Our Purposed Filled Adventure

This is the story of Purposed, what we learnt and where we're headed now...

The Ambition

It all started back in 2017 while working at one of Australia's largest corporates, where I witnessed firsthand that organisations were setting ambitious social impact targets, to make the world a better place. But it quickly became obvious that settings these targets was the easy part, delivering on them was the challenge.

So I decided to swap the suit for the hoodie and start a social enterprise with a very ambitious vision. We not only wanted to inspire MORE corporate social impact, but make sure it was channelled in a BETTER way to solve the most pressing problems of our time.

I realised that to achieve this ambition, we would need to do something different.  The traditional methods of donations and volunteering were not enough, we needed to re-imagine corporate social impact for scale.

The Concept

Before we could re-imagine this space, we needed to better understand what was out there today and why it wasn't delivering.

So we spoke with over 150 corporates, not for profits, government agencies and tertiary institutions to understand what worked well, what didn't and what great could look like. It was undisputed - this was a problem that needed to be solved. So we pulled together a small group of organisations for a lunch to talk it all through. However, this lunch never happened. More and more organisations heard about it and wanted to be involved, snowballing in to the largest corporate giving collaboration in the country's history.

Day 1 saw 75 organisations come together with a clean slate, looking to solve the problem "How do we inspire more and better corporate social impact at scale?". The best ideas from day one's Think Tank progressed to day two's Shark Tank, where they were built upon by the country's sharpest social impact leaders and philanthropic minds.

We took the best ideas and built them in to our proof of concept, a solution that would inspire more and better corporate social impact. Built for the users, by the users.

The (vanity) Validation

The event went well and it was unanimous that our proof of concept would revolutionise the space, both for corporates and their not for profit partners.

We collated all the best practices from the event and published a three part e-book series outlining the WHY, WHAT and HOW of Purpose Led Corporate Social Impact. We open sourced this content and struck gold! It went viral (at least in Australian terms) with thousands of views in the first week alone. We are on to something!!

e-books available on our blog

Armed with the validation from our event, our proof of concept and the e-book traction, the doors were opening within corporate Australia and the meetings were positive. We needed three organisations to further co-design and co-fund the solution, and all signs were leading to success.

However as soon as it came to getting the cheque book out, things would stall. But this wasn't going to stop us, we were well versed in the long lead time sales cycles large corporates impose, hell, the team we'd built used to be the ones imposing them! So we kept going, all while sharpening the concept and our best practices in anticipation for launch.

However in the back of my mind, it left me wondering if all this "support" was simply vanity validation? You know, those small pats on the back that keep you feeling positive, but actually going nowhere.

What happened next would help answer that question...

A troubling conundrum...

Just as we were at the 12 month mark, our dream came true - one of the big banks agreed to a pilot! This was a huge step forward, and exactly what we'd worked so hard to achieve.

But when we delved deeper, it was obvious that the terms of the pilot were unlikely to promote success.  There wasn't any money available to co-fund the project. There wasn't much leadership awareness of the initiative given their focus on the Royal Commission. Really, there was just a big brand name for us to leverage, a brand who's hygiene was uncertain given the ongoing Royal Commission proceedings.

It felt like this opportunity would either be a slow road to mediocre success, or a slow road to failure. Either way, neither were going to help us deliver on our vision of helping solve the most pressing problems of our time.

Then a wise mentor of mine asked me a straightforward question. "Tom, is Purposed a good idea corporates will buy and use, or is it simply a good idea?". I felt like a deer in the headlights.  All this effort, all this emotional investment, all this (vanity) validation. This was an extremely confronting moment, yet the answer was clear. It was simply a good idea. Our experience over the past 12 months told us, that right now, re-imagining corporate social impact isn't a top priority for corporate Australia.

The Turning Point

We'd built an amazing team over that 12 months, a team that weren't the type of people to give up easily. Yet we also knew that blind perseverance would be an ignorant way forward. Not ready to turn our backs on the social enterprise space, we took stock and started white-boarding all of the lessons we'd learnt so far.

  1. Genuine Impact vs Ticking the Box
    Unfortunately, genuine social impact is not a priority for most corporates. Putting it plain and simple, the majority of corporates won't invest more than the bare minimum to tick the CSR box. Now there are fantastic organisations doing amazing things out there, but from our experience, this was more the exception than the norm.

    So what was our takeaway? If the corporate market wasn't right, and we felt Government wouldn't be either, we should look at what opportunities exist in the consumer space.
  2. People genuinely want to do good (but it's not their top priority)
    We started speaking to everyday consumers. Once they opened up, you could tell that deep down people wanted to do good, but were too time poor. Asking people to donate often meant they would have to revise their budgets (which took time) and obviously costs them money. Asking people to volunteer would see them torn between family duties and civic duties. Family would usually win out.

    So we realised if we wanted to help people do good, we shouldn't be asking them to do something additional. We needed to somehow embed good in to their existing everyday lives, without them having to do anything new or additional. So we mapped out the 24 hour clock of what people do from the moment their alarm goes off in the morning, to the moment they fall asleep at night. It quickly became obvious, that throughout the entire course of the day people consume and they buy things. And they do it a lot. Which led us to the problem, how can we make consumerism, good?
  3. A single cause focus
    While most people loved the idea that the Purposed platform would connect them with leading organisations underpinning the cause they were most passionate about, this also presented a problem. To secure investment, most funders in the impact space want to support initiatives focused on a single cause. Their cause. And while they saw merit in the breadth Purposed would offer, they felt that funding such an initiative would potentially redirect the impact of their funding from the cause they were passionate about (e.g. developing countries) and to the others we were supporting (e.g. terminal illness, environment, community etc).

    The learning... We needed a single focus. So we asked ourselves - what cause had gained mainstream awareness and concern, that the majority of Australian consumers would rally behind? The answer - Climate Change.
  4. Is it a good idea people will buy and use, or simply a good idea?
    We thought we'd validated Purposed, but as I shared above, most of this was superficial. So we needed to step up our validation efforts to understand if our new idea was a good idea people would buy and use.

Armed with these learnings, we feverishly brainstormed, tested, validated and tweaked a new direction, then conducted deep market research to refine it all again. This is what saw us land on our new direction.

A New Direction - The Green Wallet

Climate change is the number one issue facing all 7.7 billion of us. However it feels like it is such a big, complex problem that none of us feel we can do anything about it, or know where to start.

However what most people don't know is that we can actually stop global warming if we all get our carbon footprint down to 2 tonnes pa. The problem is, the avg Australian footprint is 15 tonnes.

And that's why we're creating the Green Wallet - a consumer facing app that helps turn everything you buy green, to get your carbon footprint closer to zero and stop global warming.

Our proof of concept is now complete, along with a research backed theory of change and deep expert and consumer validation. We are currently in the process of finalising the necessary partnerships with green providers to underpin the offering.

Consumerism is what caused the climate crisis, so we have re-imagined it away from a source of negative impact, but as a force for good, to solve the most pressing problem of our time.

If you have any questions around the Green Wallet, or would like to be involved in bringing it to life, feel free to email info@greenwallet.com.au

A big thank you to you, and the Purposed team

While the Purposed adventure has now come to an end, a new adventure is just beginning.

I want to sincerely thank those who have helped support us to date. Imagining new approaches to solving well ingrained problems isn't an easy task, and your support has been invaluable.

I want to especially acknowledge Katherine Jude, Chris Cousins, Leigh Matthews, Mihir Rughani, Emma Hunt and Anna Jumppanen. A high calibre, purpose driven group who were instrumental in the Purposed journey.

Tom Ferrier