December 14, 2017

Summer treats: staff picks 2017

Once again SVA staff offer a plethora of treats for your holiday reflections and inspiration.

Through our year, the SVA team has been inspired and informed by many voices in different media. We hope that this year’s collection of recommendations will rouse, enlighten or simply renew you over the holiday period.

The big questions: justice, democracy & diversity

Kye-WhiteKye White – Marketing Associate, Digital & Content, Melbourne

Is ‘Australia’ morally justifiable? – ABC’s The Minefield discussing Aboriginal sovereignty and Australian nationalism (podcast)

This podcast makes the case that in order to be morally justifiable, ‘Australia’ cannot simply designate a success story, but must name the original sin of this nation and the collective guilt of those who continue to profit from that founding act of dispossession.

Susan Metcalf – COO, Sydney

Justice – What’s the right thing to do? by Michael Sandel (book)

Do you own yourself? That’s a question that may never have occurred to you. Michael Sandel explores this and many other challenging ideas from an ethical reasoning point of view. Not a light read, but thought provoking across a range of well-developed ethical frameworks that draw examples from issues confronting contemporary society.

This book brought me new knowledge and encouraged me to consider questions that had never previously crossed my mind. 

Emily Almond – Paralegal, Sydney

13TH, Netflix (documentary)

An engaging and fast paced documentary, 13th examines how the 13th Amendment in the US Constitution has moved from an instrument which abolished slavery to one that enables mass-incarceration. The documentary focuses on the history of race in the US, starting with the abolition of slavery, segregation and the civil rights movement through to today’s mass incarceration.

It shows a timeline of racial inequality in the US and explained why things are as they are today. Definitely worth a watch.

Sam-Thorp headshotSam Thorp – Associate Consultant, SVA Consulting, Sydney

Is there any point to protesting? by Nathan Heller, The New Yorker (article)

A long-form article about protests, and what makes organised protest successful (or unsuccessful) at actually creating change. It’s impressively detailed, going into the academic perspectives as well as the behind-the-scenes from the civil rights movement.

I’d been rather disillusioned about protesting recently, and this piece helped me realise what it takes for standing in the street to translate into meaningful outcomes.

Letitia Headshot

Letitia Tunmore – Operations Analyst, Impact Investing, Sydney

Democracy and human rights: a tripartite conceptual framework by Carolien van Ham and Louise Chappell, Australian Journal of Human Rights (article)

This article examines the connection between democracy and human rights, developing a framework that outlines democratic accountability mechanisms.

This is particularly interesting as it discusses the situation in Australia. Despite Australia being an established democracy, there are weaknesses in the accountability mechanisms (which the article highlights such as no bill of rights and a concentrated media) that may contribute towards human rights violations such as Indigenous Rights and the treatment of asylum seekers.

Vikki Foord – Executive Assistant, Marketing, Sydney

Women Photograph (website)

Women Photograph is an initiative launched in 2017 to elevate the voices of female visual journalists. The database includes more than 500 independent female documentary photographers based in 87 countries. Daniel Zalcman who launched the website explains why in this article: Female photographers matter now more than ever.

The photographs on this site show the extraordinary breadth and depth of human experience around the world as seen through a woman’s eye.

Hannah Bryant – Associate Consultant, Melbourne

Palm S­­­­unday by Kurt Vonnegut (book)


Palm Sunday is an ‘autobiographical collage’ of Kurt Vonnegut’s colourful life. His hilarious yet dark musings on injustice and the often ridiculous logic of humanity provide rich food for thought, and perhaps most valuably, remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.

It made me laugh, cry, and reminded me of my beloved grandfather, John.

Human behaviour and why we do what we do!

Natasha RalstonNatasha Ralston – Director, People & Culture, Melbourne

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (book)

Every day we experience uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable. Based on 12 years of research, Brene Brown challenges that vulnerability is a weakness and argues that it is our most accurate measure of courage. At the same time she provides a new vision and framework for the way we lead, love, work, parent, and educate; effectively teaching us the power of vulnerability.

I appreciated the understanding that fear of shame and an inability to be vulnerable is holding us back (as colleagues, parents, teachers, etc) and Brown’s robustly researched framework as an opening to discuss sensitive issues. I also loved the frame ‘I am enough’ as we all too often think about the things we haven’t done  vs what we have achieved.

Benedikt Alt – Consultant, Sydney

How to Become Batman – Invisibilia, NPR (podcast)

Can a blind person see? This episode explores how the expectations of society and of people closest to us determine not only who we become but also what we can do. It is a great reminder to never underestimate what each and all of us can do, when given the opportunity.

Not only was I deeply moved by this story, but it also made me think about our society’s and my own expectations towards other people.

Catherine Jones – Executive Assistant, Melbourne

The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg (book)

This book is a fascinating journey into the mind and the science of habit formation and change. A highly entertaining read, Charles Duhigg also provides the reader with a serious look at the human consciousness in all its workings.

He uses engaging case studies, as well as scientific evidence and research to investigate behavioural patterns associated with habits.

Jane WatsonJane Watson – Associate Director, National Venture Philanthropy, Melbourne

Flip the Script – Invisibilia, NPR (podcast)

This podcast explores how quickly we can label someone as a violent criminal and then through all subsequent actions treat this person as we believe them to be. It highlights the power of one person to ‘flip-the-script’ for these people, and how kindness, understanding and love can change behaviours and labels.

I particularly enjoyed some of the examples used in the podcast which include disarming an armed robbery with a glass of wine, one school yard comment creating a terrorist, trust from a policeman rehabilitating a terrorist and a completely new approach to dating!

Fadzai Matambanadzo headshotFadzai Matambanadzo – Associate Director, Venture Philanthropy WA, Perth

Einstein, Darwin and the two-hour genius rule by Zat Rana, World Economic Forum (article)

This article promotes the practice of reflecting thinking and the benefits of applying it to complex challenges and opportunities. It emphasises the importance of making time to think deliberately without distractions.

I like to take time out during walks in nature to deliberately think and to look at things from a different lens. The article is a timely reminder that the holiday season is a great time to reflect more deliberately about the year and road ahead.

Organisations and how to grow and change them

Shona Saxton – Manager Marketing, Sydney

How I Built This with Guy Raz, NPR (podcast)

A podcast about innovators and entrepreneurs (mainly American) telling their stories of ‘how they built’ their enterprise, empire, or a movement.

This podcast is great to get the creative juices flowing and thinking outside the box. All stories show how there are so many different ways to come up with solutions to problems or to see a gap in the market to fill – such as how Instagram, Spanx and TOMS came to be.

Nathan Sowell – Manager, Impact Investing, Melbourne

Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux (book)

Split into three parts, Reinvesting Organizations examines the stages of society over time and the way in which shifts in consciousness often lead to the invention of more productive organisational models. Using real-life examples, it serves as a practical handbook for transforming organisations into thriving, new and improved models.

This is my favourite book and gives me hope for the future of companies.

The journey of humanity: less violence, more inequality

Stuart Lloyd-Hurwitz

Stuart Lloyd-Hurwitz – Executive Director, Consulting, Sydney

The Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker (book)

This book is a comprehensive treatment of the decline of violence throughout human history. There are many interesting digressions, each perhaps worthy of a book, but Pinker manages to bring it all together and keep the book enjoyable.

He provides a helpful counter-balance to the barrage of negative stories in the media about terrible things happening to people world-wide.

Nick Elliott – Director, Consulting, Sydney

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (book)

Bold and far reaching, Sapiens retells the history of our species from a completely fresh perspective, exploring how it has evolved and where it is going. It explains that capitalism is the most successful religion ever invented; that the treatment of animals in modern agriculture is probably the worst crime in history; and that even though we are far more powerful than our ancient ancestors, we aren’t much happier.

A fascinating and thought-provoking read that had me reflecting on how our social, economic and political models evolved to put Sapiens at the centre, based on the belief that ‘Homo Sapiens has a unique and sacred nature that is fundamentally different from the nature of all other beings and phenomena.’ However, a by-product of this system is increasing inequality, which in turn is giving rise to new waves of populism, where ‘we’ seek to address ‘our’ inequality by turning inwards and closing the doors to those who aren’t like us.

Indigenous stories: what’s invisible & a new take on terra nullius

Este Darin-Cooper – Director, Venture Philanthropy, Sydney

Terra Nullius by Clare Coleman, a Noongar woman (book)

The Sydney Review of Books sums it up best: ‘Terra Nullius is terra nullius, but not as we know it. It’s colonisation, this continent, time, place, Country, race – but not quite as we know it. Terra Nullius is a work of speculative fiction…’ The story is familiar for the first part, but then takes a thrilling turn. Winner of the 2016 black&write! writing fellowship.

It’s everything I love about storytelling and an example of its immense power. This novel made me understand the significance of place and culture, and the impact of colonization, in a new way. Can’t say more without ruining it for you!

Susannah Schoeffel headshotSusannah Schoeffel – Senior Project Manager, Bright Spots School Connection, Melbourne

Invisible History – ABC radio Melbourne, Chapters 1-3, July 2016 (podcast + article)

Told by Robert Young, a Gunnai man, Invisible History shares the story of two young Indigenous men and their party as they travel from Tasmania to Victoria in the wake of the Cape Grim massacre.

This podcast gave a great insight into a unique journey. It is a reminder of a series of events that have shaped our city and has given me a greater appreciation for the individual stories that remain, and equally, those stories that we’ve lost.

Annabelle Roxon – Consultant, Melbourne

Teter Mek and the Mystery of Pearl Shell Island by Kevin Lee and Jasmin Herro (children’s book)

This is a fantastic tale for young readers (approx. 8 to 12 years old). Written by Indigenous businesswoman Jasmin Herro and Kevin Lee it tells the story of a young Torres Strait Islander girl who is lost after being swept out to sea.

As I followed the young girl’s adventurous journey to discover where she is from, I couldn’t help but think about my own background. The book is a great way for young readers of all backgrounds to learn about Indigenous culture and also reflect on their own sense of belonging and identity.

Refugees & homeless: through others’ eyes

Rob Koczkar – CEO, Sydney

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fallon (children’s book)

This book follows Subhi, a young refugee born in an Australian permanent detention centre whose imagination stretches bigger than his life behind the fences. Subhi meets Jimmie, a scruffy, impatient girl from the other side of the wires, and as their friendship grows, so does our hope that they might both find a way to freedom.

One of my kids started reading this at school; it’s great to see kids being introduced to these stories.

Hannah Moon Headshot

Hannah Moon – Marketing Assistant, Sydney

The Staging Post by Jolyon Hoff, director & producer (documentary)

This documentary follows two Hazara refugees from Afghanistan, facing an indefinite limbo in Indonesia as they await resettlement in a third country – a process which could take years. Lacking in a sense of place, hope and any form of community, they decided to build a school, which went on to inspire a refugee education revolution.

I was stunned by the strength of perseverance and spirit exhibited by the refugees in this documentary, and their ability to transform both their current situation and their children’s futures, through the powerful force that is education.

Rebecca Thomas – Associate Director, Impact Investing, Sydney

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (book

Exit West is a story of a young couple brought together as they escape from civil war in their home land. The novel is set in an imagined near future: think the Handmaid’s Tale but refugees rather than women. The story details how many ordinary people are forced from their homes into foreign places and the ensuing emotions, pressures, and challenges. It also reflects on how countries deal with mass immigration and the resulting tensions.

A thought provoking novel, especially given the world news right now. For me it really brought home the humanity of the individuals, which often gets lost in the mainstream coverage of refugees and asylum seekers.

Hanna CihalHanna Cihal – Associate Consultant, Sydney

Songs of a War Boy by Deng Thiak Adut co-written with Ben McKelvey (book)

Songs of a War Boy is an autobiography of the inspirational Deng Adut, a former child soldier from South Sudan and current refugee advocate in Western Sydney. Despite being taken from his family at a young age and spending much of his youth surrounded by violence and death, Deng survived to eventually become a successful lawyer and public figure, and was named Australian of the Year in 2016.

Deng’s experience reminds me of the importance of showing compassion and providing opportunities for those entering our country after fleeing terrible situations in their homelands.

David WilliamsDavid Williams – Executive Director, Sydney

Captains of the Sand (Captiães da Areia) by Jorge Amado (book)

Written by one of Brazil’s great authors, this novel tells of a gang of 100 street children aged seven to fifteen. Set at the beginning of last century, they live by begging, gambling and stealing in the streets of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil (my second home). It was a controversial book when published in 1937; 808 copies were burnt in a square in Salvador under the pretext that they were communist propaganda. It touched on taboo topics such as camdomblé (West African animist religion created in Bahia) and shed light on the experiences of homeless children – with a telling that is just as relevant today.

And cooking…

Sofie Desmet  – Associate Director, Marketing, Sydney

Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi (book)

‘… Plenty More opens the window even further onto the ever-expanding world of vegetables, grains and legumes. The focus on cooking methods – grilling, roasting, steaming, braising, mashing, baking and so forth – allows Yotam to share his many and wonderful ways to cook and celebrate his most-loved ingredients.’

My spare time went into cooking vegetarian recipes from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More. It helped me to clear my head at night, discover the joy of vegetarian cooking, make my loved ones happy, and find a work-life balance.