CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Tom Dawkins, Co-Founder & CEO at StartSomeGood

Tom Dawkins is the Co-Founder & CEO at StartSomeGood, a social enterprise that helps people design, launch and grow social impact projects.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’m the CEO of StartSomeGood, which I co-founded 12 years ago. We’re a social enterprise that helps people design, launch and grow social impact projects.

StartSomeGood provides fundraising and community infrastructure for social entrepreneurs and designs and delivers impact accelerators and capacity-building programs for partners including Optus, ING, the United Nations Development Program and the City of Sydney.

I’m also the Co-Founder of LendForGood, a new blockchain-based crowd-lending platform for growth-ready impact enterprises. 

I’ve always been a starter-upperer. By the time I’d finished university I had founded three non-profit organisations, including Vibewire, which is now 23 years-old.

I led the organisation for its first eight years, during which we launched a film festival, sent youth reports travelling with the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader during a Federal Election and opened the first co-working space in Australia.

After Vibweire I moved to Washington DC  to become the first Digital Communications Director for Ashoka, then to Silicon Valley where I worked at innovation for good lab HopeLab, before founding StartSomeGood.

I’ve also been the Program Director of the Australian Changemakers Festival and was a founding Director of the Social Enterprise Council of NSW and the ACT (SECNA).

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My days are pretty varied. I attend and speak at a lot of events, and host a lot of online events and programs for StartSomeGood – sometimes on the same day. But most typically I stick pretty close to home, working from my home office in Sydney.

StartSomeGood has always been a virtual team, even before COVID. With my co-founder based in the US I have most of my regularly-scheduled calls in the mornings, then I might have anywhere from two to six other partnership-related meetings and calls.

A big part of my job is setting up partnerships with other purpose-driven organisations which support emerging social entrepreneurs, for instance by sponsoring them to access our programs or engaging us to design a program around their area of interest.

If the weather is good I will tend to do a couple of hours worth of these Zooms and phone calls out of the office, working from a nearby park with a great view over the harbour. This mixes things up and creates a great real-world backdrop for my calls. My dog also likes it.

3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

It means having flexibility to put attention where it is most needed, work or family or self. To me, work/life balance is more about the freedom to find your own balance than about any particular distribution of hours. For me this involves working really hard some weeks and taking other weeks slower, or off completely.

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4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I, like many, gained quite a bit of weight during COVID, as I stayed home more and, full disclosure, tended to drink a lot more. So this year I have focused on being healthier.

I’ve been using the app Noom to be more mindful about what I’m consuming, and have a daily habit of doing a short high intensity workout. It’s only ten minutes, but doing it every day really helps! I’ve only missed three days this year. You (almost) always have time for ten minutes.

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

So many!

For podcasts I mostly listen to history or politics podcasts, and some NBA-focused ones. My favourites include Revolutions Podcast (history), Pod Save America, Plain English and Left, Right and Centre (Politics/news), The Lowe Post and Bill Simmons Podcast (NBA) and Seth Godin, Impact Boom and Humans of Purpose for entrepreneurship/inspiration.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, more than 80/year the last few years. They’re my primary form of both learning and relaxation. On the more learning side some books I have loved this year include The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World by Max Fisher, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard H. Thaler, and Lost Connections by Johann Hari.

6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Seth Godin. That man gets a lot of stuff done at a very high level of excellence with enormous generosity and impact.

7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Balance is personal. It’s not about working part-time or ten hours a week. It’s not about passive income or a life of ease. Not necessarily. For purpose-led people the goal is impact and meaning, and the independence to find a balance that works, along the dimensions that mean most to you.

Work/family. Profit/purpose. Impact/energy. I don’t like the phrase work/life because my work is not outside of or balanced against my “life”, it’s a core part of it, and how I pursue meaning and impact in the world. Life is the greater whole – it is the parts within it we must seek to balance in the service of that whole.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.