Insights + Inspiration from Social Impact Summit

If you’ve been watching closely you’ll know ImpactInstitute kicked off NAIDOC week 2023 at UTS for our very first Social Impact Summit! 

It was a fantastic two days spent connecting with around 300 leaders from across the public, private and social sectors.

At a time when issues like The Voice Referendum, the increasing cost of living, and widening inequality are front-of-mind, the event provided space for some passionate and robust discussion about breaking old patterns and re-shaping the world we want to live in. 

So, what type of world is that? 

While it’s difficult to synthesise all the insights gathered over the last couple of days, we’ve offered some reflections we feel are key to building it together.   



The popular Profit & Purpose stream drew big crowds eager to hear from leaders working in organisations where the two co-exist.  

We think Andrew Davies, CEO of B Lab Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, said it best when he said purpose-led organisations want to be part of the solution. For these organisations, success is inclusive, equitable and regenerative. 

Lendlease, for example, put a stake in the ground with its aim to create $250 million of social value by 2025. Edmund McCombs, Head of Social Impact, shared some detail around the Lendlease four-step pathway to creating and measuring social value.

We also heard from Sam Reinhardt, Deputy Secretary, Fiscal Group Commonwealth Treasury, who telegraphed that this current government is predisposed to connecting with communities and invited us all to knock on the door.  


At ImpactInstitute we’re a team of storytellers always keen to deepen our understanding of ways to do it effectively.

During a Collective transformation session, Doug Cronin, Director of Change & Upstander at Our Race, spoke about the important distinction between storytelling in a marketing sense and community storytelling, which is all about relationships, trust and listening.  

There were some great insights and experiences across the program to help familiarise attendees with this process. For example, Mark Yettica Paulson (Collaboration for Impact) spoke about our tendency to be “like predictive text for one another,” jumping in before others have had a chance to share their perspectives.

It was fascinating to hear Mark use The Voice referendum as a way to explore power roles in collaborative decision making, and how being prepared for all potential outcomes helps us support people in advance.   

Summit MC Shelley Ware led delegates through a Dadirri process. Dadirri is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘inner deep listening and quiet still awareness and waiting’ – perfect for getting in the right headspace for two days of listening and learning. 

We also heard some deeply personal impact stories from the likes of Matt Caruana, Mitra Hussaini and Pete Horsley. From a record-breaking number of towel pull-ups, to solar-powered wheelchairs and women’s liberation through programs such as the Model United Nations Conference, one thing’s for certain – everybody walked away inspired! 



The most successful organisations have always had a significant focus on impact, on what their purpose is. It’s what attracts people to them, to want to work for them, to want to purchase their products and services. 

Keynote speaker Hugh Mackay AO delivered a rousing talk on Day One of the Summit, reminding us that ‘kindness is in our power even when fondness is not”.

Person-centredness emerged as a key theme over the two days, with speakers and facilitators discussing ways to design solutions, programs and engagement methods.

The Engineering with People game showed groups of solution-designers how to listen to those with lived experience of an issue, empathise with that experience and consider how a variety of stakeholders not only experience that problem but collectively form part of the solution. Crucially, learning through play created space for the curiosity and connection we’ve been craving.

The yarning circle facilitated by Theresa Ardler, the World Cafe facilitated by Campfire Co-op and the ritual led by NIDALA that sealed off the summit provided pathways to new and deeper connections.

Like what you hear? Want to be part of Social Impact Summit 2024? Preparations are already underway for next year’s event! Sign up to our newsletter for all the latest updates