Story

How did we get to here?

July 2017

BY

William Smith-Stubbs

NOTE: Wow, this aged terribly. What we thought we'd be setting out to do has changed. A lot. But, we're keeping this here in the journal as an opportunity to look back and reflect. - spur:, 2020

Six years ago a few young guys met up in an old substation in Brisbane, Australia to film a video campaign called Soften the Fck Up.

It was, in some ways, a shot across the bow of the public perception of mental illness and masculinity — and how, thus far, we had largely approached it as a society.

Soften the Fck Up was a series of heartfelt and humorous videos calling upon men of Australia to soften up a little and seek help when dealing with tough times. Everything about the campaign was carefully constructed, while entirely authentic, to speak to those we knew were in need of a new message.

In Australia, the number one cause of death for men aged 14–44 is suicide. Every day, six Australian men will take their own life. This was what we set out to tackle with a new approach and in the complete opposite direction of most of the then available material: black and white doctor’s offices pamphlets of men with their head in the hands and DEPRESSION written across the top.

We wanted to reach people, to help people and change the world a little. Since then, the focus on open discussion about mental health has vastly improved, the range of messages to various demographics has become more specific and more thoughtful.

While I don’t think we can claim credit for starting a new movement of mental health campaigns, I do like to think we nudged the needle a little.

I also had no idea of the journey we were undertaking.

Soften the Fck Up became just the first of many campaigns produced by our DGR non-profit, Spur Projects, whose goal remains to eliminate male suicide in Australia.

Since then we’ve launched a world-first global real time mental health survey, How is the World Feeling? and produced an international database of emotion trend data, produced a bunch of online video campaigns, developed an in-person framework for vulnerability training through F.U.N. and handed out bananas in a city square in the name of mental health.

We’ve won a few awards including being counted as Top Young Social Entrepreneurs by Business News, Digital Champion by Advance Queensland and recognised by the Queensland Mental Health Commission. Our work has been covered in everywhere from Channel 10 News, The Project, ABC, 9 to 5 Mac, The Atlantic, Sydney Morning Herald and the Times of India — plus many more.

We tallied our global reach to be around 40 million people over the six years and with participation from 105 countries. We’ve spoken for Virgin, mentored non-profits at Telstra’s amazing Imaginarium program and even convinced one of Asia Pacific’s largest law firms to take us on as a pro-bono client.

All of this on a shoestring budget and while juggling day jobs. To say I’m proud of the work my co-founder Lee Crockford and I have done and the incredible work of our volunteer team is a whopping understatement.

We done good, guys.

Yet, there’s more to do. Mental illness is the new health crisis front of mind for our society. We’ve a ways to go before we fix this.

So the question became — how do we continue to do our work and fund our projects sustainably? We’ve never been all that successful with grants (a problem when you’re the ‘edgy ones’) and corporate sponsorship. And if there is a way to produce revenue for Spur Projects — how can we do that while helping other people?

Well, we think we have the answer. Last night we officially launched The Big Thing we’ve been tinkering on for months.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the new member of the Spur family:

SPUR:LABS is a social impact agency.

We design ground-breaking campaigns and initiatives for people and organisations who want to create real social impact.

We designed SPUR:LABS as a profit-for-purpose business.

This means at least 5% of all profits and 20% of employee time is donated to Spur Projects non profit campaigns and initiatives — such as upcoming the #OLDMATEproject for the elderly.

To say the least, we’re pretty jazzed about this. Not only is this an exciting way to help others with our own proprietary methodology for creating social impact, but it is (we believe) a game changing new model of business for non-profits and social enterprises.

Many businesses, once they reach some success, create a foundation off to the side. True to form, we’ve gone the reverse tactic.

We’re also ecstatic about announcing (as you may have seen in the news) our first hire: advertising guru of renown and former Ogilvy MD, Russ Vine, as our Guy Who Wears the Suit — aka Business Development Advisor.

So what do we do?

Campaign Design

We help you create campaigns to help change behaviours, understanding and perceptions. We can manage the whole process from conception through to delivery.

Strategy

If you want to stay in the driver’s seat but want help, support, advice, and mentoring, then we can help ensure that deep social impact remains at the core of what you do.

Tech for Good

We live in a digital era, yet tech for tech’s sake is (in our opinion) redundant. Tech can be an incredible catalyst for change and we build solutions that are not only cutting edge but create deep engagement.

Communications

Whether it’s handling your comms and PR, or a more intimate kind of comms like presentations and workshops, we are storytellers — and the telling of stories is fundamental to any social change.

Should we work together?

Well, if you need help creating a social impact solution, then yeah probably.

Whether you’re a non-profit, government body or corporate, we can help you do good.

Here’s the catch though: we only work on projects that have positive social impact. So, if you’re an oil company wanting us to rebrand you — we can recommend someone else. If, however, you want to rebrand into a ethical company and help people be aware of how to handle oil better, chose better environmental products and dispose of oil appropriately — sign us up!

Ultimately, we want to work with businesses and organisations that want, in some way or another, to change the world for the better.

This may be running a campaign to encourage more girls into STEM, to engage at-risk youth into arts programs, raise awareness of neonatal sepsis or figure out a way to use drones to deliver medical supplies to remote regions.

If you’re in business and mean to do good, we should talk.

In the mean time, we’re just excited to show you our new baby and see what magic we can do together.

- Will