December 2011 marked five years since our operational beginnings. It has been as interesting as it has challenging since those very first national nights of discussion we convened in 2006 and 2007. It took us a while, but we eventually realised that our strengths (and a seemingly big need) lay with supporting people in taking their community ideas from concepts to reality.
It’s been a big year of ‘getting things up and running’. Here’s what happened for us, and where we’re heading next:
Operations, Outreach and Output
- We launched our new website, as a gateway to our services.
- We conducted 32 free consultancies, through our Social Innovation (SI) Consulting service. These covered projects across all areas of social innovation, with examples including a sailing vessel run on biofuel that transports organic produce on inland waterways to Sydney suburbs; an Ebay-like platform for people to sell unwanted items, with all income going to charities; a speaking service for schools, focussed on mental health; and a community cafe, staffed by people who were formerly homeless. Projects were based far and wide, including Sydney, Melbourne, Bowraville, Canberra, Wellington, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. We’ve been encouraged by the great feedback received. Here’s just some of what people have been saying:
“Spending an hour with Project Australia’s consultant helped me get clarity on some parts of my project that I was finding hard to frame. I also got great practical tips and some excellent follow-up documents that were very useful and thought-provoking. Big thanks!” Kerry Graham, Social innovator and former CEO, Inspire Foundation
“The 1hr provided was invaluable to identify the weak points of our project, and the suggestions for improvement were spot on. You can’t overestimate the value of experience and knowledge.” Joel Hauer, Founder, UnOffice
We also conducted our first paid consultancy with the Waratah Community Land Trust Association, running a 4hr session involving asset mapping, branding, development of mission and vision statements, and exploration of appropriate business structures.
- We launched the Tools4Good beta site, showcasing over 1000 tools to help kickstart, support and grow Australian community projects. About 60% of the content has now been finalised.
- We completed all the paperwork, manuals, systems and a new web design ready for the re-launch of our social enterprise: the uThinc Speakers’ bureau.
- We gave nine presentations covering topics such as social enterprise, asset-based approaches, and project start-up, in places including Nambucca Heads, Melbourne, Hobart, Townsville and Sydney. We ran seven workshops about start-up tools, tips and approaches, as well as asset mapping in places including Hobart, Melbourne, Brisbane, Townsville, Geelong and Sydney.
- We launched our Facebook page and now have 2563 followers on Twitter. On a monthly basis, we presently receive over 500 visitors to our projectaustralia.org.au site, almost 200 to tools4good.org.au and just over 50 to uThinc.com.au.
- Through a spot on the Project Local judging panel, we received exposure in 18 local newspapers around Sydney, e.g., here and here. We also received promotion in the Tasmanian Times in regards to our workshops/talks in Hobart.
- We were interviewed by WE magazine about social innovation in Australia.
- In some exciting news, our former Chair, Larissa, was named NSW Australian of the Year!
Governance and Management
- Early in the year we shifted from a Board of Governance to a more hands-on Committee of Management, this saw us say farewell to Larissa, Galina, Les and Vijoleta, whilst welcoming Lauren, Rose, Marty, Julie and Sama. Accordingly, a new constitution was adopted at our August AGM, with a number of new members (Ann, AJ and Billy) joining our Committee in the ensuing months. We were delighted that Larissa has become Project Australia’s patron.
- We’ve just recently brought on a new Management group: Rhiannon, Connie, Jessie and Steve, and said farewell to Julie, Rose and Amina, our AusAid leadership scholar from Nepal.
- We were saddened by the passing of our Honorary Elder, Stella Cornelius, and one of our foundational supporters, Jan Lee Martin.
Partners and Support
A big thanks to Vibewire and the Australian Social Innovation Exchange for operational support; to Project Local, The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, and OurCommunity for help with promotion; to Meals on Wheels NSW for administrative support; and to the Yoga Aid Foundation, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, the Sincerutty Group, and New Moon Blues for financial support.
Plans for 2012
For PA, the coming 12 months is all about upgrading our platforms and scaling our activities!
- We’ll continue to improve our main website, develop our blog, and engage with communities via our Facebook page.
- We’ll be enhancing the design and functionality of our Tools4Good web platform, with the 2.0 version allowing for user-generated content, whilst improving the amount and quality of our data.
- We’ll be expanding SI Consulting, launching a promotional website and recruiting additional consultants to assist in providing this free service around the country.
- We’ll be launching the new uThinc website, recruiting new speakers (possibly through a national ‘voices worth hearing’ competition) and seeking to grow Australia’s first speakers’ bureau for young social innovators. We’re presently finalising an exciting contract with the BUiLD program at UTS that will see us provide this program with regular uThinc speakers.
- Finances forthcoming, we’ll be building our long-awaited three-phase online incubator for social innovation, starting with a simple, automated planning process for not-for-profit initiatives to generate a project plan.
We’ve also got some big events in the pipeline:
- With our partners Vibewire, we’ll be hosting an Open Learning event at the Australian Museum in March, featuring David Price OBE.
- Also with Vibewire, we’ll be running a fundraising trivia night – The Democratic Republic of Trivia!
- We’re also currently exploring talks and workshops with Holroyd local government, the ThinkActChange meet-up, as well as the possibility of an Australian tour of our successful Tools4Change workshop.
Thanks for your ongoing support and inspiring ideas. We hope you have an enjoyable break!
Donnie and the Project Australia team