Hugo Lamb is a Melbourne based social entrepreneur working in the field of community engagement.
In 2011 he established the Gilmore Society – an independent think-tank of university graduates dedicated to exploring ideas for Australia’s future.
From 2011-2013 Hugo was the Victorian Director of the Oaktree Foundation – Australia’s largest youth-run aid and development organisation. As Victorian Director, Hugo was credited with creating one of the strongest communities and workplace cultures in Oaktree.
More recently, Hugo is one of three founding convenors of the Victorian Youth-Led Network – a community of practice that fosters a connected, supportive, and strategic youth-led sector. The Network brings together Victorian leaders from eighteen different youth-led organisations.
Hugo is also an inaugural member and Deputy Curator of the Melbourne Global Shapers Hub. An initiative of the World Economic Forum, the Global Shapers Community is a network of hubs developed and led by young people passionate about creating change in their communities.
Hugo is co-founder and Operations Director of Policy Booth – a social enterprise determined to engage the disengaged. Policy Booth works with local governments, businesses and organisations to energise community consultation through intuitive design and innovative methodologies.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
My colleague Bec and I had worked in community engagement for some time. A significant part of this work was combining traditional practices of grass-routes organising with new technologies and innovations.
While the NFP sector was embracing the combination of technology, data-driven campaigning, and good design, and using it to achieve unprecedented results, other organisations and – in particular – the public sector was much slower to adapt.
We wanted to give local governments, member based organisations, and a range of other associations the ability to better engage with their stakeholders. We wanted to create a dedicated service that could help these groups make community consultation fun and energising, but also deliver the results they needed to make sustainable changes.
Through Policy Booth, we sought to make participatory democracy hot, exciting and powerful. We knew it could transform the way people engage in their community and, overall, contribute towards a more active and informed populace.
Please explain your business model.
We offer online and offline consultation tools and services to help organisations, businesses, governments, and associations better engage with their stakeholders.
We work with clients to design targeted consultations that capture meaningful data. We specialising in activating creative pop up environments that bring people together.
Through our unique online platform – ePublic – we have transformed the way that people answer surveys online, making it non-tedious and animating.
We also offer digital activation to help our clients expand their social media reach by connecting online groups and individuals.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
We have recently completed our first social impact project: Pre/Poll. Pre/Poll is an online tool that let’s you compare and contrast over 300 policies from 10 parties in the lead up to the federal election in Australia. More than 20,000 people used this site in the two months leading up the election.
The big task for us now is to set up a rigorous method for measuring our social impact.
In addition, we are continuing to build our community of practice: Policy Boosters. Boosters are young change-makers who are interested in developing their knowledge of policy and skills in community engagement.
This group works together to better understand how to engage people in their community and develop new approaches to engaging the disengaged.
How do you make ideas happen?
Bec and I like to think big. We take ideas as far as we can before thinking about whether they are feasible, practical, or fit into our business model. Some might see this as a waste of time but for us it is an incredibly energising experience.
We are privileged to be part of some exceptional communities, and often the first thing we do when we want to make ideas happen is to connect with friends and colleagues. We recognise collaboration as being one of the most significant and underused tools available to change-makers and a force that can dramatically increase your business and your impact.
What does your typical day look like?
I wish my days were as interesting as the work we do. It’s generally spent immersed in a computer and on the phone.
Having said that, most days begin with a fairly heated discussion on politics and the state of the world. By midday we’ve taken a break to share internet memes, and by the end of the day we’re bouncing off walls thinking about our next consultation.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
There isn’t a tradition of entrepreneurship in Australia and it has always been a challenge explaining why you’re taking the risk of setting up a new business as opposed to taking a ‘safe’ job working for someone else.
Added to that, explaining how a social enterprise uses its profits and the social impact work we do is often greeted with perplexed reactions.
For young people, the risk is seen to be far greater – that you’re giving up a successful career for a ‘volunteer’ job.
A big part of our work and our business model is changing people’s attitudes to what a social enterprise is and can do; and how young people are so critical to establishing this new economy.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Online engagement doesn’t work. If you want to use your online space effectively you have to think much more about quality of relationships and much less about quantity of followers.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
OurSay has organised a great campaign to connect constituents to their leaders through their online platform and is doing some very cool stuff in India around digital democracy.
What about internationally?
OpenIDEO does an amazing job of promoting great ideas and rallying communities behind them.
There are some very progressive cities doing some amazing things including Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto and New York.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
Businesses have a fundamental role. They can directly change our methods of production and consumption and lead towards a more sustainable and equitable world.
Businesses that work to make their products and services more ethical don’t falter. As the inclusive business model shows: you can have productivity and purpose.
Speaking of affecting social change, we’ve teamed up with Shout for Good to encourage readers to ‘shout a coffee’ to charity by clicking the button below. Is there a particular charity you’d like to support?
We’re big fans of FareShare
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
@bcorporationANZ – for news of our expanding community of BCorps
@TheKouk – Stephen Koukoulas, Managing Director of Market Economics, is a frequent commentator on Australia’s economy and is very good at cutting through the BS.
@SocialTradersAU – for news and insights into social enterprise in Australia.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
Absolutely, we’ll take all of the above.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
What needs to change for you to take your business to scale?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
The Hungarian, 62 Bridge Rd, Richmond VIC 3121. It likes to make fun of itself.