ChangeLabs' Face-To-Face Interventions

ChangeLabs' Face-To-Face Interventions

AustraliaSydney, Australia
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We partner with leading brands to create innovative change programs that transform communities, build brand equity and create sustainable competitive advantage.
We focus on scaling face-to-face programs to reach large numbers of people in environments that can genuinely shift the way they think, act and buy.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

There are many players trying to create positive behavior change across this and other spaces, but their models are flawed. Too many not-for-profits spend most of their time and money (ironically) trying to raise money; too many businesses use their CSR budgets or Foundations in either low-impact or low-leverage ways; too many governments have too much red-tape and bureaucracy to wade through. Finally, there is a lack of rigorous, sensible formative and summative evaluation applied to many programs that operate in the social space. We have built and continue to refine a model for not only theoretically understanding human behavior, but sustainably funding, designing and delivering at large scale impactful programs that change the way people think, act and buy.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solution is to effectively link a compelling social need to a corporate brand platform, thus aligning existing (or creating new) CSR or Foundational funding behind behavior change programs that are built in line with best-practice in driving social impact. All ChangeLabs projects benefit both the brands that support them and the communities which those brands serve. This reverses the typical corporate CSR strategy of ‘pick a charity and write a cheque’, and rather creates a flagship program unequivocally owned by and associated with the brand, which along with the large-scale of the program and proven impact creates a compelling social brand story that can be leveraged as part of their broader company positioning.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our largest and most impactful program to date is the StartSmart program, built in close partnership with our partners at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. This face-to-face money management program, which aims to change the financial habits of a whole generation for the better, reaches over 200,000 people every year. It was recognized with awards for community contribution (2009), innovation (2010) and, for an extension to the program, best new product (2012). In New Zealand, the GetWise program we design and run for ASB Bank has worked directly with over 65% of all New Zealand Students. To a program impactful for all stakeholders, four elements must be brought together (these are the ‘secret sauce’ that no other organization has managed to put together). We refer to them as ‘4M’. Market: understand who you are trying to impact, where to find them and, crucially, how to structure a program that reaches them at high scale. Face-to-face is an expensive medium and so finding high volume-per-facilitator is vital. Message: understand how to build content in such a way that it catalyses positive behavior change in a short time. This is built on a deep understanding of instructional design, education and behavior. Medium: understand how to attract, engage, retain and unleash world-class facilitators who are able to create compelling experiences that shift the way people think, act and buy. Measurement: understanding how to design and rollout both formative and summative program evaluation in a way that produces accurate, meaningful and defensible results.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In our research and experience, there are no organizations currently fusing the four elements of effective face-to-face behavior change experiences in the same way we are. There are some organisations who share similar philosophies, methodologies or functionalities, but rarely more than one of those three. Those with similar philosophies are NFPs or cause marketing companies like GoodCorps, who aim to either create positive change or to help companies associate with issues of social importance. Those with similar methodologies include research universities or educational institutions that study social change or run research programs to assess social impact. Those with similar functionalities include training companies that build and/or deliver workshops on behalf of corporate clients.

Founding Story

ChangeLabs grew out of a frustration with the lack of progress being made on issues of vital social importance; everyone was talking about the problem of financial illiteracy, of obesity, or mental wellness – precious few were designing programs that could make a difference at scale. My own experience as a world top-10 debater, and ChangeLabs CEO Peter Sheahan’s experience as an internationally engaged keynote speaker (and previous experience working with tens of thousands of students around study skills) made us feel that if we could just harness and unleash the amazing power of people to change people then we could make a difference. Thus, the idea to find a way to scale face-to-face interventions that drive behavior change was born.
About You
About You
First Name


Tell us about yourself/your team.

Dominic Thurbon is co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at ChangeLabs, A business leader 'in the trenches', he directs over 70 full-time researchers and facilitators (across three countries) in the design and delivery of multi-award winning behaviour change programs that touch over 500,000 people each year.

He has directed research on international best‐sellers published in more than 15 countries, and is author of white papers on subjects as diverse as talent attraction and the impact of video games on industry and education.

Moreover he is a world top-10 debater and internationally sought-after keynote speaker who regularly consults for top brands, promoting the ethos that it really is possible for brands to do well by doing good.

What makes you an intrapreneur? What are the skills, capabilities, and personality traits that make you an intrapreneur?

Innovation: I drive a strong agenda of innovation, often reconciling complex conflicting opinions. Scope of innovation has included creation of new technology platforms (CRM, social media, apps), new revenue streams (new products/services) and new HR practices (recruitment and training).

Communication: An idea is only as good as your ability to sell it, and both inside and outside the business I have developed a reputation as a recognized thought leader and frequently engaged keynote speaker with a dynamic and provocative style, and the ability to sell my ideas.

Risk taking: Having been with ChangeLabs since its inception, I am accustomed to working in small-business environments where most bold decisions are accompanied with near game-breaking degrees of risk.

About Your Organization
Company Country

, NSW, Sydney

Primary country where this project is creating social impact
Additional countries or regions

New Zealand, United States



The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Scaling (the next step will be growing impact on a regional or even global scale)

The Solution: Why is this solution innovative for your company and industry?

Firstly, the mode of delivery of our programs in an increasingly digital age is face-to-face.

Secondly, ChangeLabs makes the brands that ‘own’ the programs famous, not us. This is the ‘flip’ that turns CSR strategy on its head and how we ensure sustainable funding for programs

Thirdly, our deep research and academic partnerships mean that our programs are built with genuine, academic third-party validation and measurement of impact in mind.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Since inception in 2007, nearly 1 million people have been through ChangeLabs programs (even though those individuals would have no idea who ChangeLabs is, rather associating the programs with our clients). Over 65% of New Zealand students have been through a ChangeLabs program. Over 20,000 teachers have been through ChangeLabs programs – and we’re just getting started.
Our programs have been recognized with multiple awards for innovation, community contribution and best new products.

Whilst we have always surveyed program participants and can show that our programs work, in pursuit of better we have partnered with the Centre for Program Evaluation and Melbourne University, the Australian Council for Education Research and the NZCER to commence more rigorous quantitative and qualitative evaluations of our programs.

We are proud that early topline results indicate a profound impact, and full reports will be released in March 2013.

What is your projected impact over the next 1 to 3 years?

In the next 3 years we will have forged at least 6 new partnerships in America and Europe (where business development is already underway), and be on our way to reaching our 2020 goal of impacting a million people a year.
We will have behavior change programs off the ground in our five identified social areas: financial literacy, cyber bullying, mental wellness, healthy eating and active lifestyles.
We will have shifted the needle in corporate CSR to get out of small-scale, disjointed and ineffective grants and into high-impact, aligned behavior change programs that make a real, measurable difference.
We will have continued to research and publish in the areas of face-to-face experiences, the science of behavior change and social entrepreneurialism in order to move the space forward.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Breaking into global markets and territories where we are an unknown force. We are Overcoming this through hosting events, contributing to global conferences, sharing our insight and research through publications, and making bold and direct approaches to prospective partners.
The double edged sword of being a ‘silent brand’. We overcome this through not seeing it as a barrier but rather a valuable tool. Business, now more than ever, must become the champions of the communities in which they operate.
Convincing prospective partners to walk away from trusted (even if innefective) traditional community activities and invest into a unique model for change. This is overcome through rigorous third party academic evaluations of our programs and sharing our successes through open reporting.

What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?

ChangeLabs has various revenue streams: writing and publications, keynote speaking, teacher training and education. The ‘quest’ part of the business, which is how we refer to large-scale behavior change programs referenced in this application, should be our largest, most profitable and most impactful business unit. Already generating upwards of AUD$6mil in revenue at roughly 20% margin, we feel this foundation is well laid to ensure that these programs are core ChangeLabs business.

How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?

We have a committed global team of over 50 people now dedicated to the sole goal of driving positive behavior change through large scale face-to-face programs.

Significant investments have been made into research and development including the creation of a globally unique tool for evaluating and training facilitation experts and educators

A proprietary collaboration suite called LabLife has been created to facilitate daily communication, sharing of learnings and real time distribution of new content.

We have created advisory networks and panels of subject matter experts in order to stay at the leading edge of research and insight for the problems we are targeting.

Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.

The ChangeLabs model for delivering large scale programs is currently financially self-sustaining and profitable, and we are proud that our aggressive early efforts to secure partners and clients, and our disciplined approach to financial management and investments in the right areas of the business have got us to this point.

Now, the long-term plan is about sustainable growth and ensuring product and service delivery excellence. Our five-year goal is to take revenues from quests to AUD$20mil across 3-5 countries.

Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.

The social change space is all about partnerships. Our partnerships come in three broad areas:
Third party academic partners
For research and advisory in program evaluation: Centre for Program Evaluation (Melbourne Uni), ACER, NZCER. Workplace Research Centre (USYD)

Network of advisors and expert contributors - Dr Peter Fuda, Dr Adam Fraser, Penny Burke

Clients & Business Partners - Apple, IBM, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ASB Bank

Plus internal thought leaders

What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?

Whilst many initiatives I have driven around new technology or new products have been hard to navigate or ‘push through’, this particular initiative showed great early promise, and with the client on-board from very early on was comparatively simple to get across the line.