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.”

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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

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.

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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


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

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. 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 movement to connect socially

Is SOCIAL the new buzz word? We hear a lot about social good, social change, social media, social marketing, social business, corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship! How is your organization keeping up with the movement to connect socially?

While connecting through social media and marketing can be as easy as writing a few blog posts, posting your events on facebook or writing interesting snippets of commentary on twitter, the fact is, there’s much more to it! And consumers of social media and marketing are often just as savvy as the ‘experts’ transmitting the message. So how do you get edge in your social strategies? Continue reading