A new home at ThinkPlace for an extraordinary social change maker.
If you set out to achieve something truly ambitious in the world but life and its many challenges kept getting in the way, how long would you keep going? Refusing to quit?
A year? Two years?
How about nine?
That is the remarkable story behind ThinkPlace’s newest recruit to its Canberra Design Studio: Danielle Dal Cortivo.
Almost a decade ago, having travelled to Tanzania and seeing first-hand the conditions that orphaned children were living in, Dal Cortivo decided she had to do something about it. Together with her brother – a Canberra builder – she hatched a plan. With donated materials and labour the pair would build a house in suburban Canberra. Then they would auction it off and donate the proceeds to children’s charities in Botswana and at home.
It was supposed to take three years.
Now, after nine years of toil and countless setbacks that she says “meant I probably should have walked away from this a hundred times” the house is about to be completed. And with it will come a bounty that is expected to approach a million dollars.
“It has been an incredible journey,” she says of the ‘raize the roof’ project that has gathered donations from more than 350 businesses and collected materials and labour valued at more than $400,000.
“I am so excited that we are about to finish and that the focus can shift to how the money we’re raising can make a remarkable difference for kids who really need it.”
The house, located in Bonner ACT, will be auctioned on 20 October 2018 and the proceeds will be divided between the Starlight Children’s Foundation (which assists seriously ill children and their families in Australia) and SOS Children’s Villages, a charity for orphaned children in Botswana.
All the while, as Dal Cortivo has been working on raize the roof as a side hustle, she has also been building a successful career in the public service and at not-for-profit organisations within the health sector.
More than a decade in the APS she ended up at the Department of Health, working on policy and program development around mental health.
There she worked on transitioning mental health programs into the Medicare local model and contributed to the development and implementation of Partners In Recovery – a community-based program aimed at supporting Canberrans who are living with severe and persistent mental health conditions with complex needs
Following that, Dal Cortivo left the public service to take up a position as CEO of the ACT Asthma Foundation (she later also ran the Asthma Foundation of Victorian.).
In these roles she became increasingly interested in the use of design thinking methods to drive change and create innovative solutions to some of the systemic health challenges that face Australia and the world. She grew more and more convinced of the power that design methods and a human-centred philosophy could bring to the public health space.
“I was getting a bit frustrated with the way things were done,” she says. “Something was missing from the way we were designing programs for complex health problems. I wanted to be part of a different conversation. One that I felt could be more effective.”
That desire eventually led to ThinkPlace – a design consultancy that specialises in designing for complex problems that emerge in complex systems.
“The more I learned about the work of ThinkPlace, the ethics, the values and the projects themselves, the more I wanted to be part of it,” she says.
“It wasn’t just the impact of the work, it was the idea of having space to think about doing things differently and to challenge the status quo. It just became so compelling.”
For ThinkPlace clients Dal Cortivo will bring her experience at navigating public health projects and the health and human services system as a whole as well as deep experience within the not-for-profit space.
And her experience with raize the roof – using design thinking tohelp build a network in Botswana and make sure that the money raised by the sale of the charity house will be deployed for maximum impact.
But she also brings a mindset. A willingness to look at the world and imagine the ways in which it could be better, fairer and more equitable. And more than that, the tenaciousness to bite off more than she can maybe chew… and then to chew like crazy.
“There we so many times that running away and giving up on the project would have been completely justifiable, and probably very rational!,” she says. “But I had a vision and I never wavered from it. I had given my word that I would do this and honouring my word is important to me I am a person who knows how to ideate, who is comfortable having the big idea, but I am also a really practical person who will do what it takes to make it happen, and make a difference.”