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A Collective Approach


30 March 2015 at 11:14 am
Xavier Smerdon
As the founder and Chair of The Nappy Collective, Sandra Jacobs has helped deliver more than 220,000 nappies to families in need. Jacobs is this week’s Changemaker.

Xavier Smerdon | 30 March 2015 at 11:14 am


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A Collective Approach
30 March 2015 at 11:14 am

As the founder and Chair of The Nappy Collective, Sandra Jacobs has helped deliver more than 220,000 nappies to families in need. Jacobs is this week’s Changemaker.

Jacobs shared the challenges of setting up her own charity with Pro Bono Australia News and how to overcome them.

Jacobs also revealed how she is growing her organisation and using her platform to tackle issues outside her original agenda

What are you currently working on in your organisation?

Our main focus at the moment is planning the first of our two major collective campaigns, which will operate in around 15 Australian cities from May 1 to 15. We are also applying for grants to fund implementing a regional outreach program. This program will allow us to run one off or ‘pop up’ collectives in regional cities, significantly increasing our reach and most importantly giving us a presence in rural areas where mothers may need more support.  

On the social media side, we are assisting to facilitate a collective of bloggers to create a campaign to raise awareness, dispel myths and change attitudes about family violence.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding part of my work is seeing the community engagement and enthusiasm about our initiative. This engagement means we have the capacity to support more families! Being able to connect the broader community to engage in philanthropy and support those less fortunate is a double bonus. We are able to keep many little bums clean, giving confidence to vulnerable mothers at a time of crisis, whilst our donors feel great about doing something so meaningful with their unwanted nappies. It’s a little thing but it has a huge impact. I love that so many people across Australia have become a part of the Collective.

What has been the most challenging part of your work? And how do you overcome that?

Establishing a grassroots charity with very little hands on experience in the Not for Profit sector means we are constantly overcoming challenges as we learn and navigate through our rapid growth. The culture in our team is to see each new stage (or challenge) as a learning experience. We have a very skilled Board, however we are also not afraid to reach out to our networks and ask for help or advice when needed. It’s important that our team be open and transparent, so we work through issues together.

Most importantly as Chair, you have to back yourself, be confident and trust your judgement with the decisions you make.                                                                       

What do you like best about working in your current organisation?

I love that we have the opportunity to be dynamic and innovative, which is what gives our organisation depth. Twice a year we organise a national campaign to collect nappies, but in between we might be hosting a bloggers conference on domestic violence, building a social enterprise or producing a benefit production of The Vagina Monologues.

Favourite saying …

I’d like to preface this by saying that my favourite saying does not come from a great philosopher or inspirational business person! It was a quote said in an acceptance speech this year at the Golden Globes by actress Gina Rodriguez.  Although it’s a little cheesy in origin, I do believe it comes from a humble place. Gina said her father would tell her to say every morning, “Today is going to be a good day – I can and I will.” When she won, she said “Today I can and I did!” As clichéd as it sounds, it’s so important to believe in yourself.

I’m always being asked …

Where do you find the time?

What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?  Why?

One of our board members has recommended I read Daring and Disruptive by Lisa Messenger. I am a big fan of The Renegade Collective magazine, so her book is definitely next on my list.

I’m also really excited about the next season of Game of Thrones.

Through your work, what is your ultimate dream?

Our vision to ensure that each Australian child has access to the essential health care necessities they need to remain clean, dry, healthy and happy. Children only get one chance at childhood and we want to play a significant part in helping make it a good one for vulnerable/disadvantaged children.

I’d also love to think that The Nappy Collective could play a meaningful part in creating a cultural change or shift in the family violence epidemic.  

What (or who) inspires you?

I am constantly inspired by innovation. I love learning about brilliant new ideas that are often simple but can change peoples’ lives. We have also seen some great innovation in the philanthropic sector with the growth of giving circles, crowd sourcing and crowd funding making it accessible for the broader community to participate in ‘doing good’.

I am inspired also by the concept of social enterprise – that there is opportunity to create sustainable change by blending business with a social or environmental benefit.       

Where do you feel your passion for good came from?

I was brought up in a family of strong women, so have always felt passionate about empowerment of women.

Three years ago I met Jocelyn Bignold, CEO of McAuley Community Services for Women. She shared with me the statistics around family violence. I was shocked, angry but most of all disappointed that it was happening around me and I’d never even noticed. The part of her story that touched me most was hearing about these women losing their independence – I felt compelled to be able to assist them in some way, it has become my mission and I haven’t looked back.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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