Book Reviews: My Year Without Matches, and Steve Jobs

Image from Claire's site

Image of Claire Dunn from her site:

Hello world! After more than a year, I’m writing on this blog again. And what better way to celebrate than by sharing the joy of two books I’ve recently read.

I’ve been sick with the flu this week – too sick to go to the office, to get out of bed, too sick to even eat much. But I can’t sleep all day long, so in the meantime (between intense bouts of coughing fits) I’ve read one of the thick books I’ve had on my shelf a while, Walter Isaacson’s epic biography Steve Jobs. I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about another book I finished a few weeks back: Claire Dunn’s My Year Without Matches. Both are must-reads, for very different reasons.

My Year Without Matches

Claire Dunn’s book charts her year in the bush, surviving by making her own fire, shelter & food – and confronting some demons along the way. Dunn’s descriptions of her physical and psychological challenges are stunningly evocative. Her experience was so unlike anything I can imagine, yet her words are powerful enough to give readers an intimate sense of her experience: the sights, sounds, smells and feelings.

It’s Dunn’s range of emotions, and her honesty about them, that makes this book so intriguing. I often feel that in our urban, relatively easy lives we don’t actually know how we feel at all. That we aren’t even in touch with ourselves enough to know whether we’re drowning, swimming or surfing on happiness, sadness or other more complex emotions.

Continue reading

Posted in art, climate change, social change, transformative activism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Change Management for Campaigners: Six Secrets to Success

The late Ray Anderson, Founder & CEO of one of the world’s largest makers of carpets, Interface, said he used to be a typical industrialist – a ‘plunderer of the Earth’. In 1994 he was asked by a staff member to prepare a presentation on sustainability, and he went away and read Paul Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce as research. He described it as an epiphany, a “spear to the chest” awakening to the urgent need to stop being part of the problem and instead set a new course toward sustainability for Interface.

He enlisted his global team with the challenge of making Interface a “restorative enterprise” – a business that returns more than it takes. Interface decided to take from the earth only what the earth could rapidly renew. Anderson took a risk, but it paid off – Interface is still the world’s largest maker of commercial carpeting, with factories in 34 countries, annual sales well over $1 billion, and rated by Fortune magazine as one of the best 100 US companies to work for. Thirteen years on from the moment Ray decided to fundamentally change his company, Interface has reduced the energy used to manufacture carpet by 43%, reduced its greenhouse gas emissions 44% in absolute terms (94% when factoring in offsets) and grown net sales by 27%.

We can all be Ray Andersons. We can help the organisations we work in and the communities we live in go through change management processes to respond to climate change. But we’re the last generation with the ability – in terms of the timeframe – to do this. So let’s go create and manage some change! In doing so, what lessons can we learn from the corporate change management sector?

Continue reading

Posted in change, learning, listening, social change, theory of change, transformative activism | 1 Comment

Join me in a bigger dream for 2013?


This is the text from an ad placed by Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton one hundred years ago. Rumour has it that Shackleton received 5000 applications.

What is it that drives people to rise to a challenge, even when what’s asked of them is extremely difficult and success is far from guaranteed?

Why would 5,000 people respond to a call for a “hazardous journey, small wages, butter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger” where safe return was “doubtful”?

The answer, I believe, is that the people who responded to the ad are people seeking a bigger purpose. They are looking for a challenge worthy of their short, precious time on this planet. When presented with to an opportunity to be part of making history, it is hard to turn your back.

Continue reading

Posted in change, climate change, greens, learning, life, movements, progressive movement, Senate campaign 2013, social change, theory of change | 1 Comment

How to Chair a Not for Profit Board

Some of AYCC’s first unofficial steering committee aka board, the day before our founding summit in Melbourne 2006.

I’m stepping down from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition’s board in February; it’s time for board renewal! I started writing this guide as a letter to the new Chair (who is still to be confirmed) but in the spirit of open access to information, I’m turning it into a blog post and downloadable guide with a few resources attached. It’s also fulfilling a long-overdue promise made on Facebook at the end of last year to share the notes from a course I did with the Australian Institute of Company Directors on chairing a NFP board.

When I left as AYCC’s National Director and stepped into the role of Chair, I had some idea of what the role would entail because of my law degree. Well. So I thought. I’d studied board mismanagement as part of corporate law – so I knew what constituted negligence and other major mistakes that boards fall into. This didn’t really prepare me, though, for becoming a board Chair. In particular, I hadn’t realised how much work it would be, or how much of an opportunity it would give me to practice leadership skills.

What does a Chair Actually Do?

On a week-by-week basis, chairing AYCC’s board involves checking in with our Co-Directors; following up and doing action items from our last board meeting; and preparing for the next board meeting. AYCC’s board meets every month for two hours, plus has two in-person retreats a year. There are certain times that are incredibly busy for the Chair, like our AGM (every year) and the times we have done National Director recruitment, selection and handover (so far, twice, and both have been extensive processes). We also did a strategic planning process last year that involved the board, staff and volunteers which took a lot of time. In addition, I sometimes attend fundraising meetings, give advice and share stories about AYCC’s history with the senior leadership team. I also mentor a number of young women leaders in AYCC, but this isn’t something related to my role as Chair and will continue after I’ve left the role.

Continue reading

Posted in aycc, learning, listening, movements, social change, youth | 2 Comments

The Tragic Loss of a Beautiful Mind

Aaron (front right) last week, with Simon and some of the best online organisers in the world.

Two years ago, in June 2011, I reached out to my friend Ben Margetts to find out who I should connect with in Boston when I was there for my Churchill fellowship studying social movements. He introduced me to his friend Aaron Swartz and we arranged to meet for a coffee at Cafe Pamplona in Harvard Square.

I still remember the afternoon as vividly as yesterday. It was a hot – really hot – summer’s day. And windy. Tornados were ripping through nearby towns in Massachusetts and New England. My hair was completely messed up from the wind when I finally found the café, after getting lost and asking a bunch of people for directions.

When I got to the café on the corner I saw a shaggy-haired guy on a laptop. He looked up and smiled at me, and I knew it must be Aaron. He had a really sweet smile; so gentle, so cheeky. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Into the Great Unknown…

cute-baby-penguin5“Antarctica left a restless longing in my heart beckoning towards an incomprehensible perfection, forever beyond the reach of mortal man. Its overwhelming beauty touches one so deeply that it is like a wound.” – Edwin Mickleburgh, Beyond the Frozen Sea

In one week, I leave Australia to do something I’ve been waiting my whole life to do: see Antarctica.

A few months ago, I received the best job offer in the world: to be a paid lecturer on a cruise ship taking 100 guests on a two-and a half week boat journey to the sub-Antarctic islands, to Mawson’s hut, and to Commonwealth Bay.
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

“I believe in people power” – Introducing Amelia Telford

I first knew I had to meet Amelia Telford when I walked into a tea shop in the northern rivers of NSW last year during a holiday with my husband. I was soon chatting with the shop owner about the relative merits of various jasmine teas. Soon the conversation turned to the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the youth climate organisation I co-founded five years ago, and the shop owner’s eyes lit up.

“AYCC?!” she exclaimed.

“You must know Millie Telford!” she continued. ‘That girl’s gonna be the first Aboriginal Prime Minister of Australia.’  Continue reading

Posted in aycc, climate change, feminism, life, women, youth | 4 Comments