2023 Winter Quarter Highlights

Propeller plane on tarmac with sunset in background

The winter quarter of July through to September tends to be my busiest time of year, and it was slightly more so this year. There’s been plenty of fun happening. Here are some highlights.

Action Learning Programs

A key way I spend my time is designing and delivering action learning programs. These are all project-based experiential learning programs focused on learning through doing.

They help build the mindset, skillset, and toolset for regenerative innovation through design thinking, leadership, and collaboration. To solve problems that matter for teams, customers, communities, and our planet – and to do it in more empathic and innovative ways.

Global Financial Services Client

Every year I partner with one of our global financial services clients to design and deliver three project-based experiential leadership/skilled volunteering programs. Each program is a cohort of 24 participants who collaborate with NFP/social enterprise clients on a real business challenge over three months.

The core learning outcomes are focused on helping leaders and emerging leaders build their confidence solving problems that matter in complex, uncertain, and ambiguous environments – and build the mindset, skillset, and toolset for adaptive and empathic leadership, customer-centred design, collaborative problem solving, innovation, and strategic thinking.

By working with NFP/social enterprise clients on a real challenge for the organisation, the program participants receive a unique opportunity to work on something that’s very different to their daily context, get exposed to impact models, and deliver meaningful value while learning through doing with coaching.

We had the final presentations for the two Australia programs in August and September. A total of 48 participants and 11 internal coaches. We had the privilege of working with CSI, OzHarvest Ventures, Together4Youth, and YLab this year.

For the program in Asia, we’re currently working with the NFP/social enterprise clients to get them ready before the program kicks off late October.

A huge thanks to all the awesome people I get to work with through these programs. It’s one of my favourite things every year. I love the work we do together – having fun while collaborating to solve problems that matter. Thanks for inviting me in and trusting me to work alongside you and cheer you on.

RYEAP

In August and September, I visited six high schools in regional NSW to guide a total of over 110 Year 7-12 students through a two-day workshop learning and practicing design thinking, social entrepreneurship, innovation, and problem-solving on a real challenge provided by a local community partner. As a teaching team we worked with over 300 students at 20 schools.

The Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Activation Program (RYEAP) is proudly funded by Investment NSW. I was lucky to be invited by Stephen Rutter to be part of The Scale Institute teaching team for this program – along with Carli Leimbach, Elvis Gleeson, Erica Tan, Mariam Mohammed, Nicholas Stevens, Nicola Panopoulos, and Suzie Winkelman.

The RYEAP program is about nurturing the potential of our young leaders and helping build the capabilities and knowledge to prepare them to be work-ready, adaptable, and resilient people. I shared a bit more about the program in this interview with Sally Bryant on ABC Riverina breakfast radio.

UTS Diploma of Innovation & BCII

In July I spent a few days during winter school working with the 175 UTS Diploma in Innovation students doing the Innovation in Complex Systems subject. Teams of students explored startup ideas aligned with the goal of accelerating the transition to Net Zero in NSW.

As a teaching team, we led a series of workshops with coaching over the six all-day sessions. I ran a theory of change workshop applied in the context of their startup ideas with the system/stakeholder mapping work they’d done – which included First Nations perspectives led by Stephen Rutter – and identifying their problem/solution hypothesis with riskiest assumptions and how they will test those assumptions.

I also ran a version of this workshop with the fourth year Bachelor of Creative Intelligence & Innovation (BCII) students doing the Speculative Startups subject.

I love working with these engaged, curious, and talented people. It makes me feel very optimistic hearing them talk about the change they want to see in the world… and that they have the skills and drive to help create positive systemic change – and see this is how business should and can be done.

I feel lucky to be part of the UTS TD School teaching team – focused on transdisciplinary project-based learning and building the practical skills and mindset to think critically and solve problems that matter in more empathic and innovative ways with design thinking and social entrepreneurship.

A pleasure to work alongside the deeply experienced team with Paul Brown, Albert Ong, Emma Earley, Mariam Mohammed, Andrew Clutterbuck, Samuel Allen, Stephen Rutter, Jan Auernhammer, and Jasper Ryan.

Solve Problems That Matter

It’s hard to believe that in a few days it will be two years since I launched my book Solve Problems That Matter on 14 October 2021 at SydDT as part of Spark Festival. So far the book has reached over 800 people in more than 65 cities in 22 countries. It also perfectly complements the learning programs and coaching work I do.

I think of this book as a product rather than a traditional book. As intended, it’s always evolving.

A print book is a snapshot at a point in time, but I wanted to create space for refinements – without the need to write a new book. The key way I’ve approached this is to make some resources freely available. This includes free downloadable worksheets, healthcheck with scorecard, and when you buy the book in a digital formats, you get the refined editions for free. v2.0 is the current version. Check out the release notes here.

Want to grab a copy? If you’re in Australia, the best deal is direct, which includes shipping of print copies using Sendle’s compostable packaging and carbon neutral deliveries. Outside Australia, it’s best to buy from one of these international online retailers for cheaper delivery that’s faster and has less carbon impact.

Speaking

There’s been a lot going on with people really out and about again after the lockdown years. Here are some of the events I’ve spoken at this quarter.

UX Australia 2023

I gave the closing half hour talk of day one at the sold out UX Australia (UXA) conference on 24 August. I got to talk about one of my favourite things: Regenerative Design & Innovation… for Happier Communities. The purpose of my talk was to help people who design, build, launch, and run product, service, and business ideas – and lead these teams – to design for regeneration and increase our wellbeing while we do it. And I wanted it to be helpful in an applied way.

UXA is a conference focused on UX, product and service design, and the surrounding disciplines of research, content, operations, management, and more. This year there were about 400 attendees – at the in-person event at the Shangri-La in Sydney and online. I love being part of the community and I’ve been at pretty much every UX Australia since 2010.

AMP Foundation Tomorrow Makers SPARK Immersive

SPARK is a new initiative from AMP Foundation’s Tomorrow Makers Program and is designed to help social entrepreneurs grow their ideas and create positive social change. The program is delivered by our friends and collaborators at Impact Boom. The immersive day was hosted at Hotel Etico, Mount Victoria Manor in the beautiful Blue Mountains – the social enterprise hotel.

I was on a panel with Kylie Flament from SECNA and Andrea Comastri from Hotel Etico, hosted by Tom Allen from Impact Boom. We shared a bit about the reality of the social enterprise journey and some of our learnings and insights.

Jennifer Briscoe-Hough from Tender Funerals also gave a talk over lunch sharing some of her journey and lessons. I’ve been lucky to work with Tender a couple of times and I love the work they’re doing. It was awesome meet the social entrepreneurs on the program who are doing really important work too.

A huge thanks to Lucy Watson, Nicola Stokes, and Komal Thapa… and Tom Allen from Impact Boom for including me.

World Interaction Design Day 2023 (IxDD23)

We (SydDT) teamed up with our friends from IxDA Sydney to put on a meetup for World Interaction Design Day 2023: Ethics, Equity, +Responsibility. This is IxDA’s annual event where we come together as a united global community to show how interaction design improves the human condition.

I gave a version of my Regenerative Design & Innovation… for Happier Communities talk. How do we design for regeneration, be financially successful, and increase our wellbeing while we do it?

Sarah Cave and Will Farrier from WAVE shared some of their insights on the importance of ethics, equity, and responsibility in design – drawing on Will’s reflections on how to put people first in community care settings… and facilitated some audience breakout discussions.

A huge thanks to Munib Karavdic and the WAVE team for hosting this event! Thanks to Rianna Mo, Calista Kartadinata, and the other volunteers for helping out on the night. And thanks to my friends and collaborators Susan Wolfe and Vera Chan from IxDA Sydney.

USyd Business School Guest Talk

I had a fun little guest talk at The University of Sydney Business School with my good friend and collaborator Jess Williams. We explored purpose, impact, theory of change, measurement, funding, and more with the students doing Paris Jeffcoat’s Business Consulting Practicum (BWIL1300) class – part of a Bachelor of Commerce.

I’m a big fan of work integrated learning and learning through doing project-based approaches… and it’s great to see more in action now. Thanks to Paris for including me and good luck to all of the students with their project.

It’s great to see business students learning to measure success not just in financial terms but also in the value and outcomes created for people and our planet. My focus is on helping people and organisations rapidly transition to regenerative ways of doing business and living… and I’m optimistic about our future leaders.

StartSomeGood Network AMA Session

I was a guest for a StartSomeGood Ask Me Anything (AMA) session and shared some of my social enterprise startup experience and key learnings.

Events

The winter quarter was full of events, including plenty that I organised and hosted


I also managed to have coffees, lunches, and drinks with a bunch of friends and collaborators who are all doing awesome work. These include: Belinda Morrisey, Jess Williams, Natasha Hawker, Tom Dawkins, Greg Hodgkinson, Tom Allen, Ally Michalk, Dan Leverington, Ari Watson, Craig Fairbrother, Craig Murphy, Lucy Chen, Tuan Pham, and more. Thanks for all of the fun and fascinating conversations!

IxD24

It’s been a huge quarter for us as a team organising Interaction 24. The key focus has been on the call for speakers. We had a great response with 347 proposals for talks and workshops from all over the world – this includes a record breaking 32% of proposals from the APAC region. The work of reviewing and selecting the speakers for the program has begun.

We’re stoked to have announced Parameswaran Venkataraman, Angie Abdilla, Dan Hill, and Leah Heiss as the first four of the eight keynote speakers for the week.

Headshots of Parameswaran Venkataraman, Angie Abdilla, Dan Hill, and Leah Heiss


Plenty more exciting things planned as we head into the next 90 days too…