotional connection that can only be achieved by creating a personal relationship with the target audience.

But how do you decide what PR you need right now, and ensure your hard fought early funding is being spent in the right place? Continue reading

Links from the Deck #1 – what we’ve been reading, watching, playing


Kate recently pitched an idea called ‘Volunteer Deck’ at the IPAA National Conference. This report by the Centre for Volunteering on the Critical Success Factors of Employee Volunteering Programs for the Small-to-Medium Not-for-Profit Sector has some great research, which confirms many of our assumptions about Volunteer Deck.

The future of marketing is about putting the public back in public relations and social in social media, and that has nothing to do with tools or technology we overly celebrate today.

The real challenge of content marketing is when you don’t have a strategy

Use a baseball card? Getting more creative with your press releases

8 tips for designing better public services

Is the public service more innovative than the private sector?  Continue reading

The science is in – doing good is good for you

The science is most definitely in – doing good is very good for your mind and body. In fact, being kind and helpful to others has been found to be more effective than the latest wonder drug, vitamin or super food… not least because it’s completely free and accessible to everyone. And the implications are much bigger than the individual, as the positive effects of altruism are spread through social connections, creating an ever-widening positive feedback loop in society.

Volunteering for social good has traditionally been something that we do as individuals, and while some of us manage to scrape together the time to ‘give back’ regularly, for many people I know the common refrain is “something I’d really like to do when I get some more time”. But, what if the positive effects of doing good (and related positive thinking and emotional intelligence skills) could be harnessed in the workplace as well as in our personal lives? In my opinion, this is a triple whammy as there are benefits for individual wellbeing and personal development; organisations get to create meaningful impact through employee engagement to complement existing CSR programs; and communities benefit directly through the skills and support donated to the not-for-profit sector.

What the Science Tells Us

Why is altruism good for us? Continue reading

Social Enterprises and Government: a match made in heaven?

imageAh it feels great! My first new post since we restarted The Social Deck in Brisbane, Australia and already we’ve been to some awesome events and met some really passionate people in the start-up and social change scene.  One of the highlights was ‘Politics in the Pub’ run by the New Farm Neighbourhood Centre and held at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Just the name does it for me – I like politics and beer! But it wasn’t just all about the current political controversies, as you’re probably thinking. Instead, the night’s event focused on a far more interesting topic – ‘A hand-up not a handout. Is social enterprise the answer?’

I wasn’t really surprised to hear some negativity from people regarding recent changes to government and government services. But one of the key points of discussion I found most interesting – and concerning – was the relationship, or lack of, between the rapidly growing social enterprise community in Australia and Government at all levels.

I’ve just come back out of working in the public service in Canberra for the past 15 months. It’s always a great experience; lots of new people to meet and really important issues to sink my teeth into. Issues I believe can improve people’s lives – even when run in the Federal Government dealing with changing politics, uncertain policies and plenty of bureaucracy.

But while Australia has been experiencing so much change politically, some fundamental things about the way our government does business never seem to change, and that’s where I think the greatest barriers are to how much social change we can achieve in Australia.

In my first few blog posts after relaunching The Social Deck, I thought I’d cover a few of these issues. And the first is one of the most discussed topics at the Politics in the Pub earlier this month:

The relationship between Social Enterprise and Government – does it exist, really? Continue reading

Say what you mean – succinctly.

I’ve been doing a bit of research lately for a client who’s about to launch their first mobile game. (The game is fantastic and has the added value of raising awareness and contributing to an important social issue – but more on this soon).

During the hours I’ve spent surfing the web for background on gaming trends and communications, something very interesting and surprising occurred to me. Continue reading

Clever Conversations

I recently attended a great roundtable discussion put on by John Hopkins University Communications (@JHUComm). The three panelists Henri Makembe (@Henrim), Beth Becker (@spedwybabs) and Malaka Gharib (@MalakaGharib) talked about using social media for non-profits. For me, the main takeaway was ‘conversations’.

I believe that whether you’re engaging people over social media or using more traditional public relations, the principles are the same. Especially when your goal is to influence behavior or engage people in actions to support a cause. The rise of social media has made it easier to have this conversation, but remember the principles of effective community engagement and treat your online community, the facebook liker and the @twitterer with the same approach. Here are a few tips that relate:

  1. Know who you’re talking to – general audience identification on social media is vital but so is identifying those online influencers and community leaders. When you go into a community to promote or discuss an issue, you don’t stand in the street, microphone in hand and spruke your message. First you identify who you need to talk to, whether it’s 1 or 100 people, and you begin a conversation with them that will flow on to be heard by the community. Continue reading

If I share with you my story would you share your dollar with me?

Storytelling is an ancient art. This post is not about the ancient art of storytelling.  It’s about playing the supporting role in other people’s stories.

Take the example of Nike Plus. By setting up an online platform, Nike played the supporting role in millions of people’s stories about how they were losing weight and becoming better runners. This was a story that their audience desperately wanted to tell so with the opportunity to share their story, people were also happy to ‘share their dollar(s)’ with Nike by buying their products. Read How Nike’s Social Network Sells to Runners for more on the success of this campaign.

Kiva.org is an excellent example of a not-for-profit organization that has built a beautiful platform for sharing stories – entrepreneur’s from the developing world share their stories with Kiva (and their partners), then Kiva publishes those stories online and their platform allows people to become part of this story by investing in those entrepreneurs.  Kiva then continues the story by providing updates to the investor as the entrepreneur pays back the loan and experiences success. Continue reading

The Nonprofit Rooster!!

I was recently trying to write an explanation about why nonprofits should invest in social engagement. The most obvious point that came to mind was fundraising. When individuals or partners are more engaged they’re more likely to donate regularly and invest more in your cause.
But when I started to visualize the relationship between raising funds and engagement and how these interact or which comes first, I found myself thinking about chickens and eggs!

Either way it’s clear that engagement and dollars connect people with projects and the cause.

Continue reading