Tom Allen

One of the very first people I called when I Social Venturers started to take shape was Tom. We had originally met in 2016 when I interviewed him during the first phase of Social Venturers in Brisbane. At the time, Tom was focused on creating the right mindsets to tackle big problems and was bringing design thinking and social innovation to classrooms, organisations and boardrooms with his company Seven Positive.

Since then, I have cheered from afar as Tom launched Impact Boom, a platform for ideas, programs and initiatives around creating social change (including a blog, podcast, events and and and…!), and Elevate+, Impact Boom’s accelerator for social enterprises in Australia. He still runs school programs and lectures at Queensland University of Technology.

On top of being a busy founder and advocate for social enterprise, Tom wears the hats of husband, father to two, Fellow at the Yunus Center at Griffith University and Board Member at the Queensland Social Enterprise Council and Social Enterprise Network Logan – all of which makes for a dynamic and ever shifting balance in creating impact and leading a family life.

A day in the life…

“On a typical day, I get up early and start the day with my girls. I am off to my first meeting by eight and spend my days traveling and working around the city. No one day is the same. Typically, I try to be home by six. When Elevate+ is on or I’m running, attending or speaking at events, it’s closer to nine or nine-thirty. Once a week, I get up before everyone else and go rock-climbing with a colleague.”

Less talk, more execution

What I have always admired about Tom is his approach to tackling big ideas. He has a firm handle on progress and knows how to make big things happen.

We’re not going to change the world overnight. I like to ask myself, and the team, how we can start flapping the smaller wings to start doing something. To me, it’s all about taking small steps to the bigger goal while managing priorities around family.

As a mover and shaker in the Australian social enterprise scene, Tom knows and values what makes a strong and ethical leader in the sector: 

  1. “You have to have integrity and authenticity. The best leaders are present, passionate, persistent, professional and get things done. 
  2. Set audacious goals that inspire others to follow, and be able to execute on them.
  3. People management skills. A great leader knows how to turn up, and be present when they do.

I try to keep this in mind when working with a variety of teams; I want to keep them inspired and on top of their game. Being a Fellow at the Yunus Centre has been a truly valuable experience in that regard. I have received so much support through the community and mentors that have magically come together over the last year or so. Alex Hannant, in particular, has been there to bounce ideas off and keep me motivated. Belinda Morrissey of the English Family Foundation has also been an absolute delight to work with, as has Emma-Kate Rose of Food Connect, Tony Sharp of Substation33 and Luke Terry of White Box Enterprises, amongst many other valued colleagues nationally.”

What do you want to improve on?

“I feel I constantly overcommit myself. This year, I have practiced saying NO more often. It’s mostly about time and contributing to the areas where you can deliver most impact. I’m constantly trying to learn more. I would love more time to tap into some of the broader Fellowship opportunities and learn more. Most of all, I want to deepen relationships.”

I’m yet to find the right work/family balance so that’s a constant work in progress.

What does the future of social enterprise in Australia hold?

“By 2021, I hope we will have implemented a national strategy for social enterprise with local, state and federal government on board. It’s a really exciting time for social enterprise in Australia. I’ve been leading the bid to bring the Social Enterprise World Forum to Australia with a fantastic team from across Australia. We hope to get that across the line and use it as a strong catalyst for sector development and most importantly, as a tool to tackle some of our deep rooted social and environmental issues.”

Tom Allen

Brisbane, Australia

Design thinker, founder and lecturer.
Yunus Fellow. Motorcyclist, rock-climber and father.