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Creating a Launchpad for Social Change in Australia

27 November 2013 at 9:19 am
Staff Reporter
The convenor of the highly successful Changemakers Festival, Tom Dawkins shares his key reflections on the event and what it means for the social innovation space in Australia.

Staff Reporter | 27 November 2013 at 9:19 am


Creating a Launchpad for Social Change in Australia
27 November 2013 at 9:19 am

The convenor of the highly successful Changemakers Festival, Tom Dawkins shares his key reflections on the event and what it means for the social innovation space in Australia. 

From November 1-10 the first national Changemakers Festival took place all over Australia. Made up of 155 events in every state and territory organised by over 100 host organisations, it was a true coming together of the social innovation community to create something unique and special. By working together we were able to tell a bigger story about our community, a story about who we are and who we aspire to be, which is to say collaborative, connected and committed to creating a better future.

Events were hosted by corporations, universities, social enterprises, Not for Profits, community groups and individuals. They ranged from pitch competitions to participatory workshops, film screenings to panels, major conferences to yoga and mindfulness courses. Deloitte hosted social enterprise pitch nights in all 11 of their offices around Australia, the HUB network hosted a dozen events in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and separately-organised social enterprise tours took place in Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane.  

Online events included Google+ Hangouts, twitter chats and webinars. Progress conference brought together 600 changemakers in Melbourne’s Town Hall and the Transitions Film Festival premiered a program of social change films in Adelaide. #4Good Brekky meetups happened in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Byron Bay early in the morning and the Green Drinks meetups happened in Sydney and Brisbane in the evenings. Opening Night events were held in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Alice Springs with 500 people turning up.
We estimate 5,000 people attended a Changemakers Festival event in total.

I attended 14 events during the ten days, still only a fraction of the whole, and was so inspired by all the great people and exciting ideas I heard. Here are some personal takeaways from the experience:

People want to be part of something bigger 

When we first conceived of the Changemakers Festival there was some concern that the offer wasn’t strong enough for organisations to put the effort into creating an event for the Festival, that we needed to offer money or major promotion or other forms of support. But this isn’t what people are looking for – they want to be part of something bigger than themselves; that connects their work and community to other organisations and initiatives all around the country. When we went around sharing the idea for an open-source, distributed festival, people got it straight away, and threw themselves into making it happen. And without this enthusiastic response there would have been no Changemakers Festival.

The ongoing rise of Social Enterprise

Social enterprise was a big theme of the Festival – both new companies being founded specifically to drive social change through business and existing businesses, such as major partner Deloitte, looking to connect their organisation and capabilities with work that really matters.

The future is now

There were a lot of really exciting visionary ideas presented throughout the Festival, from the Deloitte social enterprise pitch nights to the Trampoline Unconference in Melbourne and the Unleashed Summit for young changemakers at the Sydney Opera House. Some of my favourites included using drones for environmental management, an online platform to empower the disabled to take control of their own care, a social media campaign for kindness and a new approach to educating and supporting gifted children. And all these initiatives are being worked on right now, bringing the future into being before our eyes.

Sydney is rocking

When I went overseas in early 2008 Sydney was, despite its greater population, the smaller cousin to Melbourne so far as social innovation and social enterprise went. By the time I returned home last year Sydney had come a long way, and the Changemakers Festival was another great example. There were 48 events in Sydney, more than any other city, and the attendance and participation were excellent across the program. This isn’t to stoke any Sydney-Melbourne rivalry, as we need to celebrate and promote participation and collaboration in every city in Australia, but it’s great to see social innovation and taking hold in our biggest city.

It will take all of us

The Changemakers Festival is about coming together and sharing our unique perspectives. It’s about learning from one another and supporting one another to make a difference. The overriding message of the Festival is that all our voices matter. Creating the future we want to see will take all of us. It will take startups and big corporations, social enterprises and Not for Profit, government and local communities.

By bringing together these diverse sectors during ten exhilarating days of sharing, co-creating, imagining and teaching, the Changemakers Festival acts as launchpad for social change in Australia, serving as a platform for organisations to highlight the work they’re doing and for individuals to find new ways to contribute.

And this is just the beginning.

About the author: Tom Dawkins was the Director of the Changemakers Festival, run with the Australian Centre for Social Innovation. 















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