Making Fast Friends Easy
9 December 2013 at 9:51 am
In three years Nick Maisey has built up his Not for Profit into a community of 1400 people as part of a plan to enrich lives through social connection. Maisey is this week’s Changemaker.
Hailing from Perth, Maisey was an occupational therapy student when he founded Befriend Inc in 2010 to create opportunities for West Australians to “be part of the community, feel accepted and valued, and experience a good quality of life”.
Maisey has grown the organisation holding the belief that it is a basic human need for everyone to share life with good people
It now has 1400 people and has hosted more than 350 social events – and Maisey is working on turning it into a self-sustaining social enterprise.
Maisey also works as Chief Happiness Officer with start-up Not for Profit, Useful Inc, managing a project called Big Help Mob that seeks to engage more young people in positive volunteering experiences.
What are you currently working on in your organisation?
One of our current priorities is to develop Befriend Inc as self-sustaining social enterprise.
We use a social enterprise model to give our social projects a strong financial foundation, installing revenue streams that will grow as the organisation grows.
I’m really loving the challenge of learning more about social enterprise and experimenting with different revenue streams for Befriend.
This work is driven by a strong motivation to see Befriend reach sustainability, to confidently stand on its own and continue to enrich lives through social connection.
What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?
I started creating the foundations of Befriend Inc four years ago, when I was still at uni.
So I guess that would be my “first job in the NFP sector”, although I’ve never been paid a dollar for my work with Befriend.
My first paid work was as an Occupational Therapist with the Mental Illness Fellowship of WA, supporting young adults who’d experienced an episode of psychosis/mental distress, to work towards their recovery goals.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The people. I’ve met such an incredibly diverse community of people, who each have a unique way of seeing the world. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, and seeing them grow and thrive as they form new connections and lead an active social life.
What has been the most challenging part of your work? And how do you overcome that?
Cultural attitudes. To put it simply, if someone doesn’t fit the status quo, they are generally treated differently by most people they encounter in life.
Many people internalise this sense of being different, which serves to isolate them further from others.
The most challenging part of our work is to develop Befriend as something that not only creates opportunities to connect people, but also influences a culture where everyone is welcome and included, anytime, anywhere.
We do this quite simply, through fun social events that bring people together, sharing the message that it is important for all of us to share life with good people.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
The people. I have so much love for all the people that work with me to run Befriend – it has always felt like doing something fun and inspiring with a bunch of friends.
I’m always overcome by waves of appreciation and admiration for the lengths that people go to as volunteers.
When people are motivated by something deeper than money and self-interest, they can create something of true beauty and value to the world.
The challenge for me is finding how to harness the passions of others and channel them into meaningful, effective ways for each individual, and our organisation as a whole, to effect change.
Favourite saying …
This is one of my favourite quotes, spoken by Don Ritchie, OAM. He used to live by The Gap in NSW, an infamous spot on the cliffs where a lot of people would take their own life. He’d see people alone on the cliffs and just go out and say hello, and invite them in for a cup of tea.
“It’s important for people to know that there are complete strangers out there who are willing and able to be there, just as a fellow human. As I often say, don’t underestimate the incredible power of a simple smile and a kind word.”
My greatest challenge is …
Trying to develop a social enterprise without any formal training or experience in business, finance or running an organisation.
We’ve been building a committed team of volunteers with a diverse skill-set to help with developing all aspects of the organisation. But we all have to work other jobs throughout the week to pay the bills, so there is a limit to what we can achieve at this scale.
I also seek out opportunities to develop my own skills and learn about social enterprise. It’s an ongoing learning journey.
What (or who) inspires you?
My Papa (grandfather). He took a lot of huge risks uprooting his family from India and moving to Australia, so that his children and their children could have access to more opportunities for a better life.
He embraces every day with quiet thoughtfulness and a genuine love and appreciation for every person, which has helped him overcome some pretty serious and unpredictable challenges that life has thrown his way.
I have a lot of love for that man.