As we continually evolve, we want to share as much knowledge as we gain.
Our vision may be unique, but our journey is shared by many – start-ups, non-profits, businesses, and community organisations – and together, we can support others to follow their passions, too.
Below, you’ll find a collection of resources which we’ve created over the past 4 years; some we have created internally, others we have leveraged from thought leaders elsewhere.
Our vision is to make doing good a daily habit.
This came about when our Founder, Steven Ma, recognised the way the world did good (such as volunteering) was not designed to be accessible to everyone equally. He envisaged a world where a person in any corner of the globe could have a meaningful impact on the world around them every day – regardless of their personal circumstances. We could live in a world where doing good is as commonplace as buying a coffee on your way to work or getting together with friends on a weekend.
When you’re designing a product or organisation, we recommend following Simon Sinek’s advice – start with why. Create a strong why, and people will follow. Having a global, ambitious, thought provoking vision has allowed us to unify people across cultures towards a common purpose. Keeping our vision short has also been designed for scale; as your organisation grows, your vision should be easily remembered and repeated. Making doing good a daily habit is an ambitious vision for our world; it won’t be accomplished in a lifetime, so you need to ensure that people grasp the purpose, and understand how they can contribute towards it in a meaningful way.
Our current mission is to popularise micro-volunteering around the world.
The way we think about it is that the mission (the “what”) is how you accomplish your vision (the “why). There are countless ways we could make doing good a daily habit; and we recognise it won’t happen overnight. We’ve chosen micro-volunteering as our vessel to get us there (for now). We define micro-volunteering as any action that is short in time (20 minutes to 2 days), free (or low cost), and direct impact; that is, as few possible handoffs (ideally, none) between the volunteer and their chosen cause.
Our model of micro-volunteering was designed after recognising that the main barriers to volunteering were cost, time, and perceived impact.
We believed that if we removed the traditional barriers to volunteering (cost, time, and lack of impact), but retained the impactful feeling of volunteering, then we would make doing good so effortless that anyone could volunteer. First-time volunteers wouldn’t be discouraged by lengthy on-boarding, time commitments, or financial burdens; established volunteers would have another way to give back, which they may find more convenient; and those who were looking for opportunities to participate in community events, or join a social group that was purpose-led would find a place with Cause Corps.
We contrasted this to the rise of “clicktivism”, which was so low-commitment that it created no connection between either the volunteer and the cause, or amongst fellow volunteers. We recognise that the social aspect of volunteering is a motivator, so we designed our events to bring people together (in cafes, for instance).
A great outcome for us is that someone who has never volunteered before because of real or perceived barriers joins us for an event, and leaves with a changed mindset; that volunteering doesn’t have to be expensive/time consuming/not impactful/whatever their previous conception of volunteering was; our hypothesis is that this person will be more likely to volunteer (with us or elsewhere) in future. We see ourselves as a stepping stone – often, the first one - to doing more good.
We’ve been using Objective, Key Results (OKR’s) to set goals from an organisation, leadership, and team level.
Though we haven’t done this near as rigorously as we could have, we’ve found this an appropriate way to account for the variance between geographically and culturally diverse teams.
However you choose to set goals, we recommend setting them collaboratively, and encouraging your people to take ownership for them. If you want to create an organisation of aligned, committed people, and inspire acts of leadership at all levels, giving teams the opportunity to set their own goals can go a long way towards creating that environment.
OKR’s have worked for us to date because they’re dynamic. OKR’s are designed with the view that Objectives tend to remain consistent, but Key Results are likely to change, and we’ve seen this happen regularly.
What we could improve on in the future is linking organisation-wide OKR’s to team level OKR’s; this ensures that everyone throughout the organisation understands how they are contributing to strategic Cause Corps goals.
In creating an aligned organisation, there’s value in visualising how all the parts contribute to the greater whole. We’ve chosen to represent this with an Initiative Map, which you can see here.
Our Initiative Map is based off the Maptio model, itself an interpretation of Charles Davies’ original work on initiative mapping, and based on Peter Koenig’s source principles. In our context, it is a series of concentric circles visualising the key initiatives within an organisation, which provides organisational clarity. This is especially useful for organisations wanting to move away from a traditional hierarchy and towards aligned autonomy, where initiatives, goals, and accountabilities are made highly transparent.
The intention is that every initiative in the organisation has a single “Initiative Owner”; this person is the SME and is ultimately accountable for the initiative, similar to the Scrum role of Product Owner. Others may work on this initiative, but the buck stops with the Initiative Owner; this allows an organisation to scale by decentralising decision making and accountability.
The uses of initiative maps are manifold:
decide which initiatives to focus on
during on-boarding, explain different initiatives within the organisation and how they contribute to the whole
describe the organisation to externals
role model transparency in process, and signal cultural norms on accountability for the organisation
understand how their work contributes to strategic initiatives
Creative OS Canvas
A tool for founders, entrepreneurs, leaders, and advisors wanting to develop purposeful organisations, inspired by peterkoenigsystem, Initiative Mapping, and The OS Canvas.
It’s split into a Creative layer, and an Organisational layer. As you begin to develop your organisation, it’s vital that you always prioritise the health and principles of the creative layer, over other organisational principles and practices. The organisation should always serve the creative vision.
You can see our Creative OS Canvas below:
Vision: What are we doing
Always: Making doing good a daily habit
Medium Term: Exploring new ways to do good
Right now: Popularising micro-volunteering
Formal Authority and Decisions
By design, decision-making is decentralised, and should be made by anyone. Self-organising teams are given the autonomy to operate how they believe most appropriate.
There is no formal hierarchy, reporting lines, or decision makers.
Currently, we trust that as our people gain more experience, they will accept more responsibility (see our Opportunities Canvas), and that’s how we intend to grow leaders from within.
Collaboration and Co-ordination
Slack is the mandated tool used for team communication. We keep all channels public and accessible by all members, with the exception of a channel for our Global Leaders. We believe in transparency of information as much as possible.
We encourage all teams to share their knowledge by having an accessible knowledge repository on Confluence that is editable by everyone.
Directors have monthly check ins with Leaders from each Chapter to discuss impediments, goals, and any operational support they may need. This also serves as an opportunity to coach on mindset and ensure we are remaining aligned to our overall values.
Resource allocation and measurement
Our model doesn’t currently account for resource allocation. This may be a potential growth area in future, if we hire paid employees.
Strategy and Innovation
Vision, and organisation-wide strategy is set by Directors and communicated downward.
Team-level strategy is set by the team and communicated laterally and vertically.
Innovation can come from anywhere within the organisation, and we’ve designed autonomous teams to encourage ownership of their own innovations.
People, Development, and Motivation
We believe our people are intrinsically motivated by wanting to make an impact in the world and make meaningful connections, and extrinsically motivated by the opportunities to grow themselves personally and professionally.
Our developmental pathways are also outlined in the Opportunities Canvas. There is no linear progression that people must adhere to; rather, a more nebulous collection of skills to grow, which afford different opportunities.
Chapter (Team) design
Cause Corps has 8 “Chapters”: teams of people who run events in cities the world over.
Our Chapters are self-organised and led by a Chapter Lead; a long-serving member, who in time (if they aspire to) will take on the mantle of Director for their given city, country, or region as appropriate.
Self organisation allows teams the autonomy to best complete their work how they see fit. Sandy Mamoli writes widely on the topic, which you can start exploring here. By creating self-organising teams around the world, each Chapter has the autonomy to operate how they see fit. They select and train their team mates, organise events as they choose, partner with organisations they want to support, and decide on how best to sustainably scale their good work.
We’re entirely volunteer run-and-led, with no set time commitments for “Cause Corps time”; we believe Cause Corps should fit into our volunteer’s schedules.
School Chapter design
In 2017, we introduced Cause Corps to schools in New Zealand and Hong Kong.
At Selwyn College in Auckland, New Zealand, there are 20 students who get together once a week for a half hour during lunchtime.
The students are intrinsically motivated by the satisfaction of helping those in need, and its success has been in part because it’s student led-and-run. The sense of ownership among the students, as well as the casual, flexible atmosphere allows them the space to be themselves while doing good for others.
We’ve learned that school events benefit from the same focus on socialisation as our public events, where volunteers want a social experience with like-minded individuals, and the aspect of doing good is an added bonus.
Events and partners
We host our events in public spaces, such as cafes, to make volunteering a social experience that anyone could join.
Whether you were walking home or happen to be sitting at the next table, we want our events to be as inclusive as possible.
Examples of micro-volunteering events that we organise include knitting for premature babies, tending to community gardens, walking rescue dogs, creating artwork for senior citizens, creating resources for homeless shelters, and conversational language classes for adults with refugee status.
Cause Corps itself does not have any of its own “causes”. In our current model, we partner with organisations who we believe we can support to scale their good work.
For our volunteers, we allow ourselves the fluidity to find causes which they care about; especially as this varies around the world. As an example, if Londoners are determined to alleviate homelessness, but Singaporeans care more about combating loneliness in the elderly, then both are able to align themselves to causes they choose.
For our partners, we provide a unique opportunity to export their cause around the world and uncover new groups of volunteers who may not have otherwise been involved.
There already exists a wealth of platforms to connect volunteers to causes, and we don’t intend to be one of them. Instead, we are much more valuable to partners when we work closely to tailor unique opportunities likely to attract passionate volunteers. In practice, this includes understanding why our partners are targeting a certain cause, and where the gaps in their support of that cause is now. We can then design a micro-volunteering experience to contribute towards the same goal in a different way, capturing an unexplored segment of the volunteer market.
Creating new chapters
Beginning in Sydney, Australia, we first expanded throughout Asia Pacific, before turning our eye northward to Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Having designed our Chapters as self-organising and aligned to a vision (rather than a tactical process) afforded them a modularity which was able to respond to cultural differences in each city, as well as differences in what causes volunteers were passionate about.
However, we don’t always get it right, and we’ve had Chapters which haven’t been as successful. We trialled Chapters in Houston, Texas; Kansas City, Kansas; Queensland, Australia; Paris, France; and Auckland, New Zealand. They have all since shut down, though Auckland now has a School Chapter (unrelated to the previous public Chapter).
We found that the more engaged chapters had the following in common:
High-EQ leader who is passionate about making Cause Corps work, and understands the vision and mission
Setting clear norms from the outset about levels of participation, expectations from different people, access to information, and cultural norms
A thorough on-boarding process delivered by an experienced Cause Corps leader, and followed up by regular check ins for the first 2 months
An existing Cause Corps leader invested in understanding the team members by spending time with them and building interpersonal relationships; preferably in-person, otherwise virtually
The process for starting a new chapter has been refined through multiple iterations, and is presented in simplified terms below
Research potential cities, including what current communities, organisations, or volunteer programmes they have
Preferably have someone in a city who is interested in being a Champion for Cause Corps in their city
Before you go, reach out to as many local organisations as possible; they might be in non-profit, volunteering, start-up, social justice, craft, or other community groups.
You’ll want to meet with them and understand the work they do, as well as the local landscape. When you’re approaching them, do your homework; keep your emails short, and speak about specific things you’ve learned about their organisation. Being interested in what they do is more likely to get you an audience that pitching how great your organisation is, and why they should meet with you.
Try to schedule these as close to the beginning of your trip as possible, since you will invariably find that people will want to introduce you to others, and you want to have time to meet with them.
Set up your Meetup, schedule events in as early as possible, and include this link in the emails you send to local organisations you intend to meet. We recommend scheduling at least 4 events over the weekend, and a couple during the week. These events should be a mix of volunteering events, as well as information sessions about what Cause Corps is, and how people can become more involved as organisers.
Two (or more) experienced leaders (preferably a Director) travel to a new city for between 4- 10 days. We recommend doing 10 days, starting on a Friday, as this will include 2 weekends, and give you plenty of time to meet with local organisations, as well as build your local Cause Corps team.
As you host events, be sure to speak to the volunteers about the Cause Corps story, and see who is interested in becoming more involved. We suggest making time to meet these people outside events (coffee, dinner, etc) and get to know them.
As we explored above, micro-volunteering is one way of making doing good a daily habit.
While we’ve proved it works around the world, there are other strategies we believe can contribute to pushing us closer toward our vision. We haven’t tested any of the below as yet, though we would look to expand in the future when we have the resources to.
Preschool and kindergarten programmes: using art and creative expression to do good and build emotional intelligence
High school programmes: Expand our current high-school chapter into a more structured programme for young leaders
Aged care programmes: Give the elderly an opportunity to socialise, keep their minds active, and have an impact in the world around them
Hospital and rehabilitation programmes: Give those recovering from surgery or bed-bound in hospital a meaningful way to pass the time
Transport volunteering: Utilise idle time during public transport commutes, taxi, ridesharing, and flights to do good
Since inception in December 2014, Cause Corps has been privately funded.
While we’re not expensive to run, it has put constraints on how fast we can grow, and what we’re able to do.
What funding would allow us to do
Maintain current operations by paying for materials and supplies, as well as fixed costs.
Professional services, such as communications, finances, and legals (for instance, to help us develop a worldwide legal model to ensure we are legally set up to continue operating on a global scale).
Provide more opportunities for our volunteers to grow themselves, and Cause Corps, including training programmes, sending volunteers abroad to start new Chapters, or potentially hiring volunteers as paid, part-time employees to work on running, optimising, and scaling Cause Corps.
In the past, we have taken expressions of interest on our website for our corporate programme, which involves a volunteer running an event at the office of the business in exchange for a fee.
We have parked this offering for the remainder of 2018, as we don’t have the people to support it.
We have run 2 corporate events, both in 2016: at Serko in New Zealand, and Macquarie Bank in Hong Kong.
All the money gets directly reinvested back into Cause Corps to run public events.
We initially picked a price point of $AUD200 for the event, based on the average estimated cost of a public event. If each free event cost us $20 to run, we wanted a corporate event to be able to pay for 10 public events (on average). Additionally, because it was a new offering, we wanted to start with a cheaper rate to validate whether organisations were willing to pay, and test and learn before deciding if we wanted to commercialise it.
The biggest challenge with our corporate programme is the time and volunteer effort needed; it relies on local volunteers to run it during work hours, and we don’t want volunteers to have to take time off work.
One thing we’ve considered to make corporate events viable is to train people who may be off work (stay at homes, new parents, pre-retirees, etc) who want to keep active, and give back, and potentially even price it in such a way that they could get a small income.
Cause Corps Products
We piloted a product store in 2017, producing a mindfulness colouring calendar from volunteer-created designs, which was sold to friends and family.
We have currently parked the product store, as we don’t have the people to support its success.
If we had the team members to develop and maintain it, we believe that a product store could be a sustainable income stream
We have hypothesised (but not prototyped) other products, such as volunteering-in-a-box, corporate-volunteering starter kits, merchandise, and enamel pins
The biggest challenges are the time and volunteer effort needed to sustain the store, as well marketing the products
Our legal journey in Australia so far is summarised below.
Registered as a charity with the ACNC under the category "Any other purpose beneficial to the general public that may reasonably be regarded as analogous to, or within the spirit of, any of the purposes mentioned in the [other] subtypes".
The ACNC refused our application to become a public benevolent institution.
The ACNC forwarded our application for DGR to the ATO, who also refused our application.
We sent an objection to the Commissioner of Taxation, which was also rejected on the same grounds cited by the ACNC.
We have an ACN, and ABN, but do not have DGR1 status; this means we cannot take tax-deductible donations. We currently don’t intend to apply again, and if we choose to, may not be granted it.
Cause Corps are currently a registered charity in Australia, but as a legal entity, we do not exist outside of Australia, and no global legal framework set up.
Find your purpose, and decide what kind of organisation you want to be
People will be more likely to support you if you have a purpose, and a clearly articulated goal. The first thing you need to do is pick one — even if you don’t know exactly what it is, pick your best guess. You can change it later. Laloux’s masterwork will also help you frame the shape of our organisation; for example, is it more akin to a military hierarchy, or a family?
Find your tribe
Don’t hire for skills, unless you can’t operate without it. You can teach skills. Hire for culture. Organisations get de-railed when their culture becomes diluted or toxic. It’s much easier to establish a healthy culture when you’re small, and focus on creating guardrails to course-correct as you scale.
Read: Team of Teams, Gen. S. McChrystal
By creating self-organising teams around the world, each Cause Corps “chapter” has the autonomy to operate how they see fit. They select and train their team mates, organise events as they choose, partner with organisations they want to support, and decide on how best to sustainably scale their good work.
Everyone needs to align on one tool; it reduces complexity and ensures everyone knows exactly where to look. If you don’t mandate a tool, it becomes exponentially harder to change it the larger you grow (more permutations as individuals create their own “standards”). We’ve used the following:
Team communication: Slack
Organisational knowledge: Confluence
Task management: Trello
Conferencing: Google Hangouts
The role of leadership is to support the work of the team; through ongoing thought leadership and coaching, ensuring teams are well-resourced, and setting organisation-wide goals. Your measure of success should be how quickly you can put yourself out of a job. Invest in your leaders, align their goals to your organisation’s goals, and you will all reap the benefits.
Read: Design to Grow, D. Butler
Design modularly; you want to be able to move pieces around, and remove ones that no longer work. As you scale, the ability to be dynamic and responsive to change (by design) is a competitive advantage that will serve you well, regardless of your industry.
Prototype and launch products and services
Read: The Lean Startup, E. Ries
Don’t go to market with something you haven’t tested. Go to market with the smallest possible thing that will create learning, and use that to improve upon.