What does it take to be a social entrepreneur?

Earlier this month, three of our initiatives were given the opportunity to share their entrepreneurial journey with students from Ducere Global Business School’s Masters of Business Administration (Innovation and Leadership) program.

Amanda Bartley, PwC’s national Corporate Responsibility director moderated the panel consisting of Michele Miller, founder of Robotics WPS, Nicole Brown, global CEO of Robogals and Justin Matthys, co-founder of Maths Pathway.

The panel discussed their biggest challenges and how being a part of the 21st Century Minds (21CM) Accelerator Program has enabled them to expand their networks and access the expert knowledge and diverse skill sets of their mentor teams.

We captured some of their responses for you to learn more about their experiences:

Why did you apply to be a part of 21st Century Minds?

Nicole Brown (NB): I saw this as a great opportunity to gain more professional knowledge. My team and I recognised we had gaps in our knowledge that we needed to fill. The program has provided us with a platform to develop our own skills and our mentor team has been so helpful, especially in the areas of impact assessment and partnership development

Justin Matthys (JM): To grow our network. All of the initiatives who are part of this program are solving a part of the problem in different ways. And when you’re running a start-up, your job description changes weekly! Having advice from people who are experts is incredibly beneficial. There are so many challenges that others have solved that we can learn from.

Michele Miller (MM): To access a supportive STEM community and gain invaluable advice. As a young business this program has helped me grow my knowledge and has given me the confidence that what I am doing is on the right track.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a social entrepreneur?

MM: Decision making. This is a huge daily challenge – who handles what, what gets prioritised? Each decision has a flow on effect.

JM: Everything is challenging! You’re always moving from one challenge to the next because once you’ve solved it, the next thing you work on becomes your new challenge. A big challenge however is the tension we face between impact and scale. Do we innovate to make things more consistent or do we focus on growing our organisation through marketing? Making decisions that impact our students knowing how how different the reality would be if we weren’t involved is always something we consider.

NB: As a global organisation, working across different time zones is one of our biggest difficulties. Especially when we’re all students! The differing schedules can be challenging. A key part of overcoming this is building an open and honest culture.

“For me, it is so important that my team understand our global goals and feel empowered to make decisions autonomously. This is something we are continuing to build on as we grow as an organisation.” Nicole Brown

How do you capitalise on the national conversation about ideas, science and innovation?

NB: We’ve been invited to parliamentary conversations and roundtables with other professionals within this space. At these events, we are often the only not-for-profit represented, however it is encouraging to be able to influence the national conversation. Being students, I believe we provide a different perspective to many conversations that may not necessarily be considered; therefore the national conversation provides a platform to share our generation’s ideas.

MM: We’re now able to have an impact on a wider audience. My relationship with PwC has helped with this, because now we’re gaining access to collective groups who make decisions, rather than one school at a time.

Our current education system is steeped in tradition. What barriers have you faced in trying to improve it?

JM: It is essential to engage all levels of leadership, all stakeholders – teachers, parents and students when trying to address change. It’s important to show you’re good at what you’re doing and making an impact. We’ve also had to help our stakeholders understand that what we’re offering is something they need instead of want.

“The best approach is to be honest! Let them know the destination is worth getting to.” Justin Matthys

MM: It is crucial to build strong relationships with schools. Simply selling a product is not going to work at all. Don’t underestimate the power of ‘word of mouth’. Be available for your clients – take calls right away and be proactive. Know the market you’re dealing with and the State Departments that manages it, because some departments are more proactive than others. And try to get in front of the right decision makers!

Kirstyn Chan is part of PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program. Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c for updates.

Getting to know our initiatives: Robogals

The 2016 cohort of 21CM initiatives are an exciting and innovative group and we’re certain you’re eager to get to know them. Over the course of the 21CM program we will be running a series of interviews with our initiatives, giving you the chance to get to know some of them in more detail. To kick things off, this month we’re getting to know Robogals.

Robogals is an international, not-for-profit, student-run organisation that aims to increase female participation in Engineering, Science and Technology through fun and educational initiatives aimed at girls in primary and secondary school.

We sat down with its Global CEO Nicole Brown, who has been overseeing the organisation since 2013, to find out how they’re inspiring girls to take on careers in engineering, science and technology.

How do you see Robogals improving the STEM education landscape in Australia?

We recognise that engineering is a key aspect of the development of our nation and that STEM education is a necessary component of this future. Our organisation acts as a catalyst for change, one that encourages students, teachers and parents to recognise the importance of teaching STEM in schools through our workshops, our Robogals Science Challenge and our networking opportunities.

We believe that by inspiring, engaging and empowering our youth, especially our girls, on the powers and opportunities in the STEM fields we can encourage them to make a difference.

What inspires you in your role as CEO for Robogals?

I continue to be inspired by the passion of my team, the members of Robogals and the girls we teach. Knowing that we are working together towards this vision drives you to do the best you can and be the best leader you can be to support this passion. One key thing that keeps me and my team going is the ability to make an impact on a young girl’s experience and perception of engineering.

I’ll give you an example of what we see on the girls’ faces each time we run a workshop:

  • The first thing we see is fear of the unexpected or excitement of something new.
  • Then we see some level of uncertainty on their faces. The majority of the girls who come through our workshops are simply unsure of trying something new because they have not been previously encouraged to explore new things. We work with girls to encourage trial and error as well as the importance of working and learning together.
  • Finally we see them leave with a sense of excitement and empowerment. When they see that there is nothing wrong with trying, they become excited and are willing to push boundaries, to try new things and to think outside of the box.

This change, within the space of an hour, is incredibly powerful. Not only for the students, but for the teachers and the parents. They notice the change and see the potential. This change inspires me; knowing that what we do truly makes a difference.

What has your experience been like as a young female in the STEM industry?

From my own personal experience I have seen a growth in the acceptance of females within the engineering industry. In addition to my role as Robogals CEO, I work at an engineering firm in Melbourne which has allowed me to directly experience what it’s like to work within the STEM industry. I feel quite fortunate to have joined the firm through a program specifically targeted towards encouraging more girls to pursue careers in engineering. A lot has changed since walking through those doors on day one. When I started there weren’t many females within the organisation, yet now there has been further growth and increased importance on diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

I strongly believe that companies need to combine forces and show they value the culture of engineering is changing – not just through marketing but through inclusive strategies and a diverse workplace. This culture change needs to be coming from the companies with the support of not-for-profits such as Robogals, not the other way around.

How has having a 21CM mentor team been of benefit to Robogals?

The support from my mentor team has been invaluable. Tim Williams, our mentor team lead, is an inspiration to me and I truly value his thoughts and strategic mind. Within the first few sessions we have identified weaknesses, selected a focus for the mentorship program, set tasks for us to complete and are beginning to set a plan of action to fulfil these focus areas. The sessions are productive and it is fantastic to have such a great group working with us to advance our organisation and support our mission.

Outside of STEM, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about sport and travel. I am fascinated by different cultures and exploring new cities and countries; I have so far visited over 20 countries and hope to double that in the next 5 to 10 years! I enjoy the AFL, going to the gym and running. I am aiming for 10km in 1.25 hours by the end of the year!

Watch the video below for our two minutes with Nicole:

We hope you enjoyed the first of our ‘Getting to know you’ interviews. To find out more about Nicole and Robogals, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.

Kirstyn Chan works in PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program. Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c for updates.

Mentors matched and ready for action

Last month we shared with our initiatives the mentors teams that we’ve put together to support them for the ride in 2016.  We’ve been overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of our mentors – who are champing at the bit to get into action and find out more about the initiatives they’ll be supporting.

We asked a few of our mentors to share with us a little bit about themselves and what excited them about getting involved with the initiatives. Here’s what they had to say:

Tony Peake, COO & National Public Sector Leader at PwC, Mentor for Empower Education

My “day job” is split 50:50 between heading the Finance and Operations aspects of PwC’s own business, and also leading our team of almost 1,000 people who provide services to all levels of government across Australia. At work, I provide consulting services to the education sector, mainly to universities and education departments. This enables me to be more relevant and add value to my non-work roles, which includes sitting on the board of a few educational organisations.

I’m a huge believer that education is a transformational enabler, both to individuals and the collective society. I’ll bring this attitude and my skills to help Cass and Chris realise the full potential of Empower Education.

Sally Martin, Community Affairs Advisor at BP, Mentor for Code like a Girl

I’m thrilled to be part of the mentor team for Code like a Girl, which encourages girls to follow their passion in coding. I have had many inspirational influences in my life, and as a mentor I look forward to sharing these experiences to Allie’s dreams of inspiring more girls to pursue careers in coding. It’s exciting to know the STEM skills learned now will open up future job opportunities that we could only dream of today.

Georgia Hinton, APAC Regional Marketing Director at GE, Mentor for Maths Pathway

I lead a team of experienced product marketers responsible for driving growth across GE’s imaging business in Asia.  The diversity of cultures across Asia means I am constantly being challenged – I am continuously learning! I am born and bred in Melbourne, but have spent quite a bit of time working across Europe and the USA.

I believe mentoring is critical in the development of our next generation of leaders and am thrilled to be involved in the 21CM program, supporting Richard and Justin as they grow Maths Pathways.

Iain Yuile, Director at PwC, Mentor for Empower Education

I work in the Deals business day to day, generally on large transactions, but my background is in maths and physics. This program has given me the opportunity to use the business skills my career with PwC has taught me, to make a positive contribution to an area I’m really passionate about. STEM subjects require a different way of thinking and I’m really looking forward to helping Empower Education achieve the best possible outcome.

I think the 21CM program is a great initiative by the PwC. I have no doubt that it will be personally rewarding as the project evolves!

Our mentors bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their initiatives and we look forward to catching up with them again as the program progresses.

Kirstyn Chan works in PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program.  Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c.

21C Skills + Passion = Innovation Generation

Digital technology and computer science have changed Australia in many ways in the last decade, and these changes will doubtless continue into the future.

But as these technologies become more and more integrated into our lives, we must ask ourselves: do we wish to be a nation of creators of technology— or just consumers?

We’re already among the world’s heaviest users of tablet devices and smartphones—but knowing how to play games on a tablet is not the same thing as knowing how to create them. One costs money; one generates money. Shifting our focus as a nation from the consumption of technology, to the creation of technology, will help us compete in an increasingly global and connected world.

The opportunities for our children are enormous. The young people who grow up with Australia’s new Digital Technologies curriculum—our first ‘innovation generation’—will have the some of the world’s most sought-after and highly-valued skills. Globally, the demand for computer science and computational thinking skills only continues to accelerate. The technology sector worldwide holds huge potential for the creation of high-value jobs and wealth; the tech startup sector alone in Australia has the capacity to contribute $109 billion directly to GDP and create 540,000 new jobs by 2033. A highly-skilled workforce is the key to unlocking this value.

In Google’s experience, an introduction to computational thinking in early years provides the strongest possible pathway for students to engage with and excel in computer science, and benefit from the careers it enables. Yet today, Australian students with tertiary Computer Science skills are falling in number and make up just two percent of the total of domestic graduates.

So how do we encourage more students to study Computer Science? Honestly, changing the name might help, since the name “Computer Science” sounds a bit intimidating, doesn’t it? Certainly there is a scientific/mathematical basis to CS, but the CS practitioner mostly relies on Computational Thinking (CT) skills. CT includes pattern recognition, pattern abstraction (generalization), modeling, design, and programming (coding). Naturally, these are skills that are needed to create software, through the process of software engineering. What is not as well appreciated is that CT is applicable to more than just software engineering; it is increasingly a critical skill for understanding and using the computing technology that underpins much of our modern society.

CS has been cosying up to the sciences for a long time, where the term computational science is well known. CS + physics = computational physics, CS + chemistry = computational chemistry, CS + biology = bioinformatics, etc. Scientists have merely understood for some time, what everyone else now realizes, and that is that CS combined with another discipline, brings with it new insights and new ways of approaching things. We call this “CS + X”, where “X” can be virtually anything. For example, CS + retail = online shopping, CS + finance = “fin tech” (think online banking, personal finance management, etc.), CS + music = products like “Pandora”, CS + health = fitness products like “Fit Bit”, etc. The opportunities are endless. There’s even an Aussie startup called myEvidence combining CS + crime fighting.

And therein lies the answer to my earlier question.

Students will be a whole lot more excited about studying Computer Science if they can combine it with their passion, their “X.”

Universities around the world are starting to recognize this by introducing CS + X programs, where X can be any subject area, not just a science. We need flexible university degrees like this in Australia too. Then we just need to ask students the question, “what’s your “X”?

When we can equip students with 21st century skills and help them combine these with their passions we’ll be taking a giant step towards creating the next innovation generation.

For more information on computational thinking and other resources, check out google.com.au/startwithcode.

With thanks to our contributing author – Alan Noble, Engineering Director, Google Australia and New Zealand. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter.

This post has been created with permission of Google Australia and is based on articles originally posted on the Google Australia Blog.

21st Century Minds has lift off

PwC’s 21st Century Minds (21CM) Accelerator Program, has hit the ground running and is well into its journey for the year.

On March 1 and 2 our 20 initiatives, industry collaborators and accelerator providers came together in Sydney, giving our community the opportunity to connect for the first time. It was inspiring to hear why our initiatives are passionate about their projects and to see the 21CM community get behind each one, offering advice and support.

To get things started and everyone on the same page, we determined three principles to guide the way we would work together as a community over the year:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Measuring impact
  3. Passion

Our initiatives then had the opportunity to showcase their work during a networking session prior to the Creating Australia’s Future Innovators event with Tony Wagner, Expert-in-Residence at Harvard University. Event attendees had the opportunity to see first hand what each initiative is working on, from the latest robotics equipment to witnessing clever and engaging science experiments.

Over the two days our initiatives were put through highly interactive sessions with industry and education experts, challenging them to think about their purpose and mission. It was a delight to see everyone embrace the spirit of collaboration.

“A great thing we’re getting out of 21st Century Minds is the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded people, and seeing how they’re doing things. We learn by watching what other people do.” Peter Pentland, STELR

All of our initiatives have now been matched to their mentor teams, consisting of dedicated individuals from PwC and our industry and education collaborators. It’s been terrific to see such passionate interest from our collaborators to get involved with the program.

Check out the video below for the highlights of the two day event.

Kirstyn Chan works in PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program.  Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c.

Creating Australia’s Future Innovators

Last week we hosted our Creating Australia’s Future Innovators events featuring keynote speaker Dr Tony Wagner, Expert-in-Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, who was in Australia exclusively for PwC.

PwC’s education leader, Tony Peake hosted over 600 guests at our two events across Melbourne and Sydney. The keynote address from Tony Wagner highlighted key elements needed to create innovators of the future, which was followed by a panel discussion with Jan Owen (CEO Foundation for Young Australians), Sally-Ann Williams (Engineering Community & Outreach Program Manager, Google Australia), Stacey Quince (Principal & NSW Dept of Education) and Taj Pabari (young entrepreneur) who together with Tony, discussed the STEM landscape in Australia.

The conversation was inspiring and practical and centred around what business and educators can do to help create young Australians equipped with skills for the 21st Century. The discussion went well beyond the room through great Twitter conversation via #PwCInnovation which was trending on the night!  

If you missed out, don’t worry! Check out the videos below for either the full event or key highlights. You can also view the artistic output from our fabulous scribe who joined us on the night.

Full event

Key highlights

Artistic output

Creating Australia’s Future Innovators - Panel discussion

Creating Australia’s Future Innovators


Kirstyn Chan works in PwC Australia’s Corporate Responsibility team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program.

The skills you need to navigate the 21st Century

In the lead up to our Creating Australia’s Future Innovators events, we asked our keynote speaker, Harvard Innovation Lab’s Tony Wagner, for his view on some of the most important skills for the 21st Century.

In the lead up to our Creating Australia’s Future Innovators events, we asked our keynote speaker,  Harvard Innovation Lab’s Tony Wagner, for his view on some of the most important skills for the 21st Century.   Continue reading “The skills you need to navigate the 21st Century”

Initiatives gearing up for take off

On the 1st and 2nd of March our 20 initiatives, as well as our accelerator partners and industry collaborators, will be getting together for the first time in Sydney.  In the lead up we asked a few of our initiatives to share a bit about themselves and how they’re feeling about the year ahead.

What three words describe you best?

Optimist, Novocastrian, ESTJMarko Njavro, Apptedude

Learner, Ambitious, DedicatedBec Spink, code the future

“Committed, Open, PragmaticAmanda Caldwell, National Youth Science Forum

“Never gives up” Christian Williams, Make Maths Awesome

“Spirited, Resilient, Determined” Michele Miller, RoboticsWPS

What drives you to do what you do?

Penance for my previous life as a banker 🙂  But seriously, the desire to contribute to creating a true “level playing field” (with respect to disadvantaged socio-economic groups and gender) and to play a role in removing some of the obstacles to upward social mobility.” Marko Njavro, Apptedude

I’m an educator first and always. I live and breath education. I am always learning and am driven to help others (both children and adults) at every stage of their own learning. Every decision I make as part of our team is made with one foot in a classroom.” Bec Spink, code the future

Desire to make a difference, build something that has impact and value from Adelaide. Show the world the quality of Australian education!Jon Soong, Makers Empire

“I’m was lucky enough to live my childhood dream and it was an awesome feeling. I want as many kids as possible to have that same opportunity.” Christian Williams, Make Maths Awesome

There is a lot of pressure on young people to decide on their futures early, but the future is what we make of today. I want young people to be aware that there are career choices and options today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and being well informed about those choices is what will empower them.” Amanda Caldwell, National Youth Science Forum

“Witnessing the growth in confidence, engagement and pure delight in discovery learning which our students display, along with the continued positive support and feedback I receive from our client principals and teachers about our programs.” Michele Miller, RoboticsWPS

What excites you most about being part of the program?

Access to some of the brightest minds and influencers in Australian Education with the backing of one of the world’s leading consultancies. There is still so much left to learn and test and 21CM has enabled us to step out of our small, Sydney based network and has opened up a world of possibilities with respect to trusted advice, mentoring and networking.” Marko Njavro, Apptedude

Connecting with other like-minded people and changing preconceived ideas about coding education in Australian schools.” Bec Spink, code the future

Ability to connect with experts in the education field and meet people who have done this before!” Jon Soong, Makers Empire

The opportunity to increase the NYSF’s network of like-minded people from like-minded organisations, with guidance from people experienced in strategic planning.” Amanda Caldwell, National Youth Science Forum

“To be able to connect with like minded businesses with the same desire to facilitate change in school education programs through STEM, which have an amazing impact on student learning and outcomes.” Michele Miller, RoboticsWPS

“Having the opportunity to change the way we teach in Australia and make our education system the best in the world!” Christian Williams, Make Maths Awesome

Strap on your seatbelts 21CM, we’re getting ready for take off!

Little Scientists kick off the year with a bang

Well what a way to start the year!  In case you missed it, Little Scientists have kicked off the year with a bang with the announcement of $4m funding from the Federal Government.

We’re looking forward to catching up with them at the first 21CM community gathering in Sydney at the beginning of March and hearing all about their plans for the year ahead.

Find out more about Little Scientists in their bio on the Initiatives page.

Congratulations from all of us here in the 21CM community!


21st Century Mind Accelerator Program initiatives

From all of us here in the 21st Century Minds Community – a big congratulations to the 20 successful initiatives joining PwC’s 21st Century Minds Accelerator Program, announced today in the Australian Financial Review!

Business backs education entrepreneurs to boost maths and science


With over 120 applications for the program, the initiatives selected made it through a rigorous assessment process to join the program.  Besides each of the initiatives being assessed as having great potential to increase our pipeline of innovators and problem solvers, the selection process was also designed to identify a diversity of initiatives, including those:

  • focused on engaging under-represented groups in the STEM disciplines, in particular females, Indigenous Australians and those from low socio-economic backgrounds,
  • being led by young social entrepreneurs,
  • targeting students at various stages of the education pipeline, from early childhood through to university, and
  • from across Australia.

Head to the initiatives page to see who made the cut and find out a little more about them.

And if you’d like to find out how you can get involved to support them, please feel free to contact us.