When a statement such as ‘let’s get comfortable with discussing the topics and issues that make us uncomfortable’ is the precursor to day one of the Social Impact Summit, you know you’re in for a thought provoking and interesting conference! 

Coordinated by the Impact Institute, the Social Impact Summit is Australia’s only cross-sector gathering of senior leaders from the social, corporate and government sectors dedicated to the ‘S’ in Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG).  

From the keynote speaker, Craig Foster AM, to the individual facilitators presenting on their specialised topic – the emphasis was on identifying the issues in Australian society, discussing the possible solutions and steps towards how to implement those solutions. A discussion not easily had when considering the status quo of social equity in Australia.  

Now in its second year, the 2024 Social Impact Summit attracted a dynamic group of professionals to discuss a multitude of hard societal truths, and problem-solving concepts.  

Here are some of the key concepts that stood out: 

  • Within your circle, what is the contribution you make to society?  
  • What is your reason to exist beyond money? 
  • Will AI strengthen or strain social cohesion? How do we manage technological progress whilst maintaining a cohesive society? 
  • Let’s align our values, and solve societal problems via profitable business models 
  • Whilst maintaining respect, discomfort and confrontation in discussing societal issues are necessary to change the status quo of social equity 

Some presentation takeaways include: 

  • For social organisations – three key steps to building a social impact strategy:
  1. Diagnose the problem 
  2. Develop a strategic response e.g. Theory of Change or MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning) 
  3. Translate these plans into measurable impact e.g. SROI (Social Return on Investment) 
  • Based on research, Next25 have identified—and are actioning—five opportunities to improve Australia’s performance in equality and justice: 
  1. Galvanise a National Identify based on respect and honesty 
  2. Establish benchmarks beyond GDP 
  3. Engage in Constructive Discussion despite our varied perspectives 
  4. Enable Australians to engage in Decision-Making 
  5. Trust in Government, restore trust in Australian politics 
  • Social organisations need to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to measuring and reporting on their impact – consider the outputs, outcomes, financial contribution, cost benefit, and established networks. Ultimately, the holistic value of the organisation.   
  • Social organisations must delve deeper into what they bring to society – the connection they facilitate between society, business and government cannot be understated.  

To consider… 

  • Here in Australia – we like to think of ourselves as an equitable society – but are we?  
  • Are we genuinely multicultural or polycultural? Are wealth and resources distributed equally? Are the same opportunities available to all people living in Australia? Is gender equity truly evident? Do we have shared values?  

    These are just some of the questions and concepts discussed. As challenging as these topics may be, if we want to achieve social equity – it’s pivotal to be comfortable to discuss the uncomfortable.

Two of my favourite Summit quotes to wrap up  

“Conversation is not difficult. How we feel about it is difficult.” – Dr Renu Burr, Director at Burr Consulting 

“Transform self to transform the system” – Chloë Spackman, CEO at Next25  

Did you attend the Summit? We’d love to know your thoughts!