Our ideas are making a positive impact on society
March 15, 2021
Chelsea Sargeant and Owen Park never expected to be running their own project and getting global funding for it just months into their first year at Accenture. Their simple yet powerful idea to help the Australian Red Cross (ARC) keep its stores operating during COVID-19 is one of four winners in Accenture’s Social Innovation Challenge, proving that great innovations are simple and scalable.
Chelsea and Owen, who joined Accenture in March 2020, have never set foot in an Accenture office.
“Getting a laptop delivered by courier was an interesting way to start a new job,” says Commerce and Information Systems grad Chelsea. “I was very impressed that I quickly felt part of the community. Everyone was so friendly, welcoming and supportive. And I can’t believe the experiences I’ve already had! Being part of the social innovation accelerator was an awesome opportunity to get involved in something super-valuable while building my skills and networks. I’m very impressed and happy with my decision to work at Accenture.”
Owen, who did a double degree in Computer Science and Economics and has worked with non-profits before, was working in The Garden, one of Accenture’s innovation hubs when the Challenge was announced.
“That’s where I met Chelsea,” he remembers. “When we heard about the Challenge, Chelsea said, ‘We’re going to do this!’ I saw it as an opportunity to sink my teeth into something meaningful, develop my skills and get visibility in the business. It’s been very beneficial.”
During the bush-fires and COVID, Accenture did a lot of pro bono work with ARC, from strengthening their cyber security to scaling their contact centre to manage call volumes. COVID-19 restrictions resulted in 180 second-hand stores having to close, reducing income, putting staff out of work and preventing people from accessing the service. What’s worse, the local stores had no way to communicate with their customers. Chelsea and Owen stepped in with their solution in response to the Social Innovation Challenge.
“I was so motivated to get involved. I’ve always been drawn to giving back to the community. I jumped at the chance to help a well-loved Australian charity at a time when it was needed most,” says Chelsea.
The team’s solution was to create the ARC Online Marketplace, using social media to display store products online and open new channels of communication with the customer. “We conducted interviews, research and tested our solution with three stores in Sydney. Now in the second phase of our project, we are rolling out the solution nationally,” explains Owen.
The pair were amazed they were given such a large amount of autonomy. “We didn’t realise how much independence we’d have,” recalls Chelsea. “This experience has given each team member, including Jesse Botella and Rebecca Satkunam, the room to grow their business acumen and really shine in the areas we excel in. We’re all incredibly proud of the impact we’ve made so far. We’ve been able to generate a wave of change that’s benefited both local communities and shoppers.”
Owen agrees, adding: “I’m most proud of where we’ve gotten to. We’re analysts but here we are developing an idea, pitching to the Dragon's Den, actually developing the solution and now progressing to the global stage. It’s incredible. ARC is a global operation, so we could see our idea replicated around the world.”
Chelsea says she loved working with the people at ARC: “It’s been a great joy. We’ve developed strong working relationships and friendships – and learnt SO much! This project has allowed us to develop and refine our project management skills and truly opened our eyes to the vast experience and knowledge in the Accenture network. From a US-based mentor, to connections in Facebook, we’ve had the most extraordinary support to get this project off the ground.”
For Owen, one of the big learnings was the importance of communication. “Communicating fluently and effectively is key to developing trust and building relationships. I also learnt how important ARC is. Like a lot of non-profits it tends to be overlooked until a time of need. I had no idea how much small towns depend on ARC in a crisis. It’s a massive thing to be able to help them.”
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What is the Social Innovation Challenge?
As part of our response to COVID-19, Accenture ANZ launched the Social Innovation Challenge, capitalising on the passion our people have for creating new technology solutions that positively impact society. In collaboration with eight of our non-profit partners the challenge looked for solutions to help with the pandemic recovery: rebuilding livelihoods for disadvantaged or vulnerable people; virtual learning; virtual program delivery; innovative employment pathways and innovative fundraising methods. Eighteen ideas were submitted during the challenge, with six finalists presenting to a Dragon’s Den for pro bono funding to take their projects to the next phase.