We’re delighted to announce the appointment of our new Principal, Sean Clemmit.
Sean’s backed by an incredible depth of experience working with people from all parts of the globe doing the work of transformation in the name of big, world-changing ideas.
He’ll be heading up our Sydney wing and working with our clients across Australia and abroad.
We sat down with Sean to give you snapshot of what he’s all about. Read on below.
What are some of the words you live by?
Fun. Integrity. Passion. Then there’s “Making a difference”.
That last one is easy to say, but harder to do. There’s a line in a George Michael song of all things – Praying for Time, where he says: “Charity is a coat you wear twice a year.” And for me, that’s the worst kind of social impact – purpose-washing to feel or look good. You either do it with integrity, where it really is about making a difference, or don’t do it all.
As for fun, well it helps bring people in. It creates a safety, connection and a lightness that enables groups to lean into things that can get quite tough, quite heavy.
Thinking back on career – what’s a standout moment?
It would have to be the social impact work we started in Sri Lanka as part of of what has now become the Bridge Institute. We worked on the ground with 35 young Sri Lankans under the age of 21, to be Ambassadors of Change, as they were the first generation who hadn’t been exposed directly to the conflict there. Our focus was on this big, wicked problem or question: How can we liberate the voice and leadership of young Sri Lankans to create an inclusive and connected society?
Over a week-long transformational leadership program, we brought this group together to collaborate with over 80 people from local agencies and all parts of the world, using Design Thinking and Theory U to solution-build. At the end of the program, these young people presented the initiatives they’d designed back to a Government Minister and a panel of dignitaries.
We dive a little deeper in the following video:
There’s a whole host of reasons why I am so proud of that experience. Firstly, just the impact of it – on those young people, but also on the system. It was so humbling looking around the room at all these young people from different religions, areas, social and cultural groups coming together. This was the first time that anything like this had happened in the country since the conflict. At the graduation ceremony, there was this moment where this one young Tamil guy who had been fairly quiet all week, stood up and pointed out different young people from around the room – all different socio-cultural backgrounds and ideologies – and asked them to come up to the front. He got them all to join hands and lift them up in the air – and said “this is the future of Sri Lanka.” It was incredibly powerful. Several local agencies picked up and sponsored a number of the initiatives and delivered them over the next five years. Some are still running and have taken on a life of their own, spawning new funding programs.
This work showed that just by bringing people into a room together, by everyone being present with each other and sharing stories without judgement, you can have such a huge impact.
What is inspiring you right now?
A topical one at this moment in time is that there’s a new person at the helm in the US. There’s a real kind of excitement about that. Not just that he’s different to Trump (which obviously is a bonus in itself), but it’s actually about what he stands for.
When Biden was Vice President to Obama, he sent a memo to all his staff. He’d overheard one of them mentioning that they were working so hard they were going to miss Thanksgiving with their family – the essence of the memo was: “I do not expect, nor do I want, any of you to miss or sacrifice important family obligations for work… This is very important to me… if I find out that you’re working with me while missing important family responsibilities, it will disappoint me greatly.” (you can read the memo here). There’s a real humanity that seems to sit at his core. The key challenge in the US is around creating unity and working on commonality: and I think he will make genuine progress on this.
As for other inspiring things: The Alchemist is a book that I read years and years ago, but I just felt compelled to read it again recently. It’s just beautiful in its simplicity around what’s really important, and how it’s very easy to get caught up in the things we feel we should, or to seek something that is a false idol or temporary. Whereas, actually the real power and beauty sits within us.
Which three guests, living or deceased, would you invite to dinner and why?
It seems almost cliché – but Nelson Mandela. I would love to sit down with him – for his great wisdom and because, while he was on Robben Island, he actually did a lot of work through reading and interacting with Don Beck and his theory of Spiral Dynamics, which played out in the way he operated after he was released. So, it was no accident he knew that in order to make the difference, he had to meet the population where they were at, and respect what was important to them.
I’d say Mandela and Ghandi at dinner, and, because I think it would be fun as a wild card, I would throw in Stephen Fry. Just because he would have some incredibly intellectual and hilarious perspectives on that conversation. His brain is just an amazing thing.