Clearpoint Counsel | Can tech drive social change? Q&A Panel Discussion @General Assembly
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Can tech drive social change? Q&A Panel Discussion @General Assembly

10 Mar Can tech drive social change? Q&A Panel Discussion @General Assembly

Have you ever be in a room with certified ‘doers’ of the human race, whose CV’s are off the charts inspirational?


That was the atmosphere on Monday night at General Assembly, Melbourne, where 4 distinguished changemakers came together to delve into how tech can drive social change, hosted by Clearpoint moderator Anna Reeves, co founder & CEO of  That Startup Show, who opened the discussion with a business case for evolution.

We live in a world that tells us to hyperloop, scale and hyper sell and innovate at alarming rates. And it’s also time when we are facing enormous global environmental & social challenges, many of which have been in fact caused by the relentless pursuit of human interests. Top global business leaders have said that not only must business adapt & innovate, they must also become active agents of change to ensure our very survival as a human species.  Innovators and technologists are ready willing and able to help.

The panel were asked: can or should we use technology to drive social change? Can we use it to evolve businesses into more life sustaining organisation in the wake of  our technological gold rush. Can technology help us transition from a transactional mindset to the relational mindset needed drive such changes?

Panelists included:

Jeremy Meltzer, Founder & CEO of i=Change, a platform which tracks in real time the social impact of brands through conscious purchasing. Jeremy passionately spoke about how he became advocate for the empowerment of women and girls, after witnessing some horrendous impacts of the human sex trafficking trade in South East Asia. 

Julie Gibson, a “technologist at heart” is the co founder of Hitnet, which builds and manages digital hubs enabling people in remote communities to participate in the digital economy and celebrate their culture. For Julie, a highlight of her career was being accepted to Stanford’s global entrepreneur program and meeting the many entrprenuers dedicated to solving some of the world’s toughest social and environmental challenges.

Shelli Trung, a high energy social impact investor and voted one of the 100 Angel Investors to watch by Twitter, spoke about the successful enterprises in China and New York she funded. She is also co-ordinating Techfugees Melbourne, a hackathon which seeks to find tech solutions to problems refugees face in Australia.  Shelli spoke about the need to get clear on impact solutions and the numbers when pitching to investors.

Andrew Apostola Co Founder of Portable, an award winning web and design innovation company founded in Australia, that has been innovating business, government and the not for profit sectors since its inception in 2005. Andrew reminded the audience that there are many local problems that need solutions, and not to underestimate the power of working with governments to find these tech solutions.

Prue GilbertCEO and co-founder of Grace Papers, a social change business leveraging technology to drive gender equality, which was awarded the Australian Human Rights Business Award for its work empowering women to address pregnancy related discrimination. Prue recounted her own story of discrimination and the systematic gender problems, which still plague Australian business for women, reminding us that the case for diversity is imperative for our 21st century economy. 

A robust. lively discussion ensued, with an enthusiastic crowd many of whom had come from the Link Festival. 

Key Takeaways included: 

  • The shift is happening: The shift toward funding, buying from and working in businesses which have a social or environmental impact is increasing exponentially
  • Get “The Why”: Deeply understanding why you seek the social or environmental impact in the world is critical. Purpose will be the sole currency to engage talent, customers, stakeholders on the journey
  • Slow Down, Listen & Measure the Impact: You must take time to understand the people/social or environmental problem you are seeking to address and measuring the impact you seek is fundamental to get right before you embark on what can be a very long and lonely journey. You must LISTEN
  • The Numbers Matter: Impact investors will look at your social impact measurements in addition to your numbers as a commercial enterprise, and if a tech innovation will also assess the ability of the technology employed to solve the problem
  • Diversity wins: The case for diverse teams and productivity/profit is proven – utilise one of the most the untapped resources in the world – women.
  • The tech is not the problem: Tech solutions are not the problem, but design is critical
  • Best people: Surround yourself with mentors and advisers from the get go – do not be afraid to ask for help
  • Get structured right from the start: Look properly into legal structures and alternative models such as B Corporations, now available in Australia
  • Drop social – you are an entrepreneur: The word “social” should be dropped from “social entrepreneur” – entreprenuers are by their nature problem solvers and the extention to how their business impacts on community is part of their responsibility to consider
  • WE NEED YOU ! Get up and use your skills to make an impact – NOW is the time to act !

Want to put your tech/design/people skills to action? Come along to the Melbourne TECHFUGEES HACKATHON, April 15-17.

Find more info on General Assembly Events.

ed. Clearpoint Counsel


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