Activating System Change: Cross Sectoral Ideas To Tackle Complex Community Issues


On February 8th, Impact Boom hosted its first 2018 event, with a packed house of passionate leaders and changemakers coming together to discuss how we might best activate system change. With no shortage of community issues to address, and a highly experienced panel, we knew this would be an intense and insightful discussion...

Belinda Drew, Prof. Brad Jackson, Helen Sharpley and Steve Williams shared key insights and experience during a lively panel discussion moderated by Tom Allen whilst the audience participated with some great questions. Listen to the podcast or find the article below!

Impact Boom would like to thank the Queensland Public Service Commission, particularly the Community Insights team for their valuable support and help in organising this event. Find a recent interview with them here.

A special thank you to Impact Boom team members Mikaela Stephens, Kayla Dunn and Nicola De Silva who provided photography and excellent support during the event.


The Panelists


Belinda Drew’s passion for social investment and innovation helped launch CSIA's developmental and collaborative agenda. Over the last decade, Belinda successfully led Foresters Community Finance through a period of considerable change and cultural evolution, focusing on Australia’s social investment market in her role as CEO. Over the term of her employment, Belinda developed a strong skillset in organisational management and strategic leadership, harnessing and further honing her knowledge across social enterprise, social entrepreneurship, microfinance, community finance and social investment. 



Brad Jackson is the incoming Professor of Social Innovation and Director of the Policy Innovation Hub at Griffith University.  He is currently Professor of Public and Community Leadership at Victoria University of Wellington where he was the former Head of School of Government and Head of School of Management. At the University of Auckland Business School, he was Co-Director of the New Zealand Leadership Institute.  Jackson has published six books. He is a former co-editor of the journal, Leadership, and the former Vice-Chair of the Akina Foundation and the International Leadership Association.



In 20 years operating in executive level roles, Helen's background is broad ranging with roles in consulting, government, tourism, communications and property sectors. By combining new venture development expertise, strategy, marketing, and innovation, and by building relationships based on trust, Helen has been able to deliver beyond expectations in a breadth of roles and sectors. Helen manages and drives performance by always seeking more – a more innovative approach, a stretch target, or that next step beyond a traditional boundary.



Steve Williams is Queensland Social Innovation Manager at Marist 180, where he is developing a suite of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programs aimed at enabling Queenslanders experiencing disadvantage to take part in the exciting innovation and start-up space. In his previous role as Social Enterprise Director at Sandbag Inc Steve led SEED PPM to be awarded small Australian Social Enterprise of the Year 2014. Steve is co-founder and inaugural Chair of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council.


Tom Allen (Moderator)
Founder & CEO, Impact Boom.

Tom Allen is Founder and CEO of Impact Boom. Tom is passionate about working with purpose-driven organisations, entrepreneurs & individuals to deliver strong, lasting social and environmental impact. Tom works to foster critical skills and design-led mindsets capable of tackling complex challenges. He also works with leading universities, governments and clients locally & internationally to develop and deliver world-class programs across design, innovation, entrepreneurship and marketing. Tom is Board Member of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council.


Highlights from the Event

(listen to the podcast for full details)

[Tom Allen] - Did you know that:

- in 2014, the Indigenous unemployment rate was 21%, 4 times the non-Indigenous unemployment rate of 5%? (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2014 Report) and that indigenous children born between 2010 and 2012 can expect to live more than ten years less than a non-Indigenous child? (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia Health 2014)

- The number of Australians aged 65 and over is projected to more than double by 2054 compared with today, (2015 Intergenerational Report) whilst the ratio of working age people to retirees is going to halve in that time.

- 63% of Australians are either overweight or obese and that almost one in five Australians (19.5%) consume more than the recommended maximum of two alcoholic drinks per day? (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia Health 2014)

We have no shortage of complex community issues in Australia and around the world which affect everyone of us, not just those of us ‘in need’.

So how might we activate system change, with cross-sectoral approaches that effectively tackle complex community issues?

The purpose of the event was not to provide the answers, but to open a conversation with ideas, thoughts and perspectives to help us advance how we, as a cross-sectoral community can most effectively create positive social impact. 


In a recent interview with Dr Ingrid Burkett of The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, Ingrid told me that, “What is happening in some of Australia's most disadvantaged communities is that there has been the same sort of outcomes for about 30 years. Nothing much has shifted despite the fact that we've invested millions of dollars in those communities.” 

Would you agree with this, and if so, where are we going wrong?

[Belinda Drew] - I've enormous respect for the work Ingrid does, and I think she's right. I think it's generally true that we're all, across the sort of social, health, community services space, feeling a sense of unease about the fact that very, very large amounts of money are invested in social and human services, but intuitively and sometimes our evidence shows us, that the change we anticipate doesn't actually happen. So I think we're there on that idea.

I don't think that we need much convincing anymore that that's actually true, and I think in Ingrid's work, one of the things she's observed is this sort of meteor shower of investments. So, it lands on the ground in a fairly uncoordinated way, perhaps with not much foresight to the actual outcomes, and I know the emphasis is on outputs.

So, again, I don't think that analysis either is terribly controversial. I think what is actually difficult is moving from that idea to action. So, to give an example, we've spent at least a decade, maybe fifteen years, talking about a shift to an outcome's focus because at some level, we think that's going to help us to make this change, to get better outcomes.

How many times have people in the room heard we need better outcomes? But, we're not there frankly. We have made no real progress on that front at a comprehensive level. And you know, as you make those gross generalisations, of course many of you in the room will say, "Yes we have", and that's true. But, it's been a piece meal and incremental, not comprehensive approach, and I'm really pleased to hear you talk in terms of systems change because it's at that level that we need to start thinking about outcomes.

And I think finally, the most controversial bit of this is actually how do we untangle the current contracting and relationship arrangement we have across the system in relation to the current investment, in a way that doesn't land us in the political, but in a way that actually helps us to build consensus about what's most important... then on the basis of that, shift our investment?

So, in summary, we need investment realignment, but we need people to get beyond their own individual and organisational interests and start to think about that investment at that systems level.

[Tom Allen] - Would anyone else like to add something to that?

[Brad Jackson] - I want to start by saying thank you for creating this opportunity. I'm three weeks away from starting at Griffith and it's a terrific way to connect with my new community. In responding to quotes I encourage people to think, "What's your initial gut reaction when you hear a quote like that?" As you've related to Belinda, the audience are saying, "Hold it, what have you been doing the last 30 years?" In many respects, not much has shifted; at one level, certainly in terms of outcomes, not a lot over all.

But we all know that there have been some quite remarkable pockets of achievement as well as movement, and I don't think we should be ignoring those.

Also, if you contemplate this kind of gathering 30 years ago, maybe even five years ago, would we have had this kind of gathering in this kind of place with this kind of talent, all focused on this particular issue?

So, I think in terms of how we see the problem and how we approach, everything has changed as far as the framing and the language we use to make sense of the issues.

The big, big shift is to action, as Belinda was saying. And also, in terms of the extent to which, (as professionals, as those who are here to try to help and support and lead), we've made that shift.

But the extent to which the broader citizenry intuitively may have made that shift; that's the major challenge.

So, on one level, not much. On another, an awful lot. Now it's well poised, but it needs concerted effort, not just upon those who are in the public and community services, but amongst the broader citizenry. And I think that's going to be the biggest shift of all.

[Steve Williams] - Yeah, I'll probably be a bit controversial on that first question, because I do think that it's a macroeconomic question, and I think that there's several amazing things happening on the ground. There's Logan Together and there's lots of different examples that we can all talk to over the last 30 years.

But, all the time, we've been driven by a neo liberal economic agenda of greed. We're literally pushing 'it' uphill, and I think that that's the real issue.

So we can all be doing stuff on the ground, and we are making changes. And there are changes happening. And I think that millennials are pushing those changes especially, so we may see better changes over the next 10 years. But I think it's the economic problem that keeps us where we are at the moment.


[Tom Allen] - In 1973, a lot of you would be familiar with the work of Rittel and Webber, who wrote a now famous paper, which defined a wicked problem as a social or cultural problem that's difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four key reasons:

  1. The incomplete or contradictory knowledge,
  2. the number of people and opinions involved,
  3. the large economic burden,
  4. the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems.

According to Rittel and Webber, social problems are never solved, but at best re-solved over and over again.

So the question for the panel is, what approaches are you using which you believe are most effective at tackling such complex, wicked problems?

[Helen Sharpley] - The introduction that Tom gave talked about some of the approaches that we are using and probably most people would have heard of co design and design thinking. The approach is really at the heart about human centred design, so it is about gathering a really deep understanding of the community and the people that are experiencing the problems that we talk about in these forums. 

We have been, as an internal consulting area to the government, quite successful in encouraging government to spend more time in the understanding space.

So, we all have our brains wired for simplicity. They're wired to come up with something that we can easily point to, to say, "Here you go, we've got a solution".

The hard part, and I guess the approach that we have been encouraging, and we have a lot of take up for, is to actually sit in that really uncomfortable space and hear different views and really reach out to community and maybe hear some of those stories that we don't like.

Government, and this is from my perspective, this is not government perspective, but government traditionally doesn't like conflict.

Encouraging people to sit in that space of conflict, of ambiguity, of really getting their heads around complexity, when we're often driven by an election cycle, is a difficult thing.

But, I'm happy to say that's happening more and more.

[Steve Williams] - When I talk as a practitioner within social enterprise, I think that social enterprise does have the potential to solve wicked problems. So I'll just give you a very brief example of being seconded in to manage a painting social enterprise that Marist 180 has and it was created specifically to create employment for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as apprentices in the painting in the construction industry. It's been running three years. It's got 75 percent of what we call retention rates of employment, so after those young people have come in with us and they've spent six months learning work skills, and learning some painting skills, we spin them out to commercial painting firms, and it's been found that they stayed with those commercial painting firms for at least a year.

That's 75 percent of those young people. "Job actives" have about 35 to 45 percent retention rate, so we can see there that's just one very small example where social enterprise is creating a solution to wicked problems.

[Brad Jackson] - My initial interest in social enterprise was as a means to an end. In particular, it forces us to tackle the issues with a cross sectoral focus, not just from the public, private and community sectors, but also indigenous sectors. This is the only way these issues can and should be tackled.

But underlying this, the critical thing from my perspective, and of course I would say that, the shift that is needed about our ideas and conceptions about what effective leadership is and how we should create it.

The leadership scholar, Keith Grint, has argued that in order to tackle wicked problems and the fact that our whole leadership mindset has to change from being very much focussed about the individual leader in a particular organisation. As Belinda was saying; defending that particular organisation to actually changing, in a fundamental way, what we believe effective leadership to be far more collective and beyond a particular organisation.

I've been serving on the board of Toi Whakaari, which is the New Zealand drama school, and one of the reasons I got excited about the work they do there is that amongst their budding actors, performers, producers, et cetera, they have created a very strong sense of collective leadership based on Koiwitanga that is now being used to develop public services in New Zealand. It's drawing on indigenous ways of knowing about leadership, but fostering the very powerful way the collective leadership that transcends sectors, that transcends organisation, to get the kind of system change we need.

So, I know it's a hackneyed phrase, moving from heroic to post heroic, but I believe that thinking quite differently about what we think effective leadership is in a much more collective way; that's going to be really critical.

And the great thing is, we've got some great models out there. It's not necessarily a new solution. It's just we've got to rediscover that solution. So, that's essentially my passion.


[Belinda Drew] - I love that example, Brad, because it's so strength based, and I think in reading the pre material, Tom, I just think that the analysis the idea of wicked problems brings is deficit focussed.

And as even you read the material, I was thinking, "What a place of futility we land in if we actually believe that all we ever do as human beings is re-solve the same problems over and over again?" I mean, that personally makes me want to weep.

I know on some level it's probably true, but it seems futile. And I think that idea of futility in a way is kind of built up into our system, and you would know from your own context, Brad, your former finance minister talked in those terms, 'investment in futility.'

Just to finish, though, I think we should start casting our mind to this human services space around us that's going to reshape itself despite us, so a lot of that wicked problem analysis comes from the institutions we have formed around the delivery of human services and human services professionals. And forgets that people have their own aspirations and views of the world, and have their own ideas about how they want to live and change their own lives.

And it forms in Australia the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a little spot of bright light towards that goal of putting people in charge of what happens in their own lives.

So, my perspective in terms of community organisations is, if they don't get with that programme, if they don't start to understand that actually the form of human service delivery in the future might not be institutional in it's same form, might not value human services professionals in the same way, then we will be left behind.

[Steve Williams] - Yeah, I mean, it's like thinking again on a kind of micro level, on a personal level. I was listening to Impact Boom yesterday and I was listening to Ruth and Suzi from the Public Service Commission, and they talked about the Theory U methodology that's been used by the Scottish government, which they've created 100 units or 100 centres around Scotland, because it recognises they people have got to change from within. And change themselves to create change externally.

And if we look at teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh or the Dalai Lama, these people have been saying that for 50 years. So it's true we have to change from within so that we can change without too.

So, it comes from right up there, it's macro and micro.

[Brad Jackson] - I guess, to me, to build on Belinda's comment about wicked problems being deficit, wicked problems are what serve to make us fundamentally human. It's all about the human experience. So, just to put this in some context, I've been re-reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and I was just thinking about this notion that the ideal world, and the extent to which we've been moving towards that, but actually, to be fundamentally human is to recognise wicked problems and to work together to tackle them.

And this notion of never actually solving problems, that's why we get up in the morning. It's just if we seem to be trying to solve the same ones over and over again, that's the problem.

So I think it a great that we're actually thinking about these things called wicked problems, and if they're cast that way, we've got to lift our game around that and that's well worth doing.

So try to take that kind of positive view as being a sign of that's what we're all about.

[Tom Allen] - Just this week on Impact Boom, we released an article with Kathleen Kelly Jones who's a Stanford lecturer and recent author. And what she said was that, "we've been putting bandaids on problems for decades, and that those bandaids are doing nothing to solve the underlying wounds that are causing the problems in the first place.

She said that the movement of social enterprise, which is really, in her words, just applying innovation to nonprofit ideas and social change. It's not just about giving a man a fish, or even teaching a man to fish. It's about revolutionising the fishing industry, and shifting the paradigm instead of causing justice in the first place."

So the question is for Helen. And that is, how might we shift paradigms, and I think we've touched on this just now, but how might we shift these paradigms. How may we work more collaboratively and tackle the root cause of issues?

[Helen Sharpley] -  There's a few things I was planning on saying that you've all touched on, so I 100 percent agree with recognising the strength of community. So, what we really encourage and design processes for, is to understand from the whole of system perspective, and again I'm talking from government, how government can actually work with service providers, work across government, and also work with community in different ways.

So, if we're really going to shift this, how is it that instead of ending up with the meteor rain of services coming down, how do we consider a whole of system perspective?

How do we go from us and them to... I was talking to Christine Crain, who is doing some work on government benefit bonds, and her term is 'Team Government'.

So, how do we stop considering a problem as, we've got an increase in youth crime, so that's a crime issue. It's a police issue. It's a youth justice issue. How do we actually understand that if we really look at the journey of the people, or the young people who are committing crimes, it's an education issue. It's a housing issue. It's a mental health issue.

So how do we pull all of those people together to work collaboratively and to understand from a whole of system perspective the role that they play, and how they can do it differently, and how they can reach up and work with service providers differently, and work with the community differently?

And for government that involves, to a reasonable extent, continuing the power position that we play. How is it that, even in engaging the community, we hold power that we don't even recognise that we hold. How is it that we can consider the different perspectives, that will make us uncomfortable? So we get the diversity and understanding of the complexity and all of this, if we can actually look at a whole of system perspective, and consider all of what different people bring, and the strengths that people bring, and build the capability and capacity to actually implement policy better.


[Tom Allen] - Brad, I have a question here about governance. When working on cross-sectoral initiatives with many different stakeholders, how might governance best be approached to ensure that leadership can be sustained in the medium to long term?

[Brad Jackson] - Thanks for posing that one, the juiciest question of all, and it does echo what you were saying in terms of the notions of power. I think there's a lot of focus that we put into organising. There's a lot of focus in terms of models and frameworks, et cetera. But the real difference is how they're brought to life, and how they're enacted. What's different about leadership practises?

But, in particular, my experience has really encouraged me to think about the governance that supports that kind of leadership. The role of governance is to create the frameworks to take that long term view to provide the kind of stewardship that is required to sustain good leadership. Because, let's face it, in the community services sector and the public services sector, the road is paved with so many good intentions. There's an awful lot of individual burnout. Those that were dedicated and focussed but not supported... we need these individually driven leaders to work together.

But what I see are great initiatives and even great accountability but very much focussed on one or a small group.

What's really vital, particularly, this focus on cross sectoral, is how to rebuild the kind of governance that not only is representative, but is actually generative? Where government, where business, where indigenous, where NGOs actually aren't there just to represent or ensure their interests, but actually to focus solving the shared problem.

And I think the critical focus, and I've met a number of people here... the QCOSS group held a place based forum earlier this week, to see that here in Brisbane, in particular southeast Queensland, we're hitting upon this notion of place, as being a core anchor around which you can build the kind of governance that can sustain cross sectoral leadership.

And, certainly in my experience with the Akina Foundation and if I could give a quick mention to Alex Hammett. Alex is visiting from New Zealand, he's working with Griffith with the Yunus Centre for Social Business at Griffith University, was Chief Executive of the Akina Foundation, and helped to build an ecosystem around which social enterprise could grow.

The thing the governance work we did taught me, was how that has to work hand in hand. And its not just about boards being controlling, looking backwards, making sure there's no mistakes, et cetera, but actually taking seriously its role in looking ahead and looking outwards. In the process, creating a sense of leadership in governance.


[Tom Allen] - Brad, I have a question here about governance. When working on cross-sectoral initiatives with many different stakeholders, how might governance best be approached to ensure that leadership can be sustained in the medium to long term? [Continued...]

One of the problems I saw is, you get the governance conversations, you get the leadership conversations, you get the management conversations, but they're taking place in isolation. But they've got to come together. And the long-term focus is the critical thing.

And sustaining. So it's individual-proof. It's people-proof. It's about the cause, it's about the place. And we've got to get smarter about those forms of governance. And, in particular, the role that government plays in that. Because I think this notion of avoiding conflict, risk, et cetera, you've got to take risk on in governance, but you've got to do it in a very smart, measured way.

So, I'd say that's probably our biggest challenge. It's less a leadership and more of a governance challenge, and we've got to get much more concrete and real about that and move away from the frameworks.

[Helen Sharpley] - What I'd also add is, we've collectively learned a lot. How do we share that? When you're talking about stewardship, how do we actually share the learnings that we all have, so that we don't repeat mistakes of the past? We do learn from each other, so if we're talking governance, how do we bring in those learnings loops as well?

[Tom Allen] - When speaking to Emma-Kate Rose of the Food Connect Foundation, she told us that every geographical space is unique to itself, and requires different types of responses. So the question for the panel is, how might we best scale place based solutions when they've been designed to respond to local issues? And why haven't more social innovations and social enterprises scaled?

[Steve Williams] - Well, I can talk about the scaling of social enterprises. On a place based scale thing, just very quickly, I was speaking to Alex Hannant yesterday, and he was saying that actually you can scale the methodologies. You can take that to wherever, and then let local people do what they want to do, which is pure, old fashioned community development, but with a new twist, you know, co design, et cetera, et cetera.

And then another quick comment on that is around outcomes. We've become so outcomes obsessed that we've forgotten, I think, some process work. And I understand obviously, that co design is process work, but again if you look back sort of twenty years or more to when community development had a very strong ethos, especially in Queensland, we saw amazing process work. But the outcomes weren't measured and outcomes might take 10 years to realise in CD work, so as we know it's difficult to measure.

Scaling social enterprises; I think one of the issues is, do we need to scale? That's the question. Why should we scale?

I went for lunch yesterday at Cribb Street Social in Milton. It's a little restaurant bar, so why would we ask that to scale?

Small business drives the economy, so why are we expecting social enterprises to scale all the time? I think that narrative has often come from very well intentioned, very intelligent, and caring people, but they come from the corporate sector often, and they kind of use that methodology or that lens to put over social enterprise, and it doesn't work, in my opinion.

If we think about places like the Nundah Co-op, amazing place based, small social enterprises creating incredible outcomes... SEED at Sandbag. There's lots of different examples.

Having said all that, we are definitely looking at scaling the painting social enterprise, so for all the government buyers out there, come and see me and I'll give you a card.

But the issue is often, it's around that market opportunity and then the financial or the investment piece that come together at the same time. It's about a little bit of magic to make that into a reality. So if there's a potential for, (I'm making figures up), a 10 million dollar contract in painting across southeast Queensland, where does that opportunity come from for us to meet that opportunity and then how do we get the investment to meet that opportunity? That's at the larger end. And then at the smaller end, there's still the issue around micro financing and startup funds, and enough incubators and accelerators to assist people on that startup journey.

And I know that Tom's addressing some of that in Brisbane with his Elevate+ Program. The need is out there, but again, it's creating the opportunity from the bottom and from the top.


[Belinda Drew] - You've just touched a whole heap of our buttons here. I think that, to take your last comments first...

the lack of appropriately structured investment capital for entrepreneurs oriented to social outcomes is, quite frankly, a travesty in this country.

I cannot still understand, having spent 10 odd years in that space, why in every other developed context and many, many developing countries in the world they've cracked that nut, and we sit here, still, somehow, on some level, thinking of ourselves as special.

So, to my second comment, the only way I've been able to rationalise that in my mind is that we are, in this country, addicted to charitable models. And, that actually if you look back across the history of community service models, I mean way back, what you see are social entrepreneurs establishing organisations raising money through their communities in order to meet community need. And that spirit has been colonised by the welfare state, and so diminished over time.

So now we have a whole range of organisations that see themselves in a charitable welfare mindset. And a whole bunch of social entrepreneurs knocking on the outside of that, going, "We're different", and what makes them different is the entrepreneurial mindset.

Not necessarily that they're trying to solve special problems, but now all of that investment towards solving those problems is all tangled up in this welfare state designed system.

And so, it gets back to the paradigm change question. If we believe that we're either in model drift or model crisis in human services, then we must really revisit and embrace this idea of entrepreneurship in a social context.

And mobilise this extraordinary resource currently in the system, and that sits outside the system in the capital markets to those ends. And we're not special. It's been done elsewhere.

[Steve Williams] - Harking back to another old piece of literature, I was re-reading Schumaker's Small is Beautiful, for people that might, does anybody know that book? Which is seen as kind of a left wing economic book.

Everybody should read it by the way, because it has an amazing chapter on Buddhist economics, and then it has a chapter on socialism ... and the book stands up. But my point is, that he talks about in large firms, (this is in the early 70's), the need to have semi autonomous business units that can release entrepreneurial flair and innovation. And that was from a left wing economist. But that's exactly what we need in large non profits.

Because I know that in many large non profits, they start social enterprises. They pump money into them from a charitable mindset, and what they do is they treat them as programmes of the non profit. They don't treat them as a business.

So if we look back to Schumacher, and say, "Why can't we create semi autonomous business units within nonprofits? But, also within government, within large corporates, why can't Lend Lease or Hutchinson's have social enterprises embedded in them, run by social entrepreneurs?" I think that would go a long way to solve some of those problems we've been talking about today.


[Brad Jackson] - I'll be very brief, if that's possible for a Professor. The focus has been around producers, entrepreneurs, and capital. The real shift needs to take place in consumption. Because if you do look at a lot of major paradigm shifts, they come about because they become consumer-driven.

When I was sitting on the board of Akina, we used to talk about risks, and I'd say, "My biggest risk worry is that social enterprise, in a couple of years time, people might say, 'Well, we tried that' and the one sure way to empty a room is to talk about social enterprise".

But actually, the point is, it is too critical not to be a fashion.

The thing I always think about is, what if social enterprise, social innovation became mainstream. In other words, people start to think of it as just the way. It's Mainstream and Main Street, it's just the way. And I think that you meant that the cue was in your experience as a consumer. If we get a big shift in terms of people insisting that this has to be produced via social enterprise, via social innovation. So, it becomes very hard not to purchase a service, or a product, or a good unless it has a strong social enterprise, then we've succeeded. To the point where, if you talk about social enterprise and the room is empty, that's terrific. The job has been done.

We haven't focused enough on shifting the consumer and building scale that focuses on place-based products and services, and in the process it will become a major movement.

That's going to be the critical shift that I want to see.

And not only in terms of private services or community services, but also public services.

[Tom Allen] - Thank you very much for those insights, all of you. I'd like to open the questions to the floor now. Stand up so I can see all of you. If you have any questions, this is your opportunity.

[Audience Question - Sabrina Chakori] - Hi, I'm Sabrina from Brisbane Tool Library. We were starting to talk about consumption, et cetera. And I wanted to know... we have a lot of community issues. But our GDP is growing, so we are seeing economic success. I'm involved in new economic systems, and how we can redefine that. I saw now that the Prime Minister of New Zealand is also trying to find other indexes that actually measure wellbeing. We spoke about outcomes in the beginning, but the final outcomes and aim of our political system and economic system is to grow GDP.

So, are you discussing this in your businesses, and especially in government? Because I feel that talking about GDP is like talking about religion, we can't really talk about that...

[Helen Sharpley] - Well, jobs is very much a government platform. It was part of the election platform, so the GDP economic focus is front and centre, kind of in an isolated way, but also in a connection to social outcomes way.

So, there is a strong focus, particularly a shift from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's people's perspective towards helping people to participate in the economy.

And, yes, that has a jobs outcome. But it also is from the perspective of how do we encourage people to participate in society in a meaningful way, and a way that might give them purpose, while respecting that there are a whole range of social issues that will prevent that? So while the outcome might be jobs, it actually helps focus on what are the things that are preventing people from being able to participate in that way, so that is another focus of government.

[Audience Question - Sabrina Chakori] - With GDP there are a lot of social and environmental externalities, so we keep focussing on the solution, but we keep creating. I've been to a lot of United Nation events and they say, "Oh we are saving all these children" et cetera, but with globalisation we are creating more poverty, so I think there's always an increase of charity help, but we are separating. I think focusing on GDP keeps creating those externalities, right?

[Belinda Drew] - It's a fantastic question. It gets to the challenge we have to grapple with in terms of bending our minds, doesn't it? So... you could conceive of charity and welfare as a response or a bandaid to the kind of negative outcomes of trickle down economic agenda.

So one of the things, and I know this is a conversation they're having at Grffith University as well, that we've been starting to talk about, and this is not new for many people in the room, but this idea of inclusive growth, rather than trickle down economics. And I think in my context, the best example I can give right now of where there is a conversation going on around that, that is focussed on people, rather than the system, is in the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Where, though there is negative publicity around that scheme's implementation, at it's core, it is about inclusive growth.

It's about people with disabilities finding their way to social and economic inclusion, by their own choice, by their own control.

So, I think, again, that's a bright spot, and a place where we should focus, and I think your challenge to us is actually to raise the debate a little bit around, not just the social, but the economic... if I'm hearing it right, what are the things that will help us know we've been successful, beyond just the economic indicators, and I think it's a great challenge.

[Audience question] - Last year, a young Dutch guy called Rutger Bregman released a book called Utopia for Realists; it was a popular book. One of his contentions was that the cause of poverty is that people don't have enough money. And that we should just give them more money and then they won't be poor anymore.

I've worked in human services policy for 10 years and, obviously, I feel like things are a little bit more complex than that, but I'm really interested in the panel's views.

[Steve Williams] - That was about a universal basic income, wasn't it. Well now, I'm all for it. I mean, why not, it's not just a case of just give people more dole money, you know, there's a natural theory that underpins it and we know that there's individual states have tried it and again, in the 80's in America they were talking about trying it, and it was only kind of like an impasse in the senate, that blocked it. So, give it a try.

[Helen Sharpley] - Yeah, they're trialling it in Finland, so I think that... It's small amounts, but it's a starting point, and I think like everything, and often in government, people are like, "so where has it been tried, where's it been successful before?" And if we don't have to go through the pain of learning all the lessons and we can learn from someone else, then you're further up in the chain of getting something started and tried.

[Brad Jackson] - Yeah, I guess the way to cast it is not so much a social innovation, its an economic and social innovation, and it should be driven by the previous question about what gets measured gets done.

And I suppose it's creating enough of a social political movement around that to demand that kind of response. Now how do we go about doing that? I guess that's the critical thing.


[Audience Question - Ben Cameron] - My name's Ben Cameron from Griffith University, and I'm wondering if there's an Impact Boom policy that you would like to advocate that we can all rally behind?

We have the classical Liberals on one side of the coin that advocate that we need to encourage freedom of choice, where there's too much redistribution. Where we outsource the ethic of care to the government, and so therefore as a body politic and as a public, the government sort of handles that, it becomes a charity model. So, I'm just wondering if there's some sort of policy, such as a triple bottom line, which can result in that top down, bottom up effect. Maybe there is some sort of universal policy that you might argue for that can encourage corporations to do good and not just be economic agents of this universe, but to also be social agents as well for the greater good.

So, I'm wondering what comments you may give on that?

[Belinda Drew] - Let's go to the Professor.

[Brad Jackson] - When the chips are down, go to the Professor! Well, I mean, who are we as panellists to determine that single policy focus? But let's face it, in this room, if we did actual sit down - and I love the link between impact and boom - if there's going to be a boom in impact and I'm going be responsible, what might that be? We've heard several suggestions already, and I guess from the perspective of someone who's about to leave New Zealand, I've spent 18 wonderful years there. I love the place to bits, and just as things are starting to get themselves sorted, I'm coming here.

But I am incredibly heartened by the energy, the passion. I met a number of you during the break. I was here for two months on sabbatical. We've got a quorum of people here who are committed, but how do we harness it? Maybe we need to think about what our focus is going to be as a community that's committed to social enterprise and social innovation.

So, classic Professor, dodging the bullet like that. But let's face it, if you just had one or two things that we need to see, and it needs to be done right now, what might that be?

It might be the thing that we need to use to harness. As you said, a lot of great minds here, a lot of great experiences, so I'm up for it. Just give me three weeks. [Brad is moving to Brisbane in March 2018.]

[Steve Williams] - At the danger of sounding like a complete hippy, I would go back to individuals and promote mindfulness and meditation for society, so that we can change. Again going back to quote Thich Nhat Hanh and people like that, they talk about change comes from heart to heart, so even in the middle of war and crisis, we can still change society from an individual level.

And when we work with other people on a heart to heart basis, it works, so that's my policy. Mindfulness and meditation.

[Helen Sharpley] - My policy would actually be to promote conversations.

So, every time we have a conversation, every time we explore, seek further understanding, we're actually changing the system.

So, whether we throw something out there that encourages more conversations, so we do start to change the system, then it sounds simple, but I think it would possibly be effective.

[Belinda Drew] - I don't know if this is a policy so much, but I reflect on the question that was raised around the corporate world and money, and having spent 10 years in the impact investment space, I still have this deep interest in money and the flow of money and what it does and doesn't do well in our world.

So my policy thing would be, if every time someone had a dollar in their hand and they just thought about what it was going to do, both economically and socially as it kind of went out there in the market, that if that thinking found itself up at the systems level... Money is so powerful. We can do anything with it, so that'd be my policy of such.

[Tom Allen] -

So the question is, how do we create the impact boom, right?

There was a lot of talk from a few years ago from the Federal government talking the 'ideas boom', and that's really what stoked this project of Impact Boom, because I thought, "Ideas are cheap, we can all have ideas, but how do we actually do something of value with those ideas?"

I think there was too much focus on the ideas. We need more focus on the impact.

Impact Boom's next event is on May 31st at Brisbane Powerhouse. Follow us on Facebook so that you don't miss out on a ticket.


Books mentioned during the event


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