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2020 – What a year!

22 December 2020 at 8:05 am
Karen Mahlab AM
In her end of year message, Karen Mahlab AM offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Slack chat the team had over the course of the year and reflects on Pro Bono Australia’s 2020 journey. 

Karen Mahlab AM | 22 December 2020 at 8:05 am


2020 – What a year!
22 December 2020 at 8:05 am

In her end of year message, Karen Mahlab AM offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Slack chat the team had over the course of the year and reflects on Pro Bono Australia’s 2020 journey. 

We adapted. We survived. We were resolute. We danced the “pivot”. We danced the TikTok. We said staff hellos. And staff goodbyes. And we did it all from behind a screen.

We watched from our living rooms as our site traffic and webinar attendances rocketed, and our revenue plummeted. 

And we expressed our gratitude as our readers and supporters came out of the woodwork to offer us dollars and sweet lovely supportive messages that acted like a salve – every single one.

We pushed, cried, worked, mourned, worried, studied, supported, stressed, laughed and celebrated. Collectively. Individually. We were yo-yos. 

For me, there were three major “noticings” during this time:

  1. The pace of change that is possible – for our institutions and for us as adaptable human beings.
  2. That we are all connected to the planet and to each other.
  3. That action is key to our sense of meaning and our future.

Each of these are important, and I will write more of them another time.

For now, I’d like to offer you a retrospective look at this stranger than fiction year through the eyes of the Pro Bono Australia team’s Slack communication. 

(A shout out to Slack for inventing this great free product and a standout shout out to the awesome Pro Bono Australia team!)

We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes glimpse into our conversations. It’s a bit of fun. But more than that it’s a record of the journey we have been on, with all its highs and lows. 

After a year like this, it’s not enough to just move on. We need to remember what we’ve been through.

So from the beginning…



Lockdown hit and PBA started working from home. And so began our Slack channel…

There were a few hiccups to begin with…

“The link isn’t working for me”


“Me neither”

“It takes me to my inbox?!”

“Oops. Wrong link… try this […]”

“Ahhh yes haha”


But soon the information started flowing…

Article: The Groceries That No One Wants to Panic-Buy

Americans are emptying their supermarkets of everything but these persistently unappealing products

Article: I Spent a Year in Space, and I Have Tips on Isolation to Share


And messages started coming…

“If you have the option to work outside then I would highly recommend !! It’s so beautiful and warm”


And of course the memes…

“I love this one!”


We started using Zoom…

How to Look Good on a Webcam 

conference call bingo card



Our revenue fell away… and supporters started coming in… Blessings to them all!!


And ideas came for virtual parties 

“My housemates and I are dressing up in a theme tomorrow throwback Thursday – 90’s if anyone is keen could be kind of fun for after work drinks”

“Omg yes!!”



We launched our new look website – with the obligatory Zoom defining team photo

screenshot of Pro Bono Australia team on Zoom

Which looked a bit like this… (Thanks Luke!)

screenshot of the Brady Bunch



There was talk of Trump

“How to Bible.. hilarious”


And some of us began to experience nightmares… So we looked for solutions…

Nightmares and Anxiety Dreams in Times of Crisis


There were new arrivals (Hi Bec!)

“Hi All. I’m very happy to announce that we have a new Marketing Manager starting next Monday… Exciting. More later…”


And departures (Bye Chloe!)

“Just wanted to see a big goodbye again before I log off!!! Thank you for all your beautiful messages and gifts. I appreciate it so much! Keep in touch, and hopefully we can grab a goodbye drink post covid times!! Xxxxxx”



Melbourne went back into lockdown… ughhhh

“You will all have heard the lockdown news. Another 6 weeks. Terrible but the right decision. From a business perspective we will be okay. For all of us as individuals coping with this – well  we will need to take care of each other where needed. Our own internal resources will be called upon to weather the ups and downs. Motivation will be set at zero and we’ll need to work on that! We will need to play games and dance and quote random poetry… Luke – memes needed, Wendy – team games chosen to play… dance in your lounge rooms, listen to music you love, walk outside, cook yum food. Sending you all lots of love and hugs”

“And Homeschooling is back”


So we had a good moan…

The joy of complaining Esther Perel 


And tried to relax… With some nose breathing! 

How nasal breathing keeps you healthier



Lockdown went on… and on… and on

“Hi y’all. Have a good weekend. Catch some rays. If you have any binge recommendations let me know.

You are all awesome. Another good news service today, new job poster email sent out for today, guide to giving emails happening next week and sales coming in. #happydaysinlockdown.

See you Monday at 10.”



Spring sprung… We were still in lockdown

pink flowers

We hit a milestone…

“Wow just realised we have all been WFH for 6 months now!”

“What a year”


We decided to have a zoom lunch – Burgers for everyone! – With 90’s bingo

“12.30 Friday we’ve organised that everyone orders themselves home delivery of Grilled (Liv – vegan options available). Wendys organising  90’s bingo – fun! (90’s clothing optional. PBA will shout lunch – just send Ira the bill! Thanks Ira. This will replace the end of day 4.30 drinkies …”

“I just sent everyone their bingo cards”

“What a great idea guys! Love it!”


Many things went pear shaped…

screen shot of a spam volunteer post on the Pro Bono Australia website



We finally started emerging…

“Morning one and All. Love the figure of 2 today… looks like we’ll get some good news from Dan on the weekend. In the meantime the sun is out now but wont be for long – so take a bit of time this morning to go outside and get some rays! See you all at 12.30. K”


“Morning All! ZERO, 0 , zeeeeroooooo!! cases this morning and thank goodness we will be out of this is a day or so!! Just waiting for those few hundred tests to come back clear. Hope you all had a good weekend… Speak soon.”

“Dan Andrews is live now”

“We are freeeeeeeee!!!! more tomorrow… anyone feel like jumping into morning zoom to celebrate???”

“Yay guys!!”

“yes it is so exciting!!!! I am ready for a celebratory  Zoom!”

“Double Donuts.. Zero Cases over two consecutive days WooHoo!!!”


And there we have it. Well done Victoria!… So proud

The Age:

No other place in the world has tamed a second wave this large

Today, as the crisis accelerates in Europe and elsewhere, Victoria’s ‘zero new cases’ are the envy of the world.


How we cried…

The Guardian:

Hearing Melbourne’s lockdown was ending was like dam wall breaking. I sobbed | Jill Stark

Victoria has lived through a collective trauma. It has been necessary and effective, but my god it has been hard


And then danced…


By December we were able to celebrate… In person!!! 

(And we got to meet Bec – even though she’d been working with us for five months! We thought she was just a Zoom figment of our imagination!!)

Pro Bono Australia team at the Christmas party

But the story continues…

We’re still working from home. And our Slack chats will continue for now…

Happy Holidays to all of you. Love from me and the PBA team. Karen


Pro Bono Australia has created the space, and held the intention, for the emergence of the social economy in Australia over the last 20 years. As a specialist, and sometimes activist, media organisation we have given a priority to its concerns, voice to its values, profile to its activities, and through our surveys we have provided an evidence base to inform good policy in the sector.

Karen Mahlab AM  |  Founder  |  @kmahlab

Karen Mahlab AM is the Founder and CEO of Pro Bono Australia. In 2015 she was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to the Not for Profit sector and philanthropic initiatives.

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