Guest post by Tom Allen, Founder & CEO at Impact Boom

With 2024 in full swing, how would you plot your personal wellbeing, growth and momentum, versus that of the broader ‘impact-driven’ movement? Is there any correlation?

How might we improve our personal health, whilst turbocharging growth of the business for good movement?

A recent conversation with Lisa Hough, PCC, CPCC at the (beautifully curated – thank you Kira Day, Andrew Davies, Mindy Leow and the whole B Lab Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand team!) B Corp Assembly brought attention to identifying ‘energy leaks’ and taking action to plug the holes. It got me thinking about leaky buckets. Not in terms of marketing theory around customer or donor retention, but in the two realms of both personal wellbeing and the ‘movement of movements’ taking place in the purpose-driven business space.

Would you agree that we have some holes to plug? If so, I’m keen to hear your thoughts across both realms. Let’s dive deeper.

Personal wellbeing as priority (how can leaders deliver impact if they don’t have optimal health?)

The wellbeing of founders and leaders is at a critical low, evident in the broad array of people we work with and it’s a common theme explored by those we interview on the podcast.

There is heightened consciousness around founder wellbeing, with growing attention on the IDGs and greater integration of this into the design of Impact Boom‘s accelerator, leadership and capacity-building programs. We’re seeing increased action to improve wellbeing coming from a range of colleagues, including Steve Williams, Sarah Ripper, Julia Keady, Ally Kelly, Caitlin Stanway, Jamie Steinmuller, Sonia Brown-Diaz, Nicola Bone and Graham Pringle – Complex Trauma Informed Practice and heightened conversations at key gatherings.

Looking inwards, a big investment in my personal health (driven largely by necessity – the signs of burnout had been evident for various years) revealed many holes to plug. A strong focus on physical and mental wellbeing, resetting healthy habits and consciously choosing where to invest time is now paying dividends. I have renewed energy, a deepened commitment to my self, family and friends and strong energy to invest in this movement. I’m truly excited about the programs and work ahead. We’re about to begin the Hatch: Taronga Accelerator Program (hats off to Christie Gazal, Belinda Fairbrother, Paul Maguire PSM and the team), AMP Foundation‘s IGNITE and SPARK programs (kudos to Nicola Stokes GAICD and Lucy Watson for their extraordinary leadership) and alongside Luke Faccini, Impact Boom and GoodNorth are running the Reignite Retreats again in July specifically to provide a space for leaders to focus on connection and wellbeing (last round EOIs are open).

‘Purpose-driven’ business movement wellbeing and opportunities.

In 2017, I observed some huge opportunities to grow the social enterprise movement in Australia. At the time, there was only one un-funded state-based social enterprise peak body and no national peak or strategy. Comprehensive support for practitioners was scarce, as was a thriving community which helped the ecosystem to connect and grow. This was why I committed to bringing the SEWF – Social Enterprise World Forum C.I.C. to Australia; to serve as a catalyst for sector growth. To help drive establishment of the state and national peaks, to influence government policy and attract more investment into the space. I’m eternally grateful to Belinda Morrissey, Allan English AM, Alex Hannant, Luke Terry, David Brookes, Emma-Kate Rose and many other early-backers of the project. It taught me many lessons about the challenges in building momentum for projects and simply pushing on, collaborating, staying true to the course and a shared vision, whilst others ponder, question, doubt and delay (there’s a whole other blog post in that!).

Fast forward almost eight years and we now (thankfully!) have state-based peak bodies all around Australia, Social Enterprise Australia was established and the movement has grown considerably. And whilst there has been amazing progress (deep respect to all those which have invested blood, sweat and tears to create this momentum over many years – we know who you are), I still worry that we’re not doing enough to match the climate emergency and pressing global issues we will continue to face at ever increasing rates.

So where might there be opportunities to plug some of the ‘energy leaks’ as the movement grapples with getting organised, aligning on a long-term shared vision and working to create change?

Last year I wrote an article reflecting on some of the key areas we need to get better at to grow this movement. In summary these included:

– Caring for our wellbeing.

– Consciously connecting.

– Communicating effectively.

– Breaking down silos.

– Designing and delivering value propositions that solve clearly defined needs.

– Investing in the systems and infrastructure for long-term benefits.

– Listening to First Nations people.

– Creating a sense of urgency.

Now, in 2024, the movement continues to face key barriers to making impact-driven business ‘business as usual’.

Fragmentation (the silos we operate in) of this ‘movement of movements’ is holding us back. There are many recipes that are creating social, environmental and cultural impact. Some of the common forms are social enterprise, B Corporations, NFPs, (well-implemented) ESG strategies and ‘profit-for-purpose’ models. The focus and intended outcomes are largely the same, often with well-intentioned people striving to create positive change. Some tackle problems closer to the roots with a much stronger systems focus, though all offer a gateway into doing better.

Once people find a movement and enter, they can reflect, refine, learn, share, improve and better understand how to create long-term impact. Though the doorway into the movement can sometimes be hard to find or simply unappealing to enter. And when people walk through a doorway, if they don’t get a sense of being ‘part of the tribe’ it can be hard for them to discover other similar movements which best align with their business, NFP or values.

It’s common to find ourselves in echo chambers, preaching to the converted and seeing the same faces on stages, at events and in zoom rooms. The opportunity lies in becoming much more accessible to the mainstream.

We are yet to find a ‘proper’ way to create stronger links and pathways between the movements. Why? Inaccessible and exclusive language and culture often create ‘us vs them’ scenarios pitting movements against each other. The human nature behind being part of a ‘club’ brings a sense of competition, with movements battling for attention and funding, while creating confusion and sending mixed narratives to policymakers and curious individuals searching for answers.

True collaboration needs to be turbo-charged. Co-design and deep community engagement is essential. Trust, established on long-term, authentic relationships will continue to be the currency that helps us move forward, though so is efficient action which sees ‘doing‘ following ‘talking‘.

Eileen Bowden, Laura Thompson, Michele Wilson and Josh West provided deeply inspiring insights at the B Corp Assembly, with strong reminders around the crucial lessons and wisdom of First Nations culture and business, from which we have so much to learn.

In the current environment, where newly established bodies are currently under-resourced, the wellbeing of those leaders is at-risk. Working on the smell of an oily rag, often with huge demands and workload, while balancing this alongside other life commitments is a threat to the movement.

Meanwhile, conflicts of interest are rife and inevitably politics start to slow things down. However, time is of the essence here and we simply can not afford to get caught up in it. Mikey Leung has reminded me (and demonstrated) over many years, that our focus needs to be on building a thriving ecosystem, not an egosystem.

There lies a huge risk in duplicating existing, tried-and-tested solutions and wasting (often taxpayer-funded) resources into ‘new’ solutions which fragment the system further. Threading together the puzzle pieces in a highly collaborative way will see the movement saving significant amounts of time and money, whilst creating a much higher chance of reaching strong and measurable outcomes.

I’m encouraged by the strong determination I’m seeing in the sector to better align and unite and I thank those who have consistently worked towards a shared vision.

I am fuelled by those who continue to work tirelessly, often at times putting considerable personal investment on the line for the common good; those which proactively seek to genuinely collaborate, unite forces and collectively create solutions. Those that show up authentically and invest significantly (whether there’s money on the table or not). Leaders like Rebecca Scott, OAM who continue to demonstrate effective ways to organise and collaborate to tackle complex issues. Long term collaborators and doers, like Jay Boolkin, Anne Lennon, Javier Casanova, Sarah Ripper, Tom Dawkins, Elise Parups, Craig Fairweather, Sven Stenvers, Amy Orange, Paul Quilliam and Dr Sharon Zivkovic. There are so many more across the movement who continue to humbly ‘do’ the hard work, plugging holes and creating demonstrable value.

So what next and where to from here?

With connection and wellbeing being so important, here are some great opportunities for purpose-driven people in Australia.

Keep your eyes peeled for Business for Good Network launch!

For over 2.5 years, there has been huge investment by multiple stakeholders in the development and refinement of an online community collaboration and learning platform and app, which brings together the movement, tackles the fragmentation issue and amplifies our collective potential. Stay tuned for the public launch of the Business for Good Network (BFGN); a hub where you will find and consciously connect with other changemakers, global partners, organisations and service providers from across the movement to catalyse change! Think of it as a ‘community of communities’, with collaboration opportunities, information, materials, tools and training materials; a place where changemakers connect and no longer feel isolated.

In a sign of true collaboration, leading organisations from across the movement are uniting around the BFGN and joining forces on the platform to accelerate change. A huge thank you to all of you who have already onboarded your communities, provided feedback and been part of the co-design. We’ve learnt a lot and are proactively making positive improvements to ensure equitable and accessible access. We’re currently creating an independent entity which is planned to become Social Traders and B Corp Certified.

We’re looking forward to many more conversations with other intermediaries and organisations (you!) in the coming weeks to work towards our shared vision of a defragmented ecosystem and greater founder wellbeing to accelerate growth of this ‘movement of movements.’ Simply send me a private message to learn more.

– Business for Good Party, 22 March, (Meanjin / Brisbane): Join us for the ‘Business for Good’ Party, co-hosted by Impact Boom, GoodNorth and Stone & Wood Brewing Company! It will be a night filled with good fun, meaningful connections, and purposeful conversations. There’s a great list of movement leaders joining and we hope to see you there!

Find other events across Australia as part of B Corp Month here.

– Reignite Impact Leader’s Retreats, 26-28 July & 29-31 July 2024: The retreats are almost at capacity! Get your EOI in now for a fantastic experience which sees purpose-driven leaders and founders coming together from around the country during a regenerative experience of structured learning, sharing and connection on Bundjalung Country. Luke Faccini, myself and the team are looking forward to welcoming you, as well as AMP Foundation‘s IGNITE Participants, representing 8 of Australia’s leading social enterprises.

What’s Holding Back The Business for Good Movement And Where Are There Opportunities For Growth?