we increase the revenue, reach and impact of world-changing endeavours
We’ve been around the block a few times, made some mistakes and had some success. We’ve been involved with health, social and environmental ventures for over twenty years and in that time we’ve chained ourselves to trees, started organic restaurants, sustainable cleaning companies, natural health clinics and even a political party.
We’ve owned marketing and advertising agencies, branding and design firms and web development companies, and have worked with thousands of individuals and organisations dedicated to the common good.
We back our convictions by investing in projects whose activities contribute to a healthier, safer, fairer and more sustainable world; in the breaths in between, we contribute to the evolution of the impact sector by rolling up our sleeves, getting down on the floor and challenging, debating and pushing the edges.
We try not to take ourselves too seriously – which can be kind of tough at times, given what we do and who we do it with – but we also don’t consider that either your venture or the issues it’s disrupting – can afford the luxury of taking more than one chance to get it right.
We don’t just stand on the sidelines and provide dispassionate strategic advice. We take sides.
“I’m a commercialisation strategist, systems thinker, writer, speaker and agitator – and for the past twenty years have been focused on founding, catalysing and commercialising sustainable ventures with a view to shifting the needle.
I’ve worked actively across four continents with organisations at all levels of development, with the primary focus being to create coherent and sustainable organisations that operate in integrity with their founding principles. I’ve read thousands of business plans and support the interrogation of go-to-market and commercialisation strategies in order to ensure that documentation presented to potential investors and partners is accurate and effective.
I’m structure-agnostic – in short, I believe in neither the inherent performance-benefits of for-profit or the ethical benefits of non-profit; I believe that all organisations have a responsibility to minimise waste and maximise impact and should reward their stakeholders appropriately.
I’ve been an innovator in sustainable ventures in Australia and amongst other things:
- setup the first organic restaurant
- setup the first environmental cleaning company
- setup the first dedicated cause marketing consultancy
- was a founding partner and current advisor to One Health Organisation
- am a former committee member of the Natural Health Care Alliance (a governing body that worked to bring together 140 disparate professional organizations)
- am a former executive committee member of The Big Issue (Qld).
- have overseen services to over 400 projects – from micro business to multi national – in nine countries in the past four years alone
My company operations are virtualised allowing me to move freely around the world in response to my interests and the needs of my partners and clients. I’m currently in Byron Bay 0n the east coast of Australia.
The uncompromise framework for organisational change has its roots in transpersonal psychology.
Based upon almost twenty years founding, advising and accelerating mission-driven ventures, the process transforms organisations into movements and provides clear, direct and measurable impacts to founders, CEOs and leadership teams.
We provide an end-to-end commercialisation solution, incorporating a range of services including vision refinement, strategic planning, preparation for funding, capital raising, organisational architecture, identity design, marketing and communications, project management and general operations.
Our core protocol – the (re)visioning process – holds space for primary stakeholders to take a deep dive into the organisation’s vision for impact as a pre-cursor to reviewing and redesigning the organisations strategy, structure and operational model. Personally delivered by Cameron Burgess in a one to three day hot-house, the process has proven highly effective in clarifying and re-aligning an organisation in order to achieve more revenue, reach and impact.
We work with a multi-disciplinary, multi-national team of senior consultants and rather than shoe-horn your project into the capabilities of a staffing pool, we develop teams specific to meeting your needs.
uncompromise has provided hundreds of thousands in pro bono in the past decade, not including a combination of board positions with a number of innovative non-profits:
we work with people who are passionate about changing the world for the better, have ideas that can reach epic scale, and the time and resources to make it happen; if that sounds like you, we should definitely talk
uncompromise is actively invested in a number of internal projects, all contributing in some way to a more just, equitable, sustainable and loving world.
Individuals and organisations working for good generally produce their own unique content in order to share news, information and unique perspectives with their stakeholders. While genius, expertise and insight can arise from anywhere, it seems as if those with the resources, connections and capital to make themselves heard frequently drown out many others in an exponentially competitive digital environment. Currently in closed beta, icologi offers a unique digital publishing service to individuals, organisations and communities working for good.
WellnessConnect is the largest dedicated marketing agency for the natural health and wellness market in Australia, and one of the largest in the world. Through a combination of action learning, provision of service and engagement with key industry partners, WellnessConnect has touched the lives of thousands of health and wellness business owners and, by extension, millions of individuals who are committed to a more natural approach to healthcare.
W1SDØM provides unique opportunities to collaborate in the development and evolution of sustainable ventures. The service leverages workflow tools and social networks, providing a venue for agents of change to collaborate in service to sustainability. We believe strongly that information technology — when coupled with the right intention and application — will continue to improve the way humans connect.
As the lines between our personal and professional lives become increasingly blurred, and we rely more and more upon social media to maintain our connections, the avenues for open and authentic dialog seem to be shrinking. In response we felt compelled to launch naughtiyogi – an open confessional created in support of being unashamedly human. It’s a non-judgemental community grounded in mutual trust and respect, one where you have the opportunity to share your greatest challenges, inconsistencies and confusions, and learn from the contributions and feedback of others who are similarly motivated.
Successful entrepreneurs share one fundamentally common trait … they identify gaps in a market and develop a bridge to generate, at the very least, a measurable, replicable and sustainable result.
In Australia there are approximately 600,000 non-profits – one for every forty men, women and children in the country. The US, by comparison has one for every two hundred – a much lower number for a nation many believe to supersize everything. Some view the size of our third sector as an indicator of how much better we take care of our citizens. Yet others, myself included, are perturbed at the ever-increasing replication of effort across not only non-profits, but the rapidly expanding social enterprise sector as well.
Vast numbers of organisations are engaged in similar endeavours, pursuing the same sources of philanthropic, public, equity and crowd funding, and contributing to a collective level of awareness raising that results in a cacophony of competing messages that our empathetic nature makes extremely difficult to ignore. On any given day, my information channels are clogged with news of yet another initiative to save humanity from itself. Despite the value of the work being done, I find myself paying less and less attention.
In short, I’m suffering from cause-fatigue, and I know I’m not alone
While living in Boulder I would often hear the comment ‘every time a cat dies in Denver, another non-profit is born’. Around the world, well-intentioned individuals support an estimated $350 billion (and growing) annual giving market. The rise of philanthropy, however, appears to have been almost inversely proportional to the level of improvement we’ve seen in global social, environmental and economic systems.
We’re spending more money and things are getting worse.
If I were the CEO of a company that received capital investment of $350 billion per annum, spent virtually every cent of that capital, returned to my shareholders year after year for more investment and still didn’t achieve the outcomes I committed to, at what point would my competence be called into question? Further, if the board of directors had permitted this to go on for decades without resolution, we all know that the shareholders would revolt.
So now we are.
It seems time we questioned whether or not there is a better way to go about influencing our social, economic and environmental systems.
PROFIT IS NOT THE ENEMY
The creation of profit, with good reason, has long been viewed as an ineffective way to acknowledge value; it’s long been generated by the uninformed (or wilfully ignorant) extracting capital from a finite system without acknowledging or mitigating the costs.
Profit is achieved, however, through social agreements about value. If a product or service generates substantial value to a particular individual, organisation or community, the distribution of profit (and the investment of capital) will inevitably be uneven. Humans are fickle and value is relative – so despite well-intentioned clamoring for more equitable distribution of capital, it’s inevitable that it will flow toward that which is most valued and away from that which is the least.
In most countries there is a presumed moral or ethical benefit to running an organisation that doesn’t disperse profits (despite the profound irony that they are dependent upon the mechanics of capitalism to continue funding them). Yet every for-benefit organisation has the intention to generate social and/or environmental capital outputs that exceed their capital inputs (profit, in other words). Further, as the flaws in our current iteration of capitalism continue to be exposed, and our global financial systems struggle to adjust to a more intelligent system for recognising, measuring and facilitating the flow of non-financial forms of capital, future access to public and philanthropic funds is under threat. It’s reasonable to assert, therefore, that financial profits – dispersed or otherwise – are essential if for-benefit organisations in capitalist economies are to continue bridging the gap for much-needed social and environmental reforms.
MISSION TRUMPS ORGANISATION EVERY TIME
For-benefit organisations have been created in service to mission, yet how often do the mission and the organisation become conflated?
Do we really care about who is going to save the Amazon rainforest, end childhood detention, clear plastic from the oceans or toxins from the air, provide employment opportunities for the marginalised or fund AIDS clinics in Africa
The short answer, by and large I imagine, is no.
Every argument I’ve heard to the contrary, runs along the lines of ‘we don’t want McSanto to be involved with food security, or Shellron with energy security or, heaven forbid, Microogle to be hosting our health records’. While I would echo those concerns (specifically), I would also hasten to assert that the resolution of our various and growing challenges requires us to undertake a rigorous interrogation of our values and see where our various philosophies are standing in the way of getting-s**t-done. Ultimately, all pontificating aside, those of us working for change are simply concerned that these issues are resolved (rapidly, effective, affordably and equitably, granted).
For too long we have determined that certain legal forms are inherently less ethical than others – yet organisational structures emerge as a consequence of strategy, and not the other way around. Determining a legal form before crystallising vision, determining strategy and defining culture is counter-intuitive and subsequently counter-productive.
Defining an organisation by its legal structure is as foolish as defining an individual by their colour, gender or sexual preference
‘Non-profit’ is no more meaningful than non-homosexual, non-christian or non-woman. It’s nonsensical. Further, a definition that by its nature only includes what we are not, is not a definition at all.
We have, collectively, been defining ourselves in ways that are exclusive, not inclusive and have been building walls rather than bridges as a consequence. While we’re defending our philosophical fiefdoms, the people who most need our help are, quite literally, dying. Beyond that, the one system we can’t afford to break – a global ecosystem that will sustain human life – is in such a state of flux that even the best informed amongst us (the increasingly rare, unbiased and hyper-rational scientist) appear to have issued a three-letter white paper appropriately entitled ‘NFI’.
TAKING AN ENTREPRENEURIAL APPROACH
Pick an issue, any issue … homelessness for example. Now, imagine that this issue has arisen seemingly overnight. Suddenly there are thousands of people in our cities and millions of people across the globe without a home. Do you think that our way of tackling this new social issue would be to immediately form dozens of local, regional and national organisations, simultaneously compete for funding, invest in multiple offices, thousands of researchers, communications, administrative staff and case officers?
I doubt it. If we were entrepreneurs, we would take a step back, seek to understand the root causes of the issue, identify the opportunities for delivering a profitable service, define MVP (minimum viable product), acquire the necessary resources to field an initial service and then review, reiterate and relaunch on the basis of ongoing feedback.
We would be keenly aware of resource constraint and would stay lean to operate within it. We would be focused on doing more, with less, but would equally place a premium on the formation of a rock-star team. We would establish a governance structure that permitted the organisation to be run in a way that was consistent with our values and we would give great consideration to the seating of our board. Most importantly, however, we would plan for success.
A project that seeks the resolution of a particular social or environmental issue without also planning in obsolescence is, quite simply, unethical
Entrepreneurial CEOs are constantly seeking new opportunities as their marketplace shifts. The resolution of short-term acute problems gives way to the resolution of longer-term chronic ones. As the marketplace evolves and other organisations emerge addressing related issues, strategic partnerships are formed and ultimately we begin to see mergers and acquisitions.
There is a cost to modernization, obviously – the most important one being a rationalisation of capital (most notably human) as cause-specific and sector-wide efficiencies begin to take place. Yet to even call this a cost is to miss seeing the forest for the trees.
The reorganisation, resequencing and release of stagnant, dormant or misplaced capital presents the most effective and immediate pathway for creating more change
EVOLVE OR DIE
The growth of social enterprise is occurring for many reasons. The most significant, however, is that entrepreneurial individuals with a passion for change are seeing what many of us see – that institutions, organisations and projects for the common good (and by logical extension philanthropy, international development and foreign aid) have failed to resolve many of the most pressing social and environmental issues despite trillions of dollars being thrown at them.
They believe, quite rightly, that there has to be a better way.
As much as the general public are suffering from cause fatigue, philanthropists increasingly report that they are suffering from donor fatigue. They’ve been giving for quite some time, and are now demanding more rigour, accountability and results from the organisations they support … and rightly so. Governments and grantmakers, likewise, are raising the bar on funding proposals expecting to see more financial sustainability and better-defined metrics, and are pivoting funds towards projects that meet these expectations. While Australia is still catching up in this regard, it inevitably will. Our various state and federal governments have sold the farm leaving us with few assets to sell to raise capital for social infrastructure investment; while our economy is in good shape due to an ongoing resource boom, eventually we’re going to run out of things to dig, suck, and blow out of the ground.
Most people forget that The Lucky Country was originally a pejorative term (and the warning inherent within it is something we would do well to heed).
Impact organisations that refuse to acknowledge there will be substantially less funds available in the foreseeable future and fail to adapt their models in light of this will become liabilities standing in the way of progress
The responsibility for these changes, however, doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of CEOs. I’ve seen all-too-often the consequence of a visionary leader seeking to pivot an organisation toward a more effective and sustainable model, only to be blocked by an intransigent board who are less informed by marketplace realities and subsequently too heavily invested in their attempts to maintain an atrophied model.
It took a while for me to appreciate this, but being a board member is neither a privilege nor a reward. It’s an honour and a responsibility.
In my experience, a board is charged with ensuring that the organisation’s vision is being strategically executed, and that every opportunity for enhancing the realisation of mission is explored.
I’m not suggesting that the non-profit sector needs to go. There is no denying that we live in a state of global flux and that there is no such thing as the perfect system. Gaps will always emerge, and there will always be a need for these gaps to be serviced. To wholesale abandon the non-profit sector and chase after the shiny bubble of social enterprise is as foolish as it is dangerous. The combined intellectual and social capital (not to mention the billions of dollars laying dormant in trusts, funds and foundations) bound up in the third sector is beyond comprehension and much of it could be put to much, much better use.
We are the bastard children of a loveless and soul-destroying menage a trois between governments, corporations and the non-profit sector
Around the world, folks working for change are bound together by the collective belief that humanity is intelligent enough, compassionate enough and pragmatic enough to recognise that our current way of living is patently unsustainable. Yet we’ve allowed pointless distinctions – largely around legal structure – to stand in the way of reaching dynamic alignment so that we can take well-considered and effective collective action.
‘Don’t make perfect the enemy of good’ was something we repeated to ourselves over and over again while developing w1sd0m. We need to ask ourselves better quality questions and recognise that evolution is a messy business. Around the world there are millions of organisations and hundreds of millions of people working toward making the world better, yet the linkages between them are frequently invisible because of semantic and legal distinctions that do more harm than good.
‘Keeping the bastards honest’ is something you’ll have heard more than once if you’ve spent any amount of time within or around organisations advocating and working for change. Yet there’s a peculiar cultural blindness that arises within any community that views itself as superior (in any way) to the rest. We know all too well the many failings of governments and corporations – mostly through the exposure, criticism and advocacy of those organisations self-appointed to the resolution of these failings.
Organisations focused on ‘doing good’ need to recognise that not only are they not without fault, but their seeming belief in ethical superiority, suspicion of business and government and overall sense of entitlement hinders rather than enhances their ability to always be making the best decisions.
That doesn’t make these organisations or the people who staff them of any less value or significance. It merely proves out what happens in non-competitive markets. The increasing squeeze on philanthropic and public funds will result, inevitably, in sweeping change. An essential aspect of modernization is finding more intelligent ways to access, aggregate and deploy capital. In private enterprise, you deliver what the market needs or you fail. With the need for financial capital in the non-profit sector eclipsing its availability, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to find a better way.
We have limited resources. We have a lot of things to fix. Rather than clamouring for more, however, let’s start having the conversations we need to have to better utilise the resources we have at our disposal
Let me know how I can help.
While there are many places we could call home, we believe that home is the ground beneath our feet.We are highly flexible in our location, and are generally free to travel to anywhere in the world to support world-changing endeavours. We’re not the ‘we only fly business class’ sort of people, as much as that always sounds like fun. We’re comfortable taking the road less travelled, and view every engagement as an adventure in making friends, working hard and changing lives. We live mobile and digital, so here are all the ways you can most easily reach us:
Ben Love - GrassRoots IT
Janice Sangha Mitra - One World Academy | Jimi Wollumbin - One Health Organisation | Julie Gibson & Helen Travers | HITnet | David Hood | Doing Something Good
Danny Almagor - Small Giants | Tim Rayner - Philosophy for Change
Dirk Sampselle - Benefit Corporation | Ben Burgess - West Australian Youth Music Association | Jack Wilde - Nomad NRG | Rachel Paterson - Paterson PR | Glenda Hamilton - Rescue Foods
Jennifer Lopez - PopTech | Heidi Cuppari - IDE | Thea O'Connor - Nap Now | Katie Jagmin - TBC | Barry Petrovski - TBC
Amy Stallard - SSE Australia | Kathryn Ananda - Source Creative | Tom Dawkins - StartSomeGood.com | Rosie Thomas - Project Rockit | Sean Watson & Kelli Donovan - Pure Pod | Vlad Shchelkunov - YourEcoSteps.com.au | Glistening Deepwater - allisasis.info | Nick Byrne - Bridge Fellows | Pip Devine - TBC | Scott Perlman - TBC | Keira Minter - Five Millennia | Guinevere Rose - Story of Your Life Healing & Massage | Emma Che Martin - TBC | Jean Russell - Thrivable Inc | Adrian Vanisse - ClimateFirst Foundation | Brian E. Kurtz - TBC | Nicole Duryea - TBC | Simone O'Brien - Knit Plastic in Crises | Tania Sernia - Do Good Radio | Mikey Leung - Digital StoryTeller