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Interview from PROJECT ROCKIT

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Interview

Rosie and Lucy Thomas are cofounders of PROJECT ROCKIT: Australia’s youth-driven movement against cyberbullying, hate and prejudice.

Third Sector interviewed Rosie to ask a few questions about her experience with leadership.

TS: What inspired you to become involved in the social enterprise sector and tackle the issue of bullying in school communities?

We launched PROJECT ROCKIT when we were fresh out of high school because we saw the way that bullying was impacting our peers. While school should be a safe an awesome place for all young people, the reality is, for many it is not. We saw first hand how bullying robbed our peers of their opportunities to learn and make friends. Overtime it smothered their development and extinguished their potential. Basically, bullying sucks.

As far as we could see, no one was addressing the problem in a way that was genuinely reaching young people. We felt that someone should really do something about it. Then we realised that we could be those people. At the time, we didn’t realise we were launching a ‘social enterprise’ or a business or even a movement, we just couldn’t stand by and watch any longer. It was time to take a stand. Ten years on and we’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of young Aussies who are leading a movement where kindness and respect thrive over bullying, hate and prejudice and all young people are free to realise their potential.

TS: You are both Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of the organisation, how does this work? Do you have different roles?

As cofounders, co-CEOs and as sisters, Lucy and I are incredibly close! At one stage we even lived together! In the early days, we were both responsible for everything. From presenting the workshops to growing the business, we kind of divided and conquered based on our different strengths. We’re lucky that our strengths and weaknesses have always complimented each other. Working together has made us a strong team. Now we have a team of young, relatable presenters who run the workshops and a team of full time staff who help grow the movement.

As a social enterprise, we’ve divided our roles into Integrity and Innovation. As Chief of Integrity, Lucy ensures that as we grow, we maintain the integrity of our mission. As Chief of Innovation, I am responsible for unlocking new ways we can better achieve our mission.

Over the years, we have often described our partnership as a bit like a slingshot. Lucy is the sturdy hand and I am the elastic band. Without the sturdy hand, the elastic would likely ping PROJECT ROCKIT forward without due planning. This would most likely result in a short-lived impact or even a negative one. The hand allows us to create and plan, which is important. However, equally important is the elastic, which we depend on in driving our organisation forward. Synergy is a totally overused term but I’ve always felt that it perfectly describes the relationship with my sister. Together we are stronger.

TS: Have you found any professional development useful? (E.g. training/mentoring)

In 2012 I joined the School for Social Entrepreneurs and subsequently entered the world of social change making. It was a really incredible experience because for the first time, I met people that understood the ups and downs of building a social enterprise. I also had the opportunity to supplement my business knowledge as well as access a little black book of valuable contacts that have generously offered their time to help us grow. Since entering that world, I’ve taken up plenty of professional development opportunities as well as leveraged some really important mentors. When we started out in 2006 it was pretty lonely. What excites me now is that there is a whole world of support for young people looking to launch a movement or spark social change. Recently I finished up the Young Social Pioneers Program through the Foundation of Young Australians. It’s initiatives like these that are backing young entrepreneurs and equipping them with the skills they need to transform their idea into a viable reality.

TS: What are your top five tips for other young leaders in NFP organisation leadership positions?

  1. Connect with your purpose and let it drive you.
  2. Rally your squad for succes Surround yourself in people who believe in you and can support you purpose. No one in the world is an ace at everything. Build a team around you who compliment your strengths and weaknesses. Together you are stronger.
  3. Get started. Planning is important but without action, you won’t go far. Start small and take regular steps to create change one day at a time.
  4. Ask for Help. We can’t do everything on our own. By saying it out loud, you create opportunities for people to both support you and hold you accountable to your actions. Speaking up makes stuff happen!
  5. Seek alternative routes. There are multiple ways to achieve your goals. This is helpful when facing failure – why beat yourself up when you can find another way forward?

For further information visit: http://projectrockit.com.au

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