November 2020

Reimagine Impact: For-purpose organisations build their capacity to adapt and innovate

2020 has been a year of challenges.  Organisations have had to adapt quickly in response to bushfires, drought, floods and an ongoing pandemic.  While demand has increased for services supporting people who are unemployed, homeless, affected by domestic violence or struggling with anxiety and mental ill-health, organisations have had to find new ways to provide that support.

The Social Impact Hub, supported by the Snow Foundation, quickly reacted by turning a pre-existing idea into a 10-week online pilot program, REIMAGINE IMPACT, guiding 39 participants from 21 for-purpose organisations through applying human-centred design thinking to a real-life problem they are trying to solve.

The organisations ranged from very small, volunteer-run grassroots organisations to large, national entities.

Five Snow Foundation grantees were part of the cohort:

Snow Foundation CEO Georgina Byron said: “This has been an incredibly tough year.  Reimagine Impact has given organisations a leg up in adapting to this challenging environment.  One good thing that came out of COVID was that the course was delivered entirely online, enabling organisations, including from rural and regional areas across Australia, to access high calibre global experts and training.”

REIMAGINE IMPACT is the brainchild of Chris Kirby, now Senior Program Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who experienced first-hand the power of designing for (and talking to) the end-user when he was looking for ways to prevent Zika virus infections in Jamaica.  It allowed him and his team to redefine the problem from mosquito prevention to water security – reducing the need to store water in the first place, rather than finding ways to prevent mosquitos from breeding in it.

“The design process is messy and uncomfortable; it’s important to listen to a range of perspectives, tolerate ambiguity and not rush into solutions,” said Chris Kirby. “We actually need to have a ‘beginner’s mindset’ and ignore what we know in order to address problems with new eyes.  Listen to people’s stories – they are experts of their own experience.”

The REIMAGINE IMPACT participants did exactly that – with design thinking expertise from ThinkPlace, one-on-one leadership coaching by KornFerry and further support from coaches and corporate intrapreneurs, they redefined the problems they were trying to solve.

For Carisse Flanagan, Business Development Manager from MIEACT, it was an eye-opening experience.  “Initially, we wanted to monetise our DoNOHarm Framework but after 10 weeks we realised the framework was the basis for a product, not THE product.”  User research uncovered a mismatch between employee and employer perceptions about what mental health prevention looks like, and when it is best deployed.  Now the organisation is developing a program to address that mismatch and create a shared understanding.  “Being part of the REIMAGINE IMPACT program gave us the space to think big and the time to challenge our ideas. We were inspired and excited throughout our journey and that feeling spread out to our workforce and across to our board.” 

For more information on Reimagine Impact, visit https://www.socialimpacthub.org/initiative/reimagine-impact