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Solar-powered mobile laundry service shines as an innovator

Orange Sky likes to say that innovation is part of their DNA. This social enterprise was created to help people doing it tough and, among other things, it provides a regular laundry service to communities in remote parts of Australia, including Palm Island, Cairns, Maningrida, Wadeye, Brisbane and the Kimberly Region.

 Waru Dryer

The Waru Dryer incorporates solar-powered batteries and a diesel-powered air heater. 

The Waru Dryer is a mobile service that works like a normal tumble dryer from Orange Sky’s vehicles, but employs a new energy-efficient system that incorporates solar-powered batteries and a diesel-powered air heater. It’s far more efficient — and reliable — than its energy-greedy predecessor. The Waru Dryer has cut energy consumption by 80 per cent and dried over 19,000 loads of laundry. Pertinently, Waru means fire in Pitjantjatjara language.

  • Winner of the best innovation in the government, education and not-for-profit category.

Two Good Co

Innovation: Marine plastic soap dispensers

Staff: 20-99

Two Good Co was looking for new income streams to help fund its work helping women, including victims of domestic violence, gain new work and employability skills. The idea was to work with industrial designers to craft and manufacture soap dispensers for office buildings made from plastic waste pulled from the ocean, known as ‘ghost gear’, which is discarded fishing nets and lines.

Ghost gear or discarded fishing gear turned into usable material.

Ghost gear or discarded fishing gear turned into usable material. 

The waste, which is extremely harmful to marine life, is collected and compounded down into pellets then melted and poured into moulds to create the dispensers. Two Good also create the soap to put in the 3100 dispensers in 25 buildings so far.

Smith Family

Innovation: Education Dashboard SA

Staff: 500+

A dashboard developed by the Smith Family and South Australian Education Department is providing the charity’s frontline workers with real-time information on the educational progress, attendance and achievement of students who are involved in the Learning for Life scholarship program.

As volumes of research have proven, educational attainment is an important predictor of a person’s future employment, income, health and welfare prospects. The education dashboard helps identify students when they are struggling with their school work and most in need of support with interventions able to be put in place as the issues are happening, instead of months after the event. Around 4000 Learning for Life students from 225 schools are involved in the program.

Torrens University Australia

Innovation: Virtual and Extended Reality Innovations

Staff: 500+

There is only one thing that comes close to hands-on practice and that’s virtual learning by doing. Torrens University Australia have created Virtual and Extended Reality Innovations, which places students in 360-degree and 3D environments, whether they are a fashion design studio or a hotel. Students at Torrens University offshoots, such as the Billy Blue College of Design and Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, can explore and experience spaces — maybe a fashion design studio or a hotel reception — as though it were a real work space. The pedagogical innovation was obviously a boon during COVID-19 lockdowns.

But the immersive learning experience has benefits in the non-pandemic times, allowing students to build work-ready skills, build empathy, teamwork and communication skills, as well as technical expertise in a safe environment.

AgriFutures Australia

Innovation: growAG

Staff: 20-99

growAG is an online marketplace that functions as a global gateway to Australia’s agrifood innovation ecosystem.

It connects world-class agricultural research, technologies and commercialisation opportunities, allowing investors, corporates, startups, researchers, industry, government and universities from around the world to deliver innovation back to the farm and the food supply chain.

The innovations featured on the site include Eco Caviar, the world’s first sustainable nature-identical Beluga caviar; Yarta Block, an online marketplace which allows anonymous trader-to-trader negotiation of commodities; and WaterCan Profit, a calculator that helps irrigated grain- growers apply the most economic amount of irrigation to current crops.

batyr Australia

Innovation: OurHerd

Staff: 20-99

OurHerd is a story-telling app that gives young people the space for their voices to be heard, for them to listen and learn from each other’s mental health journeys.

It puts young people at the heart of the journey by using technologies such as sentiment analysis, AI and machine learning to draw data-based insights from the lived experience of others. As mental health literacy scores increase — that is, as young people gain the knowledge, and skills to understand mental health — there would be fewer barriers for them to seek help.

batyr says OurHerd acts something like a digital megaphone for young people to help enlighten governments, policymakers, service providers and institutions on mental health outcomes and approaches that are directly informed by the experiences of young people themselves.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Innovation: Path2Help

Staff: 100-499

Path2Help is an online tool that helps people find their way through the maze of alcohol and drug services to locate the regimen that is most suitable for their circumstances, whether it is for themselves or for a family, friend or colleague.

Research has found that 70 per cent of people find it difficult to get appropriate help simply because they don’t know where to look, what questions to ask or because they are overwhelmed by options. The self-guided assessment is linked to a directory of more than 10,000 services as well as information about drug and alcohol use. After people have completed the tool, they receive a personalised risk rating and are then provided with information about services and supports in their local area most suitable for people in their risk category.

World Wildlife Fund

Innovation: Koala Friendly Carbon

Staff: 100-499

WWF’s Koala Friendly Carbon Koala encourages tree planting on private property to help restore thousands of hectares of koala habitat. The program covers the upfront costs for sourcing and planting seedlings, leveraging local nurseries and contractors, and producing ongoing financial benefit from carbon credits. Approved projects result in the planting of mixed-species trees in areas of around 30-200 hectares, delivering co-benefits of increased biodiversity, agricultural production and diversified revenue for land managers. A $2 million pilot program funded by WWF, the NSW government and carbon farming company Climate Friendly aims to double the number of koalas on the east coast by 2050.

Save the Children Australia

Innovation: Impact Investment Fund

Staff: 500+

Save the Children’s Impact Investment Fund invests in startups and social enterprises that are working to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families. Save the Children provide loans or equity investments of between $100,000 and $1 million and then provide additional support to help those startups grow and achieve greater social impact. Successful programs to date include Oho, a technology that screens employees and volunteers, so organisations can be certain that people working with children are properly accredited.

Red Education

Innovation: Virtual Labs

Staff: 20-99

The Sydney-born, now-global provider of online training to the IT sector, Red Education has a specific focus on cybersecurity. Its Virtual Labs simulate real-world software settings so students can apply the skills they have learned by the end of their training course in a safe and life-like environment. The labs reinforce learning, test workflows, and improve resilience to cyberattacks safely before implementation in their workplaces. There are labs for F5 Networks, Palo Alto, Check Points, Paessler, Nutanix, and Custom Lab.

Two Good Co’s down and dirty on the value of soap

It was never in the stars that Rob Caslick would become a soap dispenser supplier to major property investment firms. But like so many other aspects of his unscripted trajectory from engineer to social entrepreneur, happenstance had a big role to play.

From the first step in 2015 when he wheeled a barbeque onto a street in Sydney’s Kings Cross to feed some locals who were down on their luck, Caslick has pushed the boundaries of how to run a social change organisation.

A dispenser made from discarded fishing gear. 

Those humble beginnings extended to creating organic food with recipes created by award-winning chefs, including Greg Doyle, Neil Perry, Kylie Kwong and Matt Moran, that was delivered to women’s shelters to employing those women from the refuges they served to create the meals and a range of other products such as clothing, shampoo, body wash and hand lotion.

Rob Caslick of Two Good explains the philosophy behind the organisation in a promotional video.

Rob Caslick of Two Good explains the philosophy behind the organisation in a promotional video. YouTube

“The whole concept is about employing women in our kitchen and getting them to believe in themselves again. And once that happens, that is when the magic happens,” says Caslick.

Caslick’s underlying philosophy is that no one is unworthy of love and respect. It’s a belief in second chances and “believing in people until they believe in themselves again”.

With a raft of revenue-raising endeavours in play to keep alive the kitchen project, called Yaama Dhiyaan, Caslick struck upon the idea of soap dispensers made from “ghost gear” — or discarded fishing lines and nets that cause havoc to marine life.

“We are a social purpose organisation and we didn’t want to create other problems by producing products with new plastics,” Caslick says.

He pitched the idea to major property investment firm Charter Hall who invested in some of the early design concepts and then pre-purchased dispensers to put in new and refitted office spaces.

“We call it a social enterprise. I haven’t replaced my engineers’ salary but, man, when you see the impact — that’s my million dollars.”

More on the 2022 AFR BOSS Most Innovative Companies


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