Archive for the ‘work’ Category

The pomodoro kitchen timer after which the technique is named.

The pomodoro kitchen timer after which the technique is named.

Since March I’ve been working from home full-time, with frequent trips to the city for meetings and events (it’s only 8 minutes on the train away). There’s a lot I like about this, especially being close to Bodhi and Kate and having a nice blend in my days: I’m able to play with B in the yard for ten minutes, or take him for a walk, have lunch with the family and make sure I’m here to put B to bed. But I miss the energy of having other entrepreneurs around me getting stuff done. The rapid-fire conversations, the sense of comradery and support, the greater ease in achieving focus when others around you are also focusing.

So I decided to start inviting some entrepreneurs I know to come and work with me at home every few weeks. We’ve done it twice and so far it’s been great so I thought I’d share the model here.

Here’s the email I sent:

Hello friends,

You’re getting this email because I think you’re great and I want to invite you to something new and different which I’m kinda excited about.

You’ve probably heard of Jelly, a day when people come together to co-work, often at people’s houses. Well I want to do that, basically, but with a twist I’ll get to in a bit.

Since Bodhi’s birth I’ve mostly been working from home and since we had to move out of our subsidised StartSomeGood office in the city a couple of weeks ago I’ve been working from here basically full-time. This has lots of advantages but I miss having awesome people around me and the focused and creative energy produced when everyone is getting shit done.

So I want to invite you over to work with Kate (who is also working on a new business) and I periodically. We’re thinking every second Thursday if there’s interest.

Everyone getting this email is a) an entrepreneur and b) someone I’d be happy to have in my house. So it’s a select group! You’re all people I want to learn from and collaborate with.

Our house is very easy to get to being only two blocks away from Waverton station, which is eight minutes from Wynyard Station. We have a lovely open and light-filled back living room/kitchen where we can work and a back patio and yard with a fantastic view down the harbour and to the blue mountains in the distance where we can also work weather-permitting.

Thursday Bodhi is at daycare, so it’s a day Kate and I both aim to get a lot of work done and is a good day to have people around between 9ish and 3ish.

So, to the twist.

You may have heard of a productively method called Pomodoro. For those that haven’t it’s very simple. It basically divides up your day into a series of “pomodori’s” or 25 minute sprints, where you pick one thing and finish it. Then you take a five minute break. Than another 25 minute sprint where you finish something. Every four of these you take a longer break.

I want to run the day strictly along these lines, with time at the start and end and a longish lunch break for general catching up and conversation, but with four pomodori sprints on either side.

So this isn’t just for people who like working in social settings, it’s for people who like working in social settings while getting heaps of stuff done.

I’m excited to try this and I think it’d be work best in a group to hold me accountable and to task. Doing it together will make it more effective and more fun. We’ll play a bit of music, enjoy the sunshine and crank out work alongside each other. I guess we’d call it Pomodoro Jelly, which sounds like a very weird culinary experience but might just work as an awesome working experience.

Speaking of culinary experiences during the third small break we can order thai food which will arrive in perfect time for the long lunch break.

Here’s how the day breaks down:

9am – arrive, general catching-up, drinking coffee, etc. Please arrive by at least 930am so there’s time for hellos before we get our pomodoro on.

1000 – 1st pomodoro

1025 – break

1030 – 2nd pomodoro

1055 – break

1100 – 3rd pomodoro

1125 – break – order food

1130 – 4th pomodoro

1155 long break for lunch.

1pm – 5th pomodoro

125 – break

130 – 6th pomodoro

155 – break

2 – 7th pomodoro

225 – break

230 – 8th pomodoro

255 – finish, move to Botanica (great local café across from the station) for coffee, chats and debrief.

We think the right number of people would be no more than 8 including us, so there are a maximum six spots available for visitors. I’d ask that if you do RSVP with me you be genuinely committed to coming, as we’ll be saying no to other people. But I know the unforeseen happens (regularly!) so if you are unable to make it that’s fine just let me know asap so I can offer it to another. If more people want to come than can fit I’ll keep a waitlist.

I hope you’ll be part of this experiment with me.




So far we’ve done this twice and it has been fantastic! The hardest thing is actually committing to the breaks. And then sticking to only 5 minutes for the break, because everyone is so nice and so interesting. But when everyone is focused and working the energy is very productive, and the chance to catch up with awesome people and quickly share ideas and news is very cool.

I’m open to extending this invitation to a few new people in Sydney so if you’re working on an entrepreneurial initiative and you want to be added to the list please drop me a line and let me know. If I don’t know you already tell me more about what you’re up to. And if you’re doing important work but feeling isolated think about organising something like this in your house or a friend’s house. If you decide to run with it let me know how you go!

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Me, presenting at ConspireNY

Presenting at ConspireNY

Life has been ridiculously busy lately and I’ve obviously let this blog go by the wayside for a bit. I hope to properly pick it up again soon, but in the meanwhile this is a post I wrote for the StartSomeGood blog recently and I figured I should also share here.

During February, thanks to the generous support of Renata Cooper and Forming Circles, I had the opportunity to attend two great conferences in Thailand and the US respectively where I was thrilled to meet changemakers and social entrepreneurs from at least 16 countries and learn more about their projects, challenges and insights.

The trip started at the Ci2i Learn/Share Lab for Co-Creative Impact and Innovation outside Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand (I know, I know, it’s hard work this whole social entrepreneur thing sometimes). This was a very different sort of event from the norm: more intimate, focused and generative. It involved 25 of us living together for three days while exploring the practice of co-creative changemaking through a variety of case-studies and conversations.

The participants had come from every continent on earth. Their stories and their commitment to a style of leadership which encourages participation, empowers others and shares successes were inspiring and very often moving. Many were working in incredible challenging environments, against entrenched systems of inequality, supporting refugees, the disabled or those seeking an alternative to business as usual.

What did we mean by “co-creative leadership”? We didn’t let ourselves get too bogged down in definitions (you can see the raw notes from the event here) but for me it came down to a few key elements:

  • a vision for a different future (the why) but an openness to collaborate on the right path to get there (the how);
  • a preparedness to share or forgo credit;
  • a belief that the process to create change is as important as the outcome. A belief in fact that empowering people through the co-creative process is an outcome.

I learned about the incredible work of Edgeryders in catalysing new ways of thinking, working and living in Europe, of The Barefoot Guides out of South Africa, a co-created resource to deepen and develop approaches and initiatives that contribute to a changing world, of the struggle and progress of the Initiatives for Community Transformation in Uganda, as told by Peter and Grace, who had never left that country before (and who we will soon be supporting to run a campaign on StartSomeGood) and of Christina Jordan, our host and Ashoka Fellow, who has worked in Uganda and Belgium and now Thailand (and ran this campaign on StartSomeGood recently to support a refugee community) and is now spearheading the formation of Ci2i, a global community of co-creative changemakers.

Then it was on to the US and, after a week of meetings in San Francisco and Washington DC, the AshokaU Exchange in Providence, Rhode Island.

Speaking at AshokaU Exchange 2014

Presenting at the AshokaU Exchange

The Exchange was in some ways the opposite of the Learn/Share Lab: more expansive, relentless and individual. But no less inspiring and valuable. It brought together 800 people to explore how we embed and support social entrepreneurship on university campuses, split approximately 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 into students, faculty and funders. The students gave it a great energy, the faculty members shared incredible programmatic insights and the funders gave it gravitas and a sense of possibility. Together it was an exciting mix, with several concurrent streams of panels and workshops, short TED-style talks, banquets, small-group dinners and many side meetings.

I was able to share the work we’ve been doing bringing traditional grant funding and crowdfunding together through our Crowdmatch model and present on how student-led projects can raise the funds they need to launch and grow. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to announce a US-based Crowdmatch partnership in the near future.

The trip ended in NY where I presented at the first ConspireNY, a night of conspiratorial Pecha Kucha presentations. This was beyond nerve-wracking for me, as the requirements of the Pecha Kucha format (short talks with automatic slides, in this case 5 minutes with 20 slides which advanced every 15 seconds), brevity and perfect timing, are not at all my public speaking fortes. But given that I only prepared the talk that day (I was busy!) I was very pleased with the result and received great feedback. The video should be online soon.

Thanks again to Renata and Forming Circles for making this trip possible with their sponsorship! I learned a lot, made new friends and contacts and am confident it will lead to some exciting new partnerships and projects for StartSomeGood, so watch this space!

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In Melbourne and curious about how crowdfunding can help you launch your project? Then this is your lucky week as I’m in town for not one, not two but FOUR crowdfunding workshops over Thursday and Friday. Two are introductory and free and two are masterclasses with (modest) cover charges, one focused on startups and the other specifically for social enterprises and nonprofits.

Whether your dream of launching a social enterprise, a nonprofit, a tech startup or a personal creative project these workshops are designed to help you understand how to give yourself the best chance of crowdfunding success.

The masterclasses will delve into the practical issues which will help you win at this new fundraising form: what rewards to offer, how to identify your audience, what’s the right length for a campaign and more.

Here are all the links:

Introduction to Crowdfunding, hosted by Social Traders and RMIT SEEDS, Thursday 1230-130 pm- only three tickets left!

Crowdfund Your Startup Thousands!, Thursday 6-830pm, with me and record-breaking crowdfunders Fee Plumley, Rob Ward and Kylie Gusset. Only four hours left to get $65 tickets! Well worth the investment to hear from all these experts on how to raise funds for your startup.

Introduction to Crowdfunding, hosted by Social Traders and RMIT SEEDS, Friday 9-10am (sold out)

Crowdfunding for Social Impact, hosted by Social Traders and RMIT SEEDS, follows on from the introductory sessions, Friday 10am-1pm. A deeper dive into how crowdfunding can help you launch your social impact initiative, only $20.

This also seems like a logical spot to mention that I’m looking to recruit a Melbourne Ambassador for StartSomeGood so if you love social enterprise, crowdfunding and helping people and think this could be a good time. Looking for a commitment of 8-10 hours/week. To find out more drop me a line at tom(at)startsomegood(dot)com.


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Modern parenting you guys

Monday marked two months into the Bodhi era and it’s been a joyful and exhausting blur. It feels like a massive journey already and yet it has barely begun. We’re filled with excitement about all that will come next, and delight in the constant tiny changes in Bodhi, the increased presence in his eyes, his new news, the way he now tracks objects and raises his head. Bodhi is beautiful but man he can be a bit of a baby, crying all the time, not contributing around the house, stuff like that. So it’s been a lot of work. We either laugh or cry or fall asleep on the couch at 8pm.

Which is totally okay and to be expected but I have other work to do as well. StartSomeGood is at a very delicate moment in our history, with some good runs on the board and a growing community but a lot to do to get where we need to get to to be sustainable. The next few months will be a make-or-break time for us as we relaunch the site and bring some new people onto our team. I’ve also been getting more involved in Make Believe as we explore the impending transition away from the last involved founder and what the company might look like in the future.

If I only had these two businesses (and my role on the Vibewire board) to work on life would be more than hectic enough, but I’ve also working on two major consulting projects which in a quirk of scheduling were both due last week, almost crushing me.

But I don’t want this to come across as a great big whinge though because I don’t really feel that way. This is just the reality of my life right now. In truth I can’t get over how much good stuff is happening and how fortunate I am to have so many opportunities to make a difference and do good work with great people.

Having so much on stretches my time management abilities to the limit. There’s something pretty exciting about having to pack it all in though, scrambling and hustling and staying up late getting the work that needs doing done, and balancing that with the demands of my family. I haven’t figured this balance out yet, things fluctuate too much from week to week and K carries too much of the burden, but it feels like we’re not too far off. The meaningfulness of it all keeps me energised and my many deadlines keep me (mostly) focused and somehow it is all (mostly) getting done.

This past weekend was inspirational. After getting those reports done we attended the Regrowth Festival, a stunning little festival near Canberra organised by some dear friends of ours. It was incredible to catch up with so many friends and see how far the festival had evolved since the last one I attended in 2007. And most of all it signified that life is on-track – that we haven’t gone to ground but will continue to live the lives we love, filled with music and friends and adventure. And a baby. All pretty amazing really.

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From the Melbourne forum

TACSI, The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, has recently taken over management of ASIX, The Australian Social Innovation Exchange, and are exploring how best to carry on their work of connecting and enabling innovators. I’ve am thrilled to be participating in this process by facilitating the input of social entrepreneurs, innovators and those who support their work to help guide the way forward.

This is happening in three ways:

Firstly with 18 Individual interviews with 18 thought-leaders in our sector, including social entrepreneurs such as Brad Krauskopf from Hub Melbourne, Rebecca Scott from STREAT, Brodie McCullock from Space3 in Perth and Marcus Westbury from Renew Australia. Organisations represented include the Foundation for Young Australians, Social Traders, The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the Centre for Social Impact and the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence. It’s a real treat to be able to speak with all these inspiring and committed changemakers and a big responsibility to reflect their insights to the TACSI board.

Secondly we’re hosting public workshops in Melbourne and Sydney.

Thirdly if you’re reading this I’d love you to take ten minutes to fill out this survey.

We all seem to understand instinctively that social innovation emerges best from a supportive community with a diversity of participants and support. The question becomes: how do we achieve that? What is the role than an organisation like TACSI and a program like ASIX can play in helping to foster both a community of innovators and a culture of innovation.

If you care about social innovation in Australia and how social innovators can best be supported this is a chance to help set a direction that makes a real difference for all of us. The survey will only take a few minutes (only six questions!) and your contributions will help guide my report to the board of TACSI and help them map a way forward for ASIX which supports our community and the work that needs doing to create better futures.

This is all happening very fast with my report due next week so the survey will only remain open until Saturday morning. Please check it out.
You can also follow the conversation and share your thoughts on Twitter via the #asixnext hashtag.


If you have any questions about the unification of ASIX and TACSI they should be directed to Martin Stewart-Weeks, a director on the TACSI board and co-founder and Chair of ASIX.

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My co-founder Alex and I at the StartSomeGood launch

Oh blog, I do neglect you so. Sorry friends and readers! The last month has been an exhilarating, exhausting and slightly manic time. I started my new job at HopeLab then launched StartSomeGood.com one week after that. A week after that I left for 10 days to South by Southwest Interactive in Austin followed by the Nonprofit Technology Conference in DC, both amazing near 24-hour-a-day festivals of ideas, technology and connections. So of course as soon as I was back in San Francisco my body got its revenge for all I had put it through by promptly getting sick, something I’m just recovering from now. And next week I leave for a week in Australia! As I was telling a friend yesterday: when my life isn’t overwhelming I tend to make it so but sometimes in the midst of it I wonder if this is really the best way to live.

But truly I do love having things to keep me busy, new ideas to explore and causes I care about to promote. HopeLab are being a wonderfully supportive home for me (this is what greeted me when I arrived this morning) and I’m really excited for the unique and inspiring work we’ll be doing this year. Keep an eye out for our Joy Campaign (or, better sign up for an alert when it goes live), which is launching soon and will be a lot of fun.

There is a depth and intention to HopeLab’s work which I have rarely felt. A disciplined focus on where we believe we can make the greatest impact but also an enormous generosity in supporting the personal development of our staff and in sharing what we’ve learned with anyone interested. My job is to innovate around this sharing, seeking new ways of telling our stories, disseminating our research findings and foregrounding our culture. My colleagues are, everyone of them, kind, patient and enthusiastic.

Meanwhile StartSomeGood has gotten off to the kind of start I could only have dreamed of. Our launch party in Washington DC during NTC was incredible: an amazing collection of friends, past colleagues from both Ashoka and Small Act, NTC attendees and StartSomeGood partners and ventures. The energy was, truly, magical, filled with a shared vision for change and a sense of infinite possibility. Huge thanks to our sponsors Gotham Wines, Tevolution, nuubiachocolat and our very gracious hosts the Case Foundation. You can see more photos and read a recap on the StartSomeGood blog.

The activity on the site is equally inspiring. Our first two campaigns have ‘tipped’, that is reached their minimum goal to guarantee they get paid-out: HairFlare for Hope and Pick Up America’s The Bagabonds. Several other great campaigns are charging towards their tipping points including Creating the Future, TakeAShine and Partnered for Success. Please check out these great campaigns and the others on the site – I hope you find something you are inspired to support!

I am back in Australia in a week (for a couple of weddings) and will be doing speaking engagements in three states to promote StartSomeGood, as part of our launch of non-US ventures. In Sydney I’ll be attending Vibewire’s 10th birthday celebration, which honestly blows my mind. I’ll be posting the details of all the events shortly, I hope to see many of you at some point during my too-brief visit.

Much as I loved my recent conference-hopping (I have wanted to attend both events ever since getting to the US) and I’m excited for my visit home and the events I’m doing, and I cherish the wonderful people all this movement brings me into contact with, I’m looking forward to getting back to San Francisco and being still for a little while (apart from a long weekend at Yellowstone in May). I’m looking forward to digging in and creating an impact at HopeLab, really taking the reins of our digital communications and strategy. Most of all I’m looking forward to constructing a sustainable life for myself that balances and honours my commitments and relationships in a way that is impossible when you’re constantly coming and going.

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So I published my first post on HopeLab’s StickyNotes blog today, saying hello to the readers over there. I thought I’d re-post it here too:

Hello there! My name’s Tom and I’m very happy to see you. You’re going to see quite a bit of me actually. You see, I’m the new Manager of Communications and Emerging Media here at HopeLab, so I hope we talk often.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself.

First of all, that accent you hear, it’s Australian. Not English, South African or New Zealand, which I do understand all sound pretty similar to the untrained ear. I recently moved to the Bay Area after spending the previous two years in Washington DC and, before that, living in Sydney.

I love working in communications because human culture is based on stories and the right stories can change the world. I love social media because it has given us incredible new tools and opportunities to inform and inspire one-another, to build communities around shared values and aspirations, and to fuel innovation, cultural exchange and new understanding. I am passionate about building a form of democracy which is more participatory and responsive, a world which is more sustainable and just and organizations which are more human and values-based.

Prior to joining HopeLab I was the first Social Media Director at social entrepreneurship innovator Ashoka. Before that I founded Australian nonprofit youth organization Vibewire in 2000 whilst at university and led it up to March 2008. I am also the co-founder of the social innovation crowdfunding platform StartSomeGood. You can follow me on Twitter or check out my several blogs.

Just between you and me, HopeLab had me almost at hello. The first paragraph of the ad for this position read “When you’re a small nonprofit like we are at HopeLab, impact is sometimes measured by what you’re doing to promote the greater good, not just the number of customers you reach through products and programs. The insights we share about our work – lessons learned, risks taken that paid off (and the one’s that didn’t) – are valuable measures of impact as well.” I find this broader view of impact, one focused on the human connections, transparency and the greater good, both exciting and inspiring. Creating this impact, sharing these insights, listening and learning as well as talking, is the kind of work I am driven to do. It’s why I’m here, why I’m talking to you now.

This is going to be an incredible year for HopeLab with the launch of Zamzee, the ongoing work with the Re-Mission game, the fun of the Joy Campaign and much more. There’s really nowhere I’d rather be.

But enough about me, let’s talk about you. What brings you to HopeLab.org and what sort of content would you like to see on this blog and elsewhere? How can we stay in better touch and get you involved in our work?

And most importantly, what brings you joy?

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