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

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

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

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.

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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

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

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