Politics, people and profit: Why Social Impact Summit matters in 2024

By Mark Jones, CEO + Chief Storyteller, ImpactInstitute 

Let’s get political for a moment.  

The word ‘politics’ is very clearly, and ironically, experiencing an existential crisis. It’s been on my mind with Social Impact Summit 2024 just around the corner (2-4 July, get tickets here!).  

I’m excited about the conversations to come: the shared visions, desire for change, and potential solutions that will help people in the real world.  

I’m also a bit troubled, because existentially things are not getting any easier for those of us in the social change business.  

Western societies are obviously becoming more polarised and less tolerant, so naturally enough we’re forgetting how to look beyond black and white to see the grey – and critically, recognise its value.  

Enter Social Impact Summit. We have a simple vision: host a gathering of like-hearted, cross-sector social impact leaders who are committed to creating a fair, just and inclusive Australia society.  

As such, we’re a political community, in the best sense of the word. The Greek word “politika” is simply translated “affairs of the cities.” Aristotle saw it as a means to achieve the virtuous life.  

In simpler terms, it’s just a way of describing how we organise human community and regulate society. It doesn’t mean, “pick between Left or Right.”  

But let’s be clear. I’m no starry-eyed idealist. Politics is no pleasant Sunday picnic. A recent news story showed that moment where politics in Italy tipped from spirited into a straight-out brawl. 

Summit is very intentionally a psychologically safe space. But that makes it no less important, or intense from an ideas and solutions perspective.  

Let’s frame things within the context of the Federal Budget for 2024-25, delivered last month. It sets the tone for some of our conversations because it tells us the story about our society’s priorities and values.  

It tells us what we care about, right now. And here’s that story, as seen through the top 10 expenditure areas.  

  1. Defence: 63.3% – $50.3 billion 
  2. Economic Development and Industry Support: 28.5% – $22.7 billion 
  3. Environment: 18.0% – $14.3 billion 
  4. Transport Infrastructure: 12.7% – $10.1 billion 
  5. Housing and Infrastructure: 7.8% – $6.2 billion 
  6. Healthcare: 3.5% – $2.8 billion 
  7. Social Equity and Support Programs: 3.0% – $2.4 billion 
  8. Aged Care: 2.8% – $2.2 billion 
  9. Clean Energy and Technology: 1.9% – $1.5 billion 
  10. Education and Skills Development: 2.0% – $1.6 billion 

It’s a confronting picture for those of us who believe we should always prioritise the care of people and communities. Right?

I’ve seen commentary from some who wonder why a fleet of new submarines, for example, should take priority when we’re experiencing a cost-of living crisis and a generational shift in housing affordability, skyrocketing loneliness, rampant inequalities, and many other challenging issues.  

On the flip side, others will argue this year’s Defence budget is just playing catchup, and it’s a critical step in response to geopolitical factors.  

I ran the numbers on Australian Government spending trends over the past 10 years using the budget reports. It turns out Social Security and Welfare still dominates the expense line, and therefore remains our #1 priority.   

So, what does this mean? 

In the heat of debate, context always matters. Grey thinking, or at least the recognition of two perspectives, always matters. We need to care for people and keep the country safe.  

It’s a little simplistic, I know. But one of the macro themes we’ll be talking about at Social Impact Summit is this notion of compassion. It’s another way of seeing the grey, or at least looking at complex issues from the perspective of standing in someone else’s shoes.  

It’s not easy, but it is compelling and wonderfully political in the true sense of the word.   

Join us as we write a new story together that embraces doubt, curiosity, nuance and hard questions. As it turns out, we’ll also have some real, full-time politicians in the room. Aristotle would be pleased.  

Join us for Social Impact Summit 2024

Come together for good as we move you from insight to action. Our two day program is packed with workshops, panels, and opportunities to meet the people making the most meaningful change. Get your ticket today