Recent grads Cyrus Daruwalla and Sam Buchwald had only been at Accenture for five weeks when they found themselves pitching their social innovation idea to 100+ Accenture leaders – and winning funding to develop the project!

Just five weeks after joining Accenture, Sam and Cyrus entered the Social Innovation Challenge. The Challenge asked Accenture teams to come up with solutions to help: rebuild livelihoods for disadvantaged or vulnerable people; support virtual learning or virtual program delivery; and open up innovative employment pathways in response to the impact COVID-19 was having on our non profit partners.

Together with three other analysts, Jessie Dong, Tom O’Sullivan and Shannon Howard, Sam and Cyrus came up with an idea and emerged victorious from the final pitch session in the Dragon’s Den.

“It was both daunting and completely amazing,” says Sam. The Biomedical Engineering and Mechatronics grad had applied for a job at Accenture after meeting some of our engineers at the University of Sydney. “Accenture seemed like a place with a bucketful of opportunities, but I never imagined this!”

Cyrus had spent most of his law degree working in pro bono student consultancy that works with non-profits to improve their social impact. He says the Social Innovation Challenge sounded almost too good to be true: 

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"The idea of helping a charity to survive during COVID-19, pitching the project, getting funding and managing it ourselves… it ticked all the boxes for me."

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The Australian charity Cyrus and Sam’s team helped is The Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN), which connects volunteers from corporate Australia with students in low socio-economic status to address educational disadvantage. When the pandemic hit, ABCN had to rapidly transform to deliver its programs online.

“Our solution aimed to bridge a large gap for students as they transition between high school, university and the world of work, where there can often be lots of confusion.  It gave ABCN a platform to empower students to identify their dream careers by using a personality and behavioural quiz. Rather than pigeon-holing students into specific jobs, the quiz recommends several industries and careers in the future world of work, based on students’ answers,” explains Sam.

When the team won funding from the Challenge, it seemed like the hardest bit was over. But, as Cyrus puts it: “That’s when things became really tricky! None of us had ever been on a project. We dramatically over-estimated how easy it would be! Fortunately for us, Senior Analyst (and Olympic bobsledder), Ashleigh Werner jumped on board full-time and led the first sprint. She was amazing at keeping us organised and focused on the vision. She helped us deliver something really cool in those first two weeks.”

“We also benefited from amazing mentors, like Fjord’s Alvaro Carpio Colon, who taught us about design thinking and rapid prototyping, which drastically changed how we delivered the project.”

Sam says the combo of significant levels of autonomy and significant levels of support allowed the team to rapidly develop their skills. “We learnt how to tell a story – and distil down from a broad vision to a practical solution. Our project delivery skills grew at a million miles an hour! 

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"It was also great to understand how different departments deliver projects, network with different teams and work as one Accenture. My time management and stakeholder management skills also went through the roof."

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I’m currently helping a project manager pull together a consortium of six companies. Every day, I draw on lessons from the Social Innovation Challenge.”

Cyrus and Sam are proud that the fantastic reactions received from the schools and students who the quiz has been tested.  In the pilot test group, 86% of students said they see themselves undertaking further studies and a third didn’t realise they had so many options available to them.

“Based on our initial results, we believe there’s a real opportunity for us to continue building this methodology to impact young people’s lives,” says Cyrus.

The pair want to thank their team and all their mentors. As Sam puts it: “We are so thankful to Accenture for giving us the opportunity to work on such a meaningful project so early in our career. We couldn’t have asked for a better start.”

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 probono funding to take their projects to the next phase.


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Cyrus Daruwalla

Consulting Development Analyst

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