3 free and essential apps for not for profits

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Software alone can cost not for profit organisations thousands of dollars a year in license fees and upgrades, but the reality for many small not for profits is that they struggle to purchase the hardware let alone the software to meet their needs. Thankfully the open source software community has reached a level of maturity that most of your organisation’s major needs can be met for free. Here are three essential apps for not for profits:


1. OpenOffice
The OpenOffice suite has been a standard feature of my personal computers for years. This free office suite covers most of the basic functions you’d find in commercial package and is available across PC, Mac and Linux platforms. This is the software that got me through my university studies and can easily handle files from other office suites. If you’re a Microsoft Office devotee you might notice the odd quirk or missing feature, but OpenOffice can handle most of your basic word processing, spreadsheets and standard office suite functions with ease.


2. Gimp
Adobe Photoshop has long been considered the standard for image editing and graphic design, but the costs associated with Adobe products are prohibitive for many not for profits. Gimp is a basic image editing program available for free on PC, Mac and Linux. It’s not as intuitive as Adobe’s programs, but it does the basics well. You might need to experiment for a while to get used to it but once you do it becomes an invaluable image editing and design tool.


3. Audacity
One of the most powerful ways to evaluate projects and capture insights into your work is through capturing regular audio of staff, volunteer and participant reflections. I highly suggest breaking free of the standard paper or online surveys for evaluation and using audio interviews for qualitative feedback. You’ll get much more insightful feedback and can share audio recordings (with permission) with key partners or funding bodies. For that reason Audacity is a great free audio editing tool for any not for profit. Audacity provides another open source and cross platform (PC, Mac and Linux)  option for not for profits without needing to invest in expensive software packages.

As the open source community continues to develop we’re seeing many great options for those who can’t afford commercial options. Having a small (or often non existent) budget doesn’t necessarily mean missing out! I’m excited to see what the open source community comes up with next.


What great, free software have you come across? Let me know in the comments.

Image source

“Always do what you are afraid to do”



This is the poster I have printed above the desk in my office.

In the last few years I’ve developed the belief that unless I’m a little bit scared I’m not pushing myself – I’m not trying hard enough. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is so important. All of my greatest achievements personally and professionally have come after pushing myself through some kind of fear. A little bit of fear is often the first sign you’re really onto something great.

Well done to Gavin Aung Than and his comic series Zen Pencils for capturing this and so many other motivating stories and quotes so well and thank you for helping to motivate me every day.


Managing projects

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I know some very organised people. The kind of people who have written, categorised and filed notes for practically every conversation they’ve ever had, who plan their meals a month in advance or have their tax returns ready to go on July 1 every year.

I am not one of those people.

As much as I would love to have one of those people on every project I work on the reality is if you’re not naturally an “organiser” you have to find a way to be one or the quality of your projects will suffer.

Typically I’ve worked in creative industries or community organisations where creative or empathic types who have wonderful energy and interesting ideas struggle to manage the complexity of the projects they need to run to make to make it happen.

The way that I manage this for myself is excessive calendaring. There’s not an important deadline without 4-5 calendar alarms set to remind me. One of the best things about the digital age is the plethora of ways you can remind yourself of the really important deadlines. You can receive phone, email, desktop notifications for almost everything – the key is to make your calendar inescapable and knowing what will motivate you.

I’m a big fan of using Google Drive and Calendar when managing really complex projects or admin across teams. It’s super easy to share documents to collaboratively edit and to share important calendar items with other people who need to know.

I’ve also used project management software such as Basecamp, but have found significant issues with login fatigue – if you give people another account or pseudo social network to worry about it’s usually one of the first steps to disengaging them. I’ve found some level of success using Facebook groups (engaging people in a platform they actually use on a regular basis) and linking in with people’s existing email accounts for Google Drive features, but I must admit I’m being lured back to some of these options for larger projects.

Even if you don’t consider yourself an “organiser” there are great tools out there to help you be your creative/empathic best, but also to administrate projects well.

What do you use to manage your projects? I’d love to hear your tips and advice.


Picture from https://flic.kr/p/aBXjmx

Escaping the mental rut at work

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Offices are horridly unnatural places. Research has consistently shown the negative impacts they can have on our health, our productivity and our creativity. I’m always conscious of what the office environment can do to myself and my coworkers, but the office is such a standard part of so many workplaces – what can you do to combat the mental rut of the office?

Not everyone has the luxury to do this, but one of my favourite methods to fight this is to go mobile. If I can get out of the office and set up in a nearby cafe for the day I often find I can achieve much more – and boost my productivity much more when I do get back to the office. An occasional change of environment is so important for my sanity, but even if you can’t completely change scenery I’ve also had success changing desks for a day or working from a different room.

Sometimes the smallest change in environment can make the biggest difference to escaping the mental rut. What works for you?


Imaged sourced from Phil Whitehouse.

Video: The business model canvas

Over the last few months I’ve been participating the Social Traders THRIVE program – a support scheme for  established Australian social enterprises who wish to build and improve on their work. It’s been a great opportunity to learn about social enterprise and how not for profit organisations can more sustainably operate and grow. As part of the program we’ve learned many of the tools used by businesses around the world. The Business Model Canvas has been a fantastic way to assess the basics of what it takes to sustainably run a business – this short video explains the basics.

National Youth Awards 2014 – Creating Pathways winner!


A couple of days ago I was lucky to attend the National Youth Awards at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. I was a finalist in the “Creating Pathways” category for my work in community media education with SYN Media, the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia and previously Radio Adelaide.

Much to my surprise – I won! It was a wonderful honour to be presented with the award by Senator The Hon Scott Ryan and to share the night with my partner Kevin and close friend and colleague Tahlia. I had a wonderful time mingling with and meeting amazing young people from all across the country working on a wide range of projects to change our community for the better.

I truly believe that giving young people access to the platforms and the skills to meaningfully participate in the media changes their lives. Giving under represented young people access to media platforms and giving their perspectives the respect they deserve can have lifelong impacts. I believe that community media changes the lives of audiences and participants alike and plays a major role in promoting social cohesion.

In some ways it’s strange to win an award like this, because all of my work isn’t possible without the amazing friends, family colleagues and volunteers who work so hard to make opportunities available to young people in the media. I feel I should mention a few who have helped create pathways for me:

The staff and volunteers at Radio Adelaide gave me amazing opportunities at the age of 17 and gave me my first real media jobs including my first job as a media educator – teaching broadcast skills to volunteers and community groups. Also the Adelaide University Union who entrusted me to revitalised their Student Radio programming and gave me opportunities hosting and organising events all across campus.

The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia gave me a major opportunity as their Youth Representative and eventually a full position on their board of directors. It was with them that I was able to lead The CBloggers Projects – bringing together 20 of the brightest young leaders in community broadcasting from across the country to test their skills at the annual CBAA conference.

The Foundation for Young Australians who took me in as part of their Young Social Pioneers program and showed me just how much I am capable of as a social change maker. The program gave me powerful insights into making change happen and connected me with lifelong friends who will continue to challenge and push me well into the future.

SYN Media where I am currently the Education and Training Manager. Thank you to everyone in this wonderful organisation who has placed their trust in me and given me the opportunity to develop and grow as a leader. I love working there, because I feel our work makes a genuine difference in the lives of young people. The volunteers and staff work so hard to create a meaningful set of platforms and opportunities for young people that is genuinely youth led. I am forever grateful for the opportunities and the faith you have placed in me.

And of course – my family and friends whom I love dearly and who support me every day. I couldn’t do it without your love and support.

I am very lucky to have had the opportunities I’ve had. Thank you to anyone who has helped create a pathway for me. I can only hope to create pathways and opportunities as powerful as the ones I’ve been lucky enough to have. Thank you.


2013: A year of media learning at SYN

Some of the highlights my team has achieved in 2013 at SYN Media. I’m so proud of the work they’ve done.

Media Learning Stories

2013 has been an amazing year for the Media Learning Department at SYN Media. We’ve taught hundreds of keen new SYN volunteers and thousands of participants from schools and community groups. We aim to teach media skills and provide access to media platforms for young people all across the community. Here are some of our 2013 highlights:

Queer Youth on Air

Supported by the HEY grants program SYN launched Queer Youth on Air – a summer training program for young people from LGBTIQ backgrounds.

Schools on Air

With the support of the Victorian Department of Education’s Strategic Partnerships Program and the Community Broadcasting Foundation we had another huge year of our Schools on Air program delivering radio shows, tours and workshops with over 3000+ students. You can hear some of their best work with the Best of Schools on Air podcast. We also won the “Excellence in Training” award…

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5 reasons why radio and education work so well together

I wrote this as part of my work at SYN Media. Some of the reasons why I think radio and education work so well together.

Media Learning Stories

Schools on Air

Schools on Air is SYN Media’s live to air school radio program. It gives students the opportunity to broadcast live across Melbourne (On 90.7FM and Digital Radio) and across the world (At syn.org.au) as part of their classwork. Thousands of students contribute to the program producing over 600+ hours of broadcast content each year.

I’ve been working on the program since 2011 as SYN’s Education and Training Manager and it never ceases to amaze me the impact that the program has on students. Here are some of the reasons why I think radio and education work so well together.

1. It’s real.

Being live on the radio is a real experience. It’s not a simulated or pretend scenario – it’s the real deal. We place a lot of faith in students when we give them access to the airwaves and they return that faith with interesting and diverse content…

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