Roundup: How To Have Social Impact

Last night The Generator was lucky enough to host three incredible change makers to talk about ‘How To Have Social Impact’.

With The Generator Co-Working space packed to the rafters with people driven to change the world, the energy was truly electric.

Throughout the night, the three panelists bounced off each other’s passion, displaying their different pathways to social impact and their clearly aligned values.

The panel consisted of Rebecca Smith - Head of Marketing at Thankyou, Simone Pianko - Founder of BorrowCup, and Darren Rajit - Founder Monash Young MedTech Innovators.

With the purpose of the event focused on giving the audience a clearer idea of how they can make their own positive mark in the world, the conversation quickly took an unexpected but enlightening turn.

When asking the panelists “what do you define as social impact”, Simone stated;

“Even though BorrowCup is about environmental impact, it’s not possible to achieve this impact without social and behavioural change. Which is shows how you can’t separate the environmental, social and political aspects of impact.”

Having set the tone for the evening, the remainder of the night touched on some of the bigger questions around having real impact in the world.

The event wrapped up with a sea of chatter as the crowd networked over a slice or two of delicious pizza. Leaving the crowd with a full belly and a full mind.

If you didn’t make it down last night, we highly recommend that you WATCH THE LIVE RECORDING, and read the key takeaways below 👇.

For now, here’s a brief summary of the key takeaways from the evening;
(nb. for the purpose of these tips, social impact = holistic positive impact)


One of the common things that stop most people starting what they care about is overthinking.

The reality is, you never ‘figure it out’. It’s a lifelong process that requires a lot of trial and error.

So the best things to do is to just start testing things and see what happens.

A few tips from the panelist on where to start:

  • “Start with what’s in front of you. If you’re a student, ask your lecturers what research they’re doing. Because you might find they’re working on something you care about. So why not just become their research assistant?” - suggested Simone.
  • “Most things start with a Google search” - stated Rebecca

So how about you just pause for a second, and have a good think of where in your life you could start making a positive change?

It could even be as small as picking up three pieces of rubbish off the ground every day…


For us to become real change makers in the world, we need to stop thinking about discrete ways of having an impact and start shifting our mindset.

We could ask ourselves - “How can I positively impact the world through everything that I do in my life?”

Adopting an impact mindset will also help to shift us from short term, to long term thinking.

Because building a not-for-profit or social enterprise aren’t the only ways we can make a positive change in the world.

Here are a few examples of less obvious places to have impact;

  • You can have a positive impact on your peers.
  • You can have a positive impact on your family.
  • You can have a positive impact in your community.
  • You can have a positive impact on strangers.
  • You can even have a positive impact through a large corporate organisation...

So get creative and start thinking more broadly about where you can have impact.


You know the age old (and super common) story of - person goes to uni, gets a corporate job, becomes traditionally ‘successful’, has a breakdown and questions what they’ve done with their lives?

Because even if we don’t realise it, traditional success often isn’t enough to make us feel fulfilled.

Most people need to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Having a real impact in the world is one of the most accessible and sustainable ways of living a fulfilling life.


One of the points Rebecca discussed last night was;

“The more we can get socially minded people working in the L'Oréals of the world, the more we can influence huge change.”

Because large organisations like L'Oréal have massive reach and can touch millions of lives. So imagine if you could put an impact spin on just one of their global campaigns… The impact would be massive.

If you’re sceptical about this, we get it.

But luckily Rebecca has a long career of doing just this, and gave us some great pointers on how to positively influence large companies:

1. Put yourself in the company’s shoes, and understand their objectives and priorities.
2. Find out a way that the business can achieve these objectives and priorities using means that achieve real impact.
3. Put together a business case outlining all of these benefits and tie them directly back to the company objectives.
4. Pitch it to the decision makers in the company.

And always remember;

“Most people aren’t evil, they just have other sh*t they care about.” - Darren


Having real world impact requires systemic change. And like most systems, they’re complex and multifaceted.

Which means that to have real world impact, we need to start taking a holistic approach to impact which considers all contributing aspects. Let’s use BorrowCup as an example of this.

In Simone’s case, impact for BorrowCup may be defined as environmental, but actually requires social and political change to achieve the environmental impact.

Let’s break this down...

1. Goal: Environment change = eliminating disposable coffee cups from campus
2. Political change = changing university policies to enforce the elimination of disposable coffee cups in all cafes on campus.
3. Social change = getting the customers and cafes to stop using disposable cups and understand the processes of BorrowCup requires social re-education which eventually leads to the behaviour change.

So does systemic change always = environmental + social + political change?

Unfortunately things aren’t that simple, and this formula doesn’t apply to every example. Which means we need a new way of talking about impact and change in the world.

Darren explained - “We need a new definition that encapsulates all aspects of the system around impact.”

This is where we need your help!

If you have any thoughts around this topic, we want to hear from you. Tell us what you thinking in our new Socially Minded Startup Facebook group HERE.


If you feel like you’re the only person in your life that wants to positively change the world, it means you’re not surrounding yourself with the right people.

The best way to get started is to find a community of like-minded change makers. To do this, it can be a little uncomfortable, but it’s so worth it.

If you’re looking for communities of socially minded people at Monash, here are a few great places to start:

If you’ve got an impact focused idea or a startup and want help taking it to the next level, The Generator can help. Check out our free programs to support his journey HERE.