The following article was published in Pro Bono Australia on November 19, 2014. 

Last weekend, the G20 brought together world leaders from government (the G20), business (the B20), and community (C20). The groups worked on broad goals ranging from increasing trade, to infrastructure development, and reducing corporate tax evasion. At the most basic level, the meetings were focused on expanding economic, political, and social progress.

With this in mind, Social Outcomes teamed up with the Wise Foundation to co-host the G20 Innovation Hub in Brisbane last week, in the lead-up to the G20 Summit. The event was designed to support many of the goals set out for the G20, through providing an additional layer: multi-sector social innovation and collaboration.

Hundreds of representatives and attendees at the G20 Innovation Hub agreed that the models we traditionally looked towards to help resolve pressing social issues are increasingly outdated, poorly funded, or simply not viable. Designed to help fill this gap, the G20 Hub showcased ground-breaking examples of leadership in the social sector, as well as innovative examples of how government, business, and social sectors are effectively cooperating to create the kind of community, lifestyle, and environment, we want.

The G20 Hub was a testament to the new wave of ‘collaboration for impact’. In an era of public-private partnerships, co-working spaces, and shared value, there’s a growing consensus that we can’t do it alone. In the first of the dinner lectures, Hugo Verkuil, Managing Director and Vice-President of Marketing for Unilever Australia and New Zealand, spoke convincingly about the strong business incentive for sustainability. For Verkuil, it’s not enough to practice business as usual. The growing pressures and costs of supply chains, means innovation and multi-sector collaboration is critical for corporate survival. Referencing the African Proverb, Verkuil reminded us, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

G20 Hub representatives and social enterprises Substation33 and entekom demonstrated how electronic waste could be recycled into consumer products like electric bikes, jewellery, and retro-fitted computers. Both organisations train and employ disadvantaged groups such as the disabled, youth, and long-term unemployed. I’m now feeling quite guilty about the computers, phones, and other electrical gadgets I’ve discarded over the years – knowing they could have been transformed into the very screen you’re reading this on, while positively impacting hundreds of people’s lives. Similarly, Academy for Young Entrepreneurs and Ability Focus explained their work in training and skills development for a wide spectrum of young and disadvantaged people.

The G20 Hub benefited enormously from cross-fertilisation with international trends and models. ItaliaCamp made the long trip from Italy to demonstrate how they’ve managed to remodel the Silicon Valley, tech tool of ‘BarCamp’ (a sort of ad-hoc ‘non-conference’ for budding entrepreneurs), into a version that can be deployed by young people for social change. The ItaliaCamp model has already been used at the New York Stock Exchange, Rome, and Washington DC, to bring social innovators together with capacity development and funding, and has already explored over 4,000 business and policy ideas.

Life Without Barriers spoke of their innovative projects for a variety of disadvantaged groups. LWB’s Tracey Mackey engaged a diverse audience at the light lunch series on Thursday, making a clear call to practitioners to reorient programs towards outcomes-based models.

Digital Storytellers were there to help these various organisations and enterprises shape and narrate their work. A skill that is incredibly valuable and frankly, direly needed. Their September video on impact investing developed for the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce, has received significant attention.

For those looking for alternative methods to generate funding, StartSomeGood was there to help organisations understand and deploy crowdfunding tools for raising seed capital. SSG CEO Tom Dawson was even generous enough to provide free tutorial sessions to budding entrepreneurs keen to wrap their heads around this new tool.

The Difference Incubator was also represented, and generously offered their renowned expertise in free social enterprise development workshops, asking us challenging but important questions about customer base, sales, and what it takes to be financially sustainable, as well as having a social impact.

The G20 Innovation Hub was made possible by the following generous sponsors: Wise Foundation, Social Outcomes, University of Queensland, Queensland Government, BankWest, Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet, and St George Bank. Celebrity chef Matt Golinski catered the light lunches, and Alastair McLeod took care of delicious and sustainably sourced dinners, courtesy of sponsorship from St George Bank.