Tom Dawkins: Australian Making Ideas Happen

Today we’re excited to launch Ideas Hoist with our first profile of an amazing Australian making ideas happen! Tom Dawkins is a social entrepreneur who has just returned to Sydney after four years living in the United States.

Well-designed social enterprises can create massive long-term changes by generating impact through a sustainable business model.”

Tom is Co-Founder of StartSomeGood.com, a crowdfunding platform for social good initiatives globally. He is the founder and current board member of Australian youth media nonprofit Vibewire, leading the organisation from 2000-2008 before moving to Washington DC to become the first Social Media Director at Ashoka, a global NGO supporting social entrepreneurs. He has supported numerous nonprofits, governments and arts organizations to better engage communities using technology and culture and spent many years organizing music and film festivals in Sydney. He has been recognized with awards and Fellowships from the World Summit Youth Awards, International Youth Foundation and Future Summit.

What are you working on right now? 

I’m working on growing StartSomeGood.com into the world’s best fundraising platform for social entrepreneurs and changemakers. Critical to that goal is the fact that we, unlike most platforms, are truly global, accepting projects from over 100 countries, and that we support all forms of social good initiatives, non-profit, for profit and unincorporated.

How do you make ideas happen?

Hard work and perseverance mostly, and constantly looking for partners who share our values and purpose. We’re lucky to have a great set of partners at StartSomeGood, organisations who, like us, are dedicated to helping new initiatives launch and make a difference, including Ashoka, the School for Social Entrepreneurs, The Foundation for Young Australians, Teach for America, the Center for Sustainability Leadership and many more.

What does your typical day look like?

These days I’m usually woken by our new baby and I jump up to change his nappy. Then I make breakfast for his Mum and do a bit of housework while peaking at my social feeds and email. I love catching up with all the mentions of StartSomeGood which have happened overnight. My day is often dominated by meetings with social entrepreneurs looking for advice, members of our distributed team, partners and media. I try hard to get my email inbox back to zero each day and if I’m lucky (and disciplined) I might get to do a longer piece of writing, such as a blog post or proposal, but not as often as I’d like.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business in Australia?

No matter how good your idea is without great collaborators you’re unlikely to go very far.”

I haven’t actually started a business in Australia – StartSomeGood was founded while I was living in San Francisco last year. But I’ve come back here to grow the business (and to grow my family, we had a baby on August 1) and I’ve previously founded three non-profits in Sydney. The greatest challenge has always been recruiting the right team. No matter how good your idea is without great collaborators you’re unlikely to go very far. I’m fortunate to have a great co-founder of StartSomeGood, a former colleague from Ashoka in Washington DC Alex Budak, but it has been a significant challenge grow our team and develop our company culture as a virtual organisation. Our team is in five cities in three countries so that makes it harder.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

It’s tempting to say we’d get around that challenges of building a virtual team by all being in one place, but then I wouldn’t be working with Alex in Washington DC or our great techies in LA so in this case I don’t think I would do that differently.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

I give this idea out to everyone who will listen: “crowdfunding” (the term used to describe site’s like StartSomeGood), is not really about crowds. It’s about communities and peers, and understanding this is the key to succeeding. You can see me speak much about this here.

What companies do you think are doing really cool stuff in Australia at the moment? 

What about internationally?

What role do you think businesses should play in affecting social change?

The legal structure of an organisation is one of the least interesting things about it – what matters is the impact they are creating in the world.”

I think there’s a really important role for business and I’m thrilled to see the increase in social impact-focused businesses being launched in recent years. Part of the purpose of StartSomeGood is to support this trend by allowing social enterprises to raise funds alongside non-profits based on their vision and mission, not their legal status. The legal structure of an organisation is one of the least interesting things about it – what matters is the impact they are creating in the world. Well-designed social enterprises can create massive long-term changes by generating impact through a sustainable business model. They often just need some initial funding to get going (something they can raise on our site) and then, if all goes to plan, they can continue to create that impact without requiring constant donations.

What 3 websites would you recommend to our readers?

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter? 

Our readers are smart, creative, talented and good-looking. Here’s your chance to ask them anything.

What is the future you want to be part of creating? And how can we help?

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

The main thing we’re always looking for is great world-changing project we can support and for people to support the important projects on our site.

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

In San Francisco (I’ve just got back from two years there, so feeling nostalgic): Sight Glass Coffee (SOMA), Four Barrel Coffee (Mission), Maverick (Mission), Lucky 13 (Castro).

In Sydney Lounge, Robocog and Gallery Café (Surry Hills), Barmuda and Satellite (Newtown).

We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?

Sure! We’d be happy to offer a 50% discount on our fees if the winner wanted to run a fundraising campaign on StartSomeGood. I also married into a wine family so can offer a bottle of delicious Wine Men of Gotham wine.

Make sure you sign-up to join our amazing community for Australians making ideas happen.

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