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

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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

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

Insights from the #StartingGood Digital Summit

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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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Link Deck #7: Innovative energy

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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…

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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?

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