What if businesses weren’t just money-grabbing machines but actually solved social problems?

As I described in the last post, I was over having a fancy – but ultimately soulless – career.

I bought into the whole “status thing” for ages. A big city job was a great way to make money. After all – wasn’t that the point of life?

To make money?

Well, that’s certainly what our parents, mentors, sponsors and dominant social messages tell us. The conventional wisdom goes a little something like this:

“Your goal is to make yourself as financially secure as possible. You do that by getting into a prestigious inner city job that pays lots. You then specialise and buckle up to climb the ladder. It will suck for a while, what with the long hours and politics, but you can buy lots of international holidays and designer things to make up for it. You will get to buy a big house and send your kids to private school. And then one day, if you don’t die of a heart attack, you can slow down and finally enjoy life.”

I know, right? Sounds like a prison.

When I would periodically ask myself the question:

“What is the meaning of life?”

The answer was never:

“To make all of the money.”

Yet, that was the path I chose for so long. I was a hypocrite.

Last year, I realised that there was no getting off the treadmill unless I launched myself off it.

And so I did, in order to pursue work that enabled me to contribute to something greater than myself.

It was really hard at first. I had to reimagine what “success” looked like.

In reframing my story of success, I was inspired by the Humanitix journey. I used to think that giving back to humanity and pursuing business were separate career paths.

Humanitix challenged my definitions.  But first, what is Humanitix?

The Humanitix story

Humanitix is an Australian not-for-profit ticketing platform that donates 100% of its profits to a charity of the event organiser’s choice. It was started by Adam McCurdie and Josh Ross.

Adam and Josh were best friends from school.

Their business journey started in Kashmir, India when a series of life-changing experiences led them to vow to dedicate their lives to humanity.

Being young professionals at the time, Adam and Josh wanted to reimagine a better use of their commercial skills. Surely they could use them for purpose, instead of just for profit?

In theory, yes. But the practical problem they faced was that they needed to identify a rapidly scaleable, sustainable – and profitable – business that could donate all of its profits to charity.

What they landed on was building a ticketing platform – after all, event organisers and buyers alike resented booking fees – so why not donate these redundant profits to charity instead?!

That’s how the world’s first not-for-profit ticketing platform — Humanitix — was born.

In 2016, Adam quit his job as a technology management consultant at global firm Accenture to build Humanitix full time, while Josh stayed at his job as a hedge fund manager. They shared Josh’s salary for almost a year.

In 2017, Josh finally quit his job to work on Humanitix full time, too.

As a genuine social innovation, Humanitix falls outside the outdated investment paradigms still held onto by traditional business investors and philanthropists.

It is an intermediary that fuels the charity ecosystem instead of directly funding a cause. Old school investors and donors couldn’t wrap their heads around it.

I decided to launch Reimagine with Ideapod to fundraise for Humanitix and to raise awareness about what the true sustainable businesses of the future actually look like. They are businesses and operations that combine “giving back” with “making money”.

The reality is this:

No longer is it good enough for businesses to ignore their social impact.

No longer can charities ignore the value of business skills to create more efficient and self-sustaining operations.

Charities, businesses and public policy makers alike need to use skills from each others’ domains if they are to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world. Innovation comes from deploying diverse skill sets and Ideapod believes this is an idea worthy of spreading far and wide in order to usher in the age of humanity.

And so Reimagine was launched on 22 September 2017.

9 lessons learnt from Reimagine

  1. Firstly, we learnt that in order to transform society for the better we need to be brave enough to reimagine a better future. We need to envision a better way of doing business; a better way of giving back. That requires a shift in how we think about the world – a paradigm shift.
  2. Along with hearing from Adam and Josh around how we can shift our paradigm for solving social pain points using commerce, we heard from Clyde Rathbonea former professional international rugby player turned tech entrepreneur. As co-founder of Karma, Clyde invited us to shift our paradigm around social media. He stated that social media has the potential to connect us with our deepest human values – instead of fuelling our egos. Karma’s mission is to foster lasting meaningful connections online by capturing humanity’s stories, one letter at a time, on the Karma letter-writing platform. Clyde believes that the stories we tell each other deeply influence how we show up in the world. This is an example of a for-profit model that is solving the social yearning for authentic connection, love, belonging and appreciation.
  3. We also heard from Sean Hall, an award-winning innovator with two decades of leadership experience in marketing and human resources at Australian listed company Telstra and the Les Mills fitness franchise. After suffering burnout, or as he calls it an “energy crisis” twice in three years, Sean founded human performance company Energx to help people increase the quantity and quality of energy in their lives. Sean helped us to shift our paradigm of success, by reframing it as having the quantity – and importantly, the quality – of energy that we need to do the things we love. Another example of a for-profit business solving for the human problem of energy deletion, burnout and poor health.
  4. From a personal energy crisis to a global energy analysis, Tia Kansara, one of Ideapod’s thought leaders, taught us to reframe how we assess a nation’s success. She is an award winning entrepreneur and founder of Replenish Earth. To replenish is to give back to the earth more than we take. Dr Kansara invited us to shift our paradigm around economic philosophy. What if instead of comparing nations based on how much they produced relative to each other via Gross Domestic Product or GDP, we looked at how nations replenished compared to one another via the World Replenish Index or WRI?
  5. We then heard from Prometheus Siddiquithe projects director for Grameen Australia. Prometheus shared his passion about social business in the Philippines, Cambodia, and Bangladesh. Prometheus invited us to reimagine a poverty free world, by shifting our paradigm around how we solve social pain points.
    Prometheus shared how impoverished people all around the world have turned their dreams into reality, not through a hand out – but a hand up, thanks to the tool of microfinance. He remarked that for too long we have looked to the public sector to solve problems like poverty for us. However, this is where new thinking is called for.
    This is where the social business comes in. Social business is a profit-making entity which aims to solve a social problem and where all profits are reinvested into the business.
    This model has the potential to draw skills and experiences of traditional businesses and deploy them to solve social pain points. The most important aspect is it addresses the issue of organisational sustainability and has the freedom to drive innovation. Going forward social businesses have the potential to fund their own growth and goals. Humanitix is an example of such a model.
    Now the question is, can society adopt this model to solve one problem at a time – ultimately one day realizing the dream of a ‘Poverty Free World’? We certainly hope so.
  6. Samantha Herbertwho is the founder of Seeds of the Future and an ambassador of the United Nations Youth Organization, closed the first part of the night. Samantha is a 1:1 mentor and group facilitator who uses creative mediums for self-development and self-empowerment, geared towards assisting others to live more meaningful and fulfilling lives. She took the audience through a riveting story and workshop that unlocked their rhythm, voice and body to inject a sense of play despite the gravity of the conversation. Who said transforming civilisation couldn’t be fun?
  7. After the break we heard from Ideapod favourite – purpose economist and Global Shaper, Christine Owenell who helps businesses to scale without losing their soul. Christine finds ways to help organisations deploy empathy at speed and she invited us to shift our paradigm around money and our relationship with it.
  8. We then had a panel discussion on “The New Business as Usual or BAU: combining Business, Philanthropy, Community Development and Advocacy.” Panel members were Paige Talbotan innovation director at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s innovation lab, Keith Rovers a finance partner with leading commercial law firm, MinterEllison, Jamie Engel founder of edtech platform Neutopia who is passionate about systems thinking and reimagining education. They discussed how the new “BAU” was a world where business, philanthropic aims, community development and advocacy were baked into the standard operating model of all organisations.
  9. Finally, the formalities closed with Michael Richardson, a shark conservationist, activist skydiver, and One Ocean Ambassador who spoke up about how we can reimagine dangers in our oceans. He invited us to shift our paradigm around threats and in particular to reimagine our fear of sharks, a species culled by humans when in fact, we should be doing all we can to conserve and protect them, as they preserve the health of our oceans and water – and therefore the health of the human race.

Reimagining the future

At the start of this journey, I said that it was really hard to reimagine what “success” looked like.

But after hearing the various ways people were advocating for change at Reimagine, I too was inspired to reimagine a better future that offered opportunities to more than just the already privileged.

What are my next steps?

I want to create a social business sector in Australia. I want to bridge the divide between for-profit and not-for-profit models and to solve society’s greatest challenges.

My main goal is to solve the greatest social problem afflicting humanity – poverty. I want to be part of the campaign to eliminate poverty through social business.

It is a massive challenge, but I won’t be going it alone. With the incredible support of over 130 people who attended the Reimagine and the rich expertise and know-how of the Ideapod speakers, we won’t be short of intellectual horsepower.

If I have learnt anything at all about shifting paradigms it is about taking the first steps yourself, before asking others to do so.

As someone who wants to overcome her fear of failure, I find this a worthy challenge indeed.

Everyone involved with Reimagine and Ideapod has given me the inspiration and courage to pursue this bold and seemingly impossible goal.

I look forward to reporting back when it is achieved.


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