Our Stories: Hannah Wrathall and Alice Marsh

Written by Bronwyn Huband. Posted in Our Stories.

Social Experiment Alice L Hannah RWe recently met two inspirational Kiwis Hannah Wrathall and Alice Marsh. They both come from opposite ends of NZ but they’ve been brought together by a desire to help millennials succeed in taking actions on issues they care about, through creating social enterprises, leading transformational cultural change and platforms to bring issues to the forefront. Hannah gave us some insight into what they are doing to help inspire people to make their dreams a reality.

What did you want to for a career when you were young?
For most of my childhood I wanted to be an actress (it’s never too late, right?). Alice wanted to be an optometrist (she has never had great eyesight!) 

Describe each other in one sentence?
Alice: Hannah is an action-based, curious, empathetic pocket rocket. 
Hannah: Alice is a genius - she has the most brilliant, creative mind - coupled with the biggest heart.  

What were you doing before you set up your business?
Hannah was a Management Consultant at EY in Auckland, working on projects in digital innovation. 
Alice was working as a commercialisation associate for Kiwi Innovation Network, New Zealand’s network of public research organisations, working to transform scientific discoveries into marketable products and services.

What inspired the idea for The Social Experiment?  
It came after having one too many conversations with incredible people who were stuck on taking action on their ideas. It was a really common narrative to care deeply about something, feel either overwhelmed, powerless or resigned, and carry on with business as usual. So we developed a programme for millennials, giving them tools to accelerate as leaders and take actions on issues they care about. Following our programmes, we've witnessed participants go on to do incredible things including starting a platform that celebrates the vulnerable stories of women and non-binary in New Zealand; co-founding a social enterprise that redesigns takeaway without waste; and leading internal cultural change transformation programmes.

Our dream is to play a meaningful role in the impact and social innovation pipeline for people all over the world - humans in action. We started out by providing workshops and online programmes for millennials that develop the systems leadership, innovation-driven skill sets and capabilities needed for a changing workforce, coupled with personal mindset development and community connection. 

Since COVID, we’ve been working to re-create and adapt our programmes to be entirely online.

How did your plan grow?
It was an experiment initially. We intended to run one experiment to bring 20 friends together to create solutions to issues they cared about. We were super curious about what would happen. We kept it really simple, and a couple of weeks after having the idea we had a six-strong female team who all brought unique experience to the programme. 

Through that first experiment, we discovered the deep mindset barriers that people experience around taking action and their own potential. We identified a desire for vulnerable experiences and human connection. While similar programmes already exist, mindset work is often the missing link. We integrate mindset coaching and entrepreneurial teaching. We have over 200 graduates scattered across the world.

Why did you decide to bring your idea to the UK? 
We were clear that a connected international community is instrumental in solving some of the biggest issues in the world. We wanted to understand if the model translates in other communities. The UK also has a supportive business environment and massive opportunities for impact. What we’ve been most blown away by is the support from the NZ business community here, everyone has been so generous.

Our initial plan for the UK was to launch workshops for millennials within their organisations. Then, along came COVID! Obviously, having a business that predominantly ran in person workshops for UK organisations, has required us to shift massively and become more geographically agnostic and focus on online programmes that can be attended regardless of location. It’s an exciting challenge and a complete curve ball, and it’s been awesome to have the continued support of the NZ business community.

How do you bring the kiwi ethos to your business? 
The Social Experiment programmes embody the spirit of Kiwi ingenuity, getting out there and being in action and driving genuine collaboration. It’s also the intention of SOX to challenge generalisations and conventional stereotypes that limit human potential, so confronting some of the ways that Kiwi culture can drive these (i.e. ideas our culture has around masculinity, mental health etc) are also really at the core of what we do. 

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