Three Minute Squiz With… Poppy Rouse

Poppy Rouse is a strategy and innovation consultant, working with clients to find new and creative ways to grow through challenges. Pretty cool. She’s also a huge advocate for the power of education, through the charity So They Can. Please welcome this go-getter to the Three Minute Squiz.

How and where do you Squiz?
It’s the first thing I read each morning before getting out of bed.

You’re a strategy and innovation consultant. What the what?
I know! So many buzz words! Basically I work with my clients (mostly not for profits and social enterprises) to explore new business models, products or services that will leave a positive impact on their customers, communities and the environment. Usually that means I spend a lot of time asking the right questions, understanding their challenges, shifting mindsets to be open to change and coming up with creative solutions that we can experiment with and learn from.

You’ve worked with many of Australia’s corporates in the social impact space. Are big companies walking the talk on working towards outcomes that benefit all of us?
I’ve definitely seen a shift over the last few years as younger generations are making conscious consumerism the norm and expectations on business are much higher. I think it’s only a matter of time before businesses won’t really have a choice in the matter, but until then there’s a massive opportunity for organisations to embed social impact and sustainability into their business models and leverage that to win in the market.

What does an innovative business look like? And who does it well do you think?
Innovative businesses start with courageous, strategic leaders who are open to trying something different and learning as they go. In fact, the organisations that do it well embrace a culture of reflective learning; they’re open to experimenting because they place the value in the lesson, even if whatever they tried didn’t work. It’s easy to point to start ups and scale ups like Canva or Volt because they can create and embed this culture from the beginning. The larger and older the organisation, the harder it can be to drive change. However, organisations that are open to partnerships where they can leverage different skills, resources and agile ways of working seem to be leading the charge.

How can we all become more innovative in our work and lives?
Get curious, look to understand people’s needs, push through the discomfort of trying something new (the entrepreneurial roller coaster is very real) and have some fun. When it comes to innovation, one of the biggest revelations for me was discovering Mindset theory and how our belief systems affect the way we behave and how open we are to failure and learning. I highly recommend starting with Professor Carol Dweck’s TED talk.

Do you have a go-to piece of advice for someone wanting to future-proof their career?
Never stop learning.

You’re also on the board for a charity called So They Can. Give us the pitch.
So They Can is an international NGO working in Kenya and Tanzania with a vision to change the future for children living in poverty through education. I was approached to join the board earlier this year, which was perfect timing as I had recently returned from a trip to Africa and been shocked by how many children were out of school and missing out on the essential education we believe will break the poverty cycle.

What I love about So They Can is that they partner with the local communities and governments to ensure that their programs are sustainable and last well beyond their time there. We’re able to go into a community and transform it within a 7 year period, empowering them to continue to make progress and lift themselves out of poverty.

You’re originally from the UK. What brought you down under?
A boy (face palm). Cliche I know. Unfortunately he was the wrong boy. Fortunately it brought me to this incredible part of the world and I completely fell in love with life here.

What’s your favourite recipe OR favourite meal at your favourite restaurant?
My favourite restaurant in Sydney is the Farmhouse in Kings Cross. The food is hearty and amazing, the atmosphere is great (one long table for 20 people and you almost always end up making great friends with your neighbours!) and their approach uses local seasonal produce and minimises food waste which is a major bonus for me!

Name four people – living or dead – you would love to have at your next dinner party.
David Attenborough, Professor Mohammed Yunus, Jacinda Ardern, Michelle Obama.

What’s your favourite book?
The Alchemist*. I re-read it every few years and learn something new every time.

All-time favourite TV show?
I don’t really watch TV but I’m a sucker for a David Attenborough doco.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience. Sometimes you just have to be bold and go after what you want.

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story we should know about?
Obviously through my work with So They Can I’ve learned so much about the effects of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities in Africa. We’ve flattened the curve here in Australia but these vulnerable communities desperately need our help. The Malala Fund recently estimated that approximately 10 million more secondary school aged girls won’t return to school post-COVID as these crises typically see increased rates of poverty, child labour, teenage pregnancy and house hold responsibilities. Through COVID-19 we’ve expanded our programs to deliver thousands of at-home education packs to children who don’t have access to computers or internet so that they can keep learning and come back to school, and so much more including distributing masks, and setting up water hygiene stations. It’s been amazing to see the impact of the work in such a short time but we desperately need to raise more funds so that we can continue to work. (If anyone reading this is interested in contributing – please head to our end of financial year campaign to make a tax-deductible donation).

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