Foundation

Our Role in Scaling Social Impact

Scale is central to the TDM Foundation partner criteria. This article digs deeper into our perspective.
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In 2017, Hugh and Selina Williams returned to Melbourne with their daughters after a decade in Silicon Valley, where Hugh held senior roles at Microsoft, Google, and Tinder. In that time, Hugh experienced first-hand the benefit of having a workforce skilled in new and emerging technologies to drive innovation and company growth.

While in Silicon Valley, Hugh and Selina observed the focus that US schools place on their students to learn digital technology (digitech) skills such as coding. In returning to Australia, they found a stark contrast where digitech classes were not prioritised, teachers often lacked support, and students lacked excitement at the prospect of a career in tech despite the vast array of job opportunities. In a recent KPMG report, it was highlighted that Australia has some 286,000 new digitech roles to fill but its current graduate pool is only 7,000.

In 2018 Hugh, Selina and Kristy Kendall (the Principal of Toorak College in Victoria) embarked on an attempt to address this issue. Their view was, and remains to be, that Australia’s future prosperity relies on being able to keep up with new and emerging technologies, and that we need to become a nation of tech creators and exporters, not just tech buyers and users.

With that in mind, they came up with the idea for CS In Schools, an organisation which would share digitech, specifically coding, teaching materials to primary and secondary school teachers and students, for free. They envisaged their materials being fun and engaging and they planned to enlist industry experts to support teachers in the classroom. Their logic was that if teachers were better supported to teach coding, if classes were exciting, and if industry experts were present to explain what it’s like to work in the tech sector, then students would be more likely to take up technology related courses at university and TAFEs.

As you can tell, CS In Schools was founded on lofty ambitions.

n 2019, with support from the TDM Foundation, they managed to get their pilot programme off the ground, supporting 8 schools, 10 teachers and 841 students in Australia. Their objective was to double the number of schools they were working with every year. Fast forward to 2024 and CS In Schools is now working with 225 schools, 682 teachers and 53,000 students; a significant increase on their initial objective. With this economy of scale, they have successfully been able to reduce their operating efficiency (per student, teacher and school) by 92%. Their scale journey is quite simply incredible.

Why does scaling matter?

CS In Schools is a great example of scaling impact which is one of the key ingredients in the Foundation’s impact hypothesis. At the TDM Foundation, we support organisations who have the potential for exponential scale, or the ability to compound impact over a long period of time. Our criteria is two-pronged:

CS In Schools is a great example of scaling impact. Scaling is one of the key elements of the Foundation’s impact hypothesis. At the TDM Foundation, we support organisations who have the potential for exponential scale, or the ability to compound impact over a long period of time. Our criteria for assessing scalability is two-pronged:

The first is the problem. Exponential scale is only possible with problems that are either already large, or that are growing. We look for organisations addressing these sorts of problems.

The second is the solution. The solution must be scalable, i.e. have the ability to compound impact over time per dollar granted.

We believe scaling is important because it aims to ensure the largest number of people are impacted by a solution. When scale is implemented efficiently, the benefits of economy of scale can really kick in, helping the cause become more compelling for government, corporates or other not-for-profit organisations to support.

In helping organisations to scale their impact, we typically support those nearer the start of their journey. We aim to facilitate their growth. For example, when the TDM Foundation backed CS In Schools, we were their primary funder and after three years of spectacular growth we are now looking for others to support the cause.

How can organisations scale?

CS In Schools has demonstrated one way that organisations can scale; by successfully delivering their solution to an increasing number of students, teachers and schools.

To determine other ways that your organisation could scale, it’s important to consider:

  • What is the problem?
  • How big is the problem and who is most affected?
  • What is the best way to scale the solution?
  • Who is best placed to deliver the solution?
  • How easy is the solution to implement?
  • Is the solution cost effective and competitive with what other providers could deliver and/or people might be willing to pay if it was a commercial product?

Understanding your options for scaling early is vitally important.

You need to know who is going to do the work of solving the problem, who is going to exponentially scale the solution and who will pay for it. The social impact service provider? Business? NGOs? Government? Being able to answer these questions is critical so you don’t set off on your journey without a destination.

Having established the destination, you can then determine which is the best path. For example, partnering with other organisations, implementing new technology, or partnering with government. At the TDM Foundation we use all of these methods and are constantly scanning the horizon for others.

As CS In Schools illustrates, having a clear path to scale is critical to maximising impact.

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