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Turning Theory Into Practice: Innovators showcase business solutions to social problems

July 27, 2021

By Noah Grundy

Challenged by the ongoing pandemic, business has proven it’s capable of great change; adapting its operations to service customers in a new world—one which is defined by periods of working from home, social distancing and mask-wearing. And now, the opportunity is for business to harness this adaptability to address some of the most pressing issues of our time. But one question persists amongst the global community: how do organisations turn shared value theory into practice?

Shared value consultants Hugh Foley and Sarah Foxe were joined by a diverse group of practitioners to showcase how they seized opportunities to create socioeconomic solutions at this year’s Shared Value Summit Asia Pacific—broadcast live from Melbourne on 17 June. These practitioners came from six organisations, representing some of the region’s freshest shared value case studies, ranging from banking to recruitment and health.

“Bringing those two things together, the unmet social need and the business opportunity, requires artistry, commitment and ingenuity,” said  Hugh, speaking to an audience of almost 500 corporates, and representatives across government, community organisations, and academia.

In 2011, when professors Mark Kramer and Michael Porter published their seminal article, Creating Shared Value, in the Harvard Business Review, shared value was just a concept. Now it’s a proven business strategy.

Raghav Murarli-Ganesh is the Co-Founder and CEO of CancerAid, a digital health management system improving health outcomes for AIA Australia’s customers and others during cancer treatment. Eligible users receive professional coaching, while the CancerAid app helps them monitor research, track symptoms, and implement behavioural changes.

“As everyone knows, healthcare is a very manual industry… Why can’t we use technology for this important conversation? That’s why we started CancerAid,” said Raghav.

Tim Hunt, Associate and Melbourne Lighting Leader at Arup, presented Safer Lighting, a project to make cities safer and more inclusive. Arup is working in collaboration with XYX Labs at Monash University to analyse data on women’s experiences at hundreds of sites; unsurprisingly, lighting plays a major role.

“Perceptions of safety are anchored in human experiences [so brighter does not equal safer and] quality is more important than quantity,” said Tim. “We’ve come up with a solution called a Lighting Vulnerability Assessment. It takes qualitative and quantitative information, which is cross-referenced with lived experiences; we deploy that information into a site,” he added.

Tracey McMillan, CEO at Forge Legal, is the founder of No Lawyers, an online service that reduces the financial burden of divorce. With no legal fees, the platform makes agreeing to parenting and property arrangements a little easier.

NoLawyers is about “providing people access to affordable legal solutions who, would either not be eligible for Legal Aid funding, or would not have the funds available to engage complete legal representation,” said Tracey.

In the second Showcase session, Christina Yung, Regional Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Financial Vulnerability at HSBC Hong Kong, presented No Fixed Address, a banking solution for those without a fixed home address. No Fixed Address empowers Hong Kong’s homeless to access banking services under the address of a participating NGO.

“How do we tackle the banking requirement of having an address to open an account? We suggested the use of an NGO address. All our NGO partners have embraced that suggestion, [and while] it might not sound all that complicated; trust me, it’s very non-conventional when we talk about banking solutions,” said Christina.

Anna Robson is the Co-Founder and CEO of WaveXD, a social inclusion platform that maps CV data from diverse talent pools to employment opportunities. The idea began when Robson met Nirary Dacho, a Syrian refugee who, despite advanced English and IT experience, could not find employment. With 77 per cent of refugees unemployed during their first year after arrival, Niray is not alone.

Together, they started Refugee Talent, but soon realised they could help many other communities. Their solution, WaveXD, is “a software recruitment platform that takes all the different groups supporting diverse communities and links them with employers. We scrape the whole careers page of an organisation and treat every job as a chance to hire someone from a diverse background. We then map that against the CV data,” said Anna.

Margaret Stuart, Head of Corporate Affairs at Nestlé Oceania, discussed reclaiming soft plastics, a project spanning the entire packaging value chain. Consumers are demanding recycled packaging; “this means the waste in our bins can be turned into something of value that creates an opportunity for most of the organisations in that loop, whether it’s packaging companies, film makers, resin manufacturers, or oil refineries,” said Margaret. “There’s gold in our bins.”

The Shared Value APAC Summit was held on 17 June 2021 in partnership with major sponsor AIA Australia and supporting sponsors IAG, NAB and PwC Australia.

Missed this year’s event? Don’t fret! We’ve launched a first-ever on-demand ticket, to give you access to the Summit’s full program of keynotes, panel discussions and lightbulb presentations for the next three months. Find out more by visiting