with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In this episode of The Inner Chief podcast, I speak to Juliette Wright OAM, Founder and Director of GIVIT and Recovere, on revolutionising misguided charitable giving, having a million conversations, and leaning into anxiety.

Juliette is an Australian social entrepreneur who has devoted herself to alleviating poverty and addressing crises since founding GIVIT in 2009.

What started as a simple desire to donate baby clothes evolved into the creation of a groundbreaking world-first platform that offers efficient and effective disaster relief across Australia.

Under Juliette’s leadership, GIVIT grew into one of the country’s largest and most successful donation platforms, garnering endorsements from government bodies and facilitating over 8.5 million donations and supporting over 4,500 non-profit organisations nationally during crises and disasters.

Juliette's experience in developing innovative IT platforms, navigating stakeholder and government relations and managing rapid growth, positions her uniquely in her current role as CEO of Recovere, a social enterprise that supports international communities to manage donations post-crisis.

Juliette has been recognised with numerous awards, including being named an Australian of the Year Local Hero in 2015 and receiving the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2019.

In this episode we talk about:

✅  The origins of GIVIT, which was born out of addressing the negative side of donations

✅  How she handles the “million conversations” rule of social enterprises and getting past bureaucracy

✅  Why and how she leans into anxiety in order to be happy, and

✅  Her new role with Recovere and solving the biggest headache in disaster events.

Thanks to former guest, Natalie Cook OAM OLY, for introducing me to Juliette.

Connecting with Juliette Wright OAM

You can connect with Juliette via LinkedIn.

Books and resources

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“You are best defined by what you say no to.”

On early career lessons

  • My Uncle Joe sat me down one day and told me what happened after Live Aid. They created billions of dollars with all those incredible artists from all over the world. But he said to me that it only fed Africa for three days! People donated lots of food; he said yes to an incredible pasta donation, but what arrived was millions of boxes of lasagna sheets.
  • So that's when I started to be really interested in giving, and particularly the negative side of good giving.

On the origins of GIVIT

  • I had a really expensive amount of baby clothes that I wanted to give and I decided in my heart that I was going to give it to a charity in the local area. Anyway, back then it was the Yellow Pages and none of the charities really advertised in the Yellow Pages and the ones that did, didn't want any baby clothes. So I asked them what they did need and the answer was always really kooky and surprising. One charity needed sanitary items, but not just one type, they wanted all different ones.
  • That's when I realised that charities don't have a warehouse full of stuff out the back. They're in tight little office spaces and they had no way to get their community to give them their needs. For example, I have a fridge I want to give. How do I give it to someone who really, really needs it? And make sure it's the best practice way of doing it. 
  • It took a long time, and I realised that charities had to be the middleman because of the privacy act. Anyway, I got the GIVIT model together where charities register, get vetted, and then they can request whatever it is they need for their community.

On the bad side of giving

  • You've got the people in a disaster that will just give a whole heap of inappropriate, poor quality stuff because they think the person who's lost everything will take anything.
  • And then you've got the people who are just offloading their rubbish. Someone donated to Fiji after they had a cyclone in 2016 and donated container loads of expired cans of fish. Or after the Nepalese earthquake, someone left nine tons of high heel shoes on the end of the runway and blocked all aid for three days.
  • So you've got well-meaning all the way through to thoughtless.
  • That's when I went, hang on, even well-meaning needed donations can actually do financial harm. And I'm also noticing that when an area has been impacted by donations, if white goods come in there, but there's shops locally to do that, those shops can go broke. They've been financially impacted as well.
  • Donations, even those requested through GIVIT, are actually going to do financial harm to these communities. So why don't we change it to the best practice and buy locally?

On the differences between running GIVIT and Recovere

  • GIVIT was the hardest thing I've ever done. I just think of the 10 years I was CEO, I don't think I slept for seven. I was on a rocket. GIVIT was just growing so fast. I just didn't have any money because it's not a direct service provider. It's kind of like a charity for charities. And there was just no funding body for it.
  • Recovere is a not-for-profit. And basically so far, I'm just doing it with ease. I'm not a hundred percent sure I'll succeed, but I know I've got 10 million conversations in me.
  • You want to enable communities and charities and not-for-profits to request what they want in peacetime because then you've actually got lots of people requesting and then when a disaster comes in, they scale up.
  • It is really designed to support communities to manage the chaos of donations that happens. It is widely known as the biggest headache in a disaster. So a community gets hit by a disaster, the emergency services go into the response phase of making sure that there's clean water, electricity and food and roads.
  • With Recovere, as with GIVIT, community leaders could go, yes, we'll take that, but just register it on Recovere and so all of our community groups and local councils can see what's on offer. And we'll just do it without the chaos of warehousing. 
  • So every single time there is a disaster event, I just improve the models so that I can solve those problems. So I've done maybe 10 design-thinking workshops around those major problems. And then I've done many more ideation workshops to solve those problems.
  • I just want to make sure the right people get the right things in the right way. And I also want to make sure that people like you and me could have an absolutely direct impact on a disaster event that's happening overseas. So, there's a flood in Bangladesh. I don't want you to post your microwave over there. I want you to just spend 50 dollars and buy one locally. You're literally buying one through the marketplace and you're going to receive the details of it being delivered. And it's a donation, which is great, but you're literally buying a microwave locally, which will be in their local language with the local cords on the end of it. So it works in their home and they have the warranty and the local business is doing well now.

On leaning into anxiety

  • Anxiety for me is the biggest sign. I had an organisation that I worked with and every single time I opened up the email, I'd get anxiety. I could not work it out but I eventually realised what the actual issue was. It was with someone in the organisation. They made me feel crazy – lots of gaslighting. 
  • Anyway, they left the organisation and my joy went to 12 out of 10. It was like that anxiety was telling me the whole time. Why didn't I listen?
  • This sounds stupid, but I'm really loving anxiety at the moment because if I sort that out, I'll be even better.

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • When the universe and everyone in it says it's going to fail, don't ever, ever, ever give up if you know it's going to work. I heard a quote the other day: “When it's turbulent and it's horrible, but you're rising, it’s because you're doing something disruptive.”

Deal hope,